This week, personal tragedy trumped the more spectacular issues of war and peace in the Middle East. The bodies of three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gila Shaar, were found under a pile of rocks near the ancient biblical town of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. They had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. Shortly after their funeral, in which all of Israel mourned, the body of Muhammad Abu Khdeir a 16-year-old Palestinian, was found near Jerusalem. He, too, had been brutally murdered. The Arab West Bank erupted in anger, the young Palestinian becoming a symbol of nationalist outrage, proving once again that in the long Israeli-Palestinian struggle, there is no present or future, only the past played over and over again.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said there is no such thing as political murder, there is only murder. She said that against the backdrop of Irish terrorism, which for 30 years had turned Northern Ireland into a living nightmare. Morally, of course, her point was irrefutable. But in a world of fanatical religious and political beliefs, moral and political points are often seen as one and the same, the one justifying the other. So it is often between Arabs and Jews. Outrage in Israel over the loss of three of its sons was matched by outrage in the Palestinian territories over the loss of one of theirs. Poignantly, the calmest voices were the ones of those most deeply affected, the families of the four victims. “I am against kidnapping and killing,” said Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the murdered Palestinian. “Whether Jew or Arab, who can accept the kidnapping and killing of his son or daughter?”