Unjustifiable horror

The obscenity of what transpired Tuesday morning in Har Nof’s Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue cannot be explained away by glib terms like “despair” or “occupation.”

Terror attack scene in Jerusalem  (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Terror attack scene in Jerusalem
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
What motivates two cousins from Jerusalem’s Jabel Mukaber neighborhood to enter a synagogue armed with meat cleavers, hatchets, and a hand gun and commence stabbing, hacking, and shooting at men draped in prayer shawls and engrossed in prayer while shouting Allahu Akbar?
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed this massacre was a response to the death of Arab Egged bus driver, Yussuf al-Ramuni, who was found hanged Monday at an Egged depot in Jerusalem.
No matter that an autopsy performed by an Arab coroner found that Ramuni had committed suicide.
Palestinian news media and political leadership insisted “settlers” had “assassinated” the driver. Arab Egged bus drivers went on strike in a show of solidarity with Ramuni, who was referred to as a “martyr” by WAFA, the Palestinian Authority’s official news station.
Another justification for the hideous murders in Har Nof, according to Zuhri, was a “series of crimes by the occupier at al-Aksa.” He was referring to attempts by Israeli Jews to visit the Temple Mount, known as Haram al-Sharif by Muslims. He was also referring to the ensuing clashes between Palestinian rioters protesting Jewish visits and police officers, who have at times entered the Aksa Mosque in an attempt to control the rioting and to confiscate rocks, fireworks, and weapons stored there and used against police and Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall.
In short, Zuhri wants us to believe that the death of an Arab bus driver – at the very least under mysterious circumstances – or the demand by a small group of Jews to visit the Temple Mount, somehow justifies the insidious murder of a group of Jewish worshipers who are connected with neither Ramuni’s death nor the Temple Mount.
Apparently, large swathes of Palestinian society are indeed convinced that these are reason enough. Remember, Hamas is one of the two most popular political movements in Palestinian society. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, the other most popular Palestinian party, gave a lukewarm condemnation of “killings on both sides” in response to the Har Nof attack, and this only under international pressure. He attempted to minimize the damage to his popularity among Palestinians by adding a call to end “invasions of al-Aksa Mosque, the provocations of settlers, and incitement of certain Israeli ministers.”
Experience tells us that mainstream Palestinian organizations like the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to which the two Palestinian murderers reportedly belonged, hardly need a pretext for killing Jews. Official Palestinian Authority media outlets and politicians regularly incite against Israeli Jews and glorify those who murder them.
Ever since Israel’s founding the pretext for killing Jews is Jewish sovereignty on land deemed to belong to Muslims, no matter what the borders. Even the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Har Nof and who have traditionally opposed political Zionism are legitimate targets for Palestinian murderers. Haredi spiritual leaders such as Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef have even implored Jews not to go up on the Temple Mount so as not to enrage Muslims.
Though Palestinian nationalist movements have always been murderously violent, the most depressing and wretched spectacle of the last decade has been the degeneration of Palestinian nationalism into a theocratic, death-worshiping radical Islamism. Even assassins from the ostensibly secular PFLP, founded by the nominally Christian Palestinian George Habash, now shout Allahu Akbar so that no mistake can be made about the source of their murderous inspiration.
The obscenity of what transpired Tuesday morning in Har Nof’s Kehilat Yaakov Synagogue cannot be explained away by glib terms like “despair” or “occupation.” There are millions of people living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – who may fall into despair without resorting to heinous crimes like the one perpetrated in Har Nof.
Nor does the murder of innocent civilians advance the Palestinian cause. Religious Jews wrapped in prayer shawls and phylacteries lying in pools of their own blood on the floor of a synagogue is an instantly recognizable image – not just for Jews. It conjures up centuries of violent anti-Semitism and places the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the context of just another example of irrational – and therefore incurable – Jew hatred. It seems to prove to Jewish Israelis that there is really nothing to talk about with the Palestinians, let alone a peace agreement that must of necessity rest on mutual trust.