Last week, Eitam Henkin and his wife Naama were murdered in front of their four children on their way home. I had the privilege of meeting Eitam, as he attended a class I taught on Alexis de Tocqueville at the Kohelet Policy Forum. Eitam was a learned scholar, a gentle soul, and a righteous man. He had authored two books and dozens of articles on Jewish law, and was completing a doctorate in history at Tel-Aviv University. Eitam and his wife were murdered right before the Shabbat when the Book of Ecclesiastes (“Kohelet”) is read in synagogues. Kohelet states that “there is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his like in his wickedness” (Eccl. 7, 15), but does not claim to have an explanation.
The question of why Eitam and Naama were murdered is not only philosophical but also political. For the Palestinians and their many apologists in the West, the Henkins brought this tragedy upon themselves by being the willing agents of “the occupation.” The Palestinian Authority (PA) did not condemn the crime, because it considers it “a legitimate act of resistance.” When, two days after the murder of the Henkins, Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Banito were stabbed to death in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority only deplored the shooting of their assailant. PA spokesman Ihab Bseiso added that “The only solution is the end of the Israeli occupation of our occupied Palestinian land and the establishment of our independent state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.” In other words, terrorism will end when Israel relinquishes every inch of land in conquered during the Six Day War.
This is a lie.
Eighty-six years ago, in August 1929, 133 Jews were murdered by Arabs in Jerusalem, in Hebron, and in Safed. There was no “Israeli occupation” at the time. The reason why Jews were murdered in the Old City of Jerusalem in August 1929 and in October 2015 is, in fact, identical: Palestinian leaders ignited the violence by falsely accusing the Jews of “defiling” the Al-Aqsa mosque.
In 1929, Haj Amin al Husseini (the Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi collaborator praised as a “hero” by PLO chief Yasser Arafat) distributed leaflets with doctored photographs accusing the Jews of planning to take over the Al-Aqsa mosque. On 16 September 2015, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared the following: “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they [the Jews] have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
It should therefore come as no surprise that Muhannad Halabi, the 19 year-old Arab murderer who stabbed two Jews to death in Jerusalem’s Old City this past Saturday night, wrote the following on his Facebook page before committing his crime: “What is happening to the Al-Aqsa Mosque is what is happening to our holy places and the way of our Prophet.” Halabi was incited, and he acted accordingly. He did not write that what had motivated him was the establishment of an independent Arab state within the armistice lines that used to separate Israel from Jordan. His targeted victims were not military but civilian. His motivation was not political but religious.
The same applies to the murderers of Eitam and Naama Henkin. As members of Hamas, they do not strive for the establishment of an additional Arab state alongside Israel, but for an Islamic state “over every inch of Palestine” (Article 6 of the Hamas charter) where no Jew (and no Christian) will be allowed. Hamas’ Charter quotes the famous Al-Bukhari “hadith” (a statement not included in the Coran but attributed to Mohamed): “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems kill the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” According to a poll conducted by Stanley Greenberg in July 2011, 73% of Palestinians agree with this hadith (as reported by The Jerusalem Post on 15 July 2011). It is no coincidence if the targets of Palestinian terrorism are civilian.
As in 1929, the murder of Jews today is motivated by libelous incitement and by religious belief –both of which existed before the establishment of the State of Israel, and both of which would still exist even if Israel were to withdraw from every inch of land it conquered in June 1967.