Palestinian Baby Killers

For demented cruelty there are no precedents, even among Palestinian terrorists, for the recent slaughter of three Israeli children (and their parents) in Itamar. Their targets, 11 and 4 year old brothers and their 3-month-old baby sister, were stabbed and slashed while asleep in their beds.

Just before Passover, the identity of the murderers was disclosed. Hakim Mazen Awad (age 18) and Amjad Mahmad Awad (age 19), unrelated members of the same clan from the nearby Arab village of Awarta, recounted how they entered the Fogel home and stabbed Yoav and Elad to death. Then they went to their parents' bedroom and murdered Ehud and Ruth.

With their bloody mission accomplished, they left the Fogel home. But spotting a police car they returned inside, where they heard the crying of 3-month-old Hadas. They slit her throat. Unknowingly they left behind, unharmed, sleeping brothers Roi (age 8) and Yishai (age 2). Had they been noticed, Amjad blandly told Israeli investigators, the murderers "would not have hesitated to kill them."

Their motivation, they declared, was to "die a martyr¹s death." They were, as it turned out, following in the bloody footsteps of Hakim's uncle, who had participated in a terrorist attack in Itamar nearly a decade earlier in which five members of another Israeli family were brutally murdered.

Perhaps their death wish will be granted. More likely, following Israeli precedent, they will receive multiple life sentences ­ and eventually be exchanged for captured Israeli soldiers (or their corpses).

The second day of Passover, as it turned out, marked the tenth anniversary of the targeted murder of another Israeli baby. The parents of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass, residents of Hebron, were walking their baby in a stroller to visit her grandparents.

Suddenly, there was a shot. Shalhevet's mother, Oriya, grabbed her baby but it was too late. Hit in the head, Shalhevet died instantly. Her father Yitzhak crumbled from a bullet wound in his leg. A Palestinian sniper, Sudki Zaro, had fired the deadly bullet from the nearby Abu Sneineh hills overlooking the city, which had recently been relinquished to Palestinian control by then Prime Minister Netanyahu.

For its sheer barbarism the murder of Shalhevet Pass (like the murders of the Fogel children) became international news. Israeli media, not known for their sympathy to Hebron Jews, even referred to the death of an "Israeli," not a "settler," baby. Shalhevet was the youngest targeted Israeli victim of a Palestinian terrorist attack ­until Hadas Fogel.

Shalhevet's memory, faithful to her name (meaning "flame"), continues to burn in Hebron. A Torah scroll was written by Shalhevet's grandfather (who had been critically wounded in an earlier terrorist attack). A Torah study hall now bears her name. Community spokesman David Wilder recently interviewed Yitzhak Pass, now blessed with five children born since Shalhevet's death. He asked: "What do you teach them? What do you tell them?"

"It was important to us," Yitzhak explained, "to show that her murder just intensified our determination to be a part of our land, and that we are willing even to die for its sake, . . . to settle it, to live anywhere and everywhere in our land." His children should understand that "there is a price for our faith, for what we think and what we do, and that we gave our most valuable possession for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, for the sake of settling the land. . . . There is nothing . . . which can uproot us from here."

There can be no clearer statement of Zionism. But something other than Palestinian terrorism could yet uproot Jewish families like the Pass's and Fogels from their homes. It is the enemy within, vividly on display only days before the identity of the Fogel murderers was disclosed.

Members of several ultra-left Israeli groups came to Awarta to support the village and protest the search for the killers it had spawned. They tried to comfort a Palestinian woman who was distraught over the arrest of her husband, two sons, and a daughter. "It is impossible that my son did this," she wailed. "My son doesn't know how to slaughter a chicken." An Israeli visitor described the "horror" in her home over the arrests, indescribable as "anything but a pogrom ­ a primitive and brutal act of revenge intended to strike fear and awe into the hearts of the residents."

The distraught woman was Nuf Awad, mother of Hakim. He had already told Israeli interrogators that he and his companion had no problem slitting the throat of 3-month-old Hadas ­because, after all, she was a Jew.

Most Israelis have never visited Itamar or even Hebron, the most ancient Jewish community in the world. Few secular Zionists enter the West Bank, biblical Judea and Samaria, except to protest against the presence of 300,000 Jews who live there.

It is a shame that they will never meet Zionists as fiercely determined as the Fogel and Pass families, whose tragic losses will soon be remembered on Yom HaZikaron. It is the day preceding Independence Day (May 14th), when Israelis commemorate fallen soldiers and more than four thousand civilian terrorist victims. Among the children who will be remembered are Shalhevet Pass, Yoav, Elad and Hadas Fogel. May their memory, Jews say, be a blessing.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena, to be published in May by Quid Pro Books.
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