Murdered in a house of God
Near Amman this weekend, the Jordanian authorities ordered relatives of the killer who on Thursday night gunned down eight students at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva to dismantle the mourning tent they were setting up in his honor.
The murderer's uncle was both horrified and ostensibly baffled. "The Jordanian authorities' decision is unjustified and doesn't make sense," complained Muhammad Abu Dhiam. "My nephew carried out a heroic operation against an extremist Zionist college that calls for killing Palestinians… We were hoping that people would come to congratulate us on the martyrdom of my nephew. This is a heroic operation that must be celebrated by everyone here."
That the gunman's relative could consider it "heroic" of his nephew to have cold-bloodedly killed young men whose crime was to be studying in a Jerusalem religious educational facility, to have indifferently shot them dead at close range, is horrifying enough. That the vicious assault has been widely reported and understood this weekend as the purported latest round in a "cycle of violence" is evidence of a failure to recognize what is truly at stake here.
It has been suggested repeatedly in international coverage of the attack that Israel must have known something like this would happen in the wake of the IDF's operation in Gaza earlier in the week. Attack, it has been said, begets counter-attack, begets reprisal, begets revenge, and on it goes.
In truth, however, there is no cycle of violence. There is no spiral of attack and counter-attack relentlessly unfolding here.
What we have, rather, on the one hand, is a sovereign nation's desperate effort to live in its homeland, seek peace with those of its neighbors who will partner it, and defend itself against those who seek its destruction. And, on the other, we have the forces of militant Islam, firing rockets across Israel's sovereign borders, murdering Israelis wherever they can be found vulnerable, indoctrinating their people with a vicious intolerance of Jewish historical rights in this region, and simultaneously spreading a perverted interpretation of Islam that purports to require each and every believer to carry out personal jihad in the name of God against the infidels - be they Jews, Christians or unbelieving Muslims.
Jerusalem's Mayor Uri Lupolianski declared in a service eulogizing the victims of Thursday's murderous spree, "The murderer did not wish to target them alone, but rather each and every one of us, each and every resident of the holy city of Jerusalem." The remarkably reborn sovereign state of Israel, emblemized by its capital Jerusalem, is indeed anathema to this extremist mindset. And the leaders of Hamas, still firmly committed to their ruthless, Israel-disavowing charter, make no secret of this.
True to the commitment in its declaration of independence, Israel has been prepared to reach out its hand even to those, like Hamas, who have sought its destruction. Its only conditions for such dialogue, for the opening of a path to reconciliation, are that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist, accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and abandon terrorism. A leadership more interested in the well-being of its own people than in cultivating hatred against ours would self-evidently accept those conditions and seek a path of progress that would benefit both. Hamas adamantly refuses to follow any such course. Instead, it dispatches killers into Israel, orchestrates suicide bombings, and places Palestinian civilians on the frontline by firing rockets at Israeli homes from residential areas.
Only the most superficial or deliberately skewed assessment of that reality would conclude that it constitutes some kind of violent cycle. For plainly, were Hamas and its chief state backers and facilitators, Iran and Syria, to cease their genocidal incitement against Israel and the relentless orchestration of violence against it, there would be no bloodshed.
Far from having any interest in perpetuating conflict, Israel has relentlessly sought reconciliation, eagerly pursuing even the more improbable avenues for progress. Those who share the goal of a tranquil region, a safer world and the defeat of Islamic extremism must see Thursday night's yeshiva assault for what it is: the deliberate, inevitable consequence of an Islamist machine producing murderers whose instinctive humanity has been so overwhelmed by the indoctrination of hatred as to enable them to gun down blameless youngsters in a house of God.
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