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As long as Palestinians reward killing, conflict will rage
Jeff Robbins Wednesday, July 26, 2017
When 19-year-old Omar al-Abed entered the home of an Israeli family celebrating the birth of a grandson last Friday night and began slashing them to death with his knife, he knew he was acting with the tacit approval of a Palestinian civic and political leadership that has lavished praise and compensation on those who deliberately kill Israelis. Indeed, under the Palestinian Authority’s program to pay those who commit terror attacks — sometimes called a “Pay-to-Slay” program — al-Abed’s family is reportedly slated to receive a monthly stipend of more than $3,100 in perpetuity from the Palestinian government, as a way of saying “thank you” for last week’s murders. Al-Abed’s mother announced to the world that she was “proud” of her son for slaughtering 70-year-old Yosef Salomon, and his children Chaya and Elad, and for doing his best to kill the other family members who had gathered for what they thought would be an ordinary, if festive, Sabbath dinner.
The harsh and horrible truth is that Palestinian society has come to glorify a butcher mentality, naming schools, sporting events and public squares after those who have massacred Israelis. When it comes to the stubborn persistence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that awful glorification is the 800-pound gorilla that never seems to leave the middle of the room.
The killing of the Salomons followed inflamed tensions that well illustrate the hate and irrationality that so suffuse Israel’s neighborhood, and the ways in which those who have a stake in stoking that hate and irrationality can be reliably expected to do so. The latest flash point was a Jerusalem hill known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. It is a precious holy site to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Israel not only recognizes its preciousness to Muslims; it has long restricted the right of Jews to pray there in order to minimize conflict. Palestinian leaders, for their part, have regularly and emphatically rejected any Jewish connection to the site.
Earlier this month, three Arabs smuggled weapons onto the holy site, and shot two Israeli police officers to death there. In response, the Israeli government did what most people would regard as a no-brainer: it installed metal detectors at the entrances, in order to prevent more guns from being smuggled onto the site, and more people from dying there.
Palestinian leaders, eager to play to the lowest common denominator on the Palestinian street and happy to drive that common denominator down even further, wasted no time in urging that an obvious step to keep more murders from taking place be treated as an assault on Muslim holy sites. The Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah, called on Palestinians to stage a “day of rage” to protest the metal detectors. Hamas did the same, saluting those whose killing of the police officers had prompted the measure in the first place as “martyrs.”
“The Zionists,” said Hamas’ leader in an official proclamation, “while believing that the Arab and Islamic nations are preoccupied in their conflicts, are vying harder than ever to cunningly seize the third holiest site for Muslims and Judaize the Holy City.”
Neither side of this ever-intractable conflict has a monopoly on virtue, and neither on wisdom. The present Israeli government is composed of ministers increasingly beholden to religious zealots, prone to foolish arrogance and seemingly bent on alienating many of Israel’s supporters with their smugness and their swagger.
But it simply is impossible to make peace with a society that doesn’t merely indulge the taking of life, and doesn’t merely encourage the taking of life, but positively venerates it. This conflict will never end as long as Palestinian leaders deify death, and teach their kids that killing is something to be proud of.
Jeff Robbins is a Boston lawyer and a former U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Talk back at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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