Richard Lakin was murdered in October. By June he was no longer in the news. That’s when I went to a wonderful conference put together by Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center.
The conference was two days of pure pleasure. It was all about politics, all about Israel, the country I love with all my heart, and how the battle for her honor is being fought in the court of public opinion as well as in the real courts, namely the International Criminal Court (ICC).
You go to something like this and you hear a lot of famous people speak. Members of Knesset like Yair Lapid, Tsipi Livni, and Naftali Bennett. You hear people like Ambassador John Bolton. And you may even get a photo of someone you thought you’d never have the privilege to see.
But you come with preconceptions. You think you know the good guys from the bad guys, whom to cheer and whom to boo. You think you know right from left.
And sometimes you’re right.
When Tsipi Livni spoke, for instance, I stayed, thinking maybe I should at least hear her out, while others left before she could begin. And I had to leave in the middle of her speech in protest of the way she demonized Elor Azaria, the soldier who, like Israel, is being tried in the court of public opinion as well as before a jury of his peers (or what passes for that in Israel)* for shooting a terrorist who was already down. That boy could be my son. Anyone’s son. And I was disgusted at the suggestion that we should not support him.
Just a boy. Put in an impossible situation. A stressful situation.
It made me want to cry, just thinking about it. Still does.
And then at some point, Richard Lakin’s son spoke. Micah Lakin Avni. I steeled myself to listen to him with kindness. His father had been murdered not that long ago, the year of mourning, not yet complete.
Why did I need to steel myself? Not because it would be difficult to hear his pain, it would be of course, but I steeled myself only because I knew the family, including Richard (HY”D), himself lately murdered by Arab terrorists, leaned to the left politically.
It is very difficult to listen quietly when people talk about giving up Jewish land for peace, when one doesn’t believe this a sound or advisable idea—when one does not believe this will bring the desired result. It is very difficult to listen quietly when left-leaning people pay homage to the idea of symmetry and balance when all I see is an Arab war against the Jews. But I had no intention of not giving Micah Lakin Avni my fullest attention. He deserved to be heard, as the son of a terror victim, as a fellow Jew, as someone who had suffered pain no one should be made to suffer.
And what I found was that he was quite reasonable, Micah Lakin Avni. He was straight-talking. From start to finish. He said not one thing with which I disagreed politically or on any other level. He spoke about the disbelieving Arab nurse in ICU who cared for his father as he lingered in a coma, on the edge of death. Only one week before, her two sons had been in Richard Lakin’s home. He was their teacher, their tutor. His home had always open to them. He was kindness itself. It was impossible for her to believe that something like this could happen to him.
It was so sad.
But the main thrust of what Micah Lakin Avni spoke about was how social media was being used to facilitate and feed the terror pipeline. He spoke of how it felt when only a few days after his father’s murder, the Hamas Student Union aired a video reenactment of the murder on Facebook and Twitter. When Micah could barely deal with the torrent of emotions, he was confronted with something so cruel and ugly.
He called it “open-source Jihad” and talked about how it grows itself. And he talked about how he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times called The Facebook Intifada. Precisely because he was left-leaning, and precisely because of what he had personally suffered, moreover, his op-ed went viral.
And that’s important.
It’s important any time we can get the mainstream media to hear the truth about terror, the truth about Israel and what is happening here. It is important when the mainstream media allows our voices to be heard. For soldiering on and making his voice heard, Micah Lakin Avni is only to be praised.
But even more so for what he then said at the conference I attended. He dared to say that open-source Jihad is the new Nazism. And he said that in order to deal with this new Nazism, we will have to revisit our rights. Things like freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence which is at the very core of our society.
Lakin Avni did not suggest we discard this presumption, only revisit and perhaps reconsider or revise. Because when you have terrorists airing reenactments of murder on social media, you have to think hard about the effect of this on society and whether the freedom to create and share a clip like this, that incites to murder, is more valuable than peace.
(Think of Hitler’s speeches—what if they had been suppressed because of the danger? This was a danger we now know was too high a price to pay for freedom of speech.)
The frustrating thing here, for Lakin Avni, and for all of us, is that Facebook has no face. There is no address for these concerns, no address to deal with incitement on social media, this open-source Jihad. Facebook couches its “Community Standards” in words that preclude any complaint. Facebook decries “acts of violence” and not incitement to terror. The monolith says its concern must be for the safety of the people on Facebook (and not people on buses, people like Richard Lakin, for instance). There is no face to sue.
Meanwhile, said Lakin Avni, incitement to terror is rampant on Arabic and Muslim pages on Facebook and Facebook simply closes its eyes to the phenomenon. Lakin Avni dares them to refute this fact: that incitement is rampant on Arabic and Muslim Facebook pages.
