The citizenship and piety of the victims is largely immaterial—this was simply brutal, ideological murder. But the choice of victims does tell us something about where these murders come from, and what they mean politically.
In recent weeks, the usual hum of low-grade Palestinian incitement has been raised to a fever pitch. There have been allegations of murder and paranoid rumors of Israeli plans to dismantle Muslim sanctuaries. Lone-wolf terrorists have rammed their cars into crowds and stabbed young commuters at bus stops. The Israeli security forces, expert in disrupting networks and intercepting infiltrations, have found themselves helpless to stop it. How do you predict an attack by a single local resident armed only with a car and a kitchen knife?
There is irony in the latest attack. The synagogue was in Har Nof, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in West Jerusalem. The worshippers lived in internationally recognized Israel and almost certainly never served in the army. They would never approach the Temple Mount, the holy site where recent visits by Jews have supposedly triggered the latest wave of Palestinian violence, because they believe that God’s law forbids it. In other words, these worshippers should be among the least offensive to Palestinians.
This is not to say that, for instance, last week’s murder of 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus was less obscene because it happened near a West Bank settlement. But the senselessness and brutality of the synagogue assault, and the otherworldliness of the victims, lays bare the inadequacy of rational political explanations for terror. No doubt the murderers had their grievances (and some perhaps were reasonable), but the butchery in Har Nof shows that any sense of strategy has been overwhelmed by hate. The murder of non-Zionist Torah scholars is an attack on Jews more than Israel, and explaining it requires an understanding of hatred, not of politics. Perhaps the currentcelebrations throughout the West Bank and Gaza—replete with songs of praise on mosque loudspeakers and the festival-like delivery of sweets to children—goes at least part of the way to providing that.
Rarely has it been clearer: these men were killed simply because they were Jews living in the land of Israel. That they were rabbis killed at prayer is a potent symbol of the attack's senselessess, but their orthodoxy also serves as evidence of how utterly self-defeating Palestinian terrorism is.Read it all.