At first, it might seem as though Sunday’s attack in Jerusalem’s Old City was just another typical act of Palestinian Arab terrorism—an attacker with a submachine gun opened fire on a street not far from the Western Wall, murdering one Jewish passerby and wounding four others. We’ve heard that kind of horrible news a thousand times before. I’ve lived it.
But when you look closely, it turns out that there is a lot to learn from this “typical” episode, because everything about it contradicts what the “experts” are always telling us about Arab terrorists and the evil deeds that they perpetrate.
The self-appointed experts say the “profile” of an Arab terrorist is an unemployed, single young man. But Sunday’s killer, Fadi Abu Shkhaydem, was none of those things.
The sociologists and think tank fellows who claim to know everything tell us that terrorists strike because “they have nothing to lose.” They supposedly have “personal problems” or “financial hardships.” They don’t have to worry about leaving behind widows or orphans. Well, this terrorist had everything to lose—but that didn’t stop him.
Shkhaydem was 42, not 22. He wasn’t an unstable, misguided youngster. He was a family man. He had a wife. He had five children. He simply didn’t care about making his wife a widow or leaving his children without a father. Murdering Jews was more important to him than the lives of his own loved ones.
In addition to the submachine gun, Shkhaydem was carrying a knife. Presumably, he wanted to be able to kill more Jews after his ammunition ran out.
Shkhaydem and his family lived in the northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. Classified as a “refugee camp,” Shuafat is adjacent to two Jewish neighborhoods, Pisgat Ze’ev and French Hill. Its residents take the same light rail line as the residents of those cities. In other words, the Shkhaydems had plenty of opportunities for peaceful interaction with Israeli Jews.
The international news media often tell us that terrorists are merely “responding” to some “expansion” by Jewish settlers. They can’t trot out that excuse in this case. The Shkhaydems were living in Jerusalem. They were not being harmed in any way by Jewish “settlers.” Nobody was taking their land or threatening their livelihood.
The Shkhaydems hold Israeli identity cards and have the status of permanent residents of Jerusalem. They enjoy the same rights as Jewish Jerusalemites, including medical care and voting in municipal elections. (The only thing they can’t do is vote in general elections, since they are not Israeli citizens.) Nobody is oppressing them.
Shkhaydem was not some uneducated street thug. He has been described in news reports as “an Islamic scholar.” He was a well-known preacher in Jerusalem mosques, including the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. He was a teacher at the Rashidiya Secondary School, in Jerusalem which is in the municipial school system, but teaches the PA curriculum. He was “working on his PhD,” according to Shibli Sweiti, the terrorist’s uncle.
The schools in the Shkhaydems’ Shuafat neighborhood are run by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA. That’s a concession that the Israeli authorities have made, in the hope of fostering a peaceful atmosphere. That hasn’t worked out too well. UNRWA schools are notorious for using curricula that defame Jews and glorify terrorism. No doubt Fadi Abu Shkhaydem was pleased that his children are being educated there.
According to Israeli news reports, Shkhaydem’s friends and colleagues praised him as a “Mourabit,” or “defender of the faith” because of his frequent participation in rallies to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and to evict Jews from the Shimon HaTzadik / Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods.
There’s a similar logic at work in those protests and in this week’s terrorist attack. One day, Shkhaydem is shouting about the need to keep Jews off the Temple Mount and out of the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood; the next day, he picks up a machine gun to try to put that message into practice, in blood. Jewish blood.
I wonder what J Street, B’Tselem, Americans for Peace Now, and all the others who have been demanding the expulsion of Jews from Shimon HaTzadik/Sheikh Jarrah will have to say about Shkhaydem putting their slogans into practice.
So far they haven’t said anything. They’re obviously hoping that the whole episode will quickly retreat from the headlines before anybody starts asking them any embarrassing questions.
But before this latest horrible attack is forgotten, and the name of its dead victim—Eliyahu Kay, a 26-year-old immigrant from South Africa —fades from the news, let us at least learn this one important lesson:
The main cause of terrorism is ideology, not poverty. That may be hard for some Americans to comprehend because it’s so different from our own experience. Most Americans are not ideological. American culture doesn’t accept political violence. The American government doesn’t promote the use of violence. And the religions that most Americans embrace do not espouse violence.
But, as everyone knows, the Middle East is not the Middle West.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”