Massacre of the Innocents

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by Jeff Jacoby

LAST WEEKEND in Itamar, an Israeli settlement in the Samarian hills, terrorists infiltrated the home of Udi and Ruth Fogel and perpetrated a massacre of the innocents.

The killers started with Yoav, the Fogels’ 11-year-old, and Elad, his 4-year-old brother. Yoav’s throat was slit — as he was reading in bed, one report said — and Elad was stabbed twice in the heart. Then the attackers murdered Ruth, knifing her as she came out of the bathroom. In the next room they killed Ruth’s sleeping husband, Udi, and their infant daughter, Hadas. Apparently they didn’t notice the last bedroom, where the two other boys, Ro’i, 8, and Yishai, 2, were asleep. It wasn’t until half past midnight, when 12-year-old Tamar came home from a Friday night youth group, that the horrific slaughter was discovered. Much of the house was drenched in blood, and the 2-year-old was shaking his parents’ bodies, crying for them to wake up.

What explains such unspeakable evil? What sort of human being deliberately butchers a sleeping baby, or plunges a knife into a toddler’s heart?

As news of the massacre in Itamar spread, young men in Gaza distributed candy and pastries in celebration. The Al-Qassam Brigades, a branch of Hamas, argued that the murder of Israeli settlers was permitted by international law. A day later it changed its tune, insisted that “harming children is not part of Hamas’s policy,” and suggested instead that the massacre might have been committed by Jews. The Palestinian “foreign minister,” Riyad al-Malki, also voiced doubt that the killers could have been Palestinian. “The slaughter of people like this by Palestinians,” he claimed, “is unprecedented.” Actually, the precedents abound.

The atrocity in Itamar recalls the 2002 terror attack at Kibbutz Metzer that left five victims dead, including a mother and her two little boys. It brings to mind the murder of Tali Hatuel and her four daughters, who were shot at point-blank range as they drove from Gaza to Ashkelon in 2004. It is reminiscent of the bloodbath in a Jerusalem yeshiva three years ago, in which eight young students were gunned down. Unprecedented? If only.

The civilized mind struggles to make sense of such savagery.

Tens of thousands of mourners attended the funeral of the five members of the Fogel family.

There are those who believe passionately that all human beings are inherently good and rational creatures, essentially the same once you get beyond surface disagreements. Such people cannot accept the reality of a culture that extols death over life, that inculcates a vitriolic hatred of Jews, that induces children to idolize terrorists. Since they would never murder a family in its sleep without being driven to it by some overpowering horror, they imagine that nobody would. This is the mindset that sees a massacre of Jews and concludes that Jews must in some way have provoked it. It is the mindset behind the narrative that continually blames Israel for the enmity of its neighbors, and makes it Israel’s responsibility to end their violence.

But the truth is simpler, and bleaker. Human goodness is not hard-wired. It takes sustained effort and healthy values to produce good people; in the absence of those values, cruelty and intolerance are far more likely to flourish.

For years the Palestinian Authority has demonized Israelis and Jews as enemies to be destroyed, vermin to be loathed, and infidels to be terrorized with Allah’s blessing. Children who grow up under Palestinian rule are inundated on all sides — in school, in the mosques, on radio and TV, even in summer camps and popular music — with messages that glorify bloodshed, promote hatred, and lionize “martyrdom.”

None of this is news. The toxic incitement that pervades Palestinian culture has been massively documented. What children are taught in the classrooms of Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza City, Hillary Clinton said in 2007, is “to see martyrdom and armed struggle and the murder of innocent people as ideals to strive for. . . . This propaganda is dangerous.” Indeed, it is lethal.

An estimated 20,000 mourners accompanied Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, and Hadas Fogel as they were laid to rest in Jerusalem on Sunday. In his eulogy, Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon predicted bitterly that in time the Palestinian Authority would honor the Fogel family’s murderers and name public squares after them. His comment might have seemed gratuitous — except that at that very moment, in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh, Dalal Mughrabi was being celebrated at a public square named in her honor. It was Mughrabi who, 33 years earlier, led a PLO terror squad on a savage rampage on Israel’s Coastal Road. Thirty-eight innocent Jews were murdered that day, 13 of them children.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe, where this article first appeared).

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6 Responses

  1. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    If there is any solution, it is teshuva. An Israeli president or prime minister who appears in tallis and tefillin in public and announces that the full physical and spiritual force of Israel will be set against terror, will find the other side abandoning jihad against Israel. The Muslims themselves say jihad is a response to the non-fulfilment of the Torah by the Jews. If the Jews reject their chosenness, the Muslims seek to take over the land.

  2. Ori says:

    Reb Yid: But does the immediate response by Bibi’s government, announcing more building in the territories, help matters one iota?

    Ori: No, it won’t. But considering how little good will the settlement freeze garnered in the PA (see the links in the article), do you really think it will hurt matters one iota? We in the US tend to believe that there is always a solution. But Israel and the Palestinians have mutually exclusive non-negotiables, peace is not going to happen in this generation.

  3. Pinchas Steinberg says:

    Reb Yid,

    You seem to imply that Bibi’s announcement of more building in the territories does not help matters and even makes matters worse. Do you really believe that the cause which drove the terrorist to murder a family and decapitate a 3-month old was anger over “settlement-building?” If not one Jewish soul lived east of the Green Line, would there be no Arab anger or violence? Reb Yid, between 1948 and 1967, when not one Jewish settlement existed, when Judea and Samaria were judenrein, terrorists routinely crossed the border to butcher Jewish families and even Jewish babies. Not only that, but before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Arab pogroms were relatively common. In 1929, Arabs massacred 67 Jews in Hebron. Babies were beheaded. Old rabbis were castrated. There were incidents of rape, torture and mutilation. Hands and fingers were torn off bodies, and many Jews were wounded as well. As the Arab masses joyfully carried out their killings in 1929, were they driven by anger over the Israeli settlements of 1967? Anger over the occupation?

    Unfortunately, I believe that even if Bibi were to cease all new settlement building, even if Bibi were to remove every last Jew from east of the Green Line, Arabs would still butcher Jews. And the world would still blame Israel for all violence. Luckily, though, I live in Israel. And I fought in her army. And I fight in her wars. And I vote. Which means that thankfully, my opinion counts, and I will face the consequences of “more building.” And I will encourage more building, not less, because I believe that more building does enhance, and not weaken, my security. And if you don’t live here, frankly, your opinion does not count. And you will not face the consequences of “more building” or “less building.” Yet you criticise.

  4. Reb Yid says:

    What happened was horrible.

    But does the immediate response by Bibi’s government, announcing more building in the territories, help matters one iota?

    Hardly.

  5. Tal Benschar says:

    The Israeli government must take some of the blame. Another similarly savage incident was committed a few years ago by one Samir Kuntar. The Israeli government released him (and hundreds of other murderers) to cheering mobs of Arabs in exchange for two bodies of Israeli soldiers. If the perpetrartor of this latest atrocity is caught, then he can expect the same — a couple of years in jail, and then a release in exchange for some Jewish bodies.

    “All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel
    In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate.” Qohelet Raba, 7:16

  6. Bob Miller says:

    The Israeli government should reflect on this atrocity every time it is ordered or tempted by “friendly nations” to release terrorist prisoners or exercise restraint.