By Stephen M. Flatow
In various cultures, a particular month, day or time is associated with a certain annual activity. For example, here in the United States, November-every other year-is election time. In Israel, every May brings the solemnity of remembering fallen soldiers, followed immediately by celebrations of national independence. And if it’s March and you happen to live in Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled territory, then you know it’s time for publicly praising and honoring one of the most gruesome Palestinian massacres of Israelis and Americans in modern history.
That’s because March 9, 1978, was the day that a squad of 13 Palestinian terrorists, led by Dalal Mughrabi, landed in several small boats on Israel’s shore. They were members of Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). At the time, Yasser Arafat was chairman of the PLO and Fatah, and Mahmoud Abbas was his second in command. Today, Abbas is head of the PLO, Fatah, and the PA.
At the beachfront spot where the terrorists landed, Gail Rubin, a popular American Jewish nature photographer and niece of American Senator Abraham Ribicoff, was taking photos of rare birds. One of the terrorists, Hussain Fayadh, later told the Lebanese Television station Al-Manar what happened: “Sister Dalal al-Mughrabi had a conversation with the American journalist. Before killing her, Dalal asked: ‘How did you enter Palestine?’ [Rubin] answered: ‘They gave me a visa.’ Dalal said: ‘Did you get your visa from me, or from Israel? I have the right to this land. Why didn’t you come to me?’ Then Dalal opened fire on her.”
Mughrabi, Fayadh, and their comrades walked to the nearby Coastal Road and hijacked an Israeli bus. They murdered 36 passengers, 12 of them children. Mughrabi was killed by Israeli troops. Fayadh survived, was sentenced to life in jail, but then released in a prisoner exchange.
So how was that event remembered in PA territory this week? According to Palestinian Media Watch, the official Facebook page of Fatah-Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah-displayed a color poster glorifying Mughrabi as a heroine, and calling the massacre “a huge self-sacrificing operation in Herzliya, Tel Aviv-80 Israelis killed and over 100 wounded.” (They know the real number of victims, but they prefer to indulge their fantasy of the number they had been hoping for.)
Fatah also announced a public event celebrating the mass murder, to be held, of all places, across from Martyr Dalal Mughrabi Square in Ramallah.
That’s right, in Ramallah, the capital city of the PA-the same PA that receives $500 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars every year-there is a public square named after the terrorist who personally murdered the niece of a U.S. senator. There are also sports tournaments and summer camps named after Mughrabi. And the PA’s official television network frequently broadcasts programs depicting her as a hero and martyr, especially around the time of her birthday.
And just to poke his finger even deeper in America’s eye, Abbas in 2013 hired Mughrabi’s accomplice, Hussain Fayadh, as an adviser. So American aid, approved by the U.S. Senate, helps pay the salary of a terrorist who murdered a senator’s niece.
America has taken no steps to counter this outrageous PA behavior. Why is there no boycott by elected American officials of Ramallah? Why isn’t the equivalent of Hussein Fayadh’s salary being deducted from U.S. aid to the PA.
And why aren’t we in the American Jewish community speaking out, loudly and clearly, any time the PA honors the murderer of an American? We, and the international community, must not get used to the PA doing such things. It’s not acceptable and we can’t let it become the new normal.
Jews, too, have annual traditions. My family is no different. This month marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of my daughter Alisa and seven others in the 1995 Palestinian terror attack at Kfar Darom. But unlike the Palestinians celebrating their “martyrs,” we won’t be celebrating how Alisa and the others were murdered by Islamic Jihad-not by a long shot.
Instead, we will join mothers and fathers in Israel by quietly lighting a memorial candle in our kitchen. We will visit a lonely grave in the cemetery and go to synagogue to say the Kaddish-mistakenly thought of as a prayer for the dead-and exalt God’s name.
We will all remember the laughter of the good times of families together, the tears of joy and sadness as we bandaged their scraped knees and watched our children grow into upright human beings.
In my home, we will continue to work in Alisa’s name to help provide a Jewish education for as many students as we can, to advocate for the rights of terror victims to obtain justice against those responsible for so much evil in this world, and to see her memory kept alive in our growing family. And we’ll think of the residents of Neve Eliyahu as they spend a quiet evening in the Alisa Flatow Rose Garden, which was dedicated to Alisa not because of her death, but because of her life.
That’s our 20-year-old “normal.”
[The attack at Kfar Darom took place on April 9 and Alisa died on April 10, 1995, according to the Gregorian calendar. On the Jewish calendar, Alisa’s death took place on the 10th of Nissan, which this year coincides with March 30.]
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.