On December 8, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl stabbed a 26-year-old Jewish woman who was pushing a stroller and walking her children to school. Can critical theory and institutional racism help you understand this? Can apartheid and social justice explain it without entangling us in delusional abstractions? Can the raging crime of a 14-year-old be blamed on systematic racism or Israel settlement's policy?
For a Western mind well-molded in modern liberal habits of thought, there is no way to understand this weird mystifying incident. Reporters will write entire essays about this, academics will write papers without a single mention of antisemitism—a word that easily cuts through the matter and explains it. Already, major Western media headlines ran the story as "Palestinian teen facing East Jerusalem eviction arrested after stabbing," directly blaming the stabbing of a Jewish mother by a Palestinian child on the Sheikh Jarrah conflict. But to do so is to miss the most profound feature of this kind of terrorism.
Child terror attacks reveal a simple faith in the villainy of Jews as Jews.
The most obvious characteristic of such terrorist attacks is that they are committed by children, and their childhood exposes the true essence of the matter: a simple faith in the villainy of Jews as Jews, a faith we have a name for—antisemitism. In antisemitic imagination, the difference between being an Israeli Defense Forces' guard and a mother pushing a stroller is a mere delusion. A Jew is a Jew, and evil nature is Jewish nature. Personal variations are mere formalities. This is what such acts of Palestinian childhood truly expose through the lies of the activists, the apologists and the experts who just wish to explain it all away. A child simply hasn't lived long enough to build grievances around policy or the abstractions of nationalism and resistance. And if this were happening elsewhere—and the identities of the perpetrators and victims were different—the international community would have been condemning the use of child soldiers.
A child hasn't lived long enough to build grievances around policy or ideological abstractions.
I don't hate that little girl. I was once exactly like her—a 14-year-old child who believes that Jews from babies to adults, old and young, are nothing but absolute evil. I'm outraged though. I'm outraged at everyone who for decades has been ignoring this tragic reality of the prevalence of antisemitism as a religious and existential worldview in the Middle East. Not just ignoring, but often deliberately obfuscating this fact and working really hard to prevent people from seeing it.
My journey to try to help people see this and to try to fix it has led me everywhere—to American political institutions, academic institutions, media institutions. I talked to politicians, professors, analysts, experts, etc. "They don't really believe this." They would just dismiss it all with a smirk. "It's all rhetoric and ideological fluff ... antisemitism doesn't determine the outcome." I was told by many of the card-carrying members of the American liberal elites who insist that marching down the streets of Tehran shouting "Death to America. Death to Israel" is all just performative social gatherings. That Palestinians calling for "slaughtering the Jews" is merely expressive of injustice.
Go tell that to that poor Jewish woman and her children!
We at EMET have been working hard to support H.R.4721‒UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act, a bill that seeks to instrumentalize U.S. financial leverage over the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to force it to remove antisemitic content from the textbooks it is using and to stop indoctrinating children in its schools. We have daily meetings on Capitol Hill trying to bring the issue to their attention. The resistance we get from some offices is bewildering. One senator's chief of staff told us after we showed them footage of Hamas recruiting children for military drills: "But Americans do this to their children, too." How removed from reality must one be to think like this?
This same disagreement - claim and counterclaim - becomes even far more consequential and problematic when it's about the Islamic Republic of Iran and whether Iranian leaders actually believe it's their Islamic mission to destroy Israel. ...
Hussein Aboubakr Mansour is director of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) Program for Emerging Democratic Voices from the Middle East and a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum.