The world’s response to the terrorist attack on the Har Nof synagogue was conflicted and ethically ambiguous. President Obama lost no time in using the attack as a lesson in moral equivalence by pointing out that Palestinians have also died (in a conflict for which they are largely responsible), and that all sides need to move beyond the massacre to achieve peace. This trite homily insulted the memory of those murdered by presuming that unprovoked Palestinian terrorism is comparable to Jewish self-defense, and implying that Israel has not done enough in the search for peace.
The United Nations was no more sincere when it took a brief moment to condemn the murders, despite its own culpability in encouraging terrorism through its unbalanced denunciations of Israel and complicity in spreading global anti-Semitism.
It’s bad enough when Israel is equated with those who seek her destruction, but in truth, she is not even considered on par by her detractors. Instead, she is viewed as morally inferior to the Palestinians and the source of all conflict. By condemning the Har Nof attack equivocally while overlooking the rejectionist venom that made it possible, Mr. Obama and the UN chose to ignore history, truth and common decency.
It was widely reported that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Har Nof murders, but his supposed rebuke was adulterated to the point of insignificance. He only went through the motions after reportedly being pressured by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, all the while implying the attack was related to “incursions and provocations by [Jewish] settlers against the Aksa Mosque” and “assaults on the Noble Sanctuary [Temple Mount].” By juxtaposing the murders with some imaginary Jewish war against Islam, this tepid condemnation lacked any real substance or sincerity.
Not feeling similarly constrained by Secretary Kerry’s scolding, the PA cheered and members of the Fatah Central Committee praised the two terrorists who had murdered Jews at prayer and a selfless Druze policeman who came to their aid. Taking advantage of social media, Abbas advisor Sultan Abu Al-Einein praised the perpetrators with the following post on Facebook:
Peace be upon you, oh children of Jerusalem … Oh, those who carry out Ribat [war to take land claimed by Islam] in the plazas of the first direction of prayer of Allah [the Al-Aqsa Mosque] in the name of your people and your Arab nation… Blessed be your quality weapons, the wheels of your cars, your axes and kitchen knives. By Allah, these are stronger than the arsenals of our enemy, because [they are being used] according to Allah’s will. We are the soldiers of Allah.
Viewed in this context, Abbas’s statement did not really signal a Palestinian repudiation of anti-Semitic terrorism or the murder of Jews. He merely spoke empty platitudes in order to curry U.S. favor without abdicating the ultimate goal of destroying Israel. Moreover, he demonstrated no genuine resolve for conciliation, which is impossible without acceptance and recognition. The simple reality is that the Arab-Muslim world has never accepted Israel’s right to exist; and the Palestinian narrative – which is a modern political contrivance – is driven by a repudiation of historical Jewish claims.
Abbas’s repeated pronouncements that the Palestinians will never recognize a Jewish state or relinquish their bogus “right of return” would seem to reflect his true beliefs. In gauging his intent, it is important to recognize that he has not made such statements only on rare occasions to appease Arab audiences, but has made them repeatedly and without regard to who was listening or in what language his words were being reported.
In contrast, Israel has always actively pursued the cause of peace, even when doing so required her to compromise lawful claims to traditional Jewish lands or lend credence to a Palestinian myth that denies Jewish history. She unilaterally disengaged from Gaza and allowed Palestinian autonomy in Judea and Samaria, and in return saw the rise of a terrorist state to her south, the worsening of anti-Semitic violence in the territories and Jerusalem, and a unity government between the PA and Hamas.
The Palestinians continue to incite, teach anti-Semitism and engage in terrorism; and through it all, the West continues to demand that Israel agree to indefensible borders, relinquish sovereignty in Jerusalem, and acquiesce to the creation of a new state to be governed by people who remain sworn to her destruction. If anything, the evolution of a terror state in Gaza to the fill the void left by disengagement shows what is sure to grow out of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
It would be foolhardy for Israel to agree to such a state in light of the PA’s continuing incitement. However, even if Abbas were to say the magic words and concede Israel’s right to exist, the concept of taqiyya would make it impossible to determine Palestinian sincerity and commitment. How is it possible to trust a negotiating partner whose religious tradition mandates lying to those it considers infidels? How much can Israel be expected to take on faith? And how can the West continue to demand that Israel negotiate in a trust vacuum, especially after years of vilification by the Arab-Muslim world?
Supposed moderates periodically claim to want peace, but they assiduously avoid accepting the legitimacy of a Jewish State. This was true with respect to proponents of the Saudi initiative, the Road Map and the Oslo Process.
The only honest message regarding the potential for peace was delivered nearly fifty years ago in Khartoum when the Arab League declared there would be “no recognition, no negotiations and no peace.” Though there have been brokered and forced negotiations since then, they have been sham proceedings entertained only for the purpose of keeping western financial support flowing or gaining an edge in the battle for world opinion.
The Rabbis taught that words have real power, as illustrated by the Torah’s account of how G-d created the world with ten utterances.
