By Mortimer B. Zuckerman

Itamar massacre illustrates the existential threats facing Israel

The grisly trail of broken toys and bloodied bedclothes and carpets inside the family home led to the bodies. They lay in their own blood, all knifed to death: Ruth Fogel, the 35-year-old mother; Udi, 36, the father; their 11-year-old son, Yoav; their 4-year-old son, Elad; and Hadas, their baby.

Hadas was just three months old. Her throat had been cut by the terrorist butchers who this month broke into the Fogel home in Itamar on a remote hilltop settlement in the West Bank. Yoav was killed as he read in bed.

Their every name should be remembered. They died because they were Jews. They were victims not just of the butchers, whose foul crimes Hamas celebrated in Gaza by giving out candy to children. They were also victims of the incitements to kill a Jew that the people of Israel have to live with every day, so many of them with memories of mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers who perished in Nazi death camps.

The circumstances are different, but the poison is the same.

Professor Fouad Ajami, one of the great scholars of the Middle East, put it as follows after an earlier massacre: "The suicide bomber of the Passover massacre did not descend from the sky; he walked straight out of the culture of incitement let loose on the land, a menace hovering over Israel, a great Palestinian and Arab refusal to let that country be, to cede it a place among the nations. He partook of the culture all around him--the glee [that] greets those brutal deeds of terror, the cult that rises around the martyrs and their families."

This is a culture where sermons legitimize violence in the name of Islam and have shaped generations of Arabs with what writer Eli Hertz calls "a steady diet of poison-filled propaganda." Hertz writes: "For non-Arabic speakers, it is hard to grasp just how pervasive the propaganda is in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and throughout the Arab world. It is omnipresent: in state-controlled media outlets, in schools and mosques, at rallies, in speeches and articles." Professor Bernard Lewis, the great academic authority on Islam, has said that if the West knew what was being said in Arabic, people would be horrified.

How else to explain why Arab maps of Israel show no such country? How else to explain why a Palestinian father would celebrate his toddler's first birthday by dressing him up with a fake suicide bomb? By the second grade, students are taught the concept of jihad, or holy struggle, and by the sixth grade, their school lessons encourage them to become a shahid, or martyr. Most Western media would rather not contemplate such evidence of ingrained hostility. For instance: Hamas, identified by the United States as a terrorist organization, was quick to celebrate the Fogel killings. The Palestinian leader who commands the most respect in the civilized world, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, clearly and firmly denounced the Itamar murders as a "terror attack." But CNN and the BBC could not bring themselves to call the Itamar murders a terrorist attack. They regularly drink the Kool-Aid of the line purveyed by Palestinian apologists that such murders are "a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank."

Is it natural to slit the throats of children in their beds? Only if you assume an absence of expectations from the Palestinians and a willingness to whitewash everything they may do instead of holding them to some level of moral accountability. By contrast, no nation has been held to standards of moral accountability regardless of its security or been subject to such ceaseless international pressure as Israel.

Most of the hostility comes from people who have no concept of what it is like to live as Israelis do. The Western media's portrayal of the murdered innocent as somehow the cause of their deaths is paralleled by suggestions that rape victims "asked for it." Nothing justifies these murders.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, we are told, seems lost in the middle of the Arab revolution, unable or unwilling to recognize the changing circumstances in which he finds himself. Changing circumstances? Any assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate must take into account not only all the previous dialogues and the previous crimes, like the murder of the Ames couple and two others on the eve of the September 2010 peace talks in Washington, but also the severely different security vulnerabilities that have emerged in the region.

This is not 1967. We now have radical regimes on Israel's borders: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. We now have a radical Iran calling for the extermination of the state of Israel and hastening toward possession of the atomic bomb. As for how too many commentators see the security situation, contrast the furor last year over the Israeli interception of that Turkish flotilla ferrying banned items to Gaza (disguised as "humanitarian aid") with how much attention has been paid to the Liberian-flagged ship intercepted this week as it headed to Egypt with similar "humanitarian aid" for Gaza--i.e., about 2,500 mortar shells, 75,000 bullets, and six C-704 anti-ship missiles. It is rich to criticize Netanyahu for ignoring changed circumstances facing Israel, then overlook the threats to Israel's very existence, whose protection is his prime responsibility. Those threats have multiplied over the last decade; the security parameters of any settlement must now be a principal element in the minds of the Israeli people and their leaders.

For decades now, when the Palestinians have resorted to arms, this has been oriented to the murder of innocents, to violence inflicted against noncombatants. Article 15 of the Palestine Liberation Organization's charter states that the objective is to achieve the "elimination of Zionism in Palestine." Public and religious leaders lionize Palestinian suicide bombers in the media, in schools, and from the pulpit, and name public squares after them. What do they think this accomplishes, other than to further encourage attacks like the one just perpetrated? Where are the critiques of those leaders who have prepared the ground for such murders with their incessant incitement to hatred and their glorification of violence and terrorists, who are presented as heroes and role models on their way to earning eternal fame? In the last several years, two summer camps have been named after Dalal Mughrabi, who led the deadliest single act of terrorism in Israel's history--the 1978 bus hijacking that killed 38 civilians. With continuous messages like this, is it any wonder that people can go on terror rampages like the one that took place this month?

A massacre is a massacre is a massacre. There are no circumstances to explain it and no words that can put it into proportion. As Israeli President Shimon Peres remarked: "It indicates a loss of humanity. There is no religion in the world or any faith that allows these kinds of horrible acts."

The Palestinian Authority often speaks words of peace to the world in English, but at home it teaches incitement and hatred and celebrates terrorists. The "road map" outlining the terms for the Israeli-Palestinian relationship includes a provision that "all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel." The incitement to hatred and violence is not an accident, not a misunderstanding, and it does not happen randomly. It is a weapon of political warfare.

There would be no better signal of the Palestinians' willingness to have a permanent peace with an Israeli state than for them to begin to educate their people for peace. Israel needs a viable Palestinian state but one that must also allow for the security of Israel in ways that only the Israelis can appreciate. For they are the ones who have to look at the pictures of the three Fogel children soaked with blood. The family approved the release of the photos because they understood that this is the only way to underscore why a secured state is necessary: to protect against people who can commit and celebrate such an atrocity. It is why their hope lies not just in a separation of two states for two peoples, but in a separation that is both sensible and secure.


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