There are at least two sides to every story, to every conflict. This is the side of the story I know.
A few years ago, while visiting Israel, I had the honor of eating Shabbat dinner with one of the men who helped apprehend Aziz Salha, who was the “face” of the Ramallah lynching. You might recall the photo of Salha holding up his hands in jubilation through a window to a mob of Arab civilians below. His hands were red from the blood of two murdered Jews.
The man I know who helped capture Salha has been called back to duty as an IDF reservist due to the current war in Israel. The barbarity he and the other soldiers and civilians in Israel face today is the same barbarity Israel has faced for decades. Yet once again, much of the world is outraged not at the barbarity but at Israel’s retaliation against it.
Almost to the day of the Yom Kippur war fifty years ago, Israel was assaulted again by Arabs on October 7, 2023. But the Ramallah lynching that happened in October twenty-three years ago seems to encapsulate even more what Israel is truly fighting against. It was on that infamous day that Israel was starkly reminded that hatred and lust for Jewish blood, not the desire for statehood or peace, is what drives not just Arab terrorists, but many Arab civilians.
It’s disturbing and haunting to watch and read about what Hamas did to Israelis and other national citizens on October 7. But what’s even more disturbing is that Arab civilians joined in the murderous rampage just as they did in the Ramallah lynching.
On that day, October 12, 2000, two IDF reservist, Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz, made a wrong turn in the “West Bank” and ended up at a Palestinian checkpoint. They were detained by PA police. When word spread that they’d been detained, Arab civilians took to the streets, stormed the police station, and began a blood-crazed lynching. The two Jews were beaten to a pulp and stabbed in the police station by civilians. Then their bodies were thrown out the window to the larger mob which grew to 1000 Arabs. At that point the bodies were dragged through the street, mutilated, the entrails and organs waved in the air, and then the bodies were burned.
Along with an Italian film crew, British photographer Mark Seager was there. When he later testified about the lynching he said, “It was the most horrible thing that I have ever seen and I have reported from Congo, Kosovo, many bad places. I thought that I’d gotten to know the Palestinians well. I’ve made six trips this year and had been going to Ramallah every day for the past 16 days. I thought they were kind, hospitable people. I know they are not all like this and I’m a very forgiving person, but I’ll never forget this. It was murder of the most barbaric kind.”
There was general horror expressed at the time by those who watched the video clip of the lynching, much like the horror expressed after watching videos of Hamas and Arab civilians’ barbaric actions on October 7. Human rights activist who saw the lynching video and eyewitness journalists said of the Arab civilians who partook in the lynching, “they were like animals” and one of the captured lynchers in his statement said, “we were in a craze to see blood.”
Israel experienced this same craze again on October 7. A different setting. A much larger scale. But the same crazed mentality. And once again, the hatred wasn’t just carried out by terrorists or militants, but by civilians. It was a chilling reminder that many Arab civilians carry a hatred for Jews that when acted upon leads to savagery. Because of the barbarity of the murders on October 7, the meme and hashtag of “Hamas = Isis” has been making the rounds on social media. But the horrible reality is that if that equation is accurate, then Arab civilians who joined in the barbarity = Isis too.
In 2011, the Fogel family in Itamar were victims of such barbarity, carried out not by terrorists but by two Arab teenagers. The teenagers armed with knives broke through a security fence and went into a home where they murdered members of the Fogel family including an 11- and 4-year-old. After they left the house, they heard a baby crying and went back into the house and stabbed the 3-month old to death. When the teenagers were sentenced one of them told reporters, “I don’t regret what I did and I would do it again. I’m proud of what I did and I’ll accept any punishment I get, even death, because I did it all for Palestine.”
This mentality of hatred and a craze for blood is unfortunately and tragically deeply seeded in many Arabs. It’s not stereotyping or racist to recognize this. Rather the recognition comes from taking Arabs at their word and seeing their actions. It’s tragic for both Arabs and Jews how the virulent hatred that’s been purposely planted in Arabs for decades by Arab political and religious leaders and fortified by Arab media, schools, camps, and “pay for slay” financial restitution given to families of Arabs who murder Jews, has led to so much death and destruction.
Many, including myself, don’t want to believe that Hamas represents a large number of Arabs. Our minds seek comfort and safety by compartmentalizing and confining systematic barbaric hatred to only being perpetrated by terrorists. But the decades long pattern of terrorism against Jews being carried out by Arab civilians can’t be ignored. In 2018 the head of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, declared, “We will take down the border and we will tear their hearts from their bodies.” When the border was breached by Hamas on October 7, it can’t be forgotten that Arab civilians helped fulfill Sinwar’s wish. And unfortunately, demonstrations across the world seem to indicate that the murder of 1400 Jews didn’t satiate this hatred that is instilled in an alarming number of people, but instead emboldened the hatred and increased the appetite for Jewish blood to be spilled.
In the “West Bank” city of Tulkarem, hundreds of Arab civilians marched waving Hamas flags and chanting, “The people want the al-Qassam Brigades,” referring to the military wing of Hamas. In Milan, Arab immigrants marched chanting, “Open the borders to us, so we can kill the Zionists. Open the borders to us, so we can kill the Jews.” And during pro-Palestinian protests on American campuses and in American streets the genocidal slogan that’s been chanted since the inception of the modern state of Israel, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” is ironically being said by those marching “against genocide.” But when Israel takes extreme precautionary measures and fights to defend itself against radicalized hatred that leads to acts of terrorism, the spotlight shifts to Israel’s defense measures rather than the terrorism that caused the implementation of defense measures in the first place.
I have a friend in Israel who fought in the Lebanon War and has worked in the security and counter-terrorism sector for almost 30 years. During that time, he witnessed and fought through several terrorist attacks. He’s also a renowned artist. He and so many other Jews hate war. They hate it. And they would love nothing more than to experience a perpetual cease-fire from all wars and live in peace.
While protestors moralize, while bereaved families eulogize, while imams, rabbis, and priests sermonize, while professors dogmatize, while activists radicalize, while Hamas leaders monetize, Jews are trying to realize. They’re trying to realize what can be done to stop the relentless hatred that continues to be directed at them. Because they know the hatred is more about their existence, period, than the land they exist on.
Although the above-mentioned friend is an expert in counterterrorism, he and collective Israel have yet to find an answer regarding the hatred they face. Regarding this hatred, he said, “Hamas is not an entity as much as it is a mentality. It’s a mentality of pure hatred, not nationalism. Therefore, it can’t be wiped out just by using force. Unfortunately, though, it’s because of this mentality of hatred that we must fight our enemies, and that means a lot of collateral damage. Most people don’t know the horrors of war, nor can they conceive of what one must do to win. Most do not get that in war there are two choices, win or lose, which equates to live or die. Yes, we can and will defeat our enemies, even at a great cost. But we must also work at changing their mentality of hatred; changing it so the Arabs can see what is best for them, which is to live in peace with us. To be victorious in the long run we must find a way to change their mentality and that is the true challenge.”
From the moment of modern Israel’s inception into statehood, Arab nations, Arab leaders, Arab terrorists, and individual Arabs have threatened to destroy Israel based on hatred of Jews. And tragically, their rhetoric hasn’t remained empty threats but has been acted upon ad nauseam for decades through wars and terrorism.
Are there Jews who hate Arabs? Absolutely. Have Jews murdered Arabs simply because they were Arabs? Yes. But a Jew who murders an Arab simply for being an Arab is an anomaly. And when it happens the majority of Jews and the Israeli government condemn the murder. But an Arab who murders a Jew simply for being a Jew has been a repeated occurrence for decades.
In the past when speaking of its desire to annihilate Israel, Hamas has stated, “We love death more than you love life.” But that’s a lie. Israel loves life. And despite being so tired of war, will do whatever it can to defend it.