By Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard. His latest book is The Case
April 12, 2004.
Recently, a young student at the Hebrew University was gunned down while
jogging through a mixed neighborhood of Jews and Arabs in north Jerusalem.
The Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah
movement, joyously claimed credit for the killing yet another innocent Jew.
When it was later learned that the jogger was a Jerusalem Arab and not a Jew,
al-Aksa quickly apologized to the family, calling it an accident.
But the killing of the innocent young jogger was not an accident; the murderer
had deliberately taken aim at his head and midsection, intending to end his life.
The only thing accidental about the murder was the religion of the victim.
Al-Aksa had sent the assassin to murder a Jew Â any Jew, so long as he was a
This is racism, pure and simple. And despite efforts by supporters of Palestinian
terrorism to justify the murder of innocent civilians as national liberation or by
any other euphemism, this case proves that the Palestinian terrorists’ targeting
of Jews and only Jews Â as many as possible Â is little different in intent from
other forms of lethal or exterminatory anti-Jewish murders. (I don’t use the
term anti-Semitic only because some Arabs claim that because they too are
Semites, they can’t be anti-Semitic.)
Obviously the numbers are different, because Israel is capable of defending its
Jewish citizens, but if it were not, the goal of Palestinian terrorist groups would
not be very different from that of previous groups intent on murdering as many
Jews as possible.
The Web sites of various Palestinian terrorist groups proclaim Â usually only in
English and almost never in Arabic Â that they have no quarrel with the Jews,
only with the Zionists. Yet they target every Jew, regardless of his or her
individual political views, and they apologize when they accidentally kill a
non-Jew, regardless of his political views. The racist acts of these terrorist
groups speak louder than their sanitized English-only anti-Zionist Web sites.
YET THE international community Â including the UN, the Vatican, and the
European Union Â claims to see no difference between Palestinian terrorists who
target random Jewish civilians and the Israel Defense Forces that target specific
mass murderers, such as Ahmed Yassin. It’s all part of a “cycle of violence” in
which both sides are morally equivalent, according to the double standard
consistently applied against Israel by people who should know better.
The preventive killing of the mass murderer Sheikh Yassin received much more
negative attention from the moral leaders of these organizations than did the
racist attack that accidentally killed the young Arab. This failure Â or refusal Â to
distinguish murder based on religious affiliation from preventive self-defense
based on past and future murderous acts is the height of immorality. It would
be as if the soldiers who killed Auschwitz guards in the process of liberating the
inmates were deemed morally equivalent to the Auschwitz murderers.
It should not be surprising that Palestinian terrorists employ racist criteria in
selecting their civilian targets, since the entire goal of Palestinian terrorism is
racist to its core. It seeks to deny the Jewish people the right to
self-determination. Under their version of Islamic law, it is impermissible for
Jews to govern any land that was once under Muslim control, and it is equally
impermissible for a Jewish majority to govern a Muslim minority, namely Israeli
The time has come for the international community to listen to what Palestinian
terrorists say to their own people: that this is a racist struggle to ethnically
cleanse all of Palestine, which includes Israel, of all Jews (except, they say,
those Jews who lived there before 1917 and are willing to remain as a minority
in a Muslim land).
The civilian targets are selected on a racist basis Â all Jews are fair game, and if
a non-Jew is killed, that is an unfortunate accident.
The terrorist killing of the young Jerusalem Arab student, coupled with the
apology when it was learned he was not Jewish, was not only a tragedy for his
family (which lost another member to a terrorist attack years earlier), but it is
also a revealing episode in the history of Palestinian terrorism. All who hate
racism should condemn the selective morality under which a deliberate Jewish
civilian death is applauded and a deliberate Arab civilian death is regretted.
All deliberate targeting of non-combatants must be equally condemned. And the
deliberate targeting of civilians based on their religion is to be especially