The streets of Gaza were packed with thousands of joyous revelers on Thursday following the terrorist attack at a Jerusalem rabbinical seminary that killed eight people. In mosques throughout Gaza, according to news reports, many residents went to perform the prayers of thanksgiving. Armed men fired machine gun bursts into the air in celebration. Others passed out candies to random passersby on the streets.
This is not the first time that large numbers of Palestinians have celebrated bloodshed.
Recently, thousands of Gazans flooded the streets to celebrate the suicide bombing in early February in the Israeli town of Dimona. Video from the streets shows youths handing out sweets and flowers, as drivers honked their horns and cheered.
During Israel’s defensive war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, West Bank Palestinians responded with “glee” when the Lebanese terror group fired rockets into the Israeli city of Hadera, some 50 miles south of the Israel-Lebanon border. According to reports, local West Bank radio stations broadcast interviews with listeners who expressed their happiness.
Palestinians also cheered when Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke in January 2006. In Gaza City, there were reports of celebratory gunfire after the news was released. Some Palestinians openly stated that they were praying for Sharon’s death.
Of course, Palestinian glee over violent acts against Israel is not new. During the Palestinian war that began in September 2000, after Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades suicide bombings, flowers and sweets were commonly dispersed on the streets.
However, the images of the 2000 lynching of two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Ramallah were among the most disturbing. After killing the soldiers, one man appeared at a window and displayed his blood-red hands to a cheering crowd.
During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein lobbed 39 scud missiles at the Jewish state. Israelis fled to their bomb shelters, fearing that the missiles might have been equipped with chemical or biological weapons. Meanwhile, Palestinians danced and cheered from their rooftops.
Palestinian joy over violence against civilians is not only directed at Israel, either. CNN and MSNBC aired footage of Palestinians cheering the attacks of September 11, 2001. Children were distributing candy while people on the streets were clapping, chanting “God is great!”
The Palestinian Authority recognized the dangers of having the world see its people celebrating the worst terrorist assault in history. They warned journalists they would be in danger if they continued to use images of Arabs celebrating the attacks. Arafat also assembled a gaggle of journalists to capture images of him donating blood for the victims of the attack–although it was questioned whether his blood was actually drawn, let alone whether it would ever reach the U.S.
The Palestinian Authority also attempted to stop the images of the 2000 lynching from seeing the light of day. However, there have been many other celebrations, particularly those celebrating Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis, of which the Palestinians appear to be proud.
Two observations about this morbid trend are worth noting.
First, it must be noted there has never been a recorded celebration in the Israeli streets over a counterterrorism incursion into the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Israelis are typically saddened by the necessity of such operations. Meanwhile, the international community takes great pains to cast the Palestinians and Israelis as having equal responsibility in the ongoing bloodshed, but the culture of violence among the Palestinians goes largely unnoticed.
More broadly, the culture of violence among Palestinians–both in the West Bank and Gaza–calls into question whether the Palestinians are truly ready to create their own state. Until they are able to celebrate the creation of the Palestinian Authority in its current form, rather than the destruction of the state of Israel, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is only destined for more violence.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former U.S. Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly. He is author of Al-Qaeda’s Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.