“First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew … Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me” — German pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984).
The entire civilized world watched in horror when Islamic State launched its attacks against the people of Paris. Then the human interest stories started to appear in places like The New York Times, with a particular focus on Nohemi Gonzalez, the beautiful 23-year-old California State Long Beach student who had the horrific misfortune to be dining at La Belle Equipe on Rue de Charonne at the time of the attacks.
We all mourn the loss of this vibrant young woman, whose hopes and dreams were snuffed out prematurely by Islamist terrorists who regard human life as disposable because it happens to belong to “the other” — Christians, Jews, Yazidis or anyone else who do not abide by their particular Sunni or Shiite form of Islamic extremism.
Less than a week later, 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz, another American student studying abroad, who was described as “deeply caring” and with “boundless energy,” suddenly had his hopes and dreams snuffed out when he was fatally shot by an Islamist terrorist. Yet there were absolutely no human interest stories devoted to his life in The New York Times, no special CNN or Fox News “breaking stories” about him, and nothing in any of the other mainstream, secular media outlets.
When did the world develop this double standard toward Jewish life?
Part of the answer lies in the Oslo syndrome — the feeling that, somehow, Israel is responsible for the hatred in the hearts of its enemies; that if only Israel would try a little harder, if only it would give away more land, if only Israel would remove settlements or roadblocks, maybe its enemies would not hate it so much. Maybe then the terrorism would stop. Maybe then people could walk the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv without being stabbed to death.
Nothing could be more absurd or further from the truth. No one wants to relive the events of August 2005, when Jews were forcibly uprooted from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Farmers who had worked the land their entire lives had to adjust to a completely new way of life. Entire families were forced from their homes, and many are still unemployed and traumatized. Not one remnant of an Israeli or Jewish presence was left in Gaza.
And what did the Palestinians use the land for? They used it as a launching pad to fire thousands of rockets into southern and central Israel. They used it to burrow tunnels under southern Israel communities to launch attacks.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords more than two decades go, we have been saying that thought proceeds conduct. The Palestinian children who have been born since Oslo have had their minds completely marinated by a steady stream of hatred that vilifies Israelis, Jews, Christians, and “the other.” They learn this hatred at schools, mosques and summer camps, and from Palestinian Authority-controlled media.
To say that the war the Palestinians are waging against Israel is merely a nationalistic one, or a border dispute, and not a theological one, draws a distinction that does not exist. The line between nationalistic hatred and Islamic theocratic hatred is nebulous. Any study of Palestinian textbooks reveals ample evidence of both.
The truth is that the Arabs have never wanted a Palestinian state. They consider Israel to be a cancerous blight on holy Muslim soil. They have always rejected a two-state solution when it has been offered to them. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently admitted he turned down such an offer in 2008 from then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Yet, throughout the world, people seem to have a learning disability when it comes to connecting the dots between Islamic terrorist actions in Israel and Islamic terrorist actions in other places. Somehow, people feel that it is more justifiable for a Jew to be murdered by a terrorist in Israel than for a Frenchman to be murdered by a terrorist in Paris.
Irrespective of whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the White House, successive American presidents have been hugely culpable for the devaluation of the lives of American citizens killed by Palestinian terrorists, as well as for the perpetuation of the grand mythology that Palestinian terrorism is more justified than the terrorism of others. For far too long, the Oslo syndrome has dominated the minds of too many American policymakers, journalists and politicians.
For years, the Endowment for Middle East Truth has been working assiduously on the issue of equal justice under the law for all Americans murdered or injured abroad, including those murdered or wounded by Palestinian terrorists. Our efforts resulted in the passage of the Koby Mandell Act in December 2004, and subsequently with the opening of a specific office in the Justice Department, the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, in May 2005.
When OJVOT was first opened, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated, “This new office guarantees a voice for victims and their families in the investigation and prosecution of terrorists who prey on Americans overseas. Our commitment to these victims is as strong as our dedication to bringing their terrorist attackers to justice.”
A 1991 U.S. anti-terrorism law states that anytime an American has been murdered or injured overseas, the American government has the right to bring the perpetrator to justice in the U.S.. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, 64 American citizens have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.
If the American government wanted to send a loud and clear message to would-be terrorists around the globe, it would shackle and indict Schwartz’s murderer, bring him to the United States, prosecute him to the full extent of the law, and have him sit in an American jail, never to see the light of day again.
However, judging by the past, we know that most likely this will never happen.
In 2001, Ahlam Tamimi planned the suicide bombing at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, killing 15 people, including two American citizens. Tamimi is supremely proud of what she did. She has confessed on YouTube multiple times. In fact, while in jail in Israel, she was asked if she knew how many Israeli children she had killed. Her response was, “I don’t know, maybe three.” When the interviewer responded that she had killed eight, a huge smile graced her face. “Eight,” she responded serenely. “I killed eight Jewish children.”
Tamimi was released in the 2011 Gilad Schalit swap deal. She immediately went to Jordan, where she was showered with flowers and welcomed as a hero. She now hosts a Hamas weekly television show out of Amman.
The United States has an extradition treaty with Jordan. The evidence against Tamimi is so abundantly clear that if we, as a nation, had the will to protect our citizens, she would be rotting in an American jail cell. But no effort whatsoever has been made to bring her to justice in the U.S.
Perhaps the U.S. government has the will to protect some of its citizens — but Americans living, working, traveling or studying in Israel have become disposable or invisible citizens.
By sweeping the murder of American citizens under the rug, the U.S. government has sent out the message that America has become soft on terrorism. And this has only served to empower would-be terrorists around the globe with a feeling of invincibility.
If Jewish lives do not matter to the U.S. government, why should the lives of Jews, Christians and members of other religions matter to the Islamic radicals who would like to establish a caliphate wherever a Muslim takes 10 steps?
To paraphrase what Pastor Niemoller said 70 years ago: What happens to the Jews goes on to happen to the rest of the world.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.
Originally published at: https://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=14473