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Treating a Terrorist as a Hero

On March 11, 1978, a gang of seaborne Palestinian terrorists landed near a nature reserve on the coast north of Tel Aviv. There was only one person who had the misfortune to be on the beach that afternoon, a young American photographer named Gail Rubin. Gail, a native New Yorker who happened to be the niece of U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff’s sister-in-law, was taking pictures of birds.

The terrorists shot Gail dead. They didn’t ask her what she thought about settlements or borders. They didn’t ask if she agreed with this or that Israeli policy. They didn’t care if she was a moderate Jew or a militant Jew. She was a Jew. That’s all they needed to know. And for that reason, they murdered her. Then they hijacked a bus on the nearby Tel Aviv-Haifa coastal highway, ultimately causing the deaths of 37 other innocent civilians.

I was thinking about Gail during Vice President Joseph Biden’s recent visit to Israel. It occurred to me that since Biden’s visit happened to coincide with the anniversary of the 1978 attack, he might have taken a moment to visit the site of the massacre or at least say a few words about the murder of the relative of his late Senate colleague.

I guess I was being naive. The vice president ignored the anniversary.

But the Palestinian Authority didn’t ignore it.

The P.A. marked the March 1978 massacre by naming a public square near its capital city, Ramallah, after Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who commanded the terrorist squad. According to an official P.A. newspaper, the square will “commemorate her memory and her sacrifice as a Palestinian woman who resisted the occupation… A picture of the Martyr Dalal Mughrabi will be placed at the center of the square.”

Despite protests from Israel, the youth division of Fatah — the Palestinian faction headed by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas — held a ceremony on March 11 dedicating the square. A senior P.A. security official and a Fatah Central Committee member took part. While a larger planned dedication ceremony was canceled at the last minute for public relations reasons, the P.A. has made no secret of its embrace of Mughrabi and her murderous legacy.

Official P.A. television hailed the 1978 massacre as “a glorious chapter in the history of the Palestinian people” and praised Mughrabi as “a model of resistance, sacrifice, and Martyrdom-seeking, a model of giving and redemption of the homeland.” It also broadcast an interview with Mughrabi’s sister, who declared that “all the rifles must be pointed at the Zionist enemy, as Dalal willed it 30 years ago.”

Think about the message this sends to every Palestinian child who walks through Mughrabi Square, or who attends the computer center in Hebron, the Palestinian youth soccer tournament, the two summer camps or the two girls’ high schools that have also been named after Mughrabi. It teaches them that gunning down defenseless civilians is the proper way to behave, and that those who massacre Jews deserve to be honored and emulated. No wonder then-senator Hillary Rodham Clinton once referred to such Palestinian hate propaganda as “child abuse.”

Raising a generation of young Palestinians to glorify killers ensures that hatred and violence will persist. Not exactly what Israel expects from its Palestinian peace partners.

Why should Americans care about this?

Because we’re subsidizing the Palestinian Authority.

Congress approved $500 million in aid to the Palestinians for 2010. Granted, only some of the American aid to the Palestinians goes directly to the P.A., and the funds that are given to the P.A. are subject to restrictions. But money is fungible, and when we give funds to the P.A. for one project, it frees up funds for other purposes. And we know what the P.A. does with its money.

It gives payments to the families of terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel — including some terrorists involved in the murders of American citizens. (More than 100 Americans have been killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks in the past four decades — including my daughter, Alisa, who was murdered in Gaza in 1995.)

It uses some of our money to train, house and equip P.A. security forces. Some of the members of these “security forces” are terrorists (including killers of Americans) who were rewarded for their terrorism by being given jobs with the P.A.

And now P.A. money is being used to turn a public square in Ramallah into a shrine to a woman who is responsible for the murder of an American citizen.

It’s an outrage. And it took place right under the nose of our vice president.

Stephen M. Flatow is founder of the blog Terror Victims’ Voice.

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