We're about two weeks into a period of intense Palestinian attacks against Israelis. Just today three Israelis have been murdered. The names haven't been published yet, but they were all killed in civillian contexts: taking a bus, walking down the street. Yesterday the victims included a 13-year-old riding his bike near his home. He was stabbed by two cousins, one of whom was 13 years old himself.
Palestinain society sends itself into spasms of bloody and murderous irrationality from time to time; at the moment the present case doesn't seem the worst of them. Yet what's striking about this time is the age of the culprits. If in the second Intifada there were hundreds of suicide muderers and would-be-murderers, most of them were young adults, and they mostly had some sort of organization behind them. Someone had to give them an explosive belt and drive them to their target inside Israel. This time many of the attackers are teenagers, some even young teenagers; and since they're using kitchen knives, all they need is access to their mothers' kitchens.
The pundits will pontificate on their motivations. Israel's critics will say it's all about the occupation. Israel's enemeis will say it's about Israeli brutality and general evil. The historians wil probably not have unravelled it many decades from now, and they, like the pundits, will find comfortable pat explanations.
The part that impresses me is the public atmosphere forming the minds of Palestinian teenagers. In order for significant numbers of them to be willing to be killed for the chance to stab an Israeli, they must be steeped in hatred to a degree most Western pundits can't even recognize. Many westerners don't even accept the reality, let alone the legitimacy, of the concept "enemy". These young Palestinians seem unable to accept the reality, let alone the legitimacy, of their common humanity with Israelis. For this, blame their parents and grandparents and society at large.
Spend decades telling yourself, your children and your grandchildren that Jews have no legitimate reason to be here, and that now they're here they spend their days cooking up nasty ideas about how to be cruel to Palestinians and destructive towards Islam, and eventually this is the result you'll end up with.
Thought experiment. Imagine you're a typical teenager. (Most of us were, once upon a time). If you don't know Arabic, spend a solid month reading only Mondoweiss commentaries and its comments section. Don't expose yourself to any other source of information. At the end of the month, see how you feel about Israel and Jews. (They're by and large interchangeable even at Mondoweiss). Now, once you're well-disposed to feel negative, imagine it hasn't been a month, it's been every day since your birth, and the birth of your grandparents. The echo chamber isn't limited to a website, it's your entire world. And you yourself either know people who've been harmed by Israelis, who are always and exclusively motivated by the urge to harm Palestinians, or at the very least you know people who know of them. And you've been trained never to ask what the Israelis were responding to, because Israelis don't respond. They always initiate persecution of Palestinians.
And now, imagine that recently your whole world has been telling that the Jews are about to destroy the most sacred spot there is, and they've upped their malice and are shooting people on your side because that's the way they are.
End of experiment.
Update: Avi Issacharoff, one of the few journalists who really knows what he's talking about and also has something interesting to say, thinks the current violence is mostly the result of incitement about the Temple Mount. The Palestinian leadership and media have been convincing themselves Israel is about to harm the mosques, and their followers are convinced they must defend it. Assuming he's right, or even if he's only partially right, it begs the question How stabbing Israeli civilians might possibly be a way to defend Al-Aksa Mosque. More significant, to my mind, it's a perfect example of irrational hatred. Israel isn't about to harm the mosques. Simply: Not. No question about it. Which means that a pile of Palestinian public figures and their followers are lying to themselves and each other, convincing themselves and each other, and then setting off to to kill Jews because of the lie.
Which has of course always been standard antisemitic behavior, centuries before Israel began building settlements. Centuries before there even was an Israel, for that matter.