Herzog decries some Israelis’ ‘morbid joy’ at Brussels attacks

Netanyahu says no difference between attacks in Israel and Europe; minister slams EU for labeling settlement goods while terror brews

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Isaac Herzog addresses the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Isaac Herzog addresses the Knesset on February 10, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Tuesday spoke out against Israelis who he said expressed “morbid joy” over Europe’s pain in the wake of a series of deadly terror attacks in Brussels earlier in the day.

Herzog was visiting the United States for the annual AIPAC conference, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the attacks and compared them to Saturday’s bombing in Istanbul, the San Bernardino shooting in California in December, the Paris attacks in November, and hundreds of Palestinian attacks on Israelis since October.

Speaking via video linkup to the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, from Jerusalem, Netanyahu condemned the attack that was said to have claimed some 35 lives in airport and metro bombings in Brussels. “The chain of attacks from Paris to San Bernardino, from Istanbul to the Ivory Coast and now to Brussels, and the daily attacks on Israel — this is one continuous assault on all of us,” he said.

“In all these cases, the terrorists have no resolvable grievances,” he said, suggesting that giving up Brussels to the Islamic State was no more viable than ceding land for peace in the West Bank. “What they seek is our utter destruction. We won’t let that happen.”

President Reuven Rivlin conveyed Israel’s condolences to Belgium’s King Philippe, saying the people of Israel join in Belgium’s mourning.

“Sadly, we, in Israel, are no strangers to the horror and grief that follows such murderous attacks and can understand the pain you all feel now,” Rivlin said in a missive to Belgium’s head of state. “Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism, whether it takes place in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul or Jerusalem. These horrific events once again prove that we must all stand united in the fight against those who seek to use violence to stifle individual liberty and freedom of thought and belief, and continue to destroy the lives of so many.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Western values were under an assault by radical Islamist terrorism which requires “unity for a determined, creative and uncompromising fight against its origins, financers and activists.”

He said “states of the free world” must combine forces and intelligence with “the understanding that this is a Third World War against our human and collective values.”

Other Israeli politicians, however, reacted to the bombing with a mixture of sympathy and derision over Europe’s criticism of the Jewish state. While offering “sincere condolences to the Belgian people,” Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, took the opportunity to slam the EU for opting “to occupy themselves” with labeling settlement goods while “underneath the nose of the continent’s citizens, thousands of extremist Islamic terror cells have grown.

“The terrorism of extremist Islam strikes all those who do not accept its authority,” he said, echoing the prime minister’s sentiments.

“Enough already!” Herzog said in a statement. “Stop this contemptible talk. Where did you get the chutzpah to degrade innocent victims of terror? Where do you get this miserable cynicism from? This is a distortion of the most basic human morality. This is a painful moment internationally that obliges all people to identify with the bereaved families, whoever they are, and wish the wounded a speedy recovery.”

Left-wing Meretz party MK Michal Rozin also railed at right-wing politicians for “before the blood dried… gloating and trying to score political points at the expense of the victims.”

“The foolish attempt to create some kind of cynical response to the world in order to justify the Israeli occupation won’t work,” she said in an apparent reference to Netanyahu and Akunis. “Our victims are too many to ignore the great cost of our policies.”

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List leader expressed sympathy for the victims and pointed the finger at the Islamic State, even though it had yet to claim responsibility for the attacks. He called IS “an enemy of all of humanity” and said “the Arab world needs to vomit it up from within itself and achieve victory for the nations of the region for the sake of peace and democracy.”

Fellow Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said Tuesday’s attack deserved “moral and political condemnation.” He condemned the murder of three Israelis in a suspected Islamic State terror attack in Istanbul at the Knesset, and likewise for Brussels, he said on Twitter, “Islamic State or not, this is terrible and criminal.”

Zionist Union MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni sent her “condolences to the Belgian people who experienced cruel terrorism. In this battle for our values we are all on the same side, including Israel.” She added in a Hebrew tweet that “we must cooperate in order to defeat it.”

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said that the challenge of combating the Islamic State isn’t the fight in Syria and Iraq, but “thousands of extremists, driven by a murderous belief and armed with European passports, some of whom are already on the soil of the [European] continent and some of whom will return to it after the Islamic State is defeated. The problem is terror which will challenge the Western way of life.”

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