Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
What possesses a father of four with most of his life still ahead of him to get behind the wheel of a truck and embark on a vehicular murder spree that will almost certainly end in his own demise?
Fadi al-Qanbar, 28, the man who plowed his truck into a group of IDF cadets on Sunday, was not considered a security risk by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), though he had served time in prison. He had no known connections with a terrorist organization. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said al-Qanbar identified with ISIS. But why? Why would a resident of Jerusalem’s Jebl Mukaber neighborhood launch a suicide mission to murder Israelis knowing that his wife would be widowed and his two sons and two daughters would be orphaned in the process?
A saying attributed to Golda Meir comes to mind: “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”
We agree. If al-Qanbar had cared for himself, his children and his family - not to mention the soldiers he rammed into - he never would have carried out his attack on Sunday.
While we still don’t know what pushed al-Qanbar to carry out his attack, the incitement that comes out daily from the Palestinian Authority plays an important role.
The failure by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attack by Monday night – more than 36 hours since it took place – is part of a culture of hate, violence and intransigence. A “peace partner” does not remain silent when innocent 20-year-olds are deliberately run down by a truck on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem. A real peace partner speaks up, shouts and condemns.
But maybe that is the difference between Israel and the PA. Following the rare few instances of Jewish terrorism – like the Duma arson attack in 2015 that killed three members of the Dawabshe family – every single Israeli politician from across the spectrum condemned it in the harshest of terms. Our “peace partners” apparently don’t know how.
Is antisemitism intractable? Is it an aggressive disease that cannot be cured? We hope not. But either way, we must reconcile ourselves to it, and do everything in our power to defend ourselves against it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a similar vision, comparing the murderous hatred of men like al-Qanbar to a “plague.” At Sunday’s emergency cabinet meeting, Netanyahu orchestrated over the approval of administrative detention for people identifying with ISIS.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman continued in a similar vein: “This brutal attack is obviously not because of any other reason but one: because we are Jews and we live here in Israel.”
This approach might be depressing since it means that “we will forever live by the sword,” as Netanyahu reportedly told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2015, but it is also realistic. As long as our so-called “peace partners” refuse to condemn violent murderous attacks, we need to recognize the reality we live in.
Nevertheless, a central tenet of Zionism is the conviction that the empowerment of Jews with full political autonomy can overcome some of the greatest challenges.
The vibrancy of Jewish ingenuity emanates from a fundamental optimism, from a conviction that nothing is unrealistic or undoable, no disease intractable, no situation hopeless.
Along with the steps being taken to crack down in Arab-only neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, we should also insist on ensuring that those neighborhoods have adequate infrastructure, municipal services, and educational and employment opportunities. We should ensure that law enforcement in Arab neighborhoods is just as tight as it is in Jewish neighborhoods, so that both Jewish and Arab residents of Jerusalem feel safe.
Predominantly Jewish neighborhoods like Pisgat Ze’ev are conspicuously better run and serviced than neighborhoods like Jebl Mukaber. This is not why al-Qanbar got behind the wheel of his truck and perpetrated Sunday’s heinous murders. But part of the war on terror needs to be law enforcement across all sectors of society. If residents of Arab neighborhoods get away without paying bills or property tax and with building violations, why should they think that they can’t get away with terrorism attacks?