When is the murder of Jews justified?

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Israeli youths hold a candlelit vigil at the site of the attack in Jerusalem. Photograph: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images

Last week on UN Holocaust Remembrance Day, seven Jews were murdered outside a synagogue in Jerusalem. The terrorist, Alqam Khayri, 21, from Jerusalem, first shot an elderly woman in the street before shooting at worshipers emerging from Ateret Avraham synagogue in the Neve Yaakov neighbourhood, where they had gathered for Shabbat prayers. 

The murder of Jews was followed by widespread celebrations in the Gaza Strip and in several West Bank cities, including Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin. The attack has been dubbed the deadliest suffered by Israel since 2011. The following day, still on Shabbat, 13-year-old Muhammad Aliyat shot at an Israeli father and son near the Old City of Jerusalem.

Sadly, some commentators seek to justify this abhorrent act of terrorism. Apologists for Palestinian terror will recite well-worn factoids, arguing that murdering innocent Jews outside a synagogue is understandable, maybe even justifiable, because of so-called Israeli aggression and the building of Jewish homes.

The reality is that the security measures that Israel undertakes, prevents hundreds of similar attacks. According to a report published in November 2022, the IDF thwarted 500 attacks in a 6 month period. 

The past year has seen a marked increase in terrorism, with 281 serious terror attacks by Palestinians: 239 against soldiers and 42 against civilians.

There were also a total of 8,483 violent incidents by Palestinians… about 40% of them against Israeli civilians and 60% against IDF troops. The number marked a significant rise of almost 20% from the 7,039 attacks last year. 

According to The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, eighty-six significant attacks were carried out, up from 54 in 2021, 40 in 2020, 34 in 2019 and 55 in 2018; 16 of the attacks were carried out inside Israeli territory (one in 2021). Thirty Israelis were killed (24 civilians and six members of the security forces). One Border Police fighter was killed in an operational activity in Samaria.

It is worth noting that such attacks targeting Jews were widespread well before the modern state of Israel, which undermines that argument that new Jewish home-building is the cause of the violence. In any case, the notion that this should justify the massacre of worshiping civilians is morally abhorrent. 

The mantra that Israeli settlements hinder the peace process also belies the reality that, in fact, illegal Palestinian construction has increased markedly in recent times. According to Meir Deutch, the director general of the Regavim Movement, which has been documenting illegal Arab construction in Area C for years, illegal Palestinian construction in the area has nearly doubled in the past year. With explicit EU approval and funding no less. And that is also before the destruction of archaeological sites.

“On average, 15 new illegal structures are built every day, most of them substantial, multistory brick and mortar structures – many of them palatial residences with swimming pools and whirlpools in the yard”. 

A report published in October 2022 found that the total number of illegal Arab structures in Area C exceeded 80,000. Area C is the area of the West Bank under full Israeli jurisdiction, as agreed by both parties in the Oslo Accords. It appears that the Palestinians are seeking to do the very thing of which they accuse Israelis, creating facts on the ground.  

Ignoring history and a full context to the upsurge in tensions in the West Bank and blaming Israel, while ignoring Palestinian responsibility will only serve to perpetuate the conflict.

The plight of the Palestinians is indeed sad. However, as we have articulated elsewhere, responsibility needs to be laid at the feet of the Palestinian leadership that has refused every Israeli offer of land for peace and has instead cultivated a culture of Jew hatred. The PA school textbooks and official media are rife with demonisation of Jews and glorification of terror; and absent any discussion of peace. New Zealand officials fund schools that use those textbooks. Furthermore, the PA pays families of terrorists – the more Jews murdered, the higher the monthly stipend.

At a recent celebration of the 58th anniversary of the launch of Fatah, which controls the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and is considered more moderate than the hardline Islamist Hamas party in Gaza, the party reasserted its commitment to undertake more terrorist activity in 2023. The Fatah statement expressed commitment to the ‘path of comprehensive popular resistance’, and to ‘striving together with the Palestinian struggle forces to escalate, organize, develop, and expand [the resistance] against all the occupation’s aggressive plots, with all types of resistance remaining open to our people’.

The resistance urged by Palestinian leaders is not a response to Israel military actions or settlement activity. They are resisting the very presence of Jews in what they mistakenly regard as their land.