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JEFF JACOBY

Palestinian terrorism, American blood

THREE AMERICANS -- John Branchizio, Mark Parson, and John Martin Linde -- were murdered last Wednesday when terrorists in Gaza bombed the diplomatic convoy they were riding in. News accounts immediately described the attack as a first -- "an unprecedented deadly attack on a US target in the Palestinian territories," to quote the Associated Press. But Branchizio, Parson, and Linde were not the first Americans to be murdered by Palestinian terrorists. They were the 49th, 50th, and 51st in the past 10 years alone.

A few hours after their deaths, the White House condemned "the vicious act of terrorism" that killed them, extended "heartfelt condolences to the families," and promised "to bring the terrorists to justice." The families of the many previous US victims of Palestinian terror might reasonably wonder why there was no such presidential concern when their loved ones were massacred.

The president did not vow to see justice done, for example, when Dr. David Applebaum and his daughter Nava died, on the eve of what was to be Nava's wedding day, in the bombing of Jerusalem's Cafe Hillel last month. Or when Cleveland native Alan Beer was killed in a Palestinian bus bombing in June. Or when four Americans -- Marla Bennett of California, David Gritz of Massachusetts, Benjamin Blutstein of Pennsylvania, and Janis Coulter of New York -- lost their lives in the bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria last year. Or when Shoshana Greenbaum, a New Jersey tourist, was slaughtered in the horrific Sbarro pizzeria attack of August 2001. Or when, three months earlier, 14-year-old Kobe Mandell of Silver Spring, Md., was one of two boys stoned to death in the cave where Palestinian terrorists found them hiking. Or in April 1995, when Brandeis University student Alisa Flatow was murdered in a Gaza terror attack.

Americans have been dying at the hands of Palestinian terrorists for decades, yet the US government and media rarely if ever portray Yasser Arafat and his lieutenants as avowed enemies of the United States. The State Department does not demand the extradition of Palestinian killers of Americans, not even when the killers' identities and whereabouts are known. President Bush has never given the Palestinian Authority the same ultimatum he gave the Taliban in Afghanistan: Hand over the terrorists or be destroyed.

Instead he issues incoherent declarations like the one he made on Wednesday -- blasting the Palestinian Authority for refusing "to fight terror in all its forms," while assuring Americans that the United States is "working closely with the appropriate officials" -- i.e., the selfsame Palestinian Authority -- to find and prosecute those responsible. As if it isn't those very officials who have been aiding and abetting such butchery all along.

To hear Bush tell it, the deeper tragedy of terrorist acts like Wednesday's is that they are "an obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people's dream of statehood." What kind of state does Bush imagine would be created by the people who danced for joy on Sept. 11? How long is he going to keep up the pretense that terrorism represents a failure, rather than a core element, of Palestinian governance?

Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were quick to distance themselves from the murder of the three Americans. But violence against Americans is routinely celebrated by the PA. "During the war in Iraq," notes Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, "the PA actively endorsed the killing of Americans, and even produced a music video celebrating the deaths of US soldiers that was broadcast repeatedly on official PA TV." (An extensive compendium of anti-American hatred in the Palestinian media is posted at http://www.pmw.org.il/.)

For years, sermons preached in Palestinian mosques and aired on Palestinian radio and television have rhapsodized about inflicting pain on the United States. "Oh, Allah, destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews," proclaimed Sheik Ikrima Sabri, the Arafat-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, in one such sermon. "O God, destroy the Jews and their supporters . . . destroy the United States and its allies," implored Sheik Ibrahim al-Mudayris in another. And from a third, Sheik Ahmed Abu Halabiya: "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. . . . Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them."

A few months ago, Palestinian officials renamed the central square in Jenin after Ali Jafar al-Na'amani, the Iraqi suicide bomber who killed four US Marines at a checkpoint in Najaf on March 29. That is what Arafat and the Palestinian Authority think of spilled American blood.

There is only one rational response to the murder of Branchizio, Parson, and Linde last week: the destruction of the Palestinian Authority, a network of killers posing as a government. If that doesn't happen, this much is sure: the 49th, 50th, and 51st Americans to lose their lives to Palestinian terror will not be the last.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.

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