We attach ourselves to narratives because they comfort us. It’s comforting to think that the terrorist who murdered seven Jews coming out of a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday evening was striking a blow against “the civilized world,” as President Joe Biden asserted.
But he wasn’t, Mr. President. Alqam Khayri, 21, a resident of eastern Jerusalem, was specifically going after Jews.
His Palestinian brethren who celebrated his murderous act by dancing in the streets and handing out candies were not thinking about the civilized world. They were rejoicing at the death of Jews.
When the Palestinian Authority glorifies terrorists who murder Jews, as they did just recently with Karim Younes, or teaches Jew hatred to their children, they’re not thinking about the opera halls of Vienna or the art galleries of Paris. They’re thinking about the dreaded Jews who had the chutzpah to return to their biblical homeland after 1900 years.
When Hamas launches rockets from Gaza to murder Israeli civilians, they’re not thinking, “Boy are those Jews civilized, we better get rid of them.” No, they’re thinking of the Hamas Charter that obligates them to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.
It’s a lot more “civilized” to sanitize and universalize our conflicts; it helps us manage and control them. If we can frame the Palestinian terror against Jews as an attack on a grand idea like the “civilized world,” it reduces our frustration and anxiety. Instead of dealing with a conflict that is ugly and personal, we can come together around a sophisticated ideal.
The problem is that the hatred for Jews within much of Palestinian society is just that– ugly and personal. There’s nothing civilized or universal about teaching Palestinian kids that “the Jews don’t belong here.” That is a hatred of aspiring annihilation. No amount of clever reframing can change that.
Three decades ago, Israel made the mistake of sanitizing and overlooking that hatred by pretending that a political agreement based on geographical borders could end the conflict. I was one of those dreamers, and part of me still dreams of that day.
But ugly, deep, personal hatred dies hard. The narrative that has always been exceedingly difficult for westerners to contemplate is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a political conflict but an existential one. This narrative is horribly inconvenient for the simple reason that it doesn’t lend itself to solutions—the drug of choice of civilized diplomacy.
From the minute Israel was born 75 years ago, continuing with its building of a vibrant nation with the strongest army in the region, Israel has been a victim of its success, becoming a source of constant humiliation to Arab neighbors who could never match that success. This has been especially true for Palestinians, who have been cursed with corrupt leaders who have rejected every Israeli peace offer while fattening their own bank accounts and blaming their people’s misery on those “Zionist invaders.”
But unlike the Palestinians, who kept saying no and built an identity around victimhood, those Zionists took what the United Nations gave them in 1947 and built a powerful state. The contrast with the Palestinians can’t help but be humiliating. Here are the Jews, who for centuries had to accept their second class “dhimmi” status in Arab and Muslim lands, breaking free to a place of empowerment through the Jewish state. No amount of political appeasement can cure Palestinian leaders of this humiliation, indeed of this epic failure to serve their own people.
If anything, given this shameful failure, Palestinian leaders have a more obvious incentive to keep nurturing their status as the most coddled victims in the world, oppressed by the “little Satan” Israel. You take your status where you can get it.
That may also explain why murdering Jews who come out of a synagogue, as heinous as it is, is so acceptable in the perverted Palestinian algorithm of Jew hatred. The terror act itself serves to reinforce and dramatize the desperation of victimhood.
Until a radically new and brave leadership infiltrates Palestinian society, teaching its people that Jew hatred is violently against their interest, we are relegated to dealing with facts on the ground.
Those facts go as follows: Terrorists will continue to try to kill Jews, and Jews will continue to try to stop them. This may not be very comforting for the civilized world, Mr. President, but for the Jews of Israel, it’s the only world they know.