Atrocity invites atrocity, and just when we think we’ve reached the bottom of the homo sapiens order, we discover there’s a bottom beneath the bottom.
The kidnapping and murder of children is the vilest of all crimes, and why the perpetrators of such indecency are held as the lowest of the low in nearly every prison in the world. There is honor, of a kind, even among the killing breed.
The latest indecencies at the bottom of the human order have taken the lives of four young men — three Israelis and a Palestinian. The reaction to these tragedies is eloquent testimony to why the region is adrift in such a sea of depravity and hopelessness. The only true equivalency is the equivalency of the intent of killers.
Three young Israeli youths, aged 16, 16 and 19, were kidnapped last month and murdered, execution style, on their way home from religious-studies classes. Their bodies were found in a field several days later, at the end of a search driven by a hope for the best and the expectation of the worst.
The Israeli government promised to find the killers and punish them by the law, and given the efficiency of the Israeli security forces few could doubt that justice would prevail. But this being the land of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, barbarians could not wait. They first attempted the kidnapping of a 9-year-old, then took a Palestinian boy of 16. His body, burned beyond recognition, was also found in a field, abandoned in the Jerusalem Forest.
Israeli investigators quickly detained six suspects, presumably Israeli citizens, just as the Palestinian streets erupted in the usual riot. Police were said by usually reliable sources to believe that the murder was done by Jewish extremists, including minor children, in retaliation for the slayings on the West Bank. One of the suspects is said to have confessed, and the police were about to reveal details of the arrests and interrogations when a magistrate’s court gagged all parties at the request of Shin Bet, the Israeli security police leading the investigation. The suspects could be held under Israeli law without lawyers for up to 10 days, or 21 days if a court is persuaded that they are suspected of committing a terrorism-related crime.
The six suspects are, in the antiseptic euphemism often used to hint at what’s going on in police interrogation rooms, “assisting police in their investigation.”
There was no Israeli attempt to hide what happened to Mohammed Abu Khdeir in the Jerusalem Forest. The autopsy suggesting a hideous death was conducted by Israeli doctors and a Palestinian coroner. Politicians in Jerusalem vied to denounce the killing. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it “loathsome” and “reprehensible,” and personally directed the investigation. There seemed to be little need of pressure on the cops, but the government applied it, anyway. “Israel is a nation of laws,” the prime minister said, “and everyone must act according to the law.”
The rabbi who represents the region where the boy was killed said the killers, as well as the murderers of the three young Jewish men, must all be brought to the same justice and if found guilty, deserve the death penalty. Israel has no death penalty in the law, but Rabbi Elyahim Levanon is not impressed. “Jewish law has no mercy when it comes to brutal murder,” he said. “The killers who kidnapped and murdered the three boys and the Arab boy must be given mandatory death sentences.”
And what’s going on with the Palestinian investigation in the deaths of the Jewish boys? Not very much. There were no angry denunciations of that barbarity, no appeals to let the law do its work. There were no promises to find out what happened, no vows to send the guilty to the gallows or to a beheading knife. Anyone looking for moral equivalency would not find it here.
Islamic villainy against Jews, evident in abundance throughout the region, is rarely held to be villainy at all. And not just in the Middle East. The Metropolitan Opera this year will present an opera about Palestinian terrorists who threw a crippled Jew in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, 69, off the hijacked cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. The killers, not the Jew in a wheelchair, will get the sympathetic hearing in the “romantic” opera that Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, says seeks “to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists as well as the victim.”
Both killer and victim are presented with moral equivalence. Atrocity invites atrocity.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.