On Tuesday night, at about the time the “Israeli-Palestinian direct talks” were getting launched in Washington, terrorists murdered four Israeli civilians driving near Hebron. Yitzhak and Tali Ames (47 and 45, parents of six, with Tali nine months pregnant) along with Kochava Even-Haim (37, married and a mother of an eight-year-old girl) and Avishai Shindler (24 and recently married) were apparently first hit in the Ames’ car by a roadside fusillade.
They then had their bodies decimated by bullets at close range as the terrorists “confirmed the kill.”
Already the accepted version of events is that all three of the main leaders present at the Washington talks — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — duly condemned the attack.
But before that “official” version slips through unchallenged, it’s worth looking at more closely.
Netanyahu, a patriotic Israeli whose distress at the attack is not in question, denounced its “savagery and brutality,” and the perpetrators as people who “trample human rights into the dust and butcher everything that they oppose.” Obama called the attack “senseless slaughter,” and though “senseless” is disputable since the attack can actually be traced to a deliberate strategy by Iran, the phrase is basically unobjectionable in the context.
The problem has to do with Abbas. On Tuesday night, he said he “condemns all acts that target Palestinian and Israeli civilians” and that the Hebron attack was meant to “disrupt the peace process and can’t be regarded as an act of resistance.”
What’s wrong with that shouldn’t need to be spelled out.
The reference to “all acts that target Palestinian and Israeli civilians” is reprehensible. It not only generalizes the attack and removes its specificity, but also exploits the attack to — once again — level an accusation at Israelis.
Even if that accusation was accurate, this would not have been the time to make it.
But it is, of course, inaccurate. Whereas thousands of Israeli civilians have been targeted by Palestinian attacks, Israel never targets Palestinian (or any other) civilians, and the few Israeli individuals who do so are viewed and treated as criminals.
Abbas, then, not only failed to condemn Tuesday night’s atrocious murder of four people but used it to smear Israel with what is essentially a blood libel.
And what about the rest of Abbas’s words? Saying the attack was intended to “disrupt the peace process” is an instrumental criticism, not a moral one. And saying that it “can’t be regarded as an act of resistance” is actually — for those who know the lingo — a backhanded compliment to terrorism. “Resistance,” in the Palestinian and broader extremist Arab and Muslim parlance, is a positive term for terrorism, connoting its nobility. Abbas was not condemning Tuesday’s attack as terrorism, but as imprudent.
Terrorism, he clearly implied, is commendable when carried out in the right way and context.
For the record: Abbas, unlike Netanyahu and Obama, did not condemn Tuesday night’s attack. He mildly criticized it as inexpedient, generalized it in a way that negates its actual nature, and exploited it to tar Israel and Israelis for something they are not guilty of.
On Wednesday night, the car of another Israeli couple, Rabbi Moshe and Shira Romeno, was hit by terrorist bullets north of Jerusalem. Both of them were injured and evacuated to a Jerusalem hospital.
Speaking at the White House Wednesday, Abbas apparently referred to both attacks in saying:
What happened yesterday and what is happening today is also condemned. We do not want at all that any blood be shed, one drop of blood … from the Israelis or the Palestinians. We want people in the two countries to lead a normal life. We want them to live as neighbors and partners forever. Let us sign an agreement, a final agreement, for peace, and put an end to a very long period of struggle forever.
Again, some of the tonalities may seem pleasant, but an actual condemnation of the two specific, vicious attacks in the kind of strong, direct language that Netanyahu and Obama used is absent.
From the vague “what happened yesterday and what is happening today,” Abbas passes quickly to another Israeli-Palestinian equivalency — again misleadingly evoking generalized, mutual violence when what is at hand is the continuing phenomenon of Palestinian terror against Israelis.
However, culpable as Abbas’s failure to condemn the two attacks is, doing so would also have been blameworthy — on grounds of hypocrisy.
As heavily documented by Palestinian Media Watch and others, under Abbas’s presidency the Palestinian Authority has been little less than a breeding ground for terrorism. The most egregious terrorists have public squares named after them and are glorified — here and here, for instance — by Abbas himself.
At the same White House ceremony Wednesday evening, Netanyahu said: “President Abbas, you are my partner in peace.” Netanyahu is in a delicate position, having to balance relations with Obama against other key Israeli interests. Those less constrained are free to ask why Abbas, if he can’t bring himself to genuinely condemn even the most bloodcurdling acts of terror, is treated as part of a peace equation at all.