It was a classic case of Jewish behavior…or should we perhaps say “misbehavior”? Exactly 25 years ago, a group of 15 Israeli teenagers, accompanied by a guide and two armed guards, set out from the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh upon a hike that took them to the nearby Palestinian town of Beita. What happened next is known today as the “Beita incident.” For the Israelis, it was Passover time, and the expedition was initially presented as having been nothing more than a “holiday outing,” although later one of the participants confessed to a news organization that the group had been endeavoring to transmit a certain message to the local Palestinian population: “We have to show them that we are the owners of the country.”
The events of that day resulted in the deaths of several Palestinians and one Israeli teenage girl. Here is what Wikipediahas to say on the Beita incident:
The incident occurred in when a group of 15 teenagers from the Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh, 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) north of Beita, had gone hiking during the Passover school holiday accompanied by a guide and two guards, Romam Aldube and Menachem Ilan. About 10 kilometres South of Elon Moreh, whilst on land belonging to Beita village they came across a farmer, Mousa Saleh Bani Shamseh. After an exchange of words Romam Aldube shot him dead. The group then continued into the village.
Within the village a rumour had spread that the Israelis had come to poison the village well. A crowd gathered and confronted the group. Palestinian residents said the guards provoked the incident by shooting 19-year-old, Hatem Fayez Ahmd al-Jaber who approached the Israelis. Other reports describe the mother of Mousa Saleh throwing a stone at Aldube. The crowd then charged the hikers, disarming the guards and destroyed their guns. Aldube received a serious head wound. 15-year-old Israeli Tizra Porat from Elon Moreh was killed during this incident. She was the first Israeli civilian casualty in the West Bank during the First Intifada.
Initial reports in the media stated that Tizra Porat had been killed by Palestinian stone throwers. An official statement spoke of the group falling ‘into the hands of pogromists and murderers’. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir attended her funeral at which there were cries of “Revenge” and “Wipe Beita off the map”. The following day the IDF revealed that she had been accidentally shot in the head with the M16 carbine belonging to Romam Aldubi, a Jewish 26-year old violence-prone religious nationalist. It was also revealed that ‘the young settlers, instructed by their elders, had rendered untruthful accounts.’Despite knowing from the start who was responsible the Israeli Army dynamited 15 buildings in Beita. They also killed a sixteen-year-old boy Issam Abdul Halim Mohammad Said and arrested all male adult residents, six of whom were later deported. Romam Aldubi was brought to trial in Israel, but the charges were dropped on the grounds “that what had happened [was] already punishment enough”.
Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Shomron later said that Palestinian villagers protected the Israelis from further harm. Some residents helped the teenagers, including several women who hid three girls inside their homes.
A medic in a CBS News crew on site began treating the Israelis injured, some of whom were evacuated by Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances. As well as the two fatalities several villagers suffered severe gunshot wounds. Three people were killed and several others wounded.
There are several components to the above narrative that amount to what I would refer to as “classic Jewish behavior.” You’ll notice it was the Israelis who initiated the incident by trespassing onto Palestinian-owned land, not the other way around. One of the armed guards, Romam Aldubi, shoots a village farmer following “an exchange of words.” We don’t know what the “words” were they exchanged, but Aldubi is described later in the article as a “26-year old violence-prone religious nationalist.” The Palestinian farmer is identified as Mousa Saleh Bani Shamseh. After killing him, the party of Jews doesn’t simply return home to their illegal settlement. No, they go on into the village itself. Hence more violence ensues. A rumor by now has spread that the Israelis are possibly intent on poisoning the village well. Where would the residents of Beita get such a wild idea? Jews would never do a thing like that, would they?
With the party’s arrival in the village, death comes to another Palestinian, Hatem Fayez Ahmd al-Jaber, 19, whose crime seems to be that he “approached the Israelis,” as well as to an Israeli girl, 15-year-old Tirzah Porat. We also are told of reports that the mother of the slain farmer, Mousa Shamseh, threw a rock at Aldubi. Is it possible that by this time the mother may have heard about the shooting of her son? Could that possibly be why she may have thrown the rock? And did the rock possibly hit its target? The article does inform us that Aldubi “received a serious head injury.” In any event, a fight breaks out between the Israelis and some of the villagers, with the Palestinians completely overwhelming the two guards and destroying their weapons.
