I just can’t seem to remember whether President Obama telephoned me last night. It was a busy evening. I had a chasunah, a seder and davened Maariv.
No, I’m quite sure I didn’t get a call from the White House. But the father of murdered Arab teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir did receive one the other day from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader expressed his deep condolences for what authorities have described as a nationalism-inspired killing, and pledged that the “perpetrators of this horrific crime” would face the full severity of the law. “There is no place for such murderers” in Israeli society, Mr. Netanyahu said.
Asked later by the Jerusalem Post about the call, the father said that he had received dozens of phone calls and couldn’t recall if Mr. Netanyahu had been among the callers. Ishaq Abu Khdeir, a representative of the Arab victim’s family, denied outright that the Prime Minister had telephoned the family. “This is a false claim,” he said.
The family also refused, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, to allow Israeli president Shimon Peres to pay a condolence call in person. When security personnel arrived to prepare for the president’s visit, they were turned away.
The mother of the slain boy, for her part, was quoted by The New York Times as expressing her hope “that the Jewish mothers feel what I am feeling … May [G-d] burn them like I am burned.”
And there we have it: the amity barometer-reading for the Palestinian world.
The malice is even more manifest in Palestinian media. The official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported the words of former PA prime minister and current PA executive committee member Ahmed Qurei, during a visit to the Abu Khdeir home. “The Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis,” he declared, “is the same holocaust that the occupation is perpetrating against our people … they kidnap children, fight civilians in their homes and houses of prayer, torch fields, and violate human rights in the most despicable manner.”
The same periodical also compared Abu Khdeir’s murder to the Holocaust, writing in its editorial: “The Holocaust lies heavily on the conscience of humanity to this very day … However, Israel is trying to emulate [the Holocaust]; with its arrogance and unconstrained brutality, its language of tanks and its racist ideology that includes despicable ‘selections,’ it constantly incites to kill Palestinians and to hunt them like beasts in order to destroy them everywhere and by every means, both at the hands of [Israel’s] military forces and at the hands of the settlers, who have been unleashed [to act] with brutality unrivaled even by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS].”
Of course, leaving the fever-dream world of Mr. Qurei and the Palestinian press, the same impressive unity that Jews in Israel and the world over demonstrated in hope, and then, sadly, mourning, several weeks ago was just as evident in the pan-Jewish condemnation of the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The thought that Jews could kill an innocent Arab boy left all feeling Jews stupefied and despondent.
In an op-ed published this week in Haaretz, President Obama reiterated his position that “Israel cannot be complete and it cannot be secure without peace.” That is a truism, of course.
I have a deep respect for Mr. Obama, having carefully analyzed his actions and words over the past six years. I believe he is sincere when he says, as he did in that same op-ed, that “the United States [is] Israel’s first friend, Israel’s oldest friend, and Israel’s strongest friend.” And that “neither I nor the United States will ever waver in our commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people.”
And I believe he means it when he writes: “I’ve seen what security means to those who live near the Blue Line, to children in Sderot who just want to grow up without fear, to families who’ve lost their homes and everything they have to Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s rockets.
“And as a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain endured by the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were tragically kidnapped and murdered in June.”
The president was entirely responsible to add that he is “also heartbroken by the senseless abduction and murder of Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose life was stolen from him and his family.” And by writing further that “At this dangerous moment, all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution.”
Does he recognize, though, that the reason peace in the region is so famously elusive is because of the mindset of people like Mr. Qurei and Arab media like Al-Hayat Al-Jadida — which is, tragically, the mindset of so much of the Arab world?
I suspect he does, and that whenever he addresses both sides of the conflict as if both are equally blameworthy for the lack of peace, he is simply, as he has done in the past, offering “evenhanded” words to mollify a rabid world that he know places inordinate value on platitudes.
But should he call me tonight, I’ll make sure.