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Commentary: Mamas, keep your daughters off the barricades

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–One of the consequences of Israel’s demonization is the incidence of young people who participate in demonstrations against one or another of what they perceive as the abominations created by the oppressor of Palestine.

Revolution and justice are powerful attractions, but they do not always appear together. Justice is elusive, and likely to be contentious.  
While some view Palestinian aspirations as the greatest cause of the 21st century, others see them as appealing fictions, perpetuated by political leaders unable to settle their differences with Israel due to Palestinian extremists.
Rachel Corrie is among the most prominent victims of this excitement.

Prodded by her own contemplations from afar, or incited by others, she appeared on an active battlefield in Gaza during the height of the latest intifada in 2003, dressed in a bright vest, carrying a poster, and yelling that Israeli soldiers must stop their activity. She was killed by an armed bulldozer in the midst of noise and dust, whose driver could see only from a small window that was most likely dirtied by what he and others were doing. While her parents continue a campaign of blaming the driver, the IDF, and the whole of Israel, an official investigation determined that their allegations were without foundation. A civil case continues in Israeli courts, whose characteristic slowness may keep it going for several more years. 

The most recent instance involves Emily Henochowicz, an American Jewish student who came to Israel for a period of study, and was attracted to the Palestinian cause. She participated in demonstrations against the construction of the security barrier, the settlement of Jews in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, and lost an eye when hit by a tear gas canister while protesting the incident involving the Turkish flotilla. She describes herself as the daughter of an ardent Zionist and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, who loves Israel as well as being concerned for Palestine. 
She is demanding the payment of her medical bills by the Ministry of Defense. Newspaper accounts cite witnesses who claim that the tear gas canister was fired directly at protesters, instead of in the air as required. Officials have expressed regret about her injuries, but indicate that their that inquiries justify the firing of tear gas at a demonstration that had turned violent with the throwing of stones. They say that the canister in question was not fired directly at demonstrators but ricocheted off a barricade, and explain that the government does not cover medical expenses in such cases.  
The attorney representing Ms Henochowicz is quoted as telling her father, an American physician, “not to touch his wallet or to sign any check.” He also indicated that,  “It is insolent and preposterous to expect someone who was shot by the security forces, whether unintentionally, negligently or with criminal intention, to fund her own medical treatment.” 
There have been several cases of demonstrators or journalists killed or injured while participating in, or covering demonstrations or actual combat. They typically lead to official inquiries or investigations. People speaking for the military, police, or government generally express their regrets, but stop short of an official apology. Some instances have produced formal charges by those injured, or their survivors, and some of these have led to the payment of compensation, and the censure or punishment of the soldiers or police held to be responsible. Details differ from one case to another. Any general conclusion is elusive, except for those convinced that everything Israel does is either evil or justified.  

Don’t play in traffic
is an appropriate element of any parent’s efforts to raise children. Stay away from battlefields and demonstrations likely to get ugly is a lesson appropriate for older offspring. 
If either a child or parent is offended by what they would see as patronizing advice, they must be prepared for unpleasant experiences. 
It may be thrilling and satisfying to demonize Israel, but costly for those who decide to act on their passion. 
*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University
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