Daniel Margolis

A Society of Baruch Goldsteins

Palestinians Demonstrate on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre. Photo by Mustafa Bader - CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
Palestinians Demonstrate on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre. Photo by Mustafa Bader - CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, armed and wearing his reserve uniform, walked into Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and found a room in which dozens of Muslims were praying. Provoked by nothing but his own madness, he lifted a Galil rifle and opened fire on the innocents, unloading 111 rounds and killing 29 people.

Israel was stunned.

Israel’s Response to a Jewish Terrorist

“I am shamed over the disgrace imposed upon us by a degenerate murderer,” Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told parliament. “You are not part of the community of Israel,” Rabin added, addressing not only Goldstein, who had already been beaten to death by others at the cave, but of anyone who thought like him.

The prime minister emphasized the point, saying that people like Goldstein were “not partners in the Zionist enterprise” and “a foreign implant” and “an errant weed.”

“A single, straight line connects the lunatics and racists of the entire world,” Rabin said, condemning all forms of terror. He added that Goldstein was no better than a terrorist who kills Jews, saying,  “A single line of blood and terrorism runs from the Islamic Holy War member who shot Jewish worshipers who stood in prayer in the synagogues of Istanbul, Paris, Amsterdam and Rome, to the Jewish Hamas member who shot Ramadan worshipers.”

The condemnation crossed partisan lines. Benjamin Netanyahu, then leader of the opposition, deplored the violence as a “despicable crime” and expressed his “unequivocal condemnation.”

Rabbis in Israel, including the Chief Rabbis, and around the world, including the Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, then Britain’s chief rabbi, condemned Goldstein. Rabbi Sacks said that “Such an act is an obscenity and a travesty of Jewish values. That it should have been perpetrated against worshippers in a house of prayer at a holy time makes it a blasphemy as well.”

The state took action. Goldstein had been a member of the Kach movement, founded by Meir Kahane, who was assassinated several years before. Already banned in 1992 from running for elections in the Knesset, the movement was outlawed altogether after Goldstein’s massacre. A special body of inquiry, the Shagmar Comission, was even set up to probe the events.

Aside from a  vanishingly small number of people who actually believed that Goldstein had thwarted a terrorist plot – he hadn’t – Israeli society was united in its outrage. Even now, decades later, as Israel has moved further to the right politically, Goldstein is still reviled. There has been a great deal of scandal around Itamar ben Gvir joining Israel’s government, because he was at one time a supporter of Goldstein. But even he, perhaps Israel’s most extreme politician, had to announce that he was no longer a supporter to gain office. He might be honest, an Israeli version of Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, who went from recruiting friends to the Ku Klux Klan to endorsing Barack Obama for president. Or ben Gvir could be lying; either way, aside from a few political outcasts, Israeli society rejects Goldstein’s legacy and those who support him.

Compare the above to the morally abject displays across a wide swath of Palestinian society this past weekend.

Palestinian society’s response to a terrorist

On Jan. 27, 2023, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, seven Israeli Jews, including a 14-year-old boy, were murdered by a Palestinian gunman in cold blood while leaving their synagogue in a Jerusalem suburb. The next day, another Palestinian terrorist, this one 13 years old, tried to kill a father and son who, luckily, survived.

Palestinian society’s response to the massacre of innocents at their place of worship was dramatically different from Israel’s. Instead of widespread condemnation, streets in the West Bank and Gaza erupted in celebration. Palestinians chanted and cheered, distributed candies, shot their many guns into the air, and even lit fireworks. And this was not the response of a small group of extremists: the streets were literally filled.

One of the celebrants in Jenin was Abu Rumeileh, who referred to the perpetrator of the massacre and another terrorist as “righteous martyrs” and called for more violence against civilians. Rumeileh is not just anyone; he’s the secretary of Jenin’s branch of Fatah, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ruling party and a constituent component of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). This is the same party PA President Mahmoud Abbas leads.

The celebrations took place in cities across the Palestinian-controlled territories.

The fact that these people are outside dancing, celebrating the death of innocents, even a child, boggles the mind. To put this into perspective, imagine if racist white Americans would have poured into the streets to celebrate the Charleston AME church Massacre. There would have been national outrage and condemnation from all levels and sectors of society. But Palestine is different. Just look to the mothers of terrorists.

