On the precipice

At the time of this writing, there have been 40 stabbings, 4 shootings, 5 car rammings and numerous stonings since the latest Arab violence commenced around Rosh Hashanah. The heinous murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, shot as they drove their car with four of their six children, is only one of these heart aching tragedies perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists. Most recently, young Arabs are being encouraged to assault Jews with knives. Videos published on social media outlets instruct these young people on how to commit such an incomprehensible bloody horror on another human being.

Mahmoud Abbas, in his eleventh of a four year term as president of the Palestinian Authority, continues to incite violence against Jews. He stated on Palestinian television on Sept. 16:

We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.

Muslim religious leaders deliver incendiary sermons calling for the murder of Jews and inciting yet more violence. Many fan the flames of violence by falsely claiming that Jews seek to take over the al-Aqsa mosque and compound (all the while denigrating the Jewish historical connection to the Temple Mount). Indeed, only after significant international pressure did the Palestinian Authority back down on its demand to have UNESCO classify the Western Wall, the most holy site of Judaism, as a holy Muslim site.

Some claim that these attacks must be due to the poverty and deprivation experienced by the Palestinian people. This is undermined by the fact that many of the attackers held Israeli ID cards which allowed them to travel freely throughout Israel. Furthermore, these terrorists had living conditions that would enviable in any neighboring Arab country or the Palestinian Authority itself. They led lives of relative well-being, having comfortable housing, education, and access to health care. For example, 19 year old Fadi Alloun from the Issawiyeh neighborhood on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, was an aspiring model who dressed in fashionable clothing. Alloun stabbed a 15 year old boy outside of the Old City of Jerusalem, and was shot dead by Israeli policemen before he could attack anyone else.

Others lament these incidents as inexplicable “lone wolf” attacks. In actuality, these attacks are the result of indoctrinating hatred against Jews by the Palestinian Authority over many years and with many Arab political and religious leaders encouraging such attacks. Palestinian media and educational institutions repeatedly portray Israelis and Jews as usurpers, criminals, and the spawn of “pigs and monkeys” who must be eradicated. What can one expect from such pernicious propaganda instilled throughout one’s life? Nevertheless, such vicious criminality cannot be excused by alleging that the perpetrators are brainwashed or act in robotic fashion. These terrorists remain as moral agents and must be held accountable for their actions.

What could be the eventual goal or purpose of these attacks? Does any Arab leader or Muslim religious authority really think that Israel and its Jewish population will simply vanish as a result of these attacks? Such a belief is pure fantasy. The two thousand year dream of a Jewish homeland will not succumb to such barbarism, and Israel remains a strong and vibrant democracy. Do these attacks encourage Israel to re-engaging with the Palestinian Authority to enact a “two-state solution?” Quite the contrary. One has to simply look at Israel’s experience with Hamas in Gaza and the situation in nearly every one of Israel’s Arab neighbors (civil war, refugees and massive casualties in Syria, authoritarian regime in Egypt, Hizbollah in Lebanon) and recognize that Israel does not wish have yet another failed Arab state on its border. Could it be that the purpose of these attacks be simply to inflict as much physical, emotional and spiritual pain without any other goal as murdering, maiming and terrorizing Jewish people? Regrettably, this is probably close to the truth.

Israel is vulnerable to these terrorist attacks for a number of reasons. First, despite its constant security measures Israel is a relatively open society. Second, Israel has a significant Arab population of over 1.7 million people.  Even with these vulnerabilities, no country or people can be expected to tolerate such attacks on its citizens on a prolonged basis, and we can expect Israel to take increasingly severe measures to prevent these terrorist attacks. It is likely that these measures could do great harm to those very Arabs on whose behalf these terrorists claim to represent.

During World War II, the U.S. Government incarcerated tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent. Prior to implementing this incarceration program, leaders of this minority community never encouraged its members to attack, shoot, stab or murder other Americans, nor were there “lone wolf” terrorist attacks carried out by Japanese Americans against their fellow U.S. citizens. In a decision that represents a black mark in civil rights legal history, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program in 1944 by stating that the need to protect the country against espionage outweighed the constitutional rights of Americans of Japanese descent.

Israel has no written constitution, and is facing a much more tangible threat of domestic terrorism by Arabs than did the United States during World War II. To be sure, massive incarceration of Arabs in Israel is not practical, politically possible, or remotely desirable. Nevertheless, the Arab leadership should act quickly to quell the present blood lust that it has unleashed on the Jewish people or risk facing very severe and painful consequences that could include economic dislocations, restrictions on travel, deportations and much more.

Mahmoud Abbas and the imams baying for Jewish blood have placed the Arabs on a precipice. They should pull their people back from the brink, or risk falling into the abyss.  The severe consequences of their continual incitement will be on their heads. Let the courageous voices of Arab leaders such as Nazareth mayor Ali Salem be heard loud and clear, an individual who strongly condemns the violence and encourages the peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jew.

About the Author
Steve Hemmat is an attorney in private practice in Seattle, Washington, where he has held several leadership roles in local Jewish institutions and is an alumnus of a Tikvah Fund workshop. Formerly with the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Justice, Steve has a deep interest in Israel and the welfare of the Jewish people. His wife, Rachely, is a native of Israel, and he has three children. He can be reached at steve.hemmat@gmail.com.
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