August 15, 2002
The Ethics of Revenge
My beloved son, Arik, my own flesh and blood, was murdered by Palestinians.
My tall, blue-eyed, golden-haired son who was always smiling with the innocence of a child and the understanding of an adult. My son. To hit his killers, innocent Palestinian children and other civilians would have to be killed. I would ask the security forces to wait for another opportunity. If the security forces were to kill innocent Palestinians as well, I would tell them they were no better than my son's killers.
My beloved son, Arik, was murdered by a Palestinian. Should the security forces have information of this murderer's whereabouts, and should it turn out that he was surrounded by innocent children and other Palestinian civilians, then -- even if the security forces knew that the killer was planning another murderous attack that was to be launched within hours and they now had the choice of curbing a terror attack that would kill innocent Israeli civilians, but at the cost of hitting innocent Palestinians -- I would tell the security forces not to seek revenge, but to try to avoid and prevent the death of innocent civilians, be they Israelis or Palestinians.
I would rather have the finger that pushes the trigger or the button that drops the bomb tremble before it kills my son's murderer than for innocent civilians to be killed. I would say to the security forces: do not kill the killer. Rather, bring him before an Israeli court. You are not the judiciary. Your only motivation should not be vengeance, but the prevention of any injury to innocent civilians.
Ethics are not black and white -- they are all white. Ethics have to be free of vengefulness and rashness. Every act must be carefully weighed before a decision is made to see whether it meets the strict ethical criteria. Ethics cannot be left to the discretion of anyone who is frivolous or trigger-happy. Our ethics are hanging by a thread, at the mercy of every soldier and politician. I am not at all sure that I am willing to delegate my ethics to them.
It is unethical to kill innocent Israeli or Palestinian women and children. It is also unethical to control another nation and to lead it to lose its humaneness. It is patently unethical to drop a bomb that kills innocent Palestinians. It is blatantly unethical to wreak vengeance upon innocent bystanders. It is, on the other hand, supremely ethical to prevent the death of any human being. But if such prevention causes the futile death of others, the ethical foundation for such prevention is lost.
A nation that cannot draw the line is doomed to eventually apply unethical measures against its own people. The worst in my mind is not what has already happened but what I am sure one day will. And it will -- because ethics are now being twisted and the political and military leadership does not even have the most basic integrity to say: "We are sorry."
We lost sight of our ethics long before the suicide bombings. The breaking point was when we started to control another nation. My son, Arik, was born into a democracy with a chance for a decent, settled life. Arik's killer was born into an appalling occupation, into an ethical chaos. Had my son been born in his stead, he may have ended up doing the same. Had I myself been born into the political and ethical chaos that is the Palestinians' daily reality, I would certainly have tried to kill and hurt the occupier; had I not, I would have betrayed my essence as a free man. Let all the self-righteous who speak of ruthless Palestinian murderers take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what they would have done had they been the ones living under occupation. I can say for myself that I, Yitzhak Frankenthal, would have undoubtedly become a freedom fighter and would have killed as many on the other side as I possibly could. It is this depraved hypocrisy that pushes the Palestinians to fight us relentlessly -- our double standard that allows us to boast the highest military ethics, while the same military slays innocent children. This lack of ethics is bound to corrupt us.
My son, Arik, was murdered when he was a soldier by Palestinian fighters who believed in the ethical basis of their struggle against the occupation. My son, Arik, was not murdered because he was Jewish, but because he is part of the nation that occupies the territory of another.
I know these are concepts that are unpalatable, but I must voice them loud and clear, because they come from my heart -- the heart of a father whose son did not get to live because his people were blinded with power. As much as I would like to do so, I cannot say that the Palestinians are to blame for my son's death. That would be the easy way out, but it is we, Israelis, who are to blame because of the occupation. Anyone who refuses to heed this awful truth will eventually lead to our destruction.
The Palestinians cannot drive us away -- they have long acknowledged our existence. They have been ready to make peace with us; it is we who are unwilling to make peace with them. It is we who insist on maintaining our control over them; it is we who escalate the situation in the region and feed the cycle of bloodshed. I regret to say it, but the blame is entirely ours.
I do not mean to absolve the Palestinians and by no means justify attacks against Israeli civilians. No attack against civilians can be condoned. But as an occupation force, it is we who trample over human dignity, it is we who crush the liberty of Palestinians and it is we who push an entire nation to crazy acts of despair. Finally, I call on my brothers and sisters in the settlements -- see what we have come to.