As one terror attack follows the next in excruciating rapidity, it might be difficult for people to follow the thread.
In the view of some, what we are seeing right now is – in the words of UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland – a “continuing cycle of violence.” In this worldview, both sides are committing acts of violence, both sides are suffering casualties, and both sides are equally responsible for this “cycle.”
This is the simplistic world of moral equivalence. It makes life easy: something bad happens, two sides are involved, so they both must be equally responsible.
This is a world where context matters not a whit; where stories have no beginning; where judgments are made based on what scene is appearing in a movie at that single moment when one looks at the screen, disregarding what came before and not considering what could come after.
Terror remains a real danger
The IDF entered Jenin on Monday to arrest suspected terrorists. If the Palestinian Authority security apparatus was doing its job, the IDF would not have to do so. If terrorism was not a real peril, the IDF would not have to do so.
But the Palestinian security apparatus is not doing its job, and terror is a genuine peril. As a result, the IDF must act to ensure that the horrific scene that the country witnessed on Tuesday, in which four Israelis were murdered outside of Eli, does not happen daily. Night after night, day after day, the IDF goes into Palestinian cities, towns and villages to make arrests, and those arrests are a major reason why Israel enjoys even the relative calm that it does.
On Monday in Jenin, the arrest went bad, and as the troops were leaving, terrorists detonated a powerful roadside bomb. By day’s end, six Palestinians had been killed in hours of fierce gun battles, with most believed to be terrorists involved in the fighting, and seven IDF soldiers and Border Police officers were wounded.
But this is not a “both sides are to blame” situation. Israel went into Jenin to arrest those looking for ways to kill Israelis. The forces were attacked as they were leaving, and they returned fire to the massive gunfire they encountered.
The next day, two Hamas terrorists murdered four Israelis at a gas station.
Some international media labeled this a Palestinian act of vengeance for the IDF action the day before in Jenin. As if there would have been no terror had the IDF not carried out that raid, as if Menahem Ordman was not shot at point-blank range and miraculously saved last week near Mevo Dotan, as if Meir Tamari was not murdered three weeks ago near Hermesh.
This is not a cycle ordained by nature. Without terror, there would be no reason for IDF operations inside Palestinian areas. Because there is terror, those actions are essential to safeguard Israeli lives.
With that in mind, US Ambassador Tom Nides’s hasty tweet after the murders at Eli, lumping that attack together with what happened in Jenin and seeming to equate terror victims with terrorists killed in a gun battle, was regrettable, as were other tweets and statements by foreign officials that appeared to draw such a parallel.
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Mike Herzog, conveyed the feelings of many Israelis: “Any attempt of a so-called balanced condemnation is misguided and disrespectful to the memory of the victims.”
To his credit, Nides, a friend of Israel, quickly corrected the error with a follow-up tweet that put it right: “I condemn in the strongest terms the senseless murder of four innocent Israelis today – my heart is with their grieving family members.”
There will be those who try to link Tuesday’s murders to Israeli government actions, as if the two Hamas terrorists who murdered four Israelis in cold blood did so because of this or that Israeli policy. That is false. Ideological hatred of Jews and Israel fueled the terrorists who carried out Tuesday’s attack. They needed no excuse to seek out victims to murder. To search for a rational reason or cause-and-effect excuse for these murderous acts is an exercise in futility.
Terrorism has no justification and there can be no equivalence between terrorists and their victims.