“But whatever it is, I don’t know who you are and I don’t know what we’ve been playing here. So I was crying because I don’t know if I love you anymore and I don’t know what I’m going to do without that. “Ordinary People” (1980)
The Taylor Force Act (S-1697) passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 3 with bipartisan support. The vote was 17-4, allowing the bill to go to the full Senate. The four senators who voted against the measure are Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). They voted against a bill that, put in its most simple terms, would end American taxpayer money going to Palestinian Arab terrorists who are paid to kill Americans and Israelis. The original bill didn’t have any exemptions, because all money is fungible, but some do exist in its current form. The bottom line is that if the Palestinian Authority rescinds its law and stops paying terrorists for killing people and supporting their families once they commit these heinous acts, PA funding will not be touched.
The money is far from de minimis. According to the 2017 PA budget, the payments will constitute almost 50 percent of all foreign aid contributed, almost $350 million to kill innocents. In a report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, according to MEMRI, the 2016 budget for the PLO’s Institute For Care For The Families of Martyrs says “that the Institute provides allowances ‘without discrimination’ — in other words, also for members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and so on.” It appears that there’s no issue between all these factions and the so-called moderate Palestinian Authority when it comes to cold-blooded murder and money.
Since my column last October, I have been thinking about why there doesn’t seem to be the will within the Jewish community to make the passing of the Taylor Force Act an overriding priority. Yes, there have been a few organizations that have been working hard to pass this legislation and more have become supportive with the revised version, but there doesn’t seem to be the type of committed, strong American Jewish organizational push that we have experienced with other issues. And so I wonder, what do we mean when we say “never again”?
How can we willingly send our taxpayer money to incentivize those who want to kill anyone who is or is perceived to be Israeli, Jewish, or American and believe in “never again”? If we can’t come together as a community to support a bill that will stop what Senator Lindsay Graham termed “pay to slay,” then I have to echo the quote above, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t know what we’ve been playing here.”
Let me paint you a picture. Since the Taylor Force Act passed in committee, I received two communications from an umbrella organization that says it is the representative voice of the organized Jewish community. One came on August 10, with a list of issues to support and oppose that range from alleviating poverty to the RAISE Act, with an update on the Syrian refugee crisis and the Combat BDS Act. No mention of the Taylor Force Act. Then on August 14, I received a statement of condemnation of white supremacist violence in Virginia from the same organization. Again, nothing about the Taylor Force Act nor the senators who voted against it, one of whom may be running for president in the near future and one who is part of a political family referred to as the Kennedys of the West. If standing up against white supremacists is a no-brainer and deserves formal condemnation, doesn’t legislation ending funding for those who kill and support the killers of Americans and Israelis also warrant our explicit support?
There are countless Israelis of all religions and backgrounds who have been murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists since 1948, but these killings also predate the re-establishment of the state of Israel. However, if we want to concentrate just on American lives, according to the Koby Mandell Foundation and StandWithUs, since 1993 — the year the Oslo Accords were signed — 64 Americans have been murdered by Palestinians. Since the pay-for-slay incentive was constituted secretly by Yassir Arafat after signing Oslo and Abbas did not codify it until years later, this means that we may have been unwittingly complicit in each of these lives being taken.
Perhaps we need to remind these senators about the people behind the statistics. Of course, there is Taylor Force, only 28, whom I wrote about in October, an Army vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan on a Vanderbilt University-sponsored trip to Israel when he was stabbed in Jaffa in 2016. Ezra Schwartz, only 18, from Massachusetts, was killed when a terrorist fired on cars stuck in a traffic jam in 2015. New Jersey residents include Leah Stern, a Holocaust survivor from Passaic who was murdered in Mahane Yehuda in 1997, Sara Duker of Teaneck, murdered in a bus bombing in 1996, and Alisa Flatow of West Orange, murdered in a bus bombing in 1995. Richard Lakin, originally from Connecticut, was on a bus in 2015 when he was shot in the head and then stabbed repeatedly in his head, face, and stomach. Richard advocated for Muslim-Jewish co-existence.
Kristine Luken, an American living in the U.K. who went to Israel for a visit, was stabbed to death while hiking. Alan Beer from Ohio was killed in a bus bombing in Jerusalem in 2003. Who can forget the bomb that exploded in the cafeteria at Hebrew University in 2002, killing Janis Ruth Coulter and David Gritz of Massachusetts, Marla Bennet of California, Benjamin Blutstein of Pennsylvania, and Dina Carter of North Carolina? They ranged in age from 24 to 37. And 90-year-old Hannah Rogen, who was killed in the infamous Netanya Passover seder suicide attack in 2002. Aaron Ellis, a young man from Chicago, was killed in a shooting attack at a bat mitzvah while he was performing in 2002. Dr. Moshe Gottlieb, originally from California, who regularly provided free chiropractic care to handicapped children, was murdered in a bus bombing in 2002. Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, only 36, from New York once traveled through dangerous territory to make a condolence call to the family of an Israeli Druze soldier who was killed defending the Tomb of Joseph. He was murdered while trying to rescue Torah scrolls from the burning Tomb of Joseph in October 2000.
Tragically, this list isn’t even a third of the 64 and I’m listing only Americans who were killed. This doesn’t include the injured and it doesn’t include Israelis. To learn about the others, read, “The Forgotten Victims” or go to www.jewishvirutallibrary.org.
We must share these senselessly lost lives with our communities and our leaders, because anyone who could vote against the Taylor Force Act or not actively engage in supporting its passage has definitely forgotten them and what “never again” means. How much better would the world be today with their ingenuity and compassion? How many children and grandchildren would they have had by now? Each one cruelly cheated out of their full life’s journey.
At the end of the climactic scene in “Ordinary People,” Conrad, the young man, tearfully asks his doctor if he really is his friend, and the doctor responds, “I am. Count on it.” The question is: Can we be counted on to stop funding those who want to kill us and our children?