Even for a region accustomed to brutality, last week’s Sabbath massacre in Itamar stands out for its sheer savagery and barbarism.
Just hours after their home had been filled with song and sanctity in honor of the weekly day of rest, the Fogel family was decimated by at least one Palestinian terrorist in an attack so horrific that it defies comprehension.
With methodical cruelty, the perpetrator went from room to room, slashing and stabbing the parents and three of their children.
As a result, Ruth and Udi Fogel, along with their sons Yoav, 11, and Elad, 4, and their 3-month old daughter Hadas, were murdered, leaving behind three young orphans under the age of 12.
The carnage came as a painful reminder of the depravity of Israel’s enemies, who do not hesitate to raise a knife against a Jewish toddler sleeping peacefully alongside her father in bed.
Photos of the Fogel children lying in pools of blood with stab wounds on their innocent young bodies were circulated over the Internet and around the world, in an attempt to underline the threat posed to civilization by Palestinian terror.
But as shocking as the images are, they are unlikely to make more than a dent in international public opinion.
After all, since the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, the Jewish state has been the target of an unprecedented wave of terror, as Palestinians have employed everything from suicide bombings to rocket attacks on towns and cities.
And despite this, much of the international community still blames Israel for the lack of progress toward peace while all but overlooking the butchery committed against it.
The attack in Itamar was the work of pure evil, and Israel should hunt down those responsible for it with unrelenting determination. No effort should be spared to punish or capture the terrorists who carried out this brutal assault.
In the aftermath of the incident, the government rightly pointed the finger at the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incitement to violence, highlighting the glorification of terror that appears in the official Palestinian press.
Indeed, shortly after the attack, Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with a group of Palestinian youths participating in a song competition lionizing suicide bombers.
And this past Sunday, as the Fogel family was laid to rest in Jerusalem, the Fatah youth movement organized a public ceremony in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, to name a square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi.
Mughrabi was one of the thugs who took part in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre that killed 38 Israelis, including 13 children.
There is no doubt that the years of indoctrination of hatred and animosity toward Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks, radio shows, television programs and newspaper articles all contributed to the warped morality that produced the killers of the Fogel family.
And the cult of death is alive and well in places such as Gaza, where Palestinians literally cheered the news of the attack and even handed out sweets on the streets of Rafah.
A society that countenances such behavior is clearly one that has foregone even the most rudimentary elements of decency and ethics.
Hence, to expect Israel to make concessions to its leadership is both irresponsible and reckless.
Needless to say, the international community also bears part of the blame, if only because of its continuing campaign of delegitimization against the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.
By labeling the Jewish population of the territories “illegal” and “illegitimate”, they have played into the hands of the terrorists, essentially painting a target on the backs of every Jew living there.
If Jewish families in Itamar or Hebron are repeatedly deemed to be “obstacles to peace” and “occupiers,” then is it any surprise that there will be those who attack them?
In responding to the massacre, Prime Minister Netanyahu wisely chose to underline Israel’s resolve by approving the construction of several hundred new housing units in Judea and Samaria.
It was an important first step toward strengthening the Jewish presence in these areas, even if it fell far short of what can and should be done. Most of the homes approved for construction are in communities such as Ariel and Gush Etzion, which everyone agrees Israel would hold onto as part of any final settlement.
A stronger message could have – and should have – been sent to our foes by authorizing the establishment of new settlements as well as expanding Itamar itself.
It needs to be made clear to the Palestinians that their attempts to eradicate communities such as Itamar will only result in their further expansion.
Or to put it even more bluntly: The best revenge is to build.
Where the Palestinians seek to extinguish Jewish life, let’s fortify and expand it. Where they seek to snuff us out, let’s make it abundantly clear that come hell or high water, we are not going anywhere.
The Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel, and whether the world likes it or not, we are here to stay.
Michael Freund is chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people. His Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the third week of each month.