The barbaric kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar sent shockwaves of horror across the world. For 18 long days, decent people around the globe joined with Israelis and Jews anxiously awaiting information about the teens' fate, hoping and praying for their safe and quick return. When it was revealed earlier this week that the three young men would not be coming home, there was an outpouring of grief and condolences. Sympathies to the families were issued from the White House, the Vatican, 10 Downing Street and other world capitals, while many held vigils and millions took to social media to express their grief and support during this difficult time. The UN Security Council also issued an unusually strong statement, introduced by the U.S., expressing condolences to the families and condemning the killings as a "heinous act."
Yet, sadly and perhaps unsurprisingly, there were also those who celebrated the kidnapping and glorified the murderer's actions. In the days following the kidnapping, social media was also abuzz with the "Three Fingers" campaign, with images depicting adults and children gleefully performing a three-finger salute in solidarity with the kidnappers' actions. A related, ugly social media campaign, "Three Shalits," a reference to the former Israeli solider Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped by Hamas and exchanged for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists, encouraged the public to share three-finger photos in support of a similar exchange of Palestinians for the kidnapped teens. In a practice all too familiar among Palestinians, some Gazans took to the streets to celebrate the kidnapping, expressing support for the kidnappers while handing out sweets to locals. Hamas officials, while denying Israel's accusations that they were behind the kidnapping, praised the abduction as a form of "resistance" against Israel, and, despite the recent unity deal with Fatah, denounced the Palestinian Authority for providing assistance in helping locate the teens.
And across the Palestinian territories, many asserted the kidnapping had been a ruse manufactured by the Mossad and IDF to justify Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, when Israel released the names of the two suspected kidnappers, the mother of one praised her son's actions saying "If he truly did it, I'll be proud of him until my final day." There were even reports that the Israeli ambulance carrying the dead teens' bodies was stoned by Palestinians as it transported their remains to a forensics center for identification.
The truth is the jubilation exhibited towards the kidnapping is not a new phenomenon. While the majority of Palestinians did not celebrate the teens' abduction or support the kidnappers, including Palestinian President Abbas who issued a public statement condemning the kidnapping, it is hard to ignore that a culture of hatred has long existed among elements within Palestinian society.
It is one that espouses pure hatred of Israelis, and often Jews, regardless of their actions, and is wholly uninterested in living at peace with its neighbors. This hatred is implanted at a young age, fermented in extremist-run Palestinian schools which preach intolerance and rejection of Israel, cultivated in Hamas' "summer camps" where young boys are trained in military-style combat, and brought to action through active support for and glorification of terrorism and martyrdom.
Some justify this animosity, saying it is a natural result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank. Others point to extremists within Israeli society, who promote hatred and even violence towards Muslims and Arabs.
Certainly, the conflict has a daily impact on the quality of Palestinian life, both physical and psychological, and, to be sure, there are extremists within Israeli society. Indeed, in the hours following the funerals of the three Israeli teens, extremist Jews staged protests and riots in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, where of "Death to the Arabs" could be heard.
There were also reports of anti-Arab "Price Tag" attacks in different parts of the country, as well as numerous social media postings containing hate-filled and vengeful messages about Arabs and Palestinians. And, as of this writing, there is the terrible news of an abduction and killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem, possibly a "revenge" act carried out by extremist Jews, which has been widely condemned by senior Israeli government officials and civil society leaders.
Unlike in Israel, where there is widespread rejection of anti-Arab incitement and violent activities by extremist Jews, a small group of individuals constantly monitored and pursued by Israeli law enforcement, the discontent within Palestinian society is fanned and incited into hatred by a widespread, unfettered support for violence against Jews and Israel.
While this culture of hate is limited to small segments of Palestinian society in the West Bank and much more generally in Gaza, its existence is routinely ignored by Palestinian leaders and others in the international community who fail to appreciate its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, even excuse it.
As world leaders issue calls for Israel to restrain itself in responding to this horrific tragedy, they must also recognize the nature of the enemy Israel is confronting, and actively pressure the Palestinians to counteract the glorification of brutal violence against innocent Israeli citizens. Israel has a right and obligation to defend its citizens against terrorism and extremism of all kinds, and should be held in that regard to the same standard as every other civilized nation.
Those in the international community who are truly concerned about ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot ignore or excuse the culture of hatred among Palestinians. Those supporting the new Hamas-Fatah unity government should hold its leaders, including Palestinian President Abbas and other senior Palestinian Authority officials, accountable for Palestinian entities promoting a culture of hatred in schools and summer camps, be they in Ramallah or Gaza.
Despite claims to the contrary, the murders of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad were not due to Israel's presence in the West Bank, the negligence of the Israeli police, or the actions of average Palestinians. These three young men were killed by hateful people who had no regard for humanity or the values of life treasured by most. Until the world truly understands this evil and acts to combat it, cultures of hate like those responsible for taking the lives of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad will sadly continue to flourish.