Two More Middle East Martyrs

By Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary Magazine

January 18, 2016

The last thing the Middle East needs is another two martyrs. But that’s what it got on Sunday night as a result of a horrifying crime that took place in a West Bank settlement. The incident isn’t likely to generate the kind of headlines that terror attacks in the West have gotten. But what happened in Otniel not only deserves more attention, it also illustrates again the real differences between the respective sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and showed how unhelpful the interventions by the Obama administration have been.

The incident is just the latest in what is known as the “stabbing intifada.” A Palestinian terrorist entered the community of Otniel, a settlement near Hebron and entered the home of a Jewish family. Once inside, he struggled with Dafna Meir, a 40-year-old nurse and mother of four as well as the foster parent to more small children. Meir was able to stop the intruder from getting to her children but suffered fatal stab wounds in the process. The terrorist fled the home and the settlement and sought shelter in a nearby Arab village.

As was the case with the Arab who shot up a Tel Aviv café and killed three peopleand dozens of other terrorists who have committed similar crimes in recent months, we can expect the Otniel stabber to be given every possible means of assistance from other Palestinians while he is on the loose. And once he is caught, we know he will be lionized as a hero to the cause of Palestinian nationalism and Islam. He will be hailed as a martyr if he is killed.

It is a point that has been made countless times in recent years by events but it bears repeating. Jews who commit violence against Arabs are an isolated tiny minority that is ostracized, prosecuted and jailed. Palestinians, who commit violence against Jews, as they do virtually every day, are doing so to the applause of the majority of their people and the approval of their Fatah and Hamas governments.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is complex and the Palestinians have certainly suffered terribly over the decades even if most of that suffering has been self-inflicted. But what those who sympathize with the Palestinians seem to forget is that events like the murder of Dafna Meir is not an exceptional or unusual act. It is the sort of thing that is seen by Palestinian popular and political cultural as an honorable and praiseworthy act. That is because Palestinian public opinion sees the presence of Jews anywhere in the country as illegitimate.

That is an important point because, in the aftermath of Sunday’s terror attack, it is likely that any news accounts of the murder will refer to Mrs. Meir as a settler. As such, many around the world, including many Americans who have been indoctrinated to see the Jews who live in the West Bank and Jerusalem as obstacles to peace or illegal occupiers, will see her as somehow deserving to be stabbed or shot or blown up. This is based on a false reading of both history and law as Jews have a right to live in the heart of their ancient homeland though it is a debatable issue as to whether it is wise for them to exercise that right in all parts of the West Bank.

But what we’ve learned in the last two weeks is that Palestinians don’t really make the same distinctions between West Bank Jews and those living in the Jewish settlement that was built on sand dunes on the outskirts of a then-Arab majority city of Jaffa in 1909. We know that because of the way Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as Arabs in Jerusalem and even some who are Israeli citizens, cheered the New Year’s Day shooting at the Tel Aviv café in the same way they applaud the murder of Mrs. Meir.

That’s a lesson the Obama administration has steadfastly refused to learn in its seven years in office. More than any other of his predecessors, President Obama beat up on Israel over the presence of Jews in the West Bank and broke new ground by also stigmatizing the Jewish presence and the building of homes in Jerusalem. The Obama administration sent the message that Jews in the West Bank were illegitimate and the result is that the Palestinians haven’t been forced to reassess their obsession with driving them out of their homes and instead make peace. Worse than that, they’ve refused to understand that the Palestinians make no real distinctions between the “occupation” of the West Bank and the “occupation” of pre-1967 Israel.

Unless and until Palestinians stop seeing the murder of Jews, whether in Tel Aviv or in the Hebron hills, as not merely defensible but laudable, there will be no peace and their lives won’t get better. That’s because, so long as they are trapped in the mindset of a century-long war on Zionism, they will continue to allow their political leaders to refuse to make peace and to mire their society in hate and corruption.

Until then Israelis, even the majority that would happily trade land for true peace, know that any more territorial concessions will only lead to more terrorism and death as the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza did. So long as Palestinians prefer to make martyrs — a true martyr in the form of a woman who died defending her children and a false on in the form of her heartless murderer — to making peace the rest of the world should refuse to play along with their propaganda demonizing the Jews of Otniel or those of Tel Aviv. Instead, they should realize that the hate that drives these Palestinian murderers is no different from the Islamists that murdered the people of Paris and San Bernardino.