Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Response to Teen Murders

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Response to Teen Murders

Article excerpt

Few societies are as open in debating the impulse - and danger - of revenge as Israel. Almost any attack on an Israeli Jew by an enemy of the country brings forth a democratic but emotional discussion on how to respond. The initial instinct in Israel is often revenge, as was the case Monday after the shock of learning that three Israeli teenagers, who were missing for nearly three weeks, had been killed.

Some Jewish settlers in the West Bank, where the kidnapping and murder of the teens took place, talked of a campaign to inflict "price tag" vengeance on Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paraphrasing a line from poet Haim Nahman Bialik, said, "Satan has not yet created vengeance for the blood of a small child." Such talk prompted President Obama to call on "all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation."

The intense, collective grief and anger felt by Jewish Israelis over such attacks is often difficult for outsiders to understand. Jews in the country feel a bond of history and common threat that others may not. But Israel's response to attacks on its innocent citizens do deserve understanding. Too often in the Middle East, tit- for-tat violence can escalate into a conflict that draws others in.

More than people in most countries, the Israeli public has had to learn the subtle differences between concepts of justice such as revenge, retaliation, retribution, and deterrence. These concepts are difficult enough to implement in a courtroom. They can be even more problematic when a country must respond to terrorism.

After the 9/11 attacks in the United States, President George W. Bush told Americans: "Ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice." Yet the reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 by Navy SEALs felt like a mixture of both to many Americans.

Perhaps the most sophisticated response to the teen killings in Israel came from Finance Minister Yair Lapid. …

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