Israel was furious on Sunday after 110 out of 120 of Jordanian parliamentarians signed a petition demanding the release of a Jordanian soldier who in 1997 killed and wounded 13 Israeli schoolgirls.
The soldier, Corporal Ahmed Daqamseh, carried out his brutal attack on what is known as the "Peace Island," a small outcrop in the Jordan River that was set up to mark the peace treaty between Israel and neighboring Jordan. Prior to the attack Israeli school children regularly took field trips to the site, which is just inside Jordanian territory.
Daqamseh unloaded two magazines of bullets into the group of 80 Israeli children, killing seven and wounding another six before finally being overpowered by fellow Jordanian soldiers.
Years later, Daqamseh told Jordanian media that he was proud of what he had done. His lawyer at the time was Hussein Mjali, who today is Jordan's Justice Minister. A couple of years ago, Mjali described his former client as "a hero" for having murdered little girls in cold blood.
Mjali went on to echo one of the gross misconceptions that Arabs have of their Jewish neighbors thanks to a propaganda-based education. "If a Jew murdered Arabs, they [the Israelis] would build him a statue," the minister declared. Of course, anyone even a little bit familiar with Israel knows that is false. The perpetrators of the rare Jewish terrorist attacks against Arabs are reviled by Israeli society.
The ongoing saga surrounding Daqamseh is instructive for those wondering why it is so difficult to reach a genuine and long-lasting peace in the region.
Jordan is arguably Israel's most friendly neighbor, and one of the most moderate of Arab nations. And still, an overwhelming majority of its lawmakers can still feel pride in a soldier who mercilessly butchered Jewish children. Without question, there are those in Jordan who do truly wish to live in peace with Israel. Following the Daqamseh's attack, Jordan's late King Hussein bravely traveled to Israel to personally apologize and convey his condolences to the grieving families.
The problem is that while certain Arab figures might want peace with Israel, they and the governments they are part of are failing to educate the rest of the population to see things similarly.
Israel can make peace with leaders like King Hussein and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas all day long. But if the people they represent continue to carry a violent hatred for Israel's Jews, there can be no true peace.
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