December 15, 2018

Celebrating the murder of Jews

What happens when extremism dominates a whole society?

When I saw thousands of Palestinian civilians celebrating the cold-blooded murder of four rabbis praying in a synagogue, I had to ask myself: Could I ever imagine thousands of Jews celebrating the murder of four Muslim sheiks or four Christian priests?

I was sick to my stomach the day that a fellow Jew, Baruch Goldstein, murdered Muslims praying in a mosque. Of course, the vast majority of the Jewish world condemned the murders unequivocally. Jews didn't celebrate and hand out candy on the streets, as crowds of Palestinians did after the synagogue attack.

The public celebration of murder is a medieval moment, a sign that things have gone over the edge. It’s not enough for world leaders to condemn the murders – they must condemn the public celebration of these murders.

Of course, behind these celebrations are decades of Jew-hatred that has marinated Palestinian society. Go on the Palestinian Media Watch Web site and you’ll see what I mean. It is a museum of Jew-hatred and glorification of terror officially sanctioned by the Palestinian Authority.

So-called moderate leaders like Mahmoud Abbas routinely glorify murderers of Jews. So why should we be surprised when so many of his people rejoice at the atrocity of four rabbis being slaughtered while they were praying?

Just like any country, Israel has its share of haters. But in Israel, when racial tensions flare up, you have a president who’s not afraid to say things like, “The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment.” You can look at that comment two ways – either as confirmation of Israel’s sickness or as a demonstration of Israel’s culture of self-criticism. I choose the latter.

I can only imagine if Mahmoud Abbas did something similar, if he were to stand up to his people and say: “These murders are repulsive enough, but these celebrations only add dishonor to our society. They are a sickness. There is no grievance that should ever justify the celebration of murder. We must stop hating Jews and find ways to live with them in peace, security and dignity. That is the only way we will ever reach peace and the creation of our own state.”

The great irony, of course, is that it is the ability and courage to call a society “sick” that creates better societies.

One wonders how Israeli President Reuven Rivlin would have reacted to the sight of thousands of Jews celebrating the murder of Muslim shieks. Is there any doubt he would have gone ballistic? Has any Palestinian leader ever even criticized the Palestinian celebration of murder?

Hatred transcends grievances. The minute a society uses its grievances to justify its hatred– whether this grievance is occupation or terrorism– is when a society loses. It’s the brutal candor of people like Rivlin that keeps Israel from falling off the edge. When the teaching of hatred comes from the top, as it does all too often in Palestinian society, you can only feel sympathy for the children whose hearts are being poisoned. 

After the attack on the synagogue in Har Nof, I received this email from a friend in Jerusalem:

Together with the rest of Israel I heard the news of the attack in Har Nof this morning with horror, anguish and fury. A few hours later I also learned that among the dead was Moshe Twersky, a distinguished Rosh yeshiva in the Haredi world but also my friend and hevruta from Maimonides days. I just returned from his funeral, where one could see all of his worlds converge. Given the circumstances, it was telling that the thousands who gathered were totally silent, with not one cry for revenge. Thank G-d we have not followed in the footsteps of our enemies. Baruch Dayan Emet.”

I reflected on that silent crowd of mourners when I saw images of Palestinians celebrating the murders. The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether we say that one society is better than the next. What really matters are the values that are being taught.

And on that front, I can tell you that if you teach Jew-hatred in your schools, media and mosques, you will create an extremist society. That’s something every peace lover should cry over.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at