“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”
—-Mila Kundwa, “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting”
Last week, Israel commemorated Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance. Everything in Israel ground to a halt as sirens wailed out in remembrance of the 23,169 fallen soldiers and terror victims lost to Israel since its conception. The Jewish state was born out of the furnaces of Auschwitz, and like the most precious metal, it continues to go through the hottest fires conceivable, simply to be able to exist.
I look over the pictures of the over 1, 500 victims of Palestinian terrorism murdered since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Why were they murdered? They murdered for the same reason that our relatives in Europe in the last century: Simply because they were Jews.
It saddens me to say that the Obama administration appears to have omitted from their memories some very salient facts.
Just last Friday, an interview was given to Israeli journalist Nahum Bernea by a State Department official where he pinned the responsibility of the breakdown of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians on Israel’s shoulders, alone, because they had allowed tenders for 700 apartments in a Jerusalem suburb.
Forgotten, of course, was the ironclad commitment made under President George Bush to Prime Minister Arik Sharon in a letter of April 14, 2004, stating:
“As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.”
The Jerusalem suburb where these apartments had been slated to be built was on “an already existing major population center.”
Forgotten apparently, was this ironclad commitment.
Furthermore: Every single accord made with them has just placed one single obligation on the Palestinian Authority (PA) : That all further disputes should be resolved around the negotiating table, and not through incitement towards violence or terror.
This, again, is forgotten.
Not a day goes by when there is not some sort of statement made by the P.A. extorting the virtues of the martyrs, or some sort of ceremony hosted by the P.A, in which they are honoring the suicide bombers and other terrorists and inciting others to “join in their glorious path.”
Just last week, the P.A. and Hamas joined together to give a “military funeral to Izz-al Dinn al Masri, the terrorist who murdered 15 people in the Sbarro Pizza Restaurant on August 9th, including two Americans, Malki Roth, age 15, and Judith Greenbaum, who was pregnant.
P.A. television news described his funeral as a “wedding to the 72 virgins in Paradise, the great reward Islam promises to those who die as martyrs for Allah”, (Palestinian Media Watch, April 30, 2014).
Words can kill. These words and the sentiments behind them signify something much more deleterious to the prospects of a lasting peace than a few apartments built in a Jerusalem suburb.
Yet the commitment on the part of the P.A. to stop the incitement to terror is also forgotten in the collective international memory.
This incitement ends in death. And among the victims being mourned today are at least 53 Americans who have been killed by Palestinian terrorists since the signing of the Oslo Accords.
I was profoundly moved by the tragic death of Koby Mandell, aged 13, from Silver Spring, Maryland and had spent many years of her life working to establish an office in the Department of Justice. This office, The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, (OJVOT) would act as an advocate to ensure that anyone who has wounded or murdered an American citizen, anywhere around the globe, would be brought to justice. With the help of Congress, I was able to pass the Koby Mandell Act in December of 2004, which resulted in the opening of the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism in April of 2005.
When it was opened, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, “This new office guarantees a voice for the 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 bring their terrorist attackers to justice.”
Today, nine years later, not one Palestinian terrorist who has wounded or killed an American citizen in Israel or the disputed territories has been brought to justice. What happened to that solid commitment?
Again: It is forgotten.
We Jews have a very long, memory. It is that long collective memory that is the thread that has woven us together through the darkest days of our Diaspora. I remember the names and faces of so many of the victims of Palestinian terrorism, and have met with many of their parents, and will never forget the pain etched in their eyes.
I, and my organization, EMET, will not rest until their murderers are finally brought to justice. We are now calling for hearings to find out why no Palestinian who killed an American in the disputed territories has ever been brought are indicted, prosecuted and brought to justice.
Our collective memory is the only weapon we have against the powers that would like us to so conveniently forget.
Sarah N. Stern is the Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank in Washington, DC
A version of this article was published in Israel Hayom on Sunday, May, 11 2014. https://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=8343
Sarah Stern on the Lisa Benson Show (05.03.14)
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