Last night, Eitam Henkin, a doctoral student at Tel-Aviv University, where he won the prestigious Nathan Rotenstreich scholarship, and his wife Na’ama, an accomplished graphic designer who ran her own studio, were driving back from a class reunion to their home in Neria, a small community of 250 families in Samaria. In the back of their white Subaru station wagon, four of their six children—the oldest one nine, the youngest four months—were dozing off. As they drove past the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, gunmen affiliated with the PLO approached the Henkins’ car and shot both adults to death at close range. The children watched in silence from the back seat as their parents’ torsos were torn apart by a hail of bullets. The children’s silence saved their lives: likely unnoticed by the murderers, they seemed to have been spared a similar fate.
The world’s silence in response to the murders of Eitam and Na’ama, and the spate of similar murders recently perpetrated by Palestinian terror organizations acting with the encouragement and oftentimes at the direction of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian national movement, has no such silver lining. When asked by an Israeli news reporter how the Henkins’ orphaned children were responding to their parents’ death, a neighbor responded, “They are crying.” Those whose eyes are dry have something to answer for.
On Sept. 13, driving back home in Jerusalem after the festive Rosh Hashanah meal, Alexander Levlovitz, 64, died after Palestinian terrorists pelted his car with large rocks, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and crash into a pole.
On June 30, Malachi Rosenfeld was shot point blank by assailants near Shvut Rahel.
Eleven days earlier, and not too far away, Danny Gonen, 25, was similarly assassinated on his way back from a weekend hike.
The list goes on: shootings, stabbings, and stonings are all rampant, and they’re almost always perpetrated or encouraged by Palestinian officialdom.
Western leaders and even a portion of diaspora Jewry justifies its refusal to notice or name the current wave of murderous Palestinian terror attacks on the grounds that the deceased are mostly “settlers”—a special category of civilians whose murder is always, if not justified, then easy enough for those who attended the right universities and who read the right newspapers to understand.
After all, what were Eitam and Na’ama Henkin doing in the West Bank in the first place, living on land that Palestinians claim as the territory of their future state—which has already been recognized by the U.N.? The fact that the land where the Henkins live is also holy to Jews, who have in fact lived there for millennia, is irrelevant next to the larger internationally-sanctioned truth that Israel is guilty of war crimes. What is the murder of two gentle people, or 12, or 23, or the current wave of stonings, shootings, and stabbings, or some ad hoc ethnic cleansing, or thousands of rockets launched against kindergartens and residential neighborhoods, next to decades of Israeli occupation and repression? The only sane response to such tragedies is a renewed push for greater tolerance and co-existence. And so forth, and so on.
This madness must stop. The man who commands Na’ama and Eitam’s executioners, PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, was unambiguous in his speech this week at the United Nations that he intended to no longer hold himself accountable to the Oslo peace accords. His actions speak even louder than his words. The Henkins’s murder is proof, if any additional proof was needed, that the PLO remains nothing more than a terrorist organization that after 30 years of pushing and prodding and Nobel prizes and billions of dollars in international aide is unwilling to negotiate any kind of reasonable peace agreement, and has stopped paying lip-service to the goal of two states living side by side in peace.
In the decades since the historic handshake on the White House lawn between Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Yasser Arafat, Israel has struggled mightily to prepare itself for disengagement. Often, it made grave and costly mistakes. It continued to build in the West Bank, even in places where it had agreed not to. It unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, to universal applause, even though there was every reason to believe that such a withdrawal would lead to incessant terror attacks against Israeli citizens.
Still, Israel grappled with the Oslo framework honestly and seriously, at great national cost. It remained committed to keeping the talks alive even after a zealot shot Rabin down, and it met even the most egregious acts of terrorism with restrained and considered responses. It accepted security risks that no Western country would ever countenance, and allowed large, foreign-armed terrorist armies to mass on territory that it handed over in exchange for nothing, in a particularly dangerous part of the world.
The colossal failure of the Palestinian national movement is repeatedly met with nothing but a deafening silence by the world that long ago decided to define its claims as transcendently just.
The Palestinians have taken no commensurate steps. In addition to squandering several Marshall Plans worth of foreign financial aid on sustaining its murderous and corrupt kleptocracy, the Palestinian leadership wasted the opportunity to move past the language of victimhood and offer its own people and the world at large a vision of a more hopeful future. It continues to equate Zionism with Western colonialism, an idiotic and simplistic approach that fails the most cursory historical scrutiny yet somehow passes for gospel, while justifying the idea that Jews are the one people on earth that doesn’t have a right to its homeland. No other national movement in modern history was offered so many opportunities and handed so many resources as the Palestinians. No other national movement has failed so miserably. It’s no secret that billions of dollars in international aid are sitting in Palestinian bank accounts in Jordan, Dubai, London, and Geneva. It’s no secret that the Palestinians continue to live in refugee camps in the territory controlled by the PA, which refuses to spend a dime to build them proper homes.
The colossal failure of the Palestinian national movement is repeatedly met with nothing but a deafening silence by the world that long ago decided—for reasons that range from pure expediency to naked hypocrisy—to define its claims as transcendently just. While Israel is repeatedly castigated by international bodies, the butchers of families go un-harassed. The murders never happened. The murderers don’t exist. The victims are merely “settlers.” Isabel Kershner of the New York Times couldn’t be bothered to identify the Henkins in any way other than noting that they were “residents of the West Bank settlement of Neria” and that, in response, “Jewish settlers were throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles on roads near where the attack occurred.” Crickets chirp.
As Benjamin Netanyahu argued when he stood without speaking for nearly a minute on the podium at the U.N.’s General Assembly, silence in the face of murder and active threats to annihilate an entire people is not only a political calamity, but a moral one as well. The refusal to say the unsayable is a socially toxic form of complicity, which ensures that things will only get worse.
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank has declared that the Oslo Accords are dead and launched a murderous terror campaign targeting Jewish civilians. If peace talks are no longer on the table, the government of Israel should mount a decisive campaign against those who shoot mothers and fathers in front of their children’s eyes—one aimed at destroying the infrastructure that nurtures this kind of terrorism. Thirty years of encouraging the irredentist fantasies of the Palestinian national movement while allowing its leadership to keep acting like a terrorist cell hasn’t brought peace to anyone—it has brought tragedy to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.