While normal people would express shame, these women celebrate proudly their sons’ barbarity.

Palestinian dictator Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement blaming Israel for the poor security situation. While Abbas routinely mourns terrorists killed in battle with the IDF, he said nothing about the synagogue massacre. Even worse, Hamas said the slaughter was an “appropriate response” to Israel’s killing of suspected terrorists in a gunfight in Jenin.

The Difference Between Israel and Palestinian Society

In short, this is the difference between Israel and the society created by the PLO and Hamas. When innocents are murdered, Israelis are outraged and the leaders condemn the dead perpetrator as “an errant weed” and a “degenerate murderer.” In Palestinian-controlled areas, when a similar but more common situation occurs, the leader of the PA says nothing, Hamas calls it “appropriate,” and the people dance.

These societies, Israeli and Palestinian, are not morally equivalent. And while many in the West would deny this, they surely know it is true. It’s widely-held knowledge that Palestinian television features children’s programming that celebrates and promotes the murder of Jews. It’s widely-held knowledge that Abbas, the PA president, denies the Holocaust. It’s widely-held knowledge that Hamas has called for murdering all Jews. It’s widely-held knowledge that the schools in Palestinian areas use astonishingly antisemitic textbooks. It is widely-held knowledge that both the PA and Hamas maintain a “martyrs fund,” money used to pay pensions to terrorists or the families of terrorists who kill Israelis, even Israeli children.


While pages of ink were spilled in pre-Internet 1994 describing Israel’s response to Goldstein’s terrorism, Western news outlets have barely even mentioned the moral depravity now occurring in Palestinian areas, if at all. The reason is because the celebration of violence is so common and expected that it is not considered even newsworthy.

The Problem isn’t Arabs or Muslims, but PA/Hamas Society

This isn’t a condemnation of Arabs; Arab states, including the U.A.E., Egypt, Bahrain, and Jordan have acted humanely and offered their condolences to Israel after the violence. Saudi Arabia was more circumspect, but condemned acts of violence “that target civilians,” importantly drawing an implicit distinction between Israel in Jenin and the terrorists in Jerusalem. Nor is this a condemnation of Muslims; the Global Imams Council issued a statement far better than most Westerners, stating that they deplored the targeting of “our innocent Jewish brethren, including their children” and that “we condemn the celebrations” because they view “the perpetrator of this crime as a terrorist, not a martyr.”

Neither should any of what’s being said here be construed as somehow dehumanizing Palestinians. People in the U.S. recognize and avoid dangerous neighborhoods not because they believe all the residents to be criminals, but because criminals have taken control of the neighborhood, reshaping its culture and leaving the residents in terror for their own safety. We don’t actually know what Palestinians think, just as we don’t know what the people of North Korea, China, or Iran (until recently) think. Even opinion polls are suspect under dictatorships that jail and beat those who dissent.

Sadly, just like those residents of “bad” neighborhoods who fear for their own safety, right-minded Palestinians have no real power. However many there are, even if they’re a majority, they don’t control society. Control of politics is in the hands of the Fatah-run PA and Hamas; culture is controlled through television and radio by them, as well as Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations.


All of this is the reason there’s no peace. Peace isn’t missing because Israel’s many proposed peace deals weren’t perfect, or because Israel builds settlements (which were never limited by the Oslo accords) in Area C, or because Israel does what all other countries do and fights terrorists. In the stunning Whispered in Gaza series, one woman even says that life was better in the Strip under “the occupation.”

Israelis have learned this the hard way: after Oslo they got Intifada; after vacating Gaza, they got Hamas and its rockets. None of this paints a bright picture for peace in the region, but solutions require the correct appraisal of a situation. Thus, Israel, and the world, need to grasp the reality.

There isn’t peace because the PLO and Hamas have created a society of Baruch Goldsteins.

About the Author
Daniel Margolis is a US-based journalist, writer, educator, and fundraiser. He now works in the private sector and writes on a freelance basis. His work has been published in various publications, and he contributed to the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography, published by Oxford University Press. Margolis is also a member of the board of his synagogue and of the governing board of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts.
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