There is no such thing as a “Revenge Attack.”

Framing matters. Language shapes reality, and reality is unwinding sickly, deadly, unreal. If the reports coming in are confirmed- and they are not confirmed yet- that it was Jewish people who kidnapped and murdered the young Palestinian boy from Jerusalem last night, then we need to fervently push back against and resist a certain media framing:

“Revenge Attack.”

Times of Israel: “Arab teen killed in Jerusalem, revenge attack suspected;” Ynet: “Body of Arab teen found in Jerusalem in possible revenge attack.” Even Haaretz, who managed to use the word “Palestinian” rather than “Arab,” fell into the same trap: “Palestinian found dead in suspected revenge attack.”

Virtually all of the media I’ve skimmed are using the same framing to discuss this horrific happening. And this is part of what is so wrong with so much of the media:

There is no such thing as a “revenge attack.” 

While it seems logical, it is in fact an absurd, inappropriate and meaningless way to frame what happened. The Times of Israel, in the article linked above, writes that the police suspect that the event, in which there are suspicions that the 15-year old Palestinian boy named Mohammad Abu Khdeir who was kidnapped near a grocery store in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem was the same boy whose body was found brutally murdered and left in the Jerusalem woods, and that this was a “revenge attack” carried out by “Jewish ultra-nationalists.”

Which sounds logical, until you think about it for a moment: The framing of this horror as a “revenge attack” buys into a narrative of collectivist Eye-for-an-Eye-ism, ie., The Arabs killed and kidnapped young Jews so The Jews take revenge on The Arabs. That’s it. As if there is actually some connection between this boy who was killed and the Palestinians who killed the three Israeli boys. It is the same logic used by Hamas to justify their bombing of a passover seder filled with elderly Holocaust survivors (Baruch Goldstein had recently committed his own act of massacre against Palestinians). In this logic, there are no individuals, no human beings, and everyone is pared down into two groups. And if this is a “revenge attack,” then the kidnapping and murder of the three Jewish boys was also surely a “revenge attack” for something done by The Jews at some juncture. Everyone who murders other people has grievances for which they are exacting revenge.

Please don’t buy into this discourse. If the reports are true, then it was not a “revenge attack.” It was a viscous, racist murder, and an act of terrorism and fascism. The idea of “revenge” may inform us as to what went through the minds of the killers (and what was placed there by politicians calling for the revenge) but it has no place in our moral, ethical and political sorting of this event.

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