Politics & Policy

Terrorism’s Victims

A journalist documents what Islamist attacks have done to Israelis.

Giulio Meotti, who is neither an Israeli nor a Jew but a concerned and compassionate Italian journalist and author (his work has appeared in Il Foglio in Rome, the Wall Street Journal, and Commentary), has written A New Shoah, a necessary book on the “unsung dead of Israel.” As Uri Baruch, a French Jew born to Holocaust survivors who lost a daughter in a terrorist attack, said, “Just as for the victims of the Holocaust we say ‘every Jew has a name,’ so also the victims of terrorism today have names.”

In Meotti’s book, we see beyond the brutal statistics to the individuals, to the souls, to the names of terrorists’ victims. The numbers, of course, are gruesome enough: In the last 15 years, there have been more than 150 suicide attacks, and more than 500 have been prevented; 1,557 people have been killed and 17,000 injured.

The terrorists make no distinction between military and civilian targets, and, in fact, only 25 percent of the Israeli victims have been soldiers. The great majority of victims are poor. The victims could be the elderly, as in Rishon Lezion, where a group of senior citizens were killed while enjoying the cool air on the patio; or a mother and her two young children, as in Metzer; or teenage girls like Rachel Teller and Abigail Litle, who “loved humanity and nature” and worked enthusiastically on an Arab-Jewish project for peace, and Shiri Negari, who signed her e-mails “Voyager in the World.”

Meotti’s book — a result of four years of research — is the first devoted exclusively to Israel’s dead, whose “stories have been swallowed up in the amoral equivalence between Israelis and Palestinians.” Meotti refers to an excruciating scene in the film Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s masterpiece. When all the Jews from the Polish shtetl Grabow were gassed in December 1941, the Poles of the village took possession of the Jewish homes. Years later, a rural woman calmly told Lanzmann that she lived in a Jewish home. Meotti summarizes the conversation:

Lanzmann asks if she knew the owners. “Of course.” “What were their names?” Silence. She doesn’t remember. Even their name has been lost. This was the second death of the Jews of Grabow. We cannot leave the Israeli victims of terrorism to the same fate by forgetting their names. Making up for the heartbreaking obscurity of these innocent victims is one of the deepest and truest reasons for the State of Israel to exist. As Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of the Israel Defense Forces and the son of Holocaust survivors, explains, “In Israel there will never again be numbers instead of names; there will be no more ashes and smoke instead of a body and a soul.”

These are stories of Jews living ordinary lives in an extraordinary country: young and old, children and infants, men and women in the most ordinary of daily situations, coming from work or school, going to the cinema or shopping in a mall, riding on a bus, celebrating a wedding, drinking in a café, eating in a pizzeria, or dancing in a nightclub; their lives cut short, unnaturally.

In Rwanda, Hutu journalists were prosecuted and found guilty of using Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines and a biweekly magazine to incite the extermination of Tutsis. Palestinian journalists spread hatred of Jews in a similar fashion, but do so with impunity, using the Palestinian Authority’s TV station — with their televised sermons, cartoons, comic books, and schoolbooks, often describing Jews as “children of monkeys and pigs,” echoing passages in the Koran. For the anti-Semite, this demonization is a necessary process in the dehumanization of Jews, and comes before genocide. The poignant stories collected here are sometimes hard to bear, as so many of the victims were survivors of the Holocaust, or the children of survivors: For example, Holocaust survivor Linda Roznik, 92 years old, was buried under the rubble of her home; the same thing happened to Haya Fried, also a survivor.

As Meotti reminds us, peace will not come until Arabs and Muslims recognize the right of Israel to exist; until Islamic countries add the State of Israel to the maps used in schools; until anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda is eliminated; and until all terrorist groups are outlawed and suppressed.

In the meantime, we must be grateful to Giulio Meotti for his magisterial work, for rescuing from oblivion the names of ordinary and yet heroic men and women, an authentic hazkara, an act of remembrance.

— Ibn Warraq is a visiting fellow at the Center for Law and Counterterrorism, a project of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; an independent scholar; and the author of five books on Islam and Koranic criticism – Why I Am Not a Muslim; The Origins of the Koran; What the Koran Really SaysVirgins? What Virgins? And Other Essays; and Which Koran?

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