Later it turns out that Tirzah Porat, the young Israeli girl, was killed not by Palestinian stone throwers, but by a bullet from Aldubi’s gun, apparently fired accidentally during the melee. We are even told of Palestinian women in the village who took some of the Israeli lasses into their homes until the hostility subsided. But despite this, the IDF goes back to the village and kills another Palestinian, 16-year-old Issam Abdul Halim Mohammad Said. They also destroy 15 homes and arrest all adult males, deporting six of them over the border into Lebanon. Thus is the Wikipedia narrative of this historic incident that took place 25 years ago today.
So why do I describe this as “classic Jewish behavior”? Because what we see in the story is a complete inability to self-reflect, a total incapacity, on the part of officials as well as the Israeli public, to recognize, or even consider the possibility, that the group of Jews who went to the village that day may have acted wrongly. You’ll note that officials put out a statement describing the party as having fallen “into the hands of pogromists and murderers.” And even though it emerged that Tirzah Porat had been killed by a bullet from Aldubi’s gun, there came cries for “revenge” and to “wipe Beita off the map.” This follows a pattern that goes back for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years—of Jews refusing to examine their behavior objectively, or to acknowledge the possibility that Jewish conduct or actions may account for some of the hostilities that have arisen against them throughout their history. In such a way does one remain in what might be thought of as a “victimization pod,” a pod that cannot be broken out of. And this is classic Jewish behavior.
What about the ability to empathize? The families of the Palestinians who were killed in the Beita incident must have felt sorrow at the loss of their loved ones. Could not the Israelis who called for revenge recognize that? Maybe. But to do so would have demanded they be able to see non-Jews as their fellow human beings, a complicated endeavor, no doubt, when you’re accustomed to thinking of yourself as “chosen.” Indeed, the only empathy shown is for the “violence-prone religious nationalist” Aldubi—a Jew. And yes, this too is classic Jewish behavior. When I say “classic Jewish behavior,” I do not of course mean all Jews are this way. There are indeed some who have broken out of the victimization pod. But these seem to be a small minority, and indeed the vast majority of Jews support the state of Israel.
Three years ago, on the twenty-second anniversary of the Beita incident, the Jewish blog Mondoweiss published an article on the events of that day that is well worth reading and which makes the Wikipedia article seem sort of like a “bare bones” account at best. Additionally, the Mondoweiss article informs us
* that Aldubi was a Meir Kahane follower
* that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir brought lighter fluid to Porat’s funeral, telling the mourners there that “the heart of the entire nation is boiling” and that “God will avenge her blood.”
*that the funeral occurred the same day it was discovered that the bullet had been fired from Aldubi’s gun
*that Israeli Religious Affairs Minister Zevulun Hammer called upon the army to “cut off the arms of these wild men and smash the skull of the viper of death.”
*that Minister of Justice Avraham Sharir recommended that houses in the village be demolished and that hundreds be expelled from the village on suspicion of responsibility.
* that Aldubi was indeed injured at the hands of the mother of the farmer killed, although in the Mondoweiss account it was not the man’s mother but his sister, and the rock was not thrown but used to actually physically strike him upon the head. The woman, we are additionally informed, was sentenced to prison.
Mondoweiss also documents media fabrications in coverage of the incident, including by the New York Times, and then goes on to comment:
So let’s sum this all up. A group of illegal Israeli settlers take a deliberately provocative hike to an Arab village to show them who’s boss. They allow an Israeli racist hothead with a violent history to be an armed guard, and he predictably murders two Palestinians and shoots two others, and accidentally kills an Israeli girl. The Times blames both sides equally. The Israeli army kills a third Palestinian youth for “running away” and destroys 14 homes, most if not all of them after learning who was responsible for killing the Israeli. The killer of three is allowed to walk free, while the pregnant sister of one of the Palestinian victims goes to prison, and six men from the village are expelled from the country.
The Mondoweiss piece is written by David Samel, and as I say it’s well worth reading, although I do take issue with the author on one point, and that is in which he describes the Beita incident as typifying “the racism, cruelty, injustice, even insanity of the Occupation.” Yes, it does typify those things—the “racism, cruelty and injustice of the occupation” as it were—but it is more than that alone, for it also typifies the mindset of those trapped in the victimization pod, a mindset leading to what I have referred to here as “classic Jewish behavior.”