As many of you are well aware, a horrific tragedy occurred in Israel this past weekend. Five people (a mother, father, and three of their six children), were stabbed to death in their home in an Israeli settlement. For more information, go here.
Since these attacks, I have heard a lot of people expressing outrage. And why shouldn't they? These were outrageous attacks on innocent people.
But one theme that I've noticed in this outrage is the comparison of the murderers to animals. I'm not comfortable with this. Not because I think it's wrong to compare humans to animals or because I feel any goodwill towards these butchers. Rather, because I think that to compare human beings committing horrific acts to animals is to undermine just how terrible the act truly was.
I want you to imagine, just for a moment, that this act was actually committed by an animal. Imagine that the Fogel family was preparing to go to sleep that night when suddenly a mountain lion jumped through their window and killed 5 of them before finding its way back out. I imagine the scene which their 12 year old daughter walked in on would have been much the same. Mud all over the floor, and bloody horrors in the bedroom.
There would have been grief from family, friends, neighbors. People would read about it and say, "Oh, how awful!" But there would be no anger. How can you be angry at a lion simply doing what is in its nature to do? Perhaps it was rabid or starving or merely confused. It certainly had no way of understanding that by killing these people they were murdering someone's children. After all, it's just an animal. It may be hunted down and killed, but no one would be expressing outrage over the acts committed by a lion.
Now let's get back to reality. The perpetrators of this act were not animals. They were human beings. When they broke into that home late on Friday night, they knew what they were doing. They were deliberately going in with the intent to butcher 5 other human beings, whom they neither knew nor cared to know. All they knew was that these people were Jewish Israeli settlers, and that was enough to justify their actions. They entered the home, and stabbed to death the mother, the father, and the two older children, then slit the throat of an infant. I'm sure there were screams. Screams that would turn the stomachs of "weaker" men. But these men went forward with their "glorious" mission. And when they escaped that night, back over the fences which are meant to protect the settlement of Itamar, I'm sure they felt noble and victorious.
This is not the act of an animal.
This is an act so horrific that only humans are capable of committing it.
So why do we tell ourselves these are animals? Why do we take away our own right to rage? I think it's because our minds can't comprehend how someone so human, so much like us, could do these things. We need to denounce it as inhuman, because admitting that they're human is admitting that we have that same capacity for despicable violence in us.
And the fact is we do. The fact is that we'd like to believe that, had we been raised in Nazi Germany, we would have been above the propaganda and intimidation and would have saved lives. We'd like to believe that there was something wrong with the people who followed Hitler. That maybe they were something less than human. But they weren't. They were humans brought up in a society that taught them to hate Jews from a young age and to love their country, so when one charismatic man came along and appealed to both of those deeply ingrained parts of their upbringings, they did what humans do: They believed and they put their passion into it. Animals couldn't do that. But we can.
So please, do remember that these murderers, and their supporters, are as human as you and I. Hold them liable for their actions and know that these men were not born animals, they are manufactured butchers.
*Disclaimer: Don't mistake my support of anger towards these murderers as any kind of license to go around declaring war on every Arab/Muslim/Palestinian in the world. I still strongly believe in the need to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent. These men are guilty, but that doesn't mean we can declare everyone of their race/religion/nationality guilty by association. If we could, we'd all be guilty of money laundering and fraud on behalf of Madoff (and the unfortunate myriad of others who have committed such crimes, and behind whom the Jewish community have inexplicably thrown their support.)