The ethics of revenge--by a father who lost his son to terror
A speech made by Yitzhak Frankenthal, Chairman of the Families
Forum, at a rally in Jerusalem on Saturday, July 27, 2002, outside
the Prime Minister's residence.
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. If 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.
Want to help spread quality independent journalism?
Donate to NileMedia and watch us grow.