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Jewish World Review July 30, 2001 / 7 Menachem-Av, 5761

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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In Cold Blood

A virus of hatred infests a Palestinian majority and a Jewish minority -- THE collective shudder that ran through the Jewish world on Purim 1994 found an echo last week in Hebron. Once again, friends of Israel were forced to cope with the possibility that a Jew had done something that would discredit Israel and shame Jews everywhere.

The announcement that a Jewish group calling itself "The Committee for Road Safety" (associated with the remnants of Rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach movement) took responsibility for a drive-by shooting that killed three Arabs, one of them a 3-month-old baby, conjured up memories of the time when Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Arabs at the Tomb of the Patriarchs seven years ago.

The culture of violence that has taken over Palestinian Arab culture is spreading.

And, as has happened every other time an Israeli Jew has allegedly committed such an act of criminal violence, we can expect to be subjected to much public breast-beating over the collective sins of the Jewish people. The murder of that Palestinian Arab baby will be laid at the doorstep of the settlement movement, Orthodox Judaism and Zionism.

All of that will be patent rubbish, but it will have an impact on the media, diplomats and the American government. As in 1994, Israel will be told it must pay a price for the murder of Palestinians. The effort to force Israel to allow "international monitors" into the territories - monitors who will almost certainly support the Palestinians - will gain strength.

The irony is that in examining this disgusting crime, there are two clear culprits: a tiny group of Jews and the mainstream leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

The existence of a group of Jews - no matter how small in number - who applaud the random murder of Arabs is appalling. But it neither rationalizes nor excuses this crime to point out that it occurred in the context of an Arab campaign to murder Jews living in the territories. Israeli intelligence sources believe that P.A. leader Yasser Arafat has himself authorized a terror offensive whose aim is the murder of at least one "settler" a day.

Indeed, with the cooperation of the international media, the Arabs have succeeded in labeling all Jews who live in Judea, Samaria or certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem as "settlers," thus marking them as less than human and worthy of slaughter.

And slaughter these Jews the Palestinians have. In just the six weeks since Arafat accepted a "cease-fire," there have been 407 reported terrorist attacks against Israelis, in which 16 people have been killed and 77 wounded. Most of these have been directed at the Jews living in the territories.

In this Arab war of terror against Jewish life, there are no limits. Women, children and families (such as Kahane's son and wife, who were murdered in the presence of their children earlier this year) on the roads are not exempt from Arab gunfire and gasoline bombs.

Most of these attacks have come not from Hamas, but from the mainstream Palestinian movements, such as Arafat's Fatah, as well as the Palestinian "police" themselves. Murderers of Jews - whether in shootings on the roads or by suicide bombs in Israel's cities - are treated as heroes by Palestinian society and by Arafat.

Israel has responded to this assault on Jewish life with much praised "restraint." It has attempted to target terrorists, and has even managed to foil some attacks. But despite the media bias that makes it look as if the Israelis are the aggressors, the powerful State of Israel has decided for political and diplomatic reasons to sit back and take it.

For those on the receiving end of most of the terrorism, this restraint is hardly commendable. The overwhelming majority of the "settlers" are not the mindless fanatics of popular imagination. Even those who choose to live in these areas for ideological reasons - to bring back Jewish life to places where Jewish history began - are not extremists or killers. They are ordinary people who are in the tradition of pioneering Zionism. And they have consistently condemned Jewish crimes, including last week's incident.

But even as we must blame the Palestinians for starting this latest war and carrying it out in a brutal manner, the Jewish culprits should never be excused. The crimes of the "Road Safety Committee" are the latest incarnation of the tiny Jewish splinter group created by the late Rabbi Kahane that is a presence in the Hebron area. And it is they - and they alone - who deserve the blame for this crime.

The collapse of the peace process has led some to say that Kahane's call for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel has been vindicated. They are wrong. The point of Zionism, including that of the Israeli nationalist camp, has never been to wipe out the Arabs, but to live in peace with them. Despite the Jewish trappings, Kahane's ideas were an echo of the Arab wish to destroy Israel.

Nor can these vigilantes claim to be in the tradition of Israel's prestate underground, which sometimes used terror against both the Arabs and the British. Unlike then, today Israel has an army and a democratic state that puts Jewish vigilantes on the wrong side of law and morality.

Despite the provocations aimed at the Jews of the territories, there is no excuse for cold-blooded murder of passers-by. Such acts are not self-defense. There is no difference between a Jew murdering an Arab and an Arab doing the same to a Jew.

It is, perhaps, understandable that after so much Arab hatred and violence, a few Jews would succumb to the same disease. So long as the Arabs continue to try to destroy Israel, this virus will grow.

Although advocates for more Israeli concessions will see a moral equivalence between the violence of the two sides, a crucial difference exists. Kahane and his followers were always a small and despised minority in Israel. But polls have shown that the murders of Jews carried out on a daily basis by a wide array of Palestinian groups are supported by the overwhelming majority of the Arabs.

Until Palestinian terrorists become as wretched a minority as their Jewish counterparts, there will be no peace.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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© 2000, Jonathan Tobin