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November 20, 2014 1:18 am

Talk is Cheap: U.S. Response to Jerusalem Synagogue Attack Disappoints

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow /

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A victim of the Jerusalem synagogue massacre. Photo: IDF Spokesperson Peter Lerner. – The scenario has been repeated more times than I can remember: Palestinian terrorists murder Israelis. The Obama administration condemns the attack. And that’s it. No change in U.S. policy, no penalties or consequences for those who encourage and praise the killers. The Palestinians are, quite literally, getting away with murder.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the Nov. 18 slaughter of four Jews in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. He even acknowledged that it was “a pure result of incitement, of calls for days of rage” by the Palestinian leadership. Indeed it was. It’s too bad it took a massacre to get Secretary Kerry to admit that. If only he had spoken out against Palestinian incitement weeks or months ago.

But “speaking out” is not enough. Bland verbal condemnations of incitement don’t make any difference. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and has colleagues don’t take America’s words seriously. There have to be actions. The Palestinian leaders need to see that there will be real consequences for their incitement.

Secretary Kerry said that Palestinian leaders “must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”

But what if they don’t?  What’s he going to do about it?

Back in 1998, President Bill Clinton’s administration established a Trilateral Committee on Incitement. (That’s what Israel received in exchange for agreeing to the Wye River Memorandum.) But the committee turned out to be a farce. The Israeli members of the committee would complain about Palestinian leaders making inciting statements, and the Palestinians would respond by pointing to some individual Israeli newspaper columnist who said something strongly critical of the Palestinians, and they would say that, too, was incitement.

The problem was that the Clinton administration refused to define “incitement.” It refused to acknowledge the difference between what a Palestinian official said and what an individual Israeli pundit said. The U.S. preferred to play the “both sides are guilty” game. It was like putting Holocaust survivors and Holocaust deniers in a room together and declaring that each side has its own equally valid perspective.

President Obama’s response to the Har Nof massacre took the same “both sides” approach. He declared, “At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.”

Calling on “Israeli and Palestinian leaders” to “lower tensions and reject violence” is saying that they are both currently not doing enough to lower tensions or reject violence. Both sides are to blame. Both sides need to act. This kind of moral equivalency is false and outrageous. Israel has done everything possible to lower tensions. Israel is the victim. The Palestinians are the aggressors. But President Obama refuses to acknowledge that simple truth.

If the Obama administration is really interested in lowering tensions and getting the Palestinians to reject violence, there is plenty it can do. Here are a few first steps:

—Revive the Trilateral Commission on Incitement, but start by defining incitement, and then impose real penalties on the inciters.

—The PA has a policy of paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists who are imprisoned by Israel. Whatever they pay the prisoners should be deducted from America’s $500-million annual aid to the PA. The PA also pays the families of terrorists who are killed in action–meaning that the families of the Jamal cousins, who carried out the Har Nof massacre, are about to receive large checks from the PA. Deduct that from the U.S. aid package, too.

—The Har Nof attack was perpetrated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It’s the second-largest faction in the PLO, of which Abbas is chairman. The U.S. should demand that Abbas expel the PFLP from the PLO. If he refuses, declare him to be partially responsible for the Har Nof attack, and put him on the “U.S. Watch List,” which prohibits terrorists from entering the U.S.

—There is a park in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas’s capital, that is named after Dalal Mughrabi, leader of the Palestinian terror squad that murdered 38 Israelis in a 1978 attack, including the niece of U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff. Every Palestinian child who walks those streets gets the message—he sees who is regarded as a hero, who he is supposed to emulate. The U.S. should demand that Mughrabi’s name be removed. And if Abbas refuses, there need to be consequences.

I am flying to Israel this week with a heavy heart. I am filled with grief for the families of the latest terror victims. I am worried about my children who live there and have to go to work every morning, not knowing if they will return home that night. And I am anguished by the thought that my own government could do so much to combat Palestinian terrorism—and yet chooses to do next to nothing.

