More appalling acts of terror from the Palestinian Arabs in this ongoing war: two Israeli boys, one either 13 or 16 according to conflicting reports, and one 7, are attacked today by a Palestinian Arab wielding an axe and a strain of religious extremism that defies comprehension. The older of the boys is dead. The younger is in a Jerusalem hospital being treated for serious injuries.
Most Israeli school-children are on vacation now in the days before the festival of Passover which begins next week.
The BBC quotes Israeli sources saying that the responsible parties are "the military wing of Islamic Jihad" and an entity they call "Imad Mughniyeh Group" (an invented title to anyone paying attention to these things). The jihadists had no special difficulty getting access to the Jewish children since, despite a history of previous jihadist murders in the vicinity, theirs is a community which chooses to have no protective fence around its perimeter. The optimism of that ongoing open-door policy is hard for us to understand.
The moral horror of an axe-bearing man with murder and mayhem on his mind is a clear and unambiguous thing for most of us... but not necessarily when you are a media reporter and it's Jewish children who are damaged, and Palestinian Arabs who are the killers.
A Palestinian media source applies the customary code language in reporting that "one settler was killed and another injured when a Palestinian man attacked Israeli settlers". To know that the victims were children, you would have needed to check elsewhere.
A Reuters report, differing from the BBC, acribes the act to "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement". Unable to report on an act of terror on its own savage terms, Reuters connects the murder/maiming to "crimes of occupation".
AFP, true to its snarling, Israel-bashing form, says - with not an ounce of substantiation - that "Bat Ayin is one of the most radical settlements in the occupied West Bank. Most of its 1000-odd residents are hardline settlers who prevent Palestinians from even entering the settlement boundaries". This is what the readers of news channels sourcing AFP's syndicated reports evidently need to hear when a Jewish 13 year old is chopped to death and a Jewish seven year old is slashed and bashed.
A Tim Butcher story in The Telegraph (UK) calls this an "incident" that "appears to fit a long-running series of attacks involving Israelis, who in breach of international law established settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and Arabs, demanding their land back". The particular international law that renders the community a "breach of international law" is not specified by the editors of The Telegraph. The complexities and details of Israeli national rights in their historic homeland long ago ceased to be a matter worth examining when it comes to common editiorial practice. It's perhaps worth pointing out what The Telegraph's fact-checkers don't; Bat Ayin where the boys were attacked today is part of a region called Gush Etzion. This was indeed occupied territory, but not the way Israel's enemies mean it. The occupation started in 1948 when Jordanian forces stormed in immediately after Israel declared its independence, and presided over a massacre of the Jewish farmers who worked the previously-barren land. The occupation ended in 1967 when Israeli forces recaptured it from the Jordanians, who subsequently relinquished any claims to the area in 1988. The Gush Etzion land including Bat Ayin was legally, lawfully and with no controversy purchased by Shmuel Yosef Holtzman in 1930, as Soccer Dad takes the trouble to point out today.
It's difficult not to be bitter about how today's act of child-murder, and the many, many that have come before it arouse such confused, confusing and morally-ambivalent reactions. So long as journalists, analysts and politicians find it so difficult to unambiguously damn the perpetrators of such savagery, terrorism will go on and on.
In this regard, note please the total silence from responsible Arab leaders when it comes to condemning acts of murder directed at children in this ongoing war. And if we're factually wrong about this, please let us know. As parents of a child murdered by jihadists, and as witnesses to the double-speak that emerged in its wake, we have a vested interest in speaking out about this catastrophic reality and trying to sensitize people to what it means not only to us but to them, their societies and their lives.
9:30pm UPDATE: When you're completely immersed, as the members of the Hamas regime are, in acts of savagery that define your very essence, then murder is just another of many actions that you embrace for their expedience. Thus, tonight, a spokes-thug for the Gazan government justified the unthinkable with these comments captured by the Jerusalem Post: the axe-murder "was simply a natural response to the Israeli "occupation"... committed in the framework of the resistance". It "is a reaction to the continuing occupation and the continued building of settlements... It is our right to defend ourselves and to act in every way and with every means at our disposal in order to defend ourselves." The words quoted are those of Hamas goon Ayman Taha. But his "we have no choice" values, attitudes, justifications can heard coming from the mouths and word processors of a depressingly long list of people who ought to know much better.