The attack on the Mercaz HaRav high school was a brutal massacre-pure and simple. A Palestinian terrorist entered this religious school’s library, and fired 500 bullets at a room filled with teenage students learning from the Bible and other holy books. The terrorist managed to fire for ten minutes while students ran for cover as best they could, and then the terrorist walked up to those he had only wounded and emptied his gun at their heads at close range. He managed to kill 8 and wounded 9 more, before his rampage was stopped when he was killed by an Israeli army officer responding to the scene. Witnesses described the scene as a “slaughterhouse…. with holy books lying on the floor bathed in blood”.
Reaction in Gaza and elsewhere in the Arab world was predictable: Spontaneuous demonstrations of joy, shooting in the air, and distribution of sweets to celebrate the slaughter of Jews. Terrorist press conferences gloated over the "heroic operation". The Hamas spokesman said “ We bless this operation. It will not be the last”. Other than a perfunctory criticism from Palestinian authority leader Abbas, virtually no other condemnation was heard from anywhere in the Islamic world of an attack on a Jewish religious institution which killed teenagers in cold blood. In fact most of the world at large reacted to this news as business as usual, another terror attack in Jerusalem on kids, after so many of its kind it hardly warrants even a major story or special attention.
However the real story is the failure of much of the world’s media to report this story in context, and to see it for the pure evil that it really is. Moral relativity has caused an amazing inability to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys in this story. Most media pundits see the attack as part of a larger and endless cylce of violence, with each side, the Israelis and Palestinians constantly hitting back at each other. The NY Times worried that the attack “seemed likely to continue or intensify the surge of hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis in recent days.” But little attention is ever given to the particular nature of these hostilities and what drives them.
The Palestinian terrorists are simply trying to destroy Israel by killing as many Jews, especially children, as possible. While Israel is talking peace and trying to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state, Hamas and their allies have launched almost 8000 rockets at Israel from the Gaza territory from which Israel withdrew over two years ago. Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran call repeatedly for the destruction of Israel (and ‘Death to America’ as well). Even the relatively moderate Palestinian President Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, or finally and forever renounce the “armed resistance option” in case peace talks don’t satisfy his demands for a full right of return for millions of Palestinians. Palestinian terrorists have for decades since the massacre at Maalot in 1974 which killed 16 Israeli school children regularly and deliberately targeted Jewish schools and Jewish kids. In January of this year another pair of armed terrorists entered another high school library in Gush Etzion near Jerusalem, but in that case they were shot as they began their attack and they were stopped before they could kill anyone Palestinian terror whether from rockets, suicide bombers or gunmen always and specifically targets Jewish civilians—trying simply to kill as many of us as possible in as gruesome a fashion as possible.
Israel on the other hand is waging a war against Palestinian terror and trying hard to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel is trying to stop the attacks on its territory by attacking those who are planning these attacks before they can carry them out. Israel is attacking the Palestinian terrorists directly in their cars and jeeps, in their training bases, in their weapons storehouses, or hitting them when they are out launching their rockets. However, these terrorists launch their rockets from within schools or crowded neighborhoods and send kids to retrieve the launchers in so doing hoping that when Israel tries to prevent or respond to these attacks the maximum Palestinian civilian casulties will result. Despite this cynical attempt to cause harm to their own civilians, its amazing that the vast majority of those killed by Israeli anti-terror attacks are still the terrorists themselves. No country in the world would sit idly by and not respond to a massive rocket bombardment of its sovereign territory. No country would allow hundreds of thousands of its citizens to suffer dozens of daily rocket attacks without fighting back . No one can ask this of Israel when we are openly threatened with extinction, and facing enemies who not only deny the holocaust but are busy planning how to carry out a new one with advanced weapons –including missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
When the media reports the death tolls on both sides of this Israel-Hamas conflict, it always makes a false comparison-as though this was simply a football or baseball game where its important to keep score and if one side looses more then maybe we should be sympathetic to that side or wait until the toll evens up. However no matter what the death toll, one side wants to make peace, has withdrawn its troops, wants to compromise, wants to live quietly, and to celebrate life. The other side wants to destroy, to wipe out a last refuge, to kill , to maim and to celebrate a sick culture of martyrdom and death that seeks all or nothing.
Until the world unequivocally tells the Palestinians that this terror must stop, that a peace process means to resolve disputes without recourse to violence, and that it is unaceptable to deny the Jewish state’s right to exist, the violence will only continue and worsen. Israel’s people are generous in peace, but will be tough opponents in war. Telling Israel that its attempts to stop rocket fire are disproportionate and illegimate are what creates the license for terrorists to carry out massacres in high schools. The failure to create moral revulsion and world wide outcry that only 60 years after the holocaust jewish kids are still being shot at close range is what makes another holocaust a terrifying possibility. If people of good will want to help stop the violence, then the morally equivalent treatment of terror and those who want to stop it must end.
A friend of mine who is a new imigrant to Israel asked me for advice on how to explain what happened in the school to his own kids when they woke up the morning after the attack. I told him to remind his children that we now start the Hebrew month of Adar, when we celebrate the Feast of Purim, as recounted in the Book of Esther. In this happiest of holidays, we celebrate the reversal of plans for a holocaust by that archetypical Jew hater Haman in the land of Persia over 2000 years ago. He and his sons set up gallows for the Jews and they ended up being hanged themselves. This month and its message of Jewish survival is not a good month to mess with the Jews. The Palestinian terrorists are about to learn that lesson themselves.