Stephen M. Flatow is a New Jersey attorney whose daughter Alisa was murdered in a 1995 bus bombing by the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad.

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  • June Grant

    Actually, there is a simple and obvious solution, stop all funding until terrorism ceases. Unfortunately, unlike the little boy in the crowd who cried out so that the people saw the Emperor was indeed naked, such a remedy will never enter the consciousness of the world community.

  • zadimel

    Where are all 18 comments?

  • David Goshen

    The only way to tackle encitement is to make the Arabs feel it in their pockets as the British High Comissioner in the Mandate did to the Jews of the Yeshuv.The best way is to heavily fine Israeli Arab Citizens who are guilty of encitement.
    Regarding incitement by Abu Mazem and other PA leaders we should levy a fine for each incident deducting the fine from monies due to be transferred.
    All terrorists serving sentences in Israeli Prisons who receive generous pensions from Abu Mazem are taxable under Israei Tax Laws but are not implemented till now.Now is the time to start the presure.

  • steven L

    The Western world has no intention to face its responsibilities. The EU needs oil & plastic! and the US needs plastic!

  • Incitement has been severely punished in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide. Maybe Israeli lawyers should have a look at the decisions taken by the International Tribunal of Rwanda against mere journalists, let alone political leaders:

  • michael

    Remember, once a Muslim always a Muslim. This administration embraces the Muslim side above anything else.


      The US administration is headed by a Muslim (member of the Muslim Brotherhood)
      So, they will do everything to try to destroy Israel.
      I cannot wait for that POTUS Muslim in the WH to be thrown out on his ear, together with all of his adminiStration.

      Why has Husein Obama not been impeached.
      Now is the time. He is now a lame duck with the Republicans controlling both houses.

  • Sofia B

    We weep with the people of Israel and for the fallen innocent victims in Jerusalem.

    Obama has shown his true colors – and is busy being friends with Iran. Shame on him and his administration.

  • art

    Obama, and so many others , refuse to confront evil and by their refusal encourage and enable evil to flourish. Further the US has fled from its role as a moral leader.

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    Dont expect Obama to do anything. He is wothless, and useless. He seems to have been born with two left feet which are mostly positioned in his mouth. TWO ORE YEARS -will the world survive to the end of his term????? I used to laugh when he was accused of being a Muslim. Now I am not too sure.

  • Barry

    It’s impossible to know what Obama really thinks behind closed doors but a couple of guess wouldn’t hurt.

    1) he will lose no sleep over this atrocity
    2) he will feel he is doing his part for the Muslim world (just like he did for the gay world)
    3) he may be pleased to cause Israel and Netanyahu grief
    4) he may be thinking how he can use this for his political advantage.

    One thing is for sure. When he talks about “working towards peace” he must be inwardly laughing as he knows this is impossible.

    Obama never was a friend of the Jews (other than a few left wingers) and never had Israel’s back. His muted response in public will be in keeping with his real convictions.

  • rulierose

    “If the Obama administration is really interested in lowering tensions and getting the Palestinians to reject violence, there is plenty it can do.”

    yeah, but that’s the problem: it’s not really interested. Obama doesn’t care one bit about dead Jews. just imagine the difference in reaction if a couple of Jewish teens had entered a mosque and killed worshipers. Obama would be going nuts–he would probably already have cut off Israeli foreign aid.

    since it was “only” Jews who died, he couldn’t care less.

  • kris kristian


  • zadimel

    Since neither the Clinton nor Obama administrations did anything to punish Abbas’ government for its honoring of killers,perhaps the Republican control of Congress as well as a victory in the presidential race in 2016 will change the parameters.If the Republicans do gain control of the White House, I would suggest, without pleading with the so-called Palestinian government,wherever it is in Judea,Samarea,Gaza and Jordan, that any financial aid extended to them be eliminated.

  • Lauren Goldman

    This administration’s response to terrorist attacks in Israel are totally predictable; words of condemnation, backed by nothing. Just enough to keep Jewish financial support and votes coming in, but nothing to even appear to challenge terrorists, much less do anything to cause them unease. We need to stop looking to America for any actual support or backing and realize that we are, once again, on our own.

  • Do you want to know what terror is?
    Ask the Englishmen who witnessed the bombing of London by the Germans V2 missiles during World War 2. The English and the Americans responded by sending thousands of bombers on a daily basis and turned German cities into rubble and killing over million civilians in order to save their own people. How many American lives were saved when the United States dropped an Atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    How about the IRA killing the British indiscriminately. The British responded to the IRA terrorist activities with extreme force for over 50 years, world opinion be dammed.
    The Israeli government is under the same predicament. They have an obligation to protect its population and bring security to its people, anything less is a dereliction of duty.

    “There is an attitude [among the government of Israel] of servitude to world opinion to the detriment of self-preservation! This attitude was witnessed by the world during the many wars with the Arabs, when Arab soldiers were shooting and shelling from inside their mosques and the Israeli army was ordered not to shoot back because the politicians were more concerned about world opinion. This immoral policy caused many more Jewish soldiers to, unnecessarily, lose their lives! (This is precisely why those fighters went to the mosques to begin with; they appreciated the Israeli government’s slavish reliance on world opinion.)” The very same attitude is used by Hamas utilizing Hospitals and Mosques as launching sites of missile and other terrorist activities, utilizing children as human shields.
    It is time for Israel to shed this chip on their shoulder of pacifying world opinion and fight with everything they have, no holds barred and the hell with world opinion, the world at large and especially the great powers who have oil interests in the Arab world will criticize Israel no matter what action they take.

    • Eve

      You are right on target. Thank you for this.

    • Mark_NYC

      Amen. Obama in his “evenhandedness” says too many Israelis and Palestinians have died. Really? Those killed in Gaza were predominantly terrorists and their supporters who were launching rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Should this be compared with Rabbi’s slaughtered in the middle of prayer services? Obama says that most Palestinians really want peace and are against terror. Really? The Palestinians own polls show that 67% in Gaza want to continue the terror against Israel and the same with 43% in the West Bank. One can only pray that the new Republican majority in Congress will be effective in counterbalancing the cheap talk of this administration.

    • Colleen O’Leary

      I agree with you totally, the hell with what the world thinks defend yourselves. These Arab have had their way long enough.

    • I agree with the sentiment & comments made by Y.J.Draiman.The time has come to settle this matter.The Palestinians need to surrender to Israeli terms The next generation of Westerners are being brainwashed by Arab,Palestinian,Muslim propaganda.A war in 15 years time will not be advantageous to Israel.

    • Russell Grayson

      This is a man who speaks the unvarnished truth. As a kid, I was bullied by a goon five years older than my friends and me–he was the neighborhood bully-boogeyman–and I waited for two years for someone to intervene and protect me at some point. Never happened.

      One day, after he began to chase us off a softball field so HIS friends could play there, he swung a baseball bat at my head and missed. I grabbed a Coke bottle, broke it and parried right into his guts, left the bottle imbedded there, and stepped back with a big smile on my face. EVERYONE was stunned. I was 12. Nobody ever bullied me again. Moral? NEVER wait for anyone else’s support, and extreme violence gets attention and deterrence.

      Israel needs to remember the millennia of bullying, the millenia of NOBODY coming to our aid, respond with extreme and unexpected severity–and watch what happens.

    • I agree. Stand with Israel. Let us speak up for Israel . Let us tell President O that His response to the savagery in the synagogue was absolutely inappropriate and embarrassing to us citizens who love and personally support our friend Israel and the Jews in the Holy Land . In pray for God’s protection and preservation of Israel and her people. GOD’s Word promises to make Jerusalem the center piece of His future righteous kingdom.