After Taylor Force’s death, Hillel reaffirms committment to Israel trips; Jewish leaders call on Palestinians to take action against violence

Security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack that killed one person and injured nine others at the Jaffa Port on March 8, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Security forces at the scene of a stabbing attack that killed one person and injured nine others at the Jaffa Port on March 8, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)


WASHINGTON — American Jewish organizations condemned the wave of terror attacks across Israel on Tuesday that left a 29-year-old American graduate student dead and at least a dozen others wounded.

Hillel International stressed that it would continue to “afford students” the opportunity to visit Israel despite Taylor Force’s killing.

Hillel International President and CEO, Eric Fingerhut released a statement Monday evening in which he noted that “the ongoing violence in Israel touches each of us, but the loss of an American student is a particularly painful reminder of the precarious situation.”

Offering his condolences to Force’s family, friends, and community at Vanderbilt University, Fingerhut added that “Israel should be a place where all students can study and travel safely and free from fear.”

“In the wake of this act of terrorism, as we continue to afford students the opportunity to experience this nation’s unique and rich culture, we must also recommit ourselves to the unfinished work of building a peaceful and secure Israel,” he concluded.

Force was killed in the third of three terror attacks targeting civilians in Jerusalem, Petah Tikva and Jaffa-Tel Aviv. A knife-wielding terrorist rampaged through the streets of Jaffa and adjacent south Tel Aviv, stabbing a number of victims in his path before being shot to death by police.

US State Department Spokesman John Kirby issued a statement saying the United States “condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s outrageous terrorist attacks in Jaffa, Petah Tikvah, and Jerusalem, which tragically claimed the life of US citizen Taylor Allen Force and left many others severely injured.”

Offering condolences to Force’s family, Kirby reiterated that “as we have said many times, there is absolutely no justification for terrorism.”

Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force was killed Tuesday March 9, 2016 in a terror attack in Jaffa. (Facebook)
Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force was killed Tuesday March 9, 2016 in a terror attack in Jaffa. (Facebook)

Without explicitly calling on Palestinian leaders to cease or condemn incitement, Kirby said that the US continues “to encourage all parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and restore calm.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein also expressed their condolences to Force’s family, and condemned the attacks.

In their statement, the two called on the international community and particularly the Palestinian Authority itself “to take action to end these outrages by holding to account those engaging in incitement or who otherwise encourage or aid these attacks.”

“There can be no comprise or excuses for terrorism,” the two emphasized, after some in Israel suggested that the attacks were due to Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel. The vice president was in another part of Jaffa when the attack occurred.

“Terrorists don’t need an excuse,” the two added. “These barbaric knife and other attacks are particularly vicious and indiscriminate. We support the government of Israel’s efforts to take whatever measures are necessary to stop these outrages and stand in solidarity with the people of Israel.”

The Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative and Masorti rabbis, also called on world leaders – and especially Palestinian leaders – to “condemn these abhorrent attacks and stand together in the fight against terrorism.”

Invoking the words of the prophet Isaiah, the rabbinical organization admonished that “we must not sit idly by while Israel is facing such senseless violence,” declaring that its members “stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as she seeks security and peace, and with the efforts to combat these sort of horrific attacks.”

The Rabbinical Assembly was one of a number of organizations to participate in a special Sabbath of prayer for a cessation of violence when the current wave of terror attacks began last autumn.

Jewish Federations of North America also condemned Monday’s events, with Jewish Federations of North America board chairman Richard Sandler describing the organization as “both heartbroken
and deeply troubled by the latest wave of terror in Israel today.”

Like the Conference of Presidents leaders, Sandler stressed that “there is no possible justification for the shedding of innocent blood, and we continue to stand in solidarity with the people of the State of Israel who continue to live under the constant threat of terror.”

The incident was also condemned by Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“There is and can never be any justification for terror,” he said in a statement. “It is deplorable that some choose to glorify such acts that undermine the future of both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Mladenov added that “political, religious and community leaders on all sides must live up to their responsibility to stand firmly against violence and incitement.”

He called on leaders to “urgently take the necessary steps to rebuild hope and show that a political horizon for a negotiated two-state solution is still possible.

The dovish J Street, an enthusiastic proponent of the two-state solution also issued a condemnation of the terror attacks Tuesday.

“J Street strongly condemns today’s alarming spate of terror attacks on civilians throughout Israel,” the organization posted on its blog.

“These attacks are the latest horrible chapter in the terrible violence that has plagued Israel and the West Bank for months. We feel for those who have to live in fear that they or someone they love may be the victim of random violence at any moment,” the organization wrote. “No amount of legitimate frustration or despair can ever justify acts of terror and violence. These attacks against Israelis only deepen the conflict and create new tragedies. They cannot be justified and must not be excused.”

As reported by The Times of Israel