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July 12, 2021 12:07 pm
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Linda Sarsour, Israel, and Surfside

avatar by Stephen M. Flatow

Opinion

Linda Sarsour. Photo: Festival of Faiths via Wikimedia Commons.

I was hoping that the tragedy of the collapsed building in Surfside, Florida, would prove to be one of those rare occasions in American public life when politicization could be avoided — when we could all just be human beings and overlook our political or social differences, if only for a few days.

But leave it to the anti-Israel crowd to try to exploit every conceivable situation in order to score political points against Jews and Israel.

Linda Sarsour, the extremist Arab-American leader — and former Bernie Sanders surrogate — is in the thick of this disgusting new controversy.

On July 5, Sarsour circulated a tweet from a fellow-extremist, sarcastically denouncing the involvement of Israeli Army experts in the Surfside rescue mission.

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“Their expertise is crushing buildings with people in them, not rescuing them,” Sarsour’s colleague wrote. Sarsour evidently thought that was a brilliant point, because she promptly sent it around, helpfully adding two large hands pointing to the tweet, just to be sure no reader missed it.

When critics on Twitter challenged Sarsour for her vicious hatred and gross insensitivity, she doubled down.

Instead of apologizing (as any decent person would do), Sarsour accused her critics of having “no morals or values” and “supporting atrocities and injustice on a daily basis.” Sarsour then slinked off into the night, declaring that she was leaving Twitter “for a few days.”

Israel has had its share of experience with building collapses. Just two months ago, an overcrowded bleacher in a partially constructed synagogue in Givat Ze’ev collapsed, killing three people and injuring 166. Back in 2001, 23 people were killed and 380 injured when one floor in a poorly constructed Jerusalem wedding hall collapsed.

But Israel also has the unique experience of dealing with situations in which a building partly collapsed not because of construction flaws — but because Palestinian Arab terrorists deliberately caused it to collapse.

Recall the 1975 attack on the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, an episode worth revisiting in some detail because of the many lessons that can still be learned from it.

To begin with, note that the attack took place in Tel Aviv. If the attackers were genuinely interested in just a Palestinian state in the “West Bank” territories, they would have attacked one of the Jewish communities there. Israel’s critics are always telling us that it’s the “settlements” that are the obstacle to peace. Yet the terrorists did not target a settlement. They struck in Tel Aviv.

Also, note the type of target. They didn’t attack Israeli soldiers. They didn’t attack an Israeli Army base. The attackers were fulfilling the very definition of terrorists — they deliberately chose a target filled with civilians.

The victims were not part of some “occupying army.” They were unarmed and defenseless men, women, and children.

“There is no doubt that the terrorists were dispatched by the Fatah organization,” Defense Minister Shimon Peres said at the time. “This has put paid to the legend which the Fatah has been trying to foster, especially among American visitors, regarding its ostensibly moderate attitude.”

Peres was referring to the critics of Israel who had been claiming that Yasser Arafat’s speech at the United Nations a few months earlier showed that the PLO — of which Fatah was, and is, the largest faction — had changed and now wanted peace with Israel. Among those pushing the “Fatah-is-moderate” line were the American Jewish left-wing organization “Breira” — the forerunner of J Street — and the Middle East Peace Group (based at Brandeis University), of which future New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was a leader.

The Fatah terrorists seized eight hostages in the hotel, gathered them in one room, and set off explosive charges there, causing the collapse of one side of the building. The hostages were killed, as were most of the terrorists and three Israeli soldiers.

Defense Minister Peres noted that many in the Arab world “have been seized with a great imaginary excitement,” and were praising the killers and the slaughter.

That sentiment still hasn’t changed, all these years later.

In 2012, the Israeli government handed over the bodies of 91 dead Palestinian Arab terrorists to the Palestinian Authority (PA). It was one of those Israeli “good will” gestures that never seem to generate much good will from the other side.

The official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida announced that the municipality of Ramallah (the PA’s capital) would construct a mausoleum to honor the Savoy murderers. (Translation courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch)

We can’t stop the Palestinian Authority from praising and glorifying terrorists. But we can insist that American taxpayers’ dollars not be used to fund such behavior. And we can demand that Jewish “peace” groups condemn the PA’s pro-terror actions.

Likewise, we can’t stop Linda Sarsour from hating Israel and Jews. But we can call on those who have befriended or worked with Sarsour to sever their relationships with her.

There’s Senator Bernie Sanders, who appointed Sarsour as his surrogate during his presidential campaign; the Women’s March leadership, of which Sarsour was a part; the left-wing Jewish groups that have defended or cooperated with Sarsour — all have a moral obligation to cut their ties with her. If they don’t, they are signaling that they tolerate her bigotry. And that’s a very dangerous position to be taking, especially at a time when Jews are under attack — verbally and physically — in all corners of the world.

Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.

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