Following the Israeli police’s announcement on Sunday of the arrest of a Jewish terrorist, Yaakov (Jack) Teitel, the daily Haaretz published an editorial today that termed him “the Jewish counterpart of ‘The Engineer,’ Yahya Ayyash — Hamas’ expert bomb maker.” That analogy is as false as it is damaging. The two men may have shared an identical passion for killing, but there is a world of difference in their respective societies’ responses.
According to both the police and the Shin Bet security service, Teitel was a lone wolf, perpetrating his terrorist acts with no help from anyone. Moreover, when his deeds became known, he was unequivocally repudiated by his own society. Both the Yesha Council of settlements and the settlement where he lived issued condemnations. So did every settler-on-the-street that Haaretz reporters interviewed. Even on far-Right websites, the paper found very few statements of support for Teitel’s acts (and probably not for lack of trying; Haaretz usually likes nothing better than vilifying settlers). And of course, Israel arrested him itself.
Ayyash, in contrast, belonged to a large, well-funded group whose terrorist acts, far from being denounced, have consistently been lauded by Palestinian society. As leading Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad Sarraj told the Los Angeles Times in 2002, suicide bombers have “unparalleled” status among Palestinians. “Their pictures are plastered on public walls, their funerals are emotional celebrations, their families often receive visits from state officials. They become almost holy,” the LA Times report continued, “praised by imams at mosques or over loudspeakers at rallies, where children are often dressed as shrouded dead or as pint-sized suicide bombers.” Indeed, Palestinians value terror so highly that in 2006, they elected Hamas — a terrorist organization that not only holds the record for most Israelis killed in suicide bombings but flaunts its prowess in anti-Israel terror as its calling card — to run their government. Palestinians don’t arrest their terrorists; they make them cabinet ministers.
This different societal responses also explains the difference in the amount of mayhem the two men succeeded in perpetrating. In a terrorist career spanning a dozen years and about a dozen attacks, Teitel managed to kill two people. In contrast, Hamas suicide bombers killed 57 people in the two years before Ayyash met his death (at Israel’s hands) in December 1995; as the organization’s chief bomb maker, Ayyash presumably shares credit for most of these deaths. It’s not that Teitel was any less enamored of bombs; it’s just that it’s easier to perpetrate mass murder when you are backed by a large organization and a supportive society.
Haaretz’s false moral equivalence is unlikely to confuse Israelis, who have a clear grasp of the importance of this societal distinction. But it will undoubtedly be seized on by Israel’s enemies to support the canard that settlers are the Israeli equivalent of Hamas and that Israel is thus indistinguishable from the Palestinians when it comes to terror. And it will thereby deal another blow to Israel’s already battered good name.