On a Shabbat morning during services on Oct. 27, 2018, a malevolent Jew-hater entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and murdered 11 Jewish souls, as well as wounding six others.
Tried for murder and hate crimes, including aggravating factors, he was found guilty. On July 27, the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Av, the federal jury unanimously rendered a death sentence against the murderer.
In response to the verdict, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement, which said, in part: “All Americans deserve to live free from the fear of hate-fueled violence and the Justice Department will hold accountable those who perpetrate such acts.”
There are few more overt acts of absolutely evil and malevolent Jew-hatred than entering a synagogue and indiscriminately murdering people at prayer. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh massacre was not the first or last case of murderous Jew-hatred. There was the Chabad synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif., six months later on the last day of Passover, April 27, 2019, when one worshipper was murdered and the senior rabbi and three others wounded.
Other incidents include the attempted murder on Nov. 23, 2018 of two congregants exiting a synagogue in Los Angeles on a Friday night after Shabbat services; and the synagogue hostage crises in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 15, 2022, also Shabbat, though, fortunately, the hostages, including the rabbi, managed to escape unharmed.
Clearly identifiable Jewish venues have been targeted as well. Who can forget the murderous spree in a kosher grocery in Jersey City, N.J., killing four in the store and wounding others? There was the Chanukah party at the home of a Chassidic Rabbi in Monsey, N.Y., on Dec. 28, 2019, when several Jewish people were stabbed by a machete-wielding individual; one older man subsequently died from his wounds.
These egregious cases of Jew-hatred are not limited to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. However, there appears to be far greater outrage when the perpetrator is a white supremacist, as was the case in Pittsburgh and Poway, though not in LA, Colleyville or Jersey City.
The occurrence of these violent acts is also not geographically defined. On Aug. 14, 2022, a bus near the Western Wall plaza—carrying worshippers who had just prayed at the Kotel—was attacked by a murderous Palestinian Arab gunman who indiscriminately fired at the bus wounding many including five Americans.
This was not the first time Americans were shot in or near a sacred place of prayer in Jerusalem. On Nov. 18, 2014, two Palestinian Arab terrorists murdered five men with knives, axes and a gun—four of them dual American citizens—at a synagogue in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem. The fifth was an Israeli Druze policeman arriving to the scene to help; he was shot and killed, and seven others were wounded. Although many U.S. leaders condemned the attack, those words ring hollow when American financial support only increases for the Palestinian Authority, which financially rewards terrorists and their families for such attacks.
What is shocking is that the United States has both very powerful tools and a clear legal mandate under the Taylor Force Act and Koby Mandell Act to demand and assure that justice is done. Under these acts, funds can and should be withheld from the Palestinian Authority, which under its current “pay for slay” program financially rewards terrorists and their families. Yet the current administration appears blithely to continue aid while in effect mildly rebuking the offenders.
The callous disregard for the law is so egregious that a bipartisan group of 50 members of Congress (30 Democrat and 20 Republican), led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on July 18, stating:
For some Palestinians, terrorism literally pays. As you know, the Palestinian Authority has for decades provided financial compensation and other benefits to families of terrorists jailed in Israeli prisons and “martyrs” killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. These payments cost the P.A. more than $300 million annually, at 8% of its budget.
Referring to the Taylor Force Act, the letter went on to state:
In an effort to cut off “pay for slay” at the source, many of us helped pass this much-needed, bipartisan legislation that prohibits U.S. assistance to the West Bank directly benefiting the P.A. In January 2023, following an attack by a Palestinian terrorist that killed 7 in a Jerusalem synagogue, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the carnage by handing out sweets, blasting festive music from their cars, and lighting fireworks. Days earlier, Akram Rajoub, the mayor of Jenin, said that the “P.A. will not stop the transfer of funds. … President [Mahmoud] Abbas made it clear that the Palestinian Authority will not stop funding the families of our martyrs even if we are down to the last penny.”
The letter went on to note:
In late February, a Palestinian terrorist killed Columbia University graduate Elan Ganeles, a native of Connecticut. In early April, a Palestinian terrorist killed British-Israeli mother Lucy Dee and her two daughters in an ambush in the West Bank. Those behind these heinous acts are lauded by Palestinian society, and it is abundantly clear that these payments continue to reward and incentivize terror.
The continuation of funding the P.A. under these circumstances effectively condones and is tantamount to complicity with the heinous “pay for slay” program.
We must remember and take to heart the wise and immortal words of the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”
Curing the world of hatred requires ending Jew-hatred in all its mutating and malignant forms.
Actions speak louder than words. When the Trump administration curtailed aid to the P.A., the terrorist attacks substantially decreased. Ever since the Biden administration renewed and significantly increased such aid, terrorist attacks have escalated.
The Biden administration must enforce the Taylor Force Act and cease funding directly or indirectly the immoral P.A. “pay for slay” program. Let the verdict in Pittsburgh be a clarion call not to tolerate Jew-hatred, no matter who the offender may be, and to end it once and for all.