The heartbreaking murder of Rabbi Eitam Henkin and his wife, Naama, gunned down by Palestinian terrorists in front of their children, will generate tear-filled eulogies and anguished recitations of Psalms throughout the Jewish world. As they should.
But then what?
The depressingly familiar post-terrorist attack ritual is already unfolding before our eyes. The Obama administration issued a formalistic condemnation, adding its standard, amoral appeal: “We urge all sides to maintain calm.” (As if “all sides” are to blame for disrupting the “calm” in the first place.)
The news media will portray the murders as a response to something that some Israeli did or is suspected of doing or might have done, somewhere, at some point. And the United Nations will, of course, remain silent. Palestinian murders of Jews don’t interest anybody in that august building.
American Jews will watch all this in anguish and frustration. There will be some angry news releases, some heartfelt tears and more Psalms. As there should be. (It’s also a particularly personal cause for my own family, which has supported the Henkins’ work at the Torah-study institute Nishmat by endowing the Alisa Flatow Program for International Students in memory of my daughter, who was also a victim of Palestinian terrorism.)
What usually happens next, however, is that the news of the murders retreats from the headlines, the memories of the victims fade from public consciousness, and we all collectively turn the page and shift our attentions elsewhere.
But it shouldn’t be that way. There are concrete actions that American Jews can take in response to the Henkin murders:
First, urge President Barack Obama to put Fatah on the official terror list.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is the military division of Fatah, has publicly boasted that it committed the murders. Fatah is the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the parent body of the Palestinian Authority. (Mahmoud Abbas is chairman of all three: Fatah, the PLO and the P.A.) When the State Department first created its official list of “Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations” in 1997, it left Fatah off. It’s time to urge Obama to put it on the list.
Next, support the Meehan Bill for terror victims. The House of Representatives this month overwhelmingly approved legislation to take $43 billion from frozen Iranian assets and give it to American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism who were awarded that amount by U.S. courts. The Obama administration would like to just give the money to the Iranians. The bill now heads to the Senate. American Jewish organizations should be making it their top lobbying priority.
We can also advocate for action against killers of Americans.
Yes, this is a time for tears and prayers. But it must also be a time for action by American Jews. Let’s contact our Jewish leaders and our elected representatives and make it clear that the time for business as usual is over.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His family has established the Alisa Flatow Program for International Students at Nishmat and dedicated Nishmat’s building in Alisa’s memory.