One of the most shocking aspects of the murderous attack on a Jerusalem synagogue this morning by men with guns and axes is not the attack itself—we've seen, from time to time, this sort of sectarian barbarism take place in places like Jerusalem, and Hebron. The most shocking aspect is the wholesale endorsement of this slaughter by Hamas, a group that, during this summer's war in Gaza, half-succeeded in convincing the world that it wasn't what it actually is: a group with actual genocidal intentions.
According to witnesses, the two attackers entered the synagogue, in the Har Nof neighborhood, and began killing worshipers with pistols and axes. (Both assailants were killed by police, but not before they murdered four worshipers and injured at least six others, including two police officers.)
“To see Jews wearing tefillin [phylacteries] and wrapped in the tallit [prayer shawls] lying in pools of blood, I wondered if I was imagining scenes from the Holocaust,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who leads an emergency-response team, according to The New York Times. "It was a massacre of Jews at prayer.”
This is how a Hamas spokesman reacted to the massacre of Jews at prayer: "The new operation is heroic and a natural reaction to Zionist criminality against our people and our holy places. We have the full right to revenge for the blood of our martyrs in all possible means."
Twenty years ago, shortly after the Jewish fanatic Baruch Goldstein massacred Muslims at prayer in Hebron, the then-prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, said of the killer, "You are not part of the community of Israel. ... You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out."
Hamas's endorsement of the massacre of Jews at prayer in their holy city confirms—as if we needed confirming—that its goal is the eradication of Israel and its Jews. We should pray for the day when the leaders of Gaza react to this sort of massacre in the manner of Yitzhak Rabin.
The Palestinian Authority leader, the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the attack, but it is also fair to say that he helped create the atmosphere in which attacks like this one become more likely. As the Times reports, the attackers "were described as being motivated by what they saw as threats to the revered plateau [the Temple Mount] that contains Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly asserted that he will not alter the status quo at the site, where non-Muslims can visit but not openly pray, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has called on his people to protect the area and has warned of a 'holy war' if it is 'contaminated' by Jews."
The Temple Mount, of course, is the holiest place in Judaism. Abbas's belief that the presence of Jews "contaminates" the Mount speaks to his own smallness, and to his susceptibility to Muslim supremacist ideology. The status quo should absolutely be preserved, for the sake of peace, and those Israeli politicians currently calling for a change in the status quo should put away their gasoline cans. But the events of the past couple of weeks in Jerusalem suggest that a core issue of the conflict remains the unwillingness of many Palestinian Muslims to accept the idea that Jews have rights in their ancestral homeland. And in the case of Hamas and like-minded groups, that Jews have a right to live.