So what was [Baruch] Goldstein [the man who killed over 40 Muslims in a mosque in Israel two weeks ago]? Was he a hero, a murderer, a militant, or a terrorist? It seems that there is no consensus, especially not among the Israeli settlers and Jewish religious leaders."
These words, written by the Harvard Islamic Society in a March 4 editorial published in The Crimson, raise doubt about the feelings of Israelis and world Jewry towards the despicable murders committed by Goldstein in Hebron.
Many national media sources have fueled this doubt by focusing on the reactions of a few vocal extremists.
Even a cursory look at the facts, however, makes it clear that the unequivocal and virtually unanimous response of the world Jewish community is one of revulsion, disgust, condemnation and shame.
The attitude of the Israeli government, for one, is indicative of this. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin condemned the "loathsome criminal act of murder" in an address to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on Feb. 28.
"[The murderer grew in a swamp whose murderer sources are found here and across the sea; they are foreign to Judaism," he said. "To him and to those like him we say: You are not part of the community of Israel..You are an errant weed...Judaism spits you out...You are a shame to Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism." His caustic words could hardly have been stronger.
Rabin is the head of a left-of-center political party and cannot claim to speak personally for every Israeli. But the prime minister's statement was followed shortly by a condemnation signed by all members of the Knesset.
Rabin's parliament, which has never before unanimously agreed on the text of a resolution, is composed of parties ranging from the left-wing Meretz, which supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, to the far-right Moledet, whose platform of Palestinians from the West Bank.
The condemnation does not express one political view; it is a virtually unanimous statement by all of the people of Israel.
Most religious West Bank settlers are represented by the National Religious Party, Tzomet and Moledet, all of whom voted in favor of the resolution. Even among the often-demonized West Bank settlers, Baruch Goldstein and his ilk are a fringe, extremist group.
Nor is there any justification for Goldstein's action in all of Jewish tradition. Judaism stresses the sanctity of life; as a Talmudic maxim states, "He who always destroy a life, it as if he has destroyed a world."
The statements of one rabbi, "One million Arabs are not worth one Jewish fingernail," and others like him, represent a twisted, vile perversion that bears no resemblance to legitimate Judaism.
Yasir Arafat and other Palestinian leaders have denounced the statements of the Israeli government and the Chief Rabbis as empty rhetoric, and have called for the complete disarmament of all West Bank settlers. It is clear that some settlers cannot be trusted with weapons and must be disarmed to prevent another killing. But the Hebron massacre is without precedent.
Although there have been isolated instances of settler-on-Palestinian violence, these have been few and far between, and their numbers are dwarfed by the number of Palestinian attacks no settlers and Israelis.
Action must be taken; but it is not as if this sort of thing has occurred regularly with no response from the government.