A Better Response to Terror Attacks Against Israel
As a little girl fights for her life in an Israeli hospital emergency room, with more than 50% of her body burned by a Palestinian firebomb, all the usual players are lining up to deliver their all-too-predictable responses.
At first glance, you might not think there was any way to distort or politicize this horrific incident. Eleven year-old Ayala Shapira was a passenger in her father’s car, on her way back from a math enrichment lesson. As they approached their hometown of Ma’ale Shomron, a Palestinian terrorist hurled a Molotov cocktail at the car. Ayala and her father leaped from the car, badly burned, as the vehicle was consumed by the flames.
It’s obvious who the victims are, and who the aggressors were – who deserves our sympathy and who deserves our scorn. Well, it should be obvious – unless one has an agenda to promote,and Ayala Shapira is in the way.
Much of the news media downplayed the incident. The Washington Post and the New York Times gave the story just one paragraph, in their “News Briefs” sections, thus guaranteeing that many readers would not even notice it.
That wasn’t all. Times correspondent Isabel Kershner even tried to cast some doubt on the identity of the attacker. She reported that “Troops were searching for the assailants, believed to be Palestinians.” Why “believed” to be? Who could possibly believe otherwise?
It gets worse. When the Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times, reprinted Kershner’s dispatch, that sentence was changed to: “Troops were searching for possible assailants in the area of the attack, near the Jewish settlement of El Matan.” The Globe wouldn’t want its readers to think that Palestinians do such things. Because if they do, who would support giving them a sovereign state, from which they could freely perpetrate such attacks endlessly?
And it isn’t hard to predict other responses from around the world. The Obama Administration will not issue a statement; an attack in which nobody was killed is not deemed sufficiently important to merit a few words from the White House. At the State Department’s next daily briefing, perhaps one journalist will mention the attack, and if so, the State Department spokesperson will utter a “form letter” condemnation.
The problem is that such a condemnation will be just words; there will be no real-life consequences. A more effective response would be for President Obama to tell Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas that if he wants to continue receiving $500-million in U.S. aid each year, he must tell the Palestinian public that such attacks are immoral. Not that he “condemns all violence.” And not in some English-language media outlet that average Palestinians will never hear. Abbas has to say that violence against Jews is immoral and that it must stop; and he has to say it in Arabic, on prime-time television.
If the Palestinian Authority believes the U.S. will never penalize or even seriously criticize its actions, it will continue encouraging and justifying Palestinian violence. In fact, a major Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, already has reported that the town where Ayala Shapira resides is part of “a settlement bloc surrounding a number of Palestinian villages on at least three sides and preventing Palestinians from freely moving in the area.” That allegation is, of course, nonsense, but it gives Palestinian advocates a way to rationalize an otherwise inexcusable attack on a little Israeli gil
Israeli and American Jewish peace activists will say a few words, too. But since many of them seem to be constitutionally incapable of simply expressing sympathy for Jewish victims of terrorism without adding some political comment, they will undoubtedly say something about how the attack proves the need to revive the “peace process” or about how they deplore “the escalating violence on both sides.” They don’t seem to understand that such moral blindness serves to undermine their credibility.
And what about the American Jewish community?
One hopes that Jewish leaders, in addition to issuing the usual condemnations, would pause to reflect on what such attacks say about the dangers of creating a Palestinian state. Just as important, Jewish leaders need to set aside their reluctance to clash with the White House, and start actively pressing the President to demand real anti-terror steps by the Palestinian Authority.
At the grassroots level, there will be an outpouring of heartfelt sympathy and prayers. Ayala’s Hebrew name, Ayala bat Ruth, will be circulated widely on the internet and will be mentioned in prayers in synagogues everywhere. That’s a good thing. But we hope that such sentiments will also be channeled into political action.
After the Jerusalem synagogue massacre in November, students at the Rambam Mesivta High School, in Lawrence, New York, decided that tears and prayers were not enough. They initiated a crowd sourcing campaign that raised more than $2.4-million for the families of the victims. The students channeled their passion into practical action.
We hope that the students will show us the way again – but this time with appeals not for checks, but for letters of protest. American Jews need to flood the White House and Congressional leaders with letters and emails asking for one very specific thing: President Obama should tell PA chairman Abbas that he must make a prime-time address unequivocally calling anti-Jewish violence immoral, or he will face a cut-off of U.S. aid.
Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia.