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The Media Line: Rationalizing the Murder of Innocents Plants the Seeds of Civilization’s Demise


Rationalizing the Murder of Innocents Plants the Seeds of Civilization’s Demise


By Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein/The Media Line


Batsheva Nigri, a 42-year-old mother of three, was riding in a car in the Hebron hills when Palestinian terrorists cut off the vehicle. They riddled her and her driver with 20 bullets, while her 12-year-old daughter sat in the back seat.


In reaction, jubilant Palestinians accosted motorists in the Gaza Strip and offered them celebratory sweets.


A tale of two cultures. Palestinian parents express pride when their brainwashed children embrace a culture of death, carefully nurtured and promoted on social media and in their classrooms. While Israelis mourn their dead, these Palestinian families know their financial future is secure, courtesy of the Palestinian Authority’s pay-to-slay policy. Despite such horrific crimes targeting Jewish civilians continuing unabated, the majority of Israelis remain steadfast. They will not flee from the barbarians at the gate.


But there is a wider impact to consider: What of the nations that comprise Western civilization? If murderous terrorists are celebrated as freedom fighters in the Holy Land, surely the phenomenon can spread to cover other controversies.


Don’t think it could happen?


The Iranians are already hard at work.  That murderous regime continues to invest billions to spread its horrific agenda across the Middle East and as far away as South America, intertwined with and justified by its theologically based hatred of the United States, Israel, and the core ideals of democracy.


Meanwhile, the ideological road to justify the unjustifiable is already being paved by academic and clerical elites who cannot or will not distinguish between right and wrong, who continue to deliver moral blank checks for terrorists targeting innocents.


We are familiar with the professors’ key talking point: “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” That is certainly true, and therein lies the core of the problem. Is there a reasonable defense of that position? Are there no moral distinctions left to ponder? Isn’t there an obvious difference between combatants and non-combatants, between military targets and a kindergarten teacher? What happens to a world in which people are no longer able to or simply refuse to make simple moral distinctions?


Their apologists insist that Palestinians under occupation “have no choice,” that their dignity has been stripped away by Israelis. Terrorism, mayhem, and murder, including killing women and children in cold blood, are legitimate responses in fighting for their future. Far from condemning Palestinian terrorism, such apologists insist that the world needs to understand it and applaud all courageous acts that resist Israeli “genociders.”


But that narrative lays the groundwork for a world without reason, or a world where reason is eagerly subverted to conform to personal feelings, a worldview that could unleash a dystopia that our civilization cannot endure for long.


As the memory of the 20th century fades, we must ponder whether the world has internalized any of the lessons from the Holocaust. Didn’t the jurists at Nuremberg conclude that each individual is responsible for their decisions? Didn’t they decide that people are responsible for their actions, regardless of the arguments or orders of others to commit atrocities?


Sacrificing reason and Palestinian children on an altar of a deadly political narrative has not helped a single Palestinian. Yet the very global agencies and NGOs charged with defending core human values too often rationalize and legitimize Jew-hatred, hate crimes, and terrorism by upending simple moral reason. They will yet have to confront the bitter fruit of their sophistry as social media teaches new generations around the world how to leverage violence and hate to dehumanize the “enemy” and potentially take down their own society’s future.


And what about the ordinary citizens of Gaza or the West Bank who never strapped on a suicide vest or stabbed a Jewish family during a Passover celebration or Shabbat dinner? Why does poll after poll show majorities supporting terrorism and rejecting compromise that would guarantee two peoples living side by side in peace?


Perhaps the most disturbing lesson provided by the propaganda specialists of the Third Reich, Stalin’s Russia, and Mao’s China is that ordinary people can become eager supporters of and participants in individual and mass violence, even murder. The first step is to inculcate an irrational sense of otherness about some “enemy,” and then brainwash the youth to embrace and normalize that irrationality.


This is precisely what we see in Gaza. Palestinian society has been teaching, preaching, and practicing genocidal hatred of Jews in its schools and mosques and in the media for three generations. And the nations who donate to them rarely utter a word of protest.


Leaders of the world beware. Today, evil manifests itself on the streets of Gaza, in the cells of Tehran’s Evin prison, and in concentration camps filled with Uighurs. Such evil repackaged as morality is not only a stain on our democracies but a poison pill that can deconstruct a university, a city, and, yes, even houses of worship. Once you erase the difference between resistance and murder, between morality and impulse, what follows? What about older people who continue to function, but fill our hospitals? Don’t younger people deserve more of those precious resources? Won’t newer generations feel better by ridding themselves, by all means necessary, of groups whose beliefs or ideologies they find repugnant?


Reason is not perfect, but it got civilization this far. Embracing evil as just, or accepting it as the new normal, is a prescription for global disaster and oblivion.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its director of global social action. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director of interfaith affairs.


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