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November 24, 2014 3:52 pm

Responding to Terrorism With Flawed Analogies

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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The scene of the synagogue attack in Jerusalem where four rabbis were killed on Nov. 18. Photo: GPO.

The scene of the synagogue attack in Jerusalem where four rabbis were killed on Nov. 18. Photo: GPO.

The horrific slaughter last week of four rabbis at prayer in their Jerusalem synagogue sparked a wide range of responses. Shock and mourning aside, there was predictably obscene celebration in Arab and Moslem precincts. Punctuating reactions to the gruesome tragedy was the curious embrace of ostensible historical analogies.

Israel Hayom entitled its report: “The 1929 massacres – redux.” It quoted Rabbi Yitzhak Rubin, chief rabbi of the Har Nof synagogue where the massacre occurred, who drew two analogies that revealed the stunning impact of the murders.”It was like the Holocaust,” he declared, “when Jews were taken away and butchered while wearing prayer shawls and tefillin.” Then, choosing a traumatic memory closer to the site of the rampage than Poland, he added: “This is our 1929 riots.”

On Tisha b’Av in August 1929 thousands of Jews arrived at the Western Wall to protest British prayer restrictions at their ancient holy site. Infuriated, the Mufti of Jerusalem (Haj Amin-al-Husseini) incited his followers to violently defend the al-Aqsa Mosque, astride the Temple Mount, from Jewish “usurpation.” (Sound familiar?) Inflamed Arabs rampaged through Jerusalem, killing forty-seven Jews.

Violent riots spread throughout Palestine, reaching their horrific climax in Hebron, the most ancient Jewish holy city. Arabs poured through the streets and into Jewish homes, slashing throats, cutting off hands, and raping young girls. Sixty-seven Jews, including twenty-three yeshiva students, were brutally slaughtered. British soldiers evacuated the traumatized survivors, leaving Hebron Judenrein until Israelis returned after the Six-Day War.

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The rabbi’s analogy to the 1929 pogrom (to say nothing of the Holocaust) may have been a historical stretch even when measured by current Arab murders and Jewish victims. But it revealed the understandable depths of horror that the vicious killing of his four rabbinical friends had tapped.

Among Palestinians/Arabs/Moslems, there was predictable public celebration of the slaughter of Jews and mourning for the death of their brutal killers. Palestinian Authority President Abbas bracketed the murder of rabbis with concocted Jewish “attacks” on the al-Aqsa mosque. Other Arab leaders were less restrained. One called the synagogue a “prayer settlement” and “command center” for planning attacks against Palestinians. Another identified “Zionist rabbis” as “the greatest terrorists” in the “racist” Jewish state, deserving of their fate. A Qatari columnist described the attack as a fitting response “to those who bake cookies with Palestinian blood.” Indeed, declared Jordan’s former Minister of Information, “this act of heroism healed many wounds and gladdened the hearts of many.” Surely it did.

Among national leaders who might have known better, but applied the rhetoric of (im)moral equivalence between Palestinian murderers and their innocent Jewish victims, President Obama ranked high. After condemning “outrageous acts” against the rabbis, he immediately retreated to familiar tropes. “Too many Israelis have died, too many Palestinians have died,” he proclaimed, without any distinction between killers and victims. With the arrogant posturing for which he has become notorious, the President opined: “We have to remind ourselves that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace.” In 2014, as Daniel Greenfield has noted, Palestinian terrorists have killed more Americans than ISIS: three of the four rabbis and the 3-month-old girl rammed to death by a deranged Palestinian driver several weeks earlier. But illegal immigrants at home are far worthier of Obama’s moral preening than the fate of American Jews in Israel.

The Jerusalem attack was the first known shooting in a house of worship in Israel since 1994 when American-born doctor Baruch Goldstein, a resident of the Hebron suburb of Kiryat Arba, opened fire in the Machpelah enclosure, killing 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounding 125 others. In their responses, Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic) and Yossi Klein Halevi (Wall Street Journal), among others (including the Voice of America), favorably compared the virtually unanimous Israeli denunciation of Goldstein’s rampage with the nauseating Palestinian celebrations after the rabbinical slaughter.

The contrast was obvious but it offered a curious example of moral preening. Any civilized person would condemn Goldstein’s action. But an informed person would also know that Goldstein, the emergency medical doctor in Kiryat Arba/Hebron, had repeatedly struggled (often in vain) to save the lives of friends and neighbors who were victims of Palestinian terrorists. He also was among a group of community leaders forewarned by Israeli military and security officers that another Palestinian terrorist attack in Hebron was imminent. Goldstein’s horrific actions cannot be condoned, even though driven by his determination to protect his community.  But those who are spared the terrorist horrors that Hebron Jews confronted need not compare  moral Israelis who condemned him with morally deficient Palestinians who currently wallow in Jewish blood. That is a very low standard indeed.

