No, Obama is not culpable for the Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Our “picks” section today featurs an article by Jeff Dunetz claiming that President helped incite Tuesday’s deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. It’s a provacative piece worthy of your attention.

I disagree, however, with the view that Obama helped incite the attack or is otherwise culpable for it.

Obama has not, of course, advcoated that Palestinians attack Israeli Jews. Moreover, Obama hasn’t said anything that rationally justifies attacks.

Dunetz focuses on Obama’s view that Israel should not build apartments for Jews in Jerusalem and that Jews should not purchase homes there. The position, offensive though it is, does not justify murder. One should be able to advocate this view without being accused of inciting violence if zealots who believe the same thing kill Jews.

Is there any causal relationship at all between Obama’s statements and the Jerusalem killings? I very much doubt it. Dunetz posits that Obama’s views “nourish” Palestinian hatred of Jews. But that deep hatred is surely independent of anything an American president says. There is no reason to believe the Palestinian people are taking cues from Obama, who apparently is not terribly popular among them, about how to behave towards Israeli Jews.

Palestinians have been killing Israeli Jews since Obama was an obscure community organizer. Indeed, they have been doing so since before Obama was born. To blame Obama is to vastly underestimate Palestinian hatred of Jews.

Blaming issue advocates for violence committed by others who may share their substantive views is a familiar move. In 2011, some on the left tried to blame Sarah Palin and other conservatives for the Tuscon shootings. The argument was specious, and not just because there turned out to be little affinity between the shooter’s world view and Palin’s.

In Israel, the anti-Oslo right was blamed by some for the killing of Yitzhak Rabin. This too was a specious attempt to obtain an undeserved debate advantage.

There is such a thing as inciting violence without directly advocating it. Dunetz makes a good case that President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have done so.

But his case against Obama is unpersuaive, in my view. Obama has many things to answer for in the Middle East, especially in Israel. But the Jerusalem synagogue attack is not among them.


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