Amidst the shock and repulsion over the attack on a Jerusalem synagogue this week, and the murder of at least four men at morning prayer by two young Arabs, is the sad realization that the tragedy does not resonate fully outside of Israel and the Jewish world.
Does it take nothing less than a videotaped beheading to rouse the moral indignation of the international community? Is murder by axe, knife or ramming a car into a crowd of innocent civilians not enough to register as terror?
Yes, the synagogue attack captures the headlines for a day or two, and the reports of men wielding axes to slaughter those wearing tallit and tefillin even evoked a condemnation from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It was the first such statement against violence he has made since the outbreak of tensions in Jerusalem, which go back to the summer. Unfortunately, Abbas has fueled the flames of conflict by asserting that Israel seeks to change the status quo regarding prayer at the Temple Mount, which is not the case.
Almost from the moment Israel recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, its leaders have shown remarkable restraint and foresight by handing over administrative control over the Temple Mount to Jordan’s Islamic Waqf, even banning Jewish prayer at Judaism’s holiest site so as to avoid a holy war. Although there are those on the religious right in Israel calling for allowing Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Netanyahu has held firm, insisting the status quo will remain in place. It is irresponsible and duplicitous for Abbas to condemn the violence he helped stir up.
Israeli society is resilient and optimistic, but there is much to worry about these days on a variety of fronts. The Mideast region continues to deteriorate in violence, with ISIS on the move and increasing numbers of young Muslims attracted to its murderous cause. As the deadline on the Iran nuclear talks approaches this week, there is only faint hope that the result will be a less-dangerous Tehran. And the threat of a third intifada grows with each passing week, with violence flaring and the Jerusalem-Ramallah relationship at a new low.
The core of the problem remains the unwillingness of much of the Arab world to accept and recognize the presence of a Jewish state in the region, and the West’s unwillingness to see Iran as the leading terror state it is, one to be confronted rather than appeased. True, the Israeli government can take steps to assure its people that it has a vision and plan for a future that is not just about an embattled state defending itself against a hostile or indifferent world. But in the meantime the civilized world, and especially the U.S., should be more ally than critic of the Mideast’s only democratic society. Evil acts must be thwarted, not just disapproved.