Taylor Force, who died yesterday when a Palestinian terrorist stabbed him to death near the beach in Jaffa, was an Eagle Scout. He was a Field Artillery Officer in the United States Army who had served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was a graduate student of business administration at Vanderbilt University, and he was in Israel on a school-sponsored trip to do what creative, enterprising people in free and robust societies do when they travel: meet like-minded people, inspire and draw inspiration in turn, and enjoy a meal and a stroll in a scenic part of town.
That’s a vision of life that Israelis readily share. The young Palestinian man who snuck into Tel Aviv for no other purpose than to take the lives of innocent men and women, and who ended up killing Force and wounding his wife, holds a starkly different view. So does Mahmoud Abbas, who recently insisted that terror acts like the murder of Force were nothing more than “a peaceful popular uprising,” as well as the majority of Palestinian officialhood, which supports the violence in words and in deeds, and, according to a recent poll, 72 percent of young Palestinians, for whom violence, not diplomacy, is the path forward.
Granted, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complicated affair. It has its intricacies, and neither side, sadly, is without its share of obsequiousness, stupidity, and sheer malice. But whatever else they do to us, moments of great tragedy like the one that unfolded last night in Tel Aviv help us see even the most layered situations with new and penetrating moral clarity. And what we see is simple: life wrestling with death, creation pitted against destruction, a state busy growing up versus a state that insists on never being born.
Ideas are complicated things. They contain multitudes and invite misinterpretation. People, on the other hand, are concrete creatures, easy to behold and harder to misappropriate. This, maybe, is why the English-speaking idealists who rushed to Spain in 1937 to fight against Franco called themselves not the Liberty Riders or the Freedom Squad but the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. And it’s also why Americans, the majority of whom care very little about the bloody and byzantine battles of the Middle East, must remember Taylor Force.
Anyone who still supports the Palestinian vision, a vision currently dedicated almost entirely to the murder of Israelis and, occasionally, Americans, should take a moment and think about Force. The life he led and the bitter way it ended should both guide us as we struggle to make strong moral and political choices. Anything else would dishonor his memory, and the memory of so many others—Israeli, American, British, French—who died for no other reason than their commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.