Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sbarro bombing

Video Answers Why Some Succumb to Hate

The Jewish world is still coping with the aftermath of Monday’s violence in Jerusalem. Today Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset visited a 17-year-old Arab in the hospital where he was still recovering from injuries inflicted by a gang of Jewish teenagers who assaulted him and two others in the capital’s Zion Square. Rivlin condemned the attack and said Israel must increase his efforts to combat hate via education. Rivlin’s sentiments were entirely correct and echoed those of every other leading Israeli political figure. But that hasn’t stopped many observers from highlighting this crime and other incidents as proof that Israel is beset with hate. But as much as Jews are beating their breasts wondering why Jewish kids would behave in this manner, a partial answer was readily available. As the Arab media monitoring group MEMRI reported, the broadcast of hate directed at Jews via official Palestinian media is making it difficult for some Israelis, especially those who have grown up in the shadow of the suicide bombings of the second intifada to accept the idea that they shouldn’t respond in kind.

A good example of the depth of this hatred is exhibited in this segment broadcast by Aqsa TV, the official television of the Hamas government of Gaza. In it, Ahlam Tamimi, who in 2001 took part in the bombing of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem happily boasted of her role in the murder of 15 people, including seven children as her interviewer smiled along as she recounted her joy at taking part in such an atrocity. But what is so chilling about this video — which is provided by the invaluable Arab media monitor group MEMRI — is not just her perverse pride in the crime but that she is sure that the Palestinian people not only approve of her conduct but also agree that she should be considered a heroine rather than a sociopath. Given the way she is treated in this interview, it’s hard to argue with her opinion on that score. As I first wrote yesterday, since Israelis are well aware of this disturbing reality, how can we then be surprised when a small minority of Jews react to this situation with anger and violence?

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The Jewish world is still coping with the aftermath of Monday’s violence in Jerusalem. Today Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset visited a 17-year-old Arab in the hospital where he was still recovering from injuries inflicted by a gang of Jewish teenagers who assaulted him and two others in the capital’s Zion Square. Rivlin condemned the attack and said Israel must increase his efforts to combat hate via education. Rivlin’s sentiments were entirely correct and echoed those of every other leading Israeli political figure. But that hasn’t stopped many observers from highlighting this crime and other incidents as proof that Israel is beset with hate. But as much as Jews are beating their breasts wondering why Jewish kids would behave in this manner, a partial answer was readily available. As the Arab media monitoring group MEMRI reported, the broadcast of hate directed at Jews via official Palestinian media is making it difficult for some Israelis, especially those who have grown up in the shadow of the suicide bombings of the second intifada to accept the idea that they shouldn’t respond in kind.

A good example of the depth of this hatred is exhibited in this segment broadcast by Aqsa TV, the official television of the Hamas government of Gaza. In it, Ahlam Tamimi, who in 2001 took part in the bombing of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem happily boasted of her role in the murder of 15 people, including seven children as her interviewer smiled along as she recounted her joy at taking part in such an atrocity. But what is so chilling about this video — which is provided by the invaluable Arab media monitor group MEMRI — is not just her perverse pride in the crime but that she is sure that the Palestinian people not only approve of her conduct but also agree that she should be considered a heroine rather than a sociopath. Given the way she is treated in this interview, it’s hard to argue with her opinion on that score. As I first wrote yesterday, since Israelis are well aware of this disturbing reality, how can we then be surprised when a small minority of Jews react to this situation with anger and violence?

Tamimi, a college student and part-time journalist, was sentenced to 16 terms of life in prison for helping to lead the suicide bomber to the Sbarro outlet. The crime, which was perpetrated on a Friday, caught many young mothers and their children in the place where they had stopped for lunch during pre-Sabbath shopping.  Ten years later she was released from prison as part of the deal with Hamas to gain the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit after which Tamimi returned in triumph to Gaza where she continues to receive the acclaim of Palestinians.

Watching this video is a chilling experience for anyone who remembers the shocking pictures of the aftermath of the crime as bloody body parts and dismembered bodies of women and children littered the street in front of the restaurant. Here’s what Tamimi says about her escape from the crime scene:

Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target] … I was feeling quite strange, because I had left [the bomber] ‘Izz Al-Din behind, but inside the bus, they were all congratulating one another. They didn’t even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings…While I was sitting on the bus, the driver turned on the radio. But first, let me tell you about the gradual rise in the number of casualties. While I was on the bus and everybody was congratulating one another.

After hearing an initial report that only “three people were killed” in the bombing, Tamimi said this:

I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said “three dead,” I said: ‘Allah be praised’… Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.

She later states in the video that the applause continued in Ramallah where her bus took her and that Palestinian policemen there “congratulated” all on the bus for the news about the death of the Jewish men, women and children even though they had no idea she was one of those who had accomplished this feat.

Were Tamimi and those who applauded her action a tiny minority of Palestinian society or merely members of an extremist faction with no support it might be possible to dismiss her as an aberration. But she is not an outlier. Tamimi is right that the vast majority of Palestinians supported her crime and still consider her praiseworthy. Those who cannot understand the lack of support among the Palestinians for a peace deal that would give them a state including parts of Jerusalem need to realize that the hate that is routinely broadcast on the stations controlled by both Hamas and Fatah merely reflects popular sentiment. For them, the Jews killed at Sbarro’s were merely, as she put it, “Zionists” who deserve to die.

Arab hatred does not justify Jewish misbehavior. But those lamenting a disturbing trend among Jews to mirror the hatred of the Palestinians need to look at the environment in which Jews are living and ponder how it is that so few Israelis have succumbed to the virus of hate.

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