THE SLAUGHTER of eight young yeshiva students and the wounding of nine others by an Arab terrorist in Jerusalem last week was a cold-blooded act of evil. It is difficult to make sense of the depraved fanaticism of someone like Ala Abu Dhaim, who calmly entered the school's busy library, took three guns from a box, and sprayed the room with hundreds of bullets before finally being shot dead by an off-duty military officer and a student who heard the gunfire and came running.
Even more perverse than Abu Dhaim's massacre, however, was the behavior that followed it.
In Gaza, the news that unarmed Jewish kids had been gunned down while at study set off paroxysms of joy. Thousands of jubilant Palestinians whooped it up in Gaza's streets, firing guns in the air to celebrate and distributing candy to passersby. Television cameras recorded the revelry; you can see it for yourself on YouTube.
Hamas, the terror organization that controls Gaza, issued a statement applauding the bloodshed. "We bless the [Jerusalem] operation," it said. "It will not be the last."
Give Hamas this much: It makes no secret of its bloodlust. The same cannot be said of Fatah, the other main faction in the Palestinian Authority. Fatah is headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose polished spokesman, Saeb Erekat, was quick to assure journalists -- in English, for Western consumption -- that Abbas condemned the killings and "reiterated his condemnation of all attacks that target civilians, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis."
Yet just a few days before the yeshiva massacre, Abbas had told the Jordanian daily Al-Dustur -- in Arabic, for Arab consumption -- that he frowns on terrorist attacks only for tactical reasons "at this time" and that "in the future things may change." He boasted of his long involvement with PLO violence -- "I had the honor of firing the first shot in 1965" - and claimed with pride that Fatah "taught resistance to everyone, including Hezbollah, who trained in our military camps."
Abbas's supposed condemnation notwithstanding, the Palestinian Authority's official daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, hailed the killer of the eight students on its front page, prominently displaying his picture and identifying him as a "shahid" - a term of approval and reverence. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a violent Fatah subsidiary, praised the slaughter as a "heroic operation."
Meanwhile, the family of Abu Dhaim erected a mourning tent near their East Jerusalem home, where, amid Hamas and Hezbollah banners, visitors came to honor the dead terrorist. Incredibly, the Israeli government made no effort to prevent this open display of respect for a mass-murderer; it insisted only that the Hamas and Hezbollah flags be taken down.
By contrast, when Abu Dhaim's relatives in Jordan put up a similar tent to receive well-wishers, Jordanian officials made them dismantle it immediately. The terrorist's uncle was indignant.
"We were hoping that people would come to congratulate us on the martyrdom of my nephew," he said. "This is a heroic operation that must be celebrated by everyone."
It is a mark of how feckless the Israeli leadership has become that the Arab government of Jordan shows more common sense than the Jewish state in reacting to those who would lionize the killer of Jewish kids.
And that is indicative of the most perverse behavior of all: the refusal of Israel to face the fact that it is in a war for survival - a war that it will win only by fighting and defeating its enemy, not by clinging blindly to a phony "peace process" that has brought it nothing but terror, tears, and a mounting toll of death.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reaction to last week's massacre of the innocents was to announce that he would "not give up on making a tremendous effort to take another significant, important, and dramatic step that might bring us to an opportunity for real reconciliation."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry spouted the same drivel: "These terrorists are trying to destroy the chances of peace," its spokesman said, "but we certainly will continue the peace talks." The White House chimed in too: "The most important thing is that the peace process continue and that the parties are committed to it."
Wrong. The most important thing is to recognize that there is a war against Israel by enemies profoundly committed to its elimination - enemies who regard negotiations, concessions, and all the trappings of the "peace process" as evidence that the Jews are in retreat, and that hitting them even harder will bring victory even closer. That is why there was jubilation in Gaza. And why last week's atrocity in Jerusalem was only the latest such horror - not the last.
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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