There may be many reasons — none of them justified — why 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah jumped the fence around the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron and stabbed to death 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel while she was sleeping. But even if it is determined why Tarayrah — who was shot and killed by guards after the attack — murdered a child, the case cannot be closed in a larger sense. Not as long as the Palestinian leadership continues to demonize Jews and delegitimize Israel. That drumbeat of hate needs to stop.
A case in point was President Mahmoud Abbas’ June 23 speech to the European Parliament. On the soil where 6 million Jews were murdered after centuries of demonization, Abbas declared, without offering proof, that “certain rabbis in Israel have said very clearly to their government that our water should be poisoned in order to have Palestinians killed.”
Abbas, who was applauded at the time, later retracted the claim. In a statement, his office acknowledged that the assertion was “baseless.” But what seems incomprehensible to us — that anyone would believe that Jews poison wells — apparently seems plausible to the Palestinian leadership and, as a result, to many of the Palestinians they lead. It is reminiscent of the age-old blood libel that Jews bake gentile children’s blood into matzoh. Never true, never proved, but repeated often enough that it was believed. And through the same pattern of demonization the Palestinians have successfully created a wicked image of their enemy — the devious Jew and the Israeli soldier as Nazi — and have peddled their hateful libel to their children.
No matter what it was that ultimately drove Nasser Tarayrah to murder a child, one can’t help but express concern that part of what drove him was the stew of demonization cooked up by Palestinian leadership over the past several decades.
We urge Palestinian leadership — whatever their political differences with Israel — to keep their rhetoric focused on their political goals and to established facts. And on this issue, it is important for the United States, Europe and all those who consider themselves sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to push Abbas and his leadership to drop the blood-libel thinking, the lies and the fabrications. Doing otherwise hardens the thinking of even sympathetic Israelis who would like a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, and it provides ammunition to those who say Israel has no one to talk to.
Most importantly, Abbas’ unconscionable rhetoric and its blind acceptance by Palestinians and ignorant Europeans puts lives at stake. While the eradication of hateful speech will not end the bloodshed, it is also clear that so long as such speech exists and is promulgated by leadership, there can be no end to the conflict.