American Jewish groups react to murders with shock, grief

Organizations express deep condolences to families of slain teens, blast Palestinian incitement, PA-Hamas unity government

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Israelis gather Monday night at the hitchhiking spot in the West Bank from where the three Jewish teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaar were abducted on June 12. The teens' bodies were found in a field north of Hebron on Monday evening. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Israelis gather Monday night at the hitchhiking spot in the West Bank from where the three Jewish teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaar were abducted on June 12. The teens' bodies were found in a field north of Hebron on Monday evening. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

American supporters of Israel who had mobilized to bring public attention to the plight of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers responded with heartbreak Monday to the discovery of their bodies near Hebron.

On Capitol Hill and in Jewish communities across the country, people searched for meaning and an appropriate response to the tragedy.

Michael Siegal, Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Board of Trustees, wