The despair behind Palestinian silence

Amira Hass writes: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the synagogue attack. His condemnation was honest and genuine, for both moral and pragmatic reasons. In besieged, destroyed Gaza, spokesmen for several Palestinian organizations congratulated the martyrs and voiced support and understanding for their deed. But among the broader public, the main reaction was silence.

When PLO and Fatah representatives are making the rounds of European capitals to encourage votes in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state, most people understand that such an attack could undermine the Palestinian cause, if only for a few weeks. Killing Jewish worshippers in a synagogue looks bad when Palestinian human rights groups are pushing Abbas to join the International Criminal Court so Israeli officials can be indicted for war crimes and violating international law.

Palestinians believe that all means, including armed struggle, are legitimate to fight the occupation. But in private conversations, even those who support killing Israelis seem embarrassed by an attack on civilians at prayer.

So why are those who oppose murdering civilians at prayer keeping silent now? Because they share the despair and anger that pushed the Abu Jamals to attack Jews in a synagogue. Like the Abu Jamals, they feel themselves under assault: The Israeli nation is constantly attacking them with all the tools at its disposal.

The Har Nof neighborhood, where the attack took place, is built on the lands of the former Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. Those who are keeping silent now see the murder as a response to an Israeli policy toward the Palestinians that has been one long chain of attacks, dispossessions and expulsions since 1948.

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