MICHAEL COREN/The slaughter of innocents


The slaughter of innocents
November 23rd, 2014

I have walked through the streets of Har Nof several times over the years. It’s a quiet part of Jerusalem, in the far west of the town, distant from the tantrums and trumpeting of the old city and the claustrophobic, though spectacular, narrow streets around the Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy places.

It’s also a direct link, a conduit from the ancient, Talmudic Jewish state to modern Israel. Two thousand years ago it served the Jewish capital as an annex, a suburb, and today one can still see ancient wine presses and the foundations of buildings where Jews worked and lived at the time of scripture. And to think some people doubt this is Jewish land!

It’s also an ultra-orthodox area, a magnet for new immigrants whose only desire is to pray and live in peace to the rhythms of a land where their ancestors lived long before Islam existed or the Palestinians had settled. They are generally apolitical, they do not live in settlements and only the most racist of anti-Zionists would argue that Har Nof was in some way occupied.

But still the innocents were slaughtered – shot and axed to death because they were Jews and identifiable as such. But there is more. This was a direct and deliberate example of religious murder. There was no military point to the act of terror, no soldiers were targeted, no guns were stolen, no kidnapping took place. This was Muslim fanatics killing Jews.

The Islamic aspect is vital here. The culprits were not part of Hamas or Islamic Jihad but were affiliated to the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group founded by a Greek Orthodox Christian and long committed to Marxism and secular revolution.

The PFLP was always violent and extreme, but the notion that its members would scream the Islamic war cry of “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Great” as they killed rabbis at prayer is extraordinary and it shows how completely Islamist the Palestinian nationalist narrative has become. There was a time when the leadership of the Palestinian cause included many nominal Christians and leftists. That reality is long gone.

Israel’s reaction to the horror has been tempered and controlled, which it has to be. Hamas and their allies are losing influence, having waged a disastrous campaign in Gaza recently. Yet they’re not fools and know that if they can force Israel to attack them, the world will once again embrace the David and Goliath cliché and blame the Jews.

There are, of course, moderate Palestinian voices. A major Ramallah-based journalist wrote on Wednesday that slaughter in a synagogue was no different from slaughter in a mosque and that this was not heroism but criminality. Tragically, his voice is thin and the fanatical scream is thick with blood and gore.

I don’t believe there is very much hope for a so-called two-state solution, but then again there probably never was. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has muddied the conversation, Israeli settlements have only worsened the relationship, the decay of the Arab status quo elsewhere in the region has unleashed dark and unpredictable forces.

This crime will not be the last. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can’t.