At last Friday’s State Department press briefing, spokesman John Kirby was asked about the murder of Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Sharon, Mass., slain in Israel a day earlier by a Palestinian gunman who opened fire on the van in which he and several other students were riding.
"I don't have anything additional to say," Kirby began, noting vaguely that "obviously, the Secretary [John Kerry] was deeply saddened to hear of the death and we're obviously concerned by it." AP reporter Matthew Lee pressed for clarification.
"You do think that he was killed in what was a terrorist attack, right?"
Kirby shuffled through his briefing papers and said he wasn't able "to characterize the circumstances."
Lee persisted: "But you don't think it might have happened in some kind of a robbery gone bad or something, do you?"
Just then the spokesman, with relief, found what he was looking for — a prepared statement formally acknowledging that, yes, Schwartz was "murdered in a terrorist attack." Kirby expressed condolences to the young man's family and said the government was "concerned about the five other American citizens" wounded in the same bloodbath.
Lee: "This seems like an awful lot of Americans to be killed or injured."
Kirby: "Well, it's obviously disconcerting. . . . If you're asking me if I could draw a line of causation here, or intent or motive, I can't."
So: Twenty-four hours after an American teen is gunned down during a wave of Palestinian terror attacks, State's mouthpiece can't bring himself to call it "terrorism" until he locates a piece of paper authorizing use of the T-word. As for all those other wounded Americans, the best he can manage is "disconcerting." And the possibility that Palestinian terrorists might have an "intent or motive" to target Americans? No comment.
What Kirby should have said is that Schwartz is far from the first US citizen to die in a Palestinian attack. His murder came just a month after that of another Massachusetts native — retired elementary school principal Richard Lakin, who was fatally stabbed on a bus in Jerusalem. He in turn was killed days after Eitam Henkin, a noted Torah scholar, was slain together with his wife when a Palestinian terror squad shot them at point-blank range in front of their children.
Americans have been losing their lives to Palestinian terrorism for years. Koby Mandell, who was born and attended grade school in Maryland, was only 13 when he and a friend were stoned to death while hiking in the Judean hills. Former US Navy Seal John Branchizio was one of three American security contractors blown up in Gaza when Palestinian bombers attacked the diplomatic convoy they were guarding. Gail Rubin, a 39-year-old photographer, was taking pictures of birds on an Israeli beach when she was slaughtered by the notorious Arab terrorist Dalal Mughrabi.
At least 138 US citizens have been killed by terrorists loyal to the PLO, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad or incited to murder by Palestinian Authority propaganda. That incitement is not only rabidly anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. It is also anti-American.
"We are waging a fierce and cruel battle . . . against the leader of world imperialism," raged Jamal Muhaisen, a member of the Fatah Central committee in a televised ceremony in January. "The enemy of the nations [is] the United States of America."
The same savage message comes from Ahmad Bahr, deputy speaker of the Hamas parliament in Gaza. "O Allah, destroy the Americans and their supporters. O Allah, count them one by one and kill them all, without leaving a single one."
Palestinian factions may feud, but they are as one in celebrating the death of US citizens. After a horrific 2006 suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv restaurant, terrorist plotter Abu Nasser rejoiced that a Florida boy, 16-year-old Daniel Wultz, was among the victims. "This is a gift from Allah," he exulted. "American and Zionist — this is the best target combination we can dream of."
Americans sometimes wonder what Palestinians have done with the $5 billion in US foreign aid they have received since the 1990s. Washington's largesse has achieved not peace, but unrelenting hostility. "We are fighting the Americans and hate them more than [Al Qaeda]," declared a top Fatah official in 2010. That hatred has sent scores of innocents to early graves. Ezra Schwartz, a spirited and much-loved American, was only the latest.
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.