His dare goes unanswered. Will go unanswered. And the result of this silence is and will be bloodshed.
Well, I am now at over 1,000 words and have not yet gotten to the meat of my piece, the reason I am suddenly writing about a conference that took place over one month ago. It is this: six months ago, the World Organization of the Scout Movement accepted as a full member, the Palestinian Scout Association. And now, this very same Palestinian Scout Association is running a “leadership training course” called the Martyr – Leader Baha Alyan Course.
This “leadership course” which incites children to die in the act of killing Jewish Israelis is named after the murderer of peace activist Richard Lakin: Baha Alyan.
Now my son is a boy scout. He is big into Scouts. He eats, sleeps, and dreams Scouts. He tries hard to be a leader and a good example to the boys he has charge of, as a patrol leader. It is difficult to imagine the disparity between my son’s experience of being a scout, which means things like being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, and what these Arab children are being taught in the name of “leadership.” Namely: to go out and kill the Jews.
It’s open-source Jihad writ large. It’s incitement to kill. It’s extreme xenophobia, and yes. It’s CHILD ABUSE.
The story of these boy scouts for Jihad was broken by Palestinian Media Watch with a quote from the official Palestinian Authority daily, Al-Jadida:
“Yesterday the practical studies for the [scout] deputy unit leaders (preparation for the wood badge) – Martyr (Shahid) Leader Baha Alyan Course began at the Shabab Al-Eizariya Club in the Jerusalem district (Note: Alyan was terrorist who murdered 3, Ed.). [The course] was organized by the Committee for Training and Developing Leadership of the Palestinian Scout Association, in cooperation with the scout commission in the Jerusalem district.
The training staff is composed of several members of the Committee for Training and Developing Leadership: Preparatory studies [course] leader and Jerusalem commissioner Sa’id Atoun, [scout] leader Muhammad Al-Dahdar, and [scout] leader Mufid Al-Barq.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 27, 2016]
In response, PMW’s Itamar Marcus wrote to the World Organization of the Scout Movement:
From: Palestinian Media Watch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Aug. 28, 2016
Subject: Palestinian Scout Association terror promotion
Dear World Organization of the Scout Movement,
We would like to bring to your attention that the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA), which six months ago was accepted as a full member in the World Organization of the Scout Movement, is training its scout leaders to see a cold-blooded terrorist murderer as their role model. The PSA leadership training course that started last week is named the “Martyr – Leader Baha Alyan Course,” after terrorist Alyan, who boarded a bus in Jerusalem last October and murdered three Israeli passengers on the bus: Alon Govberg (51), Haviv Haim (78) and Richard Lakin (76).
We ask that you take steps to guarantee that the distinguished World Organization of the Scout Movement will have no part in training future scout leaders to see terrorist murderers as role models, by immediately canceling the PSA’s membership. There is no greater impediment to peace than bringing up children to see murderers of innocent civilians as heroic role models. Should you allow the Palestinian Scout Association to keep its membership in the World Organization of the Scout Movement at the same time as they are presenting a murderer as a role model for future scout leaders, then your organization is effectively a co-sponsor of this terror promoting course.
We thank you and are waiting to hear what actions you have taken to distance yourselves from the terror-promoting Palestinian Scout Association.
Director Palestinian Media Watch
I am absolutely biting my nails to hear what, if any answer, Marcus will receive.
Will the World Organization of the Scout Movement, like Facebook and Twitter before it, turn a blind eye to open-source Jihad, to the incitement of children to kill my people, as long as someone calls it “leadership training?”
Will the Scouts movement refuse to disassociate from these evil people with their extreme hatred and xenophobia?
Will Scouts become a place where I cannot in good conscience allow my son to continue to serve in a leadership role?
Will Scouts become a place where “terror” is called “leadership,” and “Jew-killing,” “resistance?”
And what will be the response of the Israeli branch of the Scout movement??
I probably need to have a talk with my son.
It is a talk I am dreading.
*UPDATE: I knew the military court was likely different than the American court system, but didn’t quite know how. Reader Shabtai wrote and explained as follows: “There is no jury at all. If there were, [Elor Azaria] would be tried in front of 6 of his peers – other לוחמים [fighters]. Instead, he is tried in front of a panel of military judges – who depend, in a large measure on the Ramat Kal [Chief of Staff], who has already condemned Azaria, for their next promotion. Ever hear the term ‘show trial’? I think that this is a critical point, and not enough folks in blogosphere (as far as I can see) are making it.”