Isabel Kershner's story in today's Times about Emily Henochowicz losing her eye in a protest at the Kalandiya checkpoint the morning of the Gaza flotilla raid brings together a variety of very painful dilemmas.
What prompts me to write this post is the simple fact that a relatively small hospital bill is at dispute in a public display of internal Jewish fighting that raises to a degree the worst nightmares about how Jews can treat each other in the face of political conflict. The Henochowicz's and their lawyer would like the Israeli government to pay the hospital bill for the surgery to repair Emily's face and triage the loss of her eye; the Israeli government argues, thus far, that she was at a protest that turned violent against the police and therefore she shouldn't be compensated. As is often, tragically and stupidly the case, the lawsuit has spilled over into the public sphere and now the whole world gets to watch a Jewish state argue with a Jewish kid over whether or not it should pay for the loss of her eye at a protest.
No one says that Emily threw a stone at the Border Police, an act that arguably could have put her at justified risk. And so since everyone agrees that what happened was at best a horrible accident but could likely turn out to be (after an investigation) willful and malicious misconduct (if reports are true that the Border Police fired *at* rather than *above* the crowd.)
According to the Times report, the bill totals $10,000; according to Avi Issacharoff in today's Haaretz, the bill totals 14,000 Shekels. What's the difference? The bill quietly paid would have been the right thing to do--if only from a PR perspective, not to mention the correct moral and ethical perspective. The insistence of incompetent politicians to choose the wrong path in every state and nation is an endless source of trouble for all of us; here that lack of vision and courage speaks volumes.
No one is asking me--and it's too bad because I have a few good ideas.
Here is one of them. Prime Minister Netanyahu disburses a check to the family and visits Emily Henochowicz. He says, "If I were a father, I would have been angry about putting yourself in harm's way at these border protests which often grow violent. This is a terrible conflict, far from over, and tragically there may be more bloodshed before we get to peace. However, I respect your decision--as an adult--to protest and am proud that our democracy in Israel encourages such expressions. In this situation, you were injured grievously when you shouldn't have been and I truly regret this."
I simply don't buy the arguments that this will lead to more lawsuits; or why should Israel apologize since she put herself in harm's way; or you don't understand, these protests are meant to be a provocation to an impossible security situation for young soldiers and border guards. None of these arguments work for me.
The fact remains that if a Jewish kid who deeply identifies with Israel, goes there to study, engages in political protest and gets shot in the face and loses and eye at such a protest either accidentally or willfully, then that kid deserves compensation. Period.
I'm a big believer that the Palestinians are not winning the PR war--Israel is losing it. And with more boneheaded moves like this, that war could be over.