We all know that the Palestinian territories — or whatever expression you prefer — are divided in two: The extremists, Hamas, control the Gaza Strip; the moderates, Fatah, control the West Bank. But what do you say to moderates’ naming a square in a town outside Ramallah after a terrorist? A mass-murdering terrorist?
They have just named the square for Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who led a team committing atrocities in 1978. Their atrocities are summed up in the name “Coastal Road Massacre.” I will quote from a column about this matter:
On a Saturday in March 1978, the squad of Palestinian terrorists led by Mughrabi entered Israel by boat from Lebanon and made their way to the main road between Haifa and Tel Aviv. . . . By day’s end, they had murdered 38 innocent men, women and children.
The first person Mughrabi and her gang of terrorists encountered was Gale Rubin, an American photojournalist taking photos of birds near the beach. They killed her and continued on their deadly path.
They then hijacked a bus full of happy families returning from a Saturday excursion. On their way to Tel Aviv, the terrorists shot at passing cars and killed more innocent people.
The terrorists tied all the men’s hands to the bus seats. When Israeli security forces stopped the bus, the terrorists ran out while throwing hand grenades into the bus, setting it on fire. The men inside were burned alive.
And so on. If you can bear to read this column in full, go here. And can you bear this? It was written by three Israelis whose children were killed by a terrorist in 2003.
Question: How can you make peace with people who celebrate those who kill you? How? I am very patient with the Israelis: They are in a difficult position, to put it as mildly as possible.
I think of the Sbarro attack in 2001. Do you remember that one? A terrorist blew up a Sbarro’s restaurant in Jerusalem, killing 15. Okay, you say: Every society has its extremists, its murderers. But what do you do with this? At An-Najah University in Nablus, they created an exhibition celebrating this massacre. It was a diorama of sorts — a mock-up — showing the restaurant. The walls were drenched in blood, and body parts were strewn all over, along with pizza slices. Palestinian students — the best and brightest in that society — filed by reverently. It was like a religious rite.
How do you make peace with such people? Maybe you do. But can you grant it is hard?
When Israelis commit atrocities, Israeli authorities imprison them, and the society at large reviles them. When a Palestinian commits atrocities — the authorities may well name a square after her. And those authorities are not only Hamas: They are the “moderates” of Fatah, the moderates of the West Bank — the people you can do business with.
I say again, it is not easy, not easy at all.
I doubt we have any town squares in the United States named after Curtis LeMay. But it’s a big country, so you never know. I can almost imagine some small conservative town doing it just to stick their collective thumb in the eye of the liberal establishment. I’m even more confident we don’t have any town squares named after William Calley. Heck, we squirm over the memory of the Japanese-American internment, even though the internees suffered a mortality and morbidity rate not significantly greater than the population at large.
Apparently the Palestinians are less easily embarrassed than us. To borrow an observation from earlier in Nordlinger’s column.