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Jewish World Review May 6, 2002 /24 Iyar, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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'Acceptable' Terror

For some people, killing of "settlers," is no crime | On April 27, a group of Palestinian Arab terrorists disguised as Israeli soldiers infiltrated the Jewish community of Adora near Hebron and murdered four people, including a 5-year-old girl.

This cold-blooded killing did not, however, bring down upon the Palestinians a cry of outrage from a shocked world. Instead, the crime was reported around the world as merely the "shooting of settlers."

Not the murder of Israelis or Jews, or even people, just "settlers."

Settler is the shorthand term for those Jews who live in the part of the country whose ultimate sovereignty is yet to be determined by peace negotiations. Though their presence is decried as "illegal," in point of fact, the right of Jews to live in these places is sanctioned by international law under the terms of the original League of Nations Mandate that set up governance for the country after World War I.

It is true that the people of Israel are and have been divided about the wisdom of the settlements, although a clear majority support the retention of many, if not most of them. And, just as these settlements were put in place by democratically-elected Israeli governments of both major parties, it may well be that a future Israeli government will someday relinquish places like Adora in exchange for what they hope will be true peace.

But whether or not that happens, the Jews who live in the settlements should not be considered fair game for terror.

The problem is, vituperation against the settlements - both by Israel's foreign critics and that of a portion of the Jewish left - has led to many people viewing the Jews living there as having the status of "outlaws" whose deaths are, if not sanctioned, at least not worthy of mourning. Indeed, some "moderate" elements of the Palestinian terror groups have said they will only continue killing Jews living in settlements and refrain from slaying those who live elsewhere.

Notwithstanding the fact that such pledges not to attack certain Jewish targets have always been violated, the civilized world needs to send the Palestinians the message that such distinctions are invalid. The people who pumped bullets into the small body of Daniella Shefi were not "freedom fighters," or making a statement against the "occupation." They were murderers, plain and simple.

But these killers are, like the suicide bombers, lauded in Arab and Muslim publications around the world. Their crimes are rationalized as "resistance" because much of the world has come to see the very existence of Jews in some places as an intolerable affront to the dignity of Palestinian Arabs.

What those who excuse or minimize the enormity of this crime forget is that to these Palestinian killers there really is no difference between the 5-year-old Jewish girl whom they killed in Adora and the Jewish children who have been slaughtered in various terrorist attacks on Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. To the Arabs who claim that the whole country is "their land," and to the Palestinian refugees who believe they will throw the Jews out one day, all Jewish communities, including those on the right side of the "green line," are settlements.

Once again, this incident proves that it is not the settlements that are the "obstacle to peace," but the Palestinian campaign of terror. Until the Palestinians understand that there is no difference between an attack on the World Trade Center and a downtown cafe in Tel Aviv, or even on the people of places like Adora, there will be no peace. Indeed, if the Palestinians are to have any hope of convincing Israelis that their ultimate purpose is not the destruction of the Jewish state, such murders must cease.

Even more importantly, those "peace activists" -Jewish and non-Jewish - who have trashed the settlers should think about whether their rhetoric has encouraged violence or led Palestinian terror groups to believe that killings of these Jews will not cost them much in terms of condemnations. And given the attitude of much of the world towards such acts of terror, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this is exactly what has happened.

If, as many Jews take as an article of faith, hateful speech once led to the tragic assassination of an Israeli prime minister, then words that delegitimize the Jews living in the territories must also be considered an incitement to murder.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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