- - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We weep for Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, the three Jewish teenagers whose lives were cut short brutally because they chose to walk home from their religious school, hoping to catch a ride like teenage boys safely do in the civilized neighborhoods of the world. How cruel to hear that in their boyish innocence they were swept up by terrorists with evil in their hearts.

There are suggestions in Israel that the kidnappers became frightened when they thought they were followed, and rather than use the boys for ransom, they decided to kill the only unfriendly witnesses, the kidnapped boys.

We weep as well for Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, the innocent victim of a revenge killing. We don’t yet know exactly what happened, but we do know that three Jewish suspects have confessed and are in Israeli custody, while the killers of the three Jewish boys are still at large.

The killings give rise again to “moral equivalence,” a discarded phrase that first proclaimed that the ideological theories of East and West in the Cold War were of equal measure, that the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union, with its Iron Curtain, was as well-intentioned as the democracies of the West. The notion has long been discredited in the accounts of the Cold War, but in the Middle East, where the ink still runs blood red, defenders of the Hamas terrorists characterize the killings of the four teenagers as reflecting similar moral values.

Of course, they don’t. The killings are rooted in the evil that men do in any place, any time, in any century, when barbarism rises to the surface of the human imagination and galvanizes murderous instincts. The reaction to these brutal deeds, however, tells another story.

When the Palestinians got word that three Jewish boys had been kidnapped, unbridled excitement swept through the West Bank. They praised the kidnappers as heroes. Cheering Palestinian crowds raised the three-finger salute associated with the release of Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier who was exchanged in 2011 for more than 1,027 Arab prisoners. The Arab prisoners together were responsible for killing more than 500 Israelis. Many Israelis thought that such Israeli repatriation was foolish, giving incentives to future kidnappers, but they knew it showed the importance of a single life to the Jews. They demonstrated no anger at the government. Nobody rioted.

When news of the three kidnapped Jewish boys was first revealed, Arab celebrants mocked the value Jews place on a single life, “which contrasts so sharply with the value [Palestinians] place on taking Jewish life,” Ruth Wisse, Harvard professor of Jewish literature, writes in The Wall Street Journal. “It is one of the ironies of Israel that Jewish parents whose children are murdered by Arabs are not guaranteed justice as surely as Arabs whose children are murdered by Jews.”

Collective grief cannot always contain destructive impulses, and it’s a tragedy that Jews mourning the three slain teenagers killed a Palestinian boy to take revenge. Heinous as that crime is, action for justice has been swift, just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised. Suspects are in custody, and no one doubts that the guilty will stand trial and, if found guilty, will go to a long, harsh life in prison. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas has found the killers of the three Jewish boys, nor is there evidence that they have tried.

She doesn’t know who killed her son, but the mother of one of the slain Israeli boys raged on behalf of the family of the Arab boy, and pleaded for compassion in the name of her faith.

“It is difficult for me to describe how distressed we are by the outrage committed in Jerusalem — the shedding of innocent blood in defiance of all morality, of the Torah, of the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in this country,” said Racheli Fraenkel, mother of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who was killed and his body thrown in a ditch along with his two companions.

The silence of the Arab mothers expressing outrage at the deaths of the Jewish boys is deafening.

Jews in America often memorialize a death by planting a tree in Israel in honor of a person who died. If the rockets unleashed by Hamas didn’t prevent them, Jews in Israel today would plant four trees, one each for Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach, — and Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.