A Palestinian terrorist armed with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle killed eight rabbinical students at Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on Thursday (March 6, 2008). The yeshiva, located in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood near the entrance to Jerusalem, is home to several hundred students, most aged 18-30. The yeshiva students had recently returned from praying at the Kotel and were preparing for a party in celebration of Adar II, which begins on Friday evening.
The attack occurred in the library and study hall which were packed with students at the time. The terrorist was killed by an IDF officer but only after he murdered: Segev Peniel Avihail, 15, of Neve Daniel; Neria Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar, 16, of Shilo; Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kokhav Hashahar; Yohai Lifshitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Doron Tronoh Meherete, 26, of Ashdod Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat; Ro’i Roth, 18, of Elkana.
Stephen Pollard (h/t The Contentious Centrist) criticizes the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen for suggesting that Mercaz Harav Yeshiva was targeted for its role as the leading Hardal (national-religious) yeshiva in Israel. Pollard contents that Bowen’s comments amount to “excuse and justification” of the murderous acts. Given Bowen’s anti-Zionist political perspective, it is understandable Mr. Pollard would come to this conclusion.
Tim Rutten opining in the Los Angeles Times (“Self-Defense vs. Slaughter”) agrees the yeshiva was likely targeted for being a bastion of the Hardal movement. However, he criticizes the tendency of Western elites and journalists like Bowen who draw moral equivalencies between the actions of the IDF and terrorists. Here is a long excerpt:
There is every reason to suspect, moreover, that this particular religious school was more than a target of opportunity. Mercaz Harav is Israel’s leading “Hardal” seminary, the Harvard of a movement that blends strictly Orthodox Judaism with a militant and messianic religious Zionism. Its graduates are the theorists and the shock troops among West Bank settlers. Its adherents also are the segment of Israeli popular opinion most inclined to demand that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — who they regard as a quisling — suspend talks with the Palestinians.
As Amir Mizroch wrote Friday in the Jerusalem Post: “While defense establishment officials sitting in the Kiriya military headquarters in Tel Aviv ponder the diplomatic-security implications of last night’s attack, a totally different analysis will be taking place this weekend around Shabbat dinner tables across Jerusalem and most West Bank settlements. … Together with the grief and sorrow, there is going to be a lot of angry talk about good and evil, about a religious war over the Holy Land. … The fact that the attack was carried out in the way it was — live fire, chasing down the students and shooting them at point-blank range, as well as confirming the kills — and not by a suicide bombing, will add to the sense of brutality, of the narrative of good versus evil.”
The Manichaean view that Mizroch is describing excludes compromise, just as a faux moral equivalency — in which atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists against teens and other civilians are viewed as no worse than deaths caused by the Israeli military fighting back in the country’s defense — makes a mockery of justice. Both compromise and justice are preconditions of real peace.
These days, American policymakers also need to struggle as never before not to fall into a false even-handedness when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most of Western Europe’s policy and intellectual elite has slipped from sympathy for the Palestinian cause to anti-Zionism and, from there, into new modes of objective anti-Semitism. International organizations, across the board, are little better. Thursday, the U.N. Security Council couldn’t even muster a condemnation of the yeshiva atrocities because Libya insisted that it also denounce as co-evil the Israeli military’s recent defensive incursions into Gaza.