For Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of Israel's Islamic Movement (Northern Branch), Ahmed Mahmoud el-Khatib from the Galilee village of Kafr Manda was a martyred hero and an exalted model.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
"The hands that slew shahid [martyr] Ahmed are criminal, terrorist and bloodthirsty hands. The shahid's spilled blood will haunt and curse them wherever they go."
The above wasn't quoted from a Hamas funeral in Gaza or a Hizbullah eulogy in Lebanon. These words were proclaimed within sovereign Israel by an Israeli citizen in memory of another Israeli who, on August 10, tried to shoot two security guards and passersby in the Old City of Jerusalem, an attempt in the course of which he was shot dead himself.
For Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of Israel's Islamic Movement (Northern Branch), Ahmed Mahmoud el-Khatib from the Galilee village of Kafr Manda wasn't a dangerous criminal and terrorist. Salah portrayed his disciple as a martyred hero and an exalted model to be emulated by his peers, all Israeli citizens, residing within Green-Line Israel.
Representatives of Israel's Arab sector - otherwise hardly microphone-shy - failed to distance themselves from Salah's invective. Their silence can only lead to disheartening conclusions; They don't condemn Khatib's act and perhaps subscribe to Salah's diatribe.
Salah could not have been more provocative. His demagoguery mobilized "martyrs" from a host of past purported injustices, most of them brazenly trumped-up. "Shahid Ahmed joins the long procession of shahids who preceded him at the carnages of Deir Yassin, Kafr Kassem, Land Day and the Aksa intifada," asserted Salah, who reveled in religious imagery about sainted Ahmed's reward of meeting Allah face-to-face.
Nor did the leader of the Islamic Movement bother to hide his affiliation with the terrorist. On the contrary, he boasted of it. Speaking of the guard who finally overcame Khatib, Salah said: "If that murderer and those who stand behind him intended to dispatch an intimidating message via this crime, then we tell them: 'We trample your message under our feet.' If they present the shahid's affiliation with the Islamic Movement as an offense, we declare our pride in it. Our nation, if coerced to choose between martyrdom for Allah and relinquishing al-Aksa, will opt for death for Allah. The occupation of al-Aksa will be terminated soon, as were previous conquests."
The implication cannot be clearer: Israel must be expelled from Jerusalem as were the Crusaders. This tirade failed to elicit expressions of discomfort or public criticism in Israel's entire Arab community. No opposition was voiced to the description of the perpetrator of an unprovoked terror attack as a hallowed martyr, to the analogy between his comeuppance and victims of fabricated massacres, or to the defiance of Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the threat to terminate it before long.
This thundering silence cannot be divorced from the widespread initial depiction of Khatib as an innocent victim of homicidal guards who, according to pervasive Arab myth, chased down an innocent for no reason and then "verified their kill" by shooting him again when he was already down. Even after closed-circuit cameras incontrovertibly refuted these allegations, there was not even a wan statement of retraction from the defamers.
Kafr Manda possesses a particularly troubling history. During the October 2000 riots some of its inhabitants ambushed Jewish drivers with stones, metal scraps and incendiary devices. They downed electric pylons to create obstacles on Highway 784 and violently hindered traffic on this vital thoroughfare for days. The abductors and murderers of soldier Oleg Shaikhet of Upper Nazareth hailed from there, as did three Islamic Jihad firebrands who planned a large-scale bombing at the massive Kiryon shopping mall in Kiryat Bialik, near Haifa. Two Manda dentists were arrested in 2005 because of ties to Hamas.
The village is one of Salah's prime strongholds and Khatib was one of Salah's adherents.
In any normal society Salah's harangues would be treated as high treason. Salah has already served time for financing Hamas. He agitates at giant rallies against fictitious Israeli designs to destroy al-Aksa and was prominent in fomenting the recent disturbances against a new walkway at the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount.
The longer Israel allows Salah to spread sedition with impunity, the greater his spiritual-mentor authority will grow and the more young Israeli-Arabs, like Khatib, will be swayed by his exhortations to join the procession of shahids to paradise. Turning a blind eye to Salah's incitement won't make it go away and directly weakens moderates who work to advance Jewish-Arab coexistence.
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