In efforts to explain the savage, senseless butchery of the Jerusalem synagogue massacre, left-leaning commentators referred to “provocation” and a so-called “cycle of violence” involving both sides. Even the president of the United States strained to sound even-handed in the face of a shameless display of Islamist barbarity. “Too many Israelis have died; too many Palestinians have died,” he told the White House press pool. “At this difficult time I think it’s important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence.” In other words, he suggested that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, had played somehow comparable roles in fomenting those tensions and both needed to move more forcefully to “reject violence.”
But when, Mr. President, has Israel ever failed to “reject violence” against Palestinians who remain peaceful?
No political or religious leaders in the Jewish state ever applauded, justified or excused brutal attacks against peaceful Palestinians – like the universally denounced murder of an East Jerusalem teenager last summer by two mentally deranged Israelis who have been arrested and face potential life imprisonment (there is no death penalty in Israel, even for terrorism).
Apologists for Palestinian brutality often decry the death and destruction in the recent Gaza War–a conflict that only began in response to incessant Hamas rocket attacks, and ended as soon as those attacks stopped. The politically correct tendency to find fault with both sides also notes struggles over “prayer rights” on a holy site that’s sacred to both Jews and Muslims. But prayer rights for Muslims have never been in doubt: ever since Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordanian control in June of 1967, the Islamic Waqf has maintained undisputed control of the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as “The Noble Sanctuary”), encouraging Islamic prayer but strictly prohibiting any form of Christian or Jewish worship. Prime Minister Netanyahu recently reaffirmed that outrageous status quo, and has never on any occasion threatened to disrupt it. Yehuda Glick, the activist rabbi who was shot and grievously wounded for threatening the “sanctity” of the cherished mosques on the site, asked only for Christians and Jews to win the same rights to pray on the Temple Mount that Muslims already enjoy.
Finally, those who justify terror denounce Israeli plans to build homes on contested land, never recognizing that Israel recently approved only expansion of long-existing communities and hasn’t authorized any mass dislocation of Palestinians. Moreover, to Palestinian leaders every inch of Israel is “contested land” since they claim Tel Aviv and Haifa just as insistently as they demand sole control of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The synagogue attacked on Tuesday morning was in the Har Nof neighborhood on far western Jerusalem, distant from any centers of Palestinian population and nowhere near the Green Line that marked the pre-1967 border of Israel. If Palestinians can justify (and, in fact, celebrate) an attack in Har Nof, they will applaud brutal killing anywhere in Israel. The current tensions have nothing to do with a dispute over land or borders, and center instead on the dispute over the very existence of a Jewish state within any borders whatever.
Beyond the unspeakable brutality of the crime itself, the most shocking aspect of the Jerusalem synagogue massacre involves the reaction of Palestinian mobs throughout Gaza and the West Bank. Crowds surged into the streets in celebration, handing out candies, honking horns, waving banners, setting off firecrackers, and wielding axes to honor the killers who had hacked to death four non-political, religious scholars in the midst of their morning prayers. Street demonstrations only occur in Palestinian territories with approval from the dictatorial government in Ramallah, so the regime of Mahmoud Abbas obviously felt proud to show-off to the world their public jubilation over murder. Palestinian leaders seem to believe that other nations share their pathological hatred of Jews, and so would look approvingly at exultation over butchery that desecrated a place of worship.
In any event, it apparently never occurred to them that the joyous festivities over the “martyrdom” of two Arab cousins who gave up their lives to kill unarmed, pious Jews at prayer might somehow sully their image as “peace loving” and eager to negotiate in good faith. Civilized states must now respond – especially Sweden, which outrageously recognized a “State of Palestine” a few weeks ago – to denounce the savagery and acknowledge that negotiations are impossible with leaders who applaud and glorify utterly unprovoked mass murder.
The President of the United States must also move away from the absurd idea of moral equivalence between those who seek to destroy lives and those determined to defend them. An old slogan of Palestinian terrorists claims: “We will win because we love death more than you love life.” Israelis, even in the face of indescribably brutal death, show their passionate love of life: a police officer died in the Jerusalem incident while trying to protect others, while the religious community repaired and cleaned the stricken synagogue in time to welcome a huge crowd of worshippers for evening prayers the same day that terrorists struck in the morning.
No amount of politically correct propaganda can obscure or erase the profound difference between a society that fights for its own survival and a society that concentrates all its energies on visiting bloodshed and destruction on others. In the days ahead, the president should offer some signal, at least, that he recognizes a meaningful distinction between loving life and loving death.
This column appeared at TruthRevolt.org on November 19, 2014.