(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Leaders across the Jewish community in the US responded forcefully and in unison to the murder and maiming of worshipers in Jerusalem on Tuesday, reflecting on the religious nature of the terrorist attack.
No one superlative was sufficient to describe the horror these groups expressed, as images of bloodied meat cleavers and knives filtered through the Internet throughout the morning hours.
Three Israeli American rabbis were killed in the attack, as well as one Israeli Briton, and others were injured. The two perpetrators, identified as Arabs from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber, were also killed.
The number of American casualties in the latest wave of terrorist attacks throughout the city, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “concentrated” effort on Tuesday, appears to have swelled anger in the Jewish community in the United States. Of 10 Israelis killed in the past month in terrorist attacks, half have been identified as American.
The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America called on Jews to engage in mass vigils across houses of worship throughout the country on Tuesday evening “in spiritual solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel.”
The Jewish Federations of North America called the attack “incomprehensible,” condemning the “recent wave of Palestinian terror attacks.”
But from large, established organizations engaged in the US-Israel relationship, criticism of the Palestinian leadership was pointed.
Outgoing Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman, an icon in the American Jewish community, expressed “horror and outrage” at the attack, and disappointment in the response from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Abbas condemned this brutal attack after weeks of silence and failure to address the hateful incitement running rampant through Palestinian society,” Foxman said.
“His half-hearted statement is woefully inadequate.”
US President Barack Obama credited Abbas for his words of condemnation earlier on Tuesday.
The American Jewish Congress highlighted comments made by US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day, who said that the attack was a “pure result of incitement.”
Some Palestinian leaders “have called the murders a ‘normal reaction,’” said AJ Congress president Jack Rosen.
The synagogue attack was the deadliest attack in the city since 2008. Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, European Union and Israel, praised the attack but did not take credit for its execution.
“Palestinians, encouraged by an increasingly fiery rhetoric from Hamas and Fatah leaders, including religious incitement, are seeking to murder with abandon,” said American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris.
“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s unconvincing statements do not calm the situation, but instead, tragically, are inciting more violence against Jews.”
Several congressmen also condemned the attack, including leadership from the House of Representatives’ Israel Allies Caucus.
“We support the people of Jerusalem and the entire nation of Israel in their right to defend themselves and bring those responsible to justice,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, calling the attack “pure evil.”
Amnesty International, too, which has been roundly critical of Israeli government policies in Gaza and the West Bank, strongly condemned the attack as unjustifiable.
“Nothing can ever justify such an abhorrent attack on worshipers in a synagogue,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa program director at Amnesty International. “The deliberate killing of civilians must be utterly condemned.”