n September 30, 2000, Muhammad al-Dura was shot to death while cowering behind his father during a firefight between Palestinians and IDF soldiers. The haunting images of the 12-year-old's death were broadcast around the world and have become the central icon in the Palestinian offensive against Israel.
On Sunday, Noam and Matan Ohayon, four and five, were shot point blank in their beds. Their mother, Revital, was also murdered while trying to protect them from the terrorist who had entered their home in Kibbutz Metzer.
Granted, Dura's death was caught on camera, and so it was not surprising that the searing pictures spread like wildfire. But every Israeli newspaper led for the next two days with pictures of Avi Ohayon, the father who had lost everything in an instant, collapsing in his children's room, and later on their graves.
Dura was initially assumed to have been killed inadvertently by IDF fire. The army apologized, and any Israeli with a heart was horrified by the tragedy. Further investigation, including a report that ran on German television, seemed to prove that he could not have been killed by the IDF. But this is not the point, because even if Dura was not, other Palestinian children have been inadvertently shot by Israeli forces.
Nor is the point
that the orgy of coverage surrounding Dura's presumably accidental death
dwarfs that of the deliberate murders of the Ohayon boys. The disproportion
is so great that a search of the Web for a single picture of boys or the
funeral produced nothing. Since a search using their names drew a blank,
I tried "Israeli father" as keywords. Though no pictures of
what was the Ohayon family popped up, two pictures of Dura's father did.
This is, after all, a moment when Palestinians are reportedly reconsidering suicide bombings inside the Green Line as a tactic. Here was a perfect test for more moderate Palestinians: a particularly gruesome attack against a kibbutz, one that has been at the forefront of Jewish-Arab cooperation. Metzer even shared a soccer team with the Arab village next door. Would this act evince a peep of protest, shame, or misgiving, beyond the usual formal condemnations?
Here's how the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida headlined its coverage: "Five Israelis killed in an attack on the settlement Metzer." The report continued, "A Palestinian infiltrated the settlement Metzer and opened fire on the settlers." It is not well known that the Palestinian press frequently refers to towns in Israel, such as Holon and Kiryat Shmona, as "settlements." Besides implying that all of Israel is an illegitimate colonial outpost, such references clearly are brought to justify the killings and distinguish them from terrorism.
A survey of the Palestinian press by Palestinian Media Watch found that the only critical reference to the attack came two days later. Salah Rifat, the secretary of the Democratic Union party, the PA newspaper reported, sent a telegram to the secretary of an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group and to Meretz expressing "sincere condolences to the family of the victims... and to all the members of the kibbutz."
PMW director Itamar Marcus says this is the first such condolence message he has seen in more than two years. Meanwhile, the official Fatah website published the announcement of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades confirming "our responsibility for the courageous, qualitative operation in the settlement of Metzer... killing and wounding several Zionist colonizers... We will continue to strike any place, targeting their children as well" (see www.fatehorg.org, translation by PMW).
It is here we get to the point: Palestinians feel freer to defend the murder of Israeli children than they do to condemn it. This state of affairs has profound implications not just for Israel, but for the Palestinians themselves.
In a fascinating interview in the November 4 Weekly Standard, Rawya Rashad Shawa, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who is highly critical of Yasser Arafat, states, "We all see the military strength of the Israelis... but we should also see the strengths of their political system... [just] because we cannot have a war machine like theirs does not mean we should not have democracy either."
I find myself rooting for Palestinians to close the democracy gap. But when asked if she approves of suicide bombings, she launches into a long description of Israeli-imposed suffering and concludes, "You cannot drive human beings beyond the context of human life and still hold them to the highest ethical standard."
What Shawa does not seem to understand is that Palestinians cannot close the democracy gap before they close the humanity gap. Democracy is built on a fundamental respect for human dignity. It cannot coexist with the dehumanization of Israelis, which is what the justification of baby-killing is. Before Palestinians can recognize our right to exist as a nation, they must recognize the humanity of our children.
(c) 2002 The Jerusalem Post