At the core of this rejectionism is a primal, deep-seated hatred of Jews. Unfortunately, Americans and Europeans either do not understand this or simply don’t want to. Worse, there is a tendency within the political mainstream to downplay claims of Arab or Muslim anti-Semitism as alarmist or “Islamophobic.” But it is a cultural reality and it fuels rejection of Israel.
Western progressives often conceptualize the situation as a balanced equation with moderates on one side and extremists on the other. But balance in this equation is morally relative, as illustrated by those who pontificate that Israel should negotiate even with Hamas based on the tired cliché that: “You don’t make peace with friends, you make peace with enemies.” This equation is nothing more than artifice grounded in revisionist myth, cultural relativism and moral equivalence. It artificially distinguishes moderates from extremists, when in fact there are no real moderates. This becomes evident by comparing the “extremist” Hamas charter with that of the “moderate” Palestinian Authority.
Hamas’s charter casts its commitment to destroying Israel and exterminating Jews in religious terms, as reflected in the following passages:
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it’ (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).
(Hamas Charter, Preamble.)
The Islamic Resistance Movement is one link in the chain of jihad in confronting the Zionist invasion. It is connected and linked to the [courageous] uprising of the martyr 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam and his brethren the jihad fighters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the year 1936. It is further related and connected to another link, [namely] the jihad of the Palestinians, the efforts and jihad of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war, and the jihad operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1968 and afterwards. Although these links are far apart, and although the continuity of jihad was interrupted by obstacles placed in the path of the jihad fighters by those who circle in the orbit of Zionism, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah's prayer and peace be upon him, says: 'The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,' except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.' (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).
(Hamas Charter, Article Seven.)
Although the Palestinian National Covenant does not employ the same religious imagery, it uses the language of revolution to reject and delegitimize Israel just the same. Abbas’s vow of non-recognition is perfectly consistent with the following provisions:
Article 17: The partitioning of Palestine, which took place in 1947, and the establishment of Israel are illegal and null and void, regardless of the loss of time…
Article 18: The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate System, and all that has been based on them are considered null and void. The claims of historic and spiritualties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood. Judaism… is not a nationality (and) the Jews are not one people with an independent personality…
Article 19: Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goal, racist in its configurations, and fascist in its means and aims…
The PA was required under Oslo to change this language, and its refusal to do so casts doubt on whether it ever truly desired peace with Israel. It also raises the question of why the United States and European Union persist in touting the PA as moderate when it not only maintains such a charter, but continues to teach racist anti-Semitism in its schools, preach incitement in its mosques, support or engage in terrorism, and celebrate the murder of Jews.
The truth of the matter is that genuine peace will never be possible unless Israel’s putative negotiating partners acknowledge the Jews’ ancient and unbroken connection to their homeland. The refusal of Abbas and the PA to do so, and their continuing affinity for terror and incitement, provide a more honest barometer of their intentions. The world’s refusal to recognize this reflects its twisted view of the Jewish People far more than its supposed concern for the rights of Palestinians.
For generations beginning with the Dispersion, Jewish exile was characterized by insecurity and peril. Throughout history Jews were viewed as strangers wherever they lived because of their refusal to assimilate, and their survival always depended on the sufferance of host cultures that persecuted, harassed and killed them with abandon. Jews lived everywhere but belonged nowhere until the reestablishment of sovereignty in their ancient homeland.
To determine whether peace is possible, one must hear, listen and understand the words used by those who claim to want peace, but for whom “peace” really means the absence of a Jewish nation. It is essential to recognize that peace at all costs – especially one that denigrates traditional Jewish claims, abandons Jerusalem and leaves Israel with indefensible borders – is no peace at all. Those who believe otherwise are not thinking from the perspective of history, tradition or strategic sense.
In parsing the language used by proponents of the peace process, Israel should be guided by the traditional Jewish view that words are inseparable from their consequences. The Rabbis taught that words have real power, as illustrated by the Torah’s account of how G-d created the world with ten utterances. Words spoken with sincerity and purity of heart can propel prayers to heaven, but when used to destroy they can have a devastating impact here on the earth.
It’s no wonder that halakha equates lashon hara (the evil tongue) with murder. This is why the Chofetz Chaim was dedicated to teaching the importance of avoiding malicious gossip and the Lubavitcher Rebbe was scrupulous in his speech so as to avoid the harms that could arise from even the unintentional misuse of language.
Applying this standard, Israel has to ask whether the Palestinians and the Arab-Muslim world truly want peace with a Jewish State. Judging from the language in their charters and the words of their leaders, the answer would appear to be no.
This might seem a bleak view, but the Jews are a people of history, faith and hope. As a people of history, they must never forget their origins or the basis for their national claims. As a people of faith, they need to remember their core beliefs and live according to their values. And as a people of hope, they need to focus not on illusions of false peace, but on the possibility that changes in how they are perceived might someday facilitate acceptance and coexistence.
Although maintaining such hope may be considered noble by some, it does not necessitate the abdication of reality, perspective or common sense. Likewise, it does not require us to cheapen the memory of innocents murdered at prayer by viewing their killers through the distorted lens of moral equivalence. This insults the living as well as the dead and will bring Israel no closer to acceptance and security.