If the history of terrorism in the Holy Land teaches anything, it is  not to expect less from Jews. Nor, sadly, more from merciless Palestinian zealots whose terror war, now as always, is waged against rabbis, babies and other innocent civilians.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of eleven books, including Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel (2009)

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  • sam

    The valiant Kurds in Syria and Iraq assumed the Arab Sunnis who they lived with for many decades would not side with the invading foreign Arab ISIS. But when ISIS attacked not only did the Kurds Arab
    neighbors point out to ISIS where the Kurds live but they took up arms and fought for ISIS against the Kurds . After the Kurds repelled ISIS the Kurds told their Arab neighbors we no longer
    trust you and you may no longer live with us and so expelled them and continue
    to do so . Most Kurds though Sunnis, support Israel and maintain
    ties with the Kurdish Jews of Israel. Israelis have individually volunteered and are fighting
    for the Kurds. The Kurds say that the Arabs have 21 countries and want an additional one-Palestine ,yet we the Kurds are not allowed to even have one country.

  • I have enormous sympathy for the Jews of Israel. I feel shame that Jews today are the target for Racial Hatred. As a Writer on The Holocaust, the one thing I have learned is that the Jews must not succumb to what ails the rest of Humanity. An eye for Eye is not the way forward. For the Jews of The Death Camps, life was the means to defeat what hitler and his cohorts sought from them. For the Jews of Israel, they too must make peace with an alien hatred, for the sake of the life of their People. Let land be bartered over. Give it away. Preserve the one thing that is essential to Jewish Existence. The Life Bllod of its People. Let the trading be done in the full glare of World opinion. Let the World see that the threat will not be contained within an acceptance of Arab lands for Arab peoples. The terro from Fundamentalism will not then subside, but World opinion will know of All that Israel has done to secure Peace. Look now at Syria. We are looking to Asad as a better option than ISIS! Would that have been true of hitler in the midst of The Holocaust? Did WWII Come first as The Jews were Abandoned?

  • Lauren Goldman

    It is time to put away the rubber bullets, and make a policy that any act of terrorism will be met with lethal force. One round, one kill.

    The terrorists’ mothers seem to be most proud of their little vermin after they have been sent to live with their pedophile ‘prophet’. So who are we to deny them such naches?

  • steven L

    Fanaticism has no limit and the Islamists (PA & Hamas) will continue until Bibi decides how many more Jews are in title to be killed.
    The IL gvt is allowing the killing of Jews.

  • Paul

    It is unfortunate that the author concludes this portrayal of terrorism against Israelis with a flawed analogy of his own.
    His attempts to portray Baruch Goldstein in a forgivable manner is hypocritical and quite sickening. It is hypocritical because he repeatedly says “Baruch Goldstein’s actions cannot be condoned, BUT …” and then tries condone them, using arguments he says an informed person “would also know”.
    Can there be any doubt that the atrocious murdering Palestinian terrorists who massacred 4 Jews at prayer, were driven by feelings, sentiments, emotions and religious fervour just like those that drove Goldstein ? Neither of them can be condoned.

    What is most disturbing is perhaps the double standard here: the writer appear to think slaughter of innocents at prayer is bad when the innocents are Jews, (BUT an informed person would know what drove Goldstein …). Well, no Mr. Aurbach. It is bad because the innocents are innocent. And ANYONE who slaughters innocents in the name of his God, as do ISIS, these Palestinians terrorists, and Goldstein, are simply evil people, acting in the name of the evil God they believe in. The God of the Jews spoke so clearly on this issue: he told Abraham not to sacrifice his son Issac to glorify his God. The Jewish God appears to prefer human life over holy ritual.
    The moral justification for the civilians killed in Israel’s justified military actions lies in the fact that despite the civilian casualties we cause, we do not TARGET innocent bystanders. As did the Palestinian murderers. As did Goldstein.
    Being Jews does not absolve us from telling right from wrong.It requires us to be a light to the nations by acting justly, more justly than the others.

  • sam

    For a journalist’s first hand report of life in
    Israel/ British Palestine in the 1920’s
    read chapter 8 of the book :Days Of Our
    Years by Pierre van Paassen available
    at http://www.archive.org to be read on line or down loaded as
    an e -book. It becomes clear that the minds of Arab laborers
    were poisoned by the Mufti of Jerusalem
    whose terrible approach was adopted and not the constructive one
    of Emir Faisil

  • blackrose

    Time to shut down UNRWA & expel its employees; expel Moslem Arabs from Israel & Jerusalem; time for Israel to take over all of Jerusalem; time for Israel to control all access to the Temple Mount; time to shut down the Palestinian Authority TV;time to say goodbye to Fatah, Hamas and other radical Arab groups;time for the US government to stop sending money and other relief to Arab groups who hate Israel,Jews and the United States;time for the US to send Israel whatever it needs to defend itself and its citizens from any other country, groups, or peoples;time for the US President to support Israel and fully denounce anti-Semitism & Arab terrorist attacks against all Jews anywhere in the world; time for anyone who wants to be the next US President to do the same thing;time for the US to declare war against Gaza; Palestine;Iran who is supplying money, arms & war materiel; and all Arab groups who are supporting these murders, assaults, attacks, atrocities,and crimes against Jews and Israel.

  • art

    we also know that killing Jews is not an obstacle to peace in the eyes of Obama/hillary/Kerry. Planning homes is.

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