The End of Our Illusions
The entire nation and people of Israel this week has been united in profound anguish. It is an agony so great it is wells up in the cavity of your chest that can only be heaved up in vast oceans of tears, and then one realizes the tears do nothing to diminish the pain, and it comes up again, anew. There is a mood of profound, immeasurable grief and national mourning in all of Israel; one of sensitivity, of compassion, and of unity over the news of the horrific murders of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha-ir, and Naftali Frenkel, three teenage boys who had been kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists on their way home from school.
All of us have watched with trepidation for eighteen days during the frenetic search for their whereabouts. We all know they could have been any one of our children. Israel is a very small country, and by now, no one has not been touched by the scourge of Palestinian terrorism, be it in one’s own family or in that of a friend or a neighbor.
But for most of us, there will be an end to the mourning. For the families of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali there will forever be a void in one of the four chambers of their hearts.
Throughout the eighteen days of the hunt, all of Israel listened with one set of ears to every word themothers spoke with such enormous strength and compassion. We listened, in particular, at Racheli Frenkel word’s, so courageous, so full of hope. There was no room for recrimination or vengeance. Her heart was brimming with simple expressions oflove and gratitude for the prayers and support of an entire nation. “We trust”, she said, that Eyal, Gilad and Naftali -- boys just coming home from school -- We trust that they will be home shortly and we will be able to hug them.”
We now know that was not meant to be.
With the funerals of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali something more was buried than their young bodies. At least one hopes that with their burial of these three young boys, Israel will finally bury the illusions that they have a genuine partner in peace in the Palestinian Authority, who has chosen Hamas as part of their government over peace with Israel.
As President John F. Kennedy said, “Peace does not exist in signed documents and charters alone; but in the hearts and minds of the people.”
For over twenty years now, a small group of us have tried to alert the powers that be in the Washington political establishmentof the tremendous propaganda machine that has emanated from the very top of the Palestinian Authority down. They have been using every means available from the official Fatah website, to the textbooks, to summer camps, to television programs for children exhorting them to become “shihads” (marytrs), and to kill Jews, to advertisements on their official Palestinian station of “beautiful Palestine from Rosh Ha Nikra to Eilat”, to official government maps which our State Department representatives sit under in the PA headquarters in Ramallah, labeling all of Israel as “Palestine”; to naming athletic contests and squares after the terrorists that have killed Jews; to classic anti-Semitic stereotypes in the P.A. that look like they have come straight out of Der Sturmer.
This culture of hatred and of deification of death has been going on for a generation, has metastasized like a virulent cancer and has taken root deep within the Palestinian body politic.
The Anti-Defamation League conducts an annual global survey of anti-Semitic attitudes of 101 countries encompassing every continent, plus the areas under Palestinian control. It is no wonder that the Palestinian population was the one with the highest degree of anti-Semitism: a full 98 per cent.
Another poll of Palestinian attitudes, conducted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which was published in June, indicates that only 27.3 per cent of Palestinians support a two-state solution. More than two-thirds indicated that a continuous Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea as the only legitimate objective for the Palestinian people.
It should be noted that for all those who support the elimination of the state of Israel, a mere one out of seven, or 10.1 per cent that Israel out to be replaced by a binational, single democratic state in which Jews and Arabs would enjoy full equal rights. One shudders to think what the other 60.3 per cent of Palestinians who want to “reclaim” all of the land from the river to the sea would do with the six million Jews living in Israel.
Just as alarming was the answer to the question as to what the Palestinians should do if a two-state solution, one Jewish, one Arab, were to be achieved. A mere 31.6 per cent responded that that should signify the end of the conflict. A full 64 per cent believe that even after the two-state solution is arrived at, “the struggle against Israel should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated.” When the question was posed in a slightly different manner 65.2 per cent of the Palestinians responded that “that would be a part of the ‘program of stages” to liberate all of historic Palestine later.”
It should also be said that there has been a tragic death of a Palestinian Arab, Muhamad Abu Kadr, age 16, yesterday. This has sparked huge demonstrations in East Jerusalem. The Israeli police are investigating, and if it is found that this is not simply an internal Palestinian crime, but an act of vengeance, the person responsible will be punished to the full extent of the law. Even members of the IDF who called for revenge on their Facebook pages have been court-martialed.
Israel is a society which is based on the rule of law. As the family of Naftali Frenkel said, “If, in fact, an Arab youth was killed for nationalistic reasons, then we’re talking about an awful and shocking deed. There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder, whatever the nationality and age, there is no justification, nor forgiving and no atonement for murder.”
Contrast this to the words of Abu Eisha, mother of one of the Hamas members accused of the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers: “If he did the kidnapping, I‘ll be proud of him. I raised my children on the Islamic religion, and they are religious guys, honest and clean handed and their goal is to bring the victory of Islam.”
Meanwhile, our Secretary of State had flown into the region eleven times in the past several months, wasting American credibility and prestige on a peace process which is quite clear that only one party believes in. This was occurring while the entire Muslim and Arab world had been imploding, and ISIS was gaining momentum and ground in Iraq, and according to a briefing given by White House officials on June 24th, they were totally unaware of ISIS.
The single factor analysis and peculiar obsession with how to bring peace to the Middle East has only added to the decline of America’s standing in the world and to the empowerment and deaths of far too many innocents abroad.
The sooner the illusions about whom Israel is forced to deal with are buried, the fewer the weeks of anguish like the one we have just experienced, and the fewer grieving parents, on both sides.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, an unabashedly pro-American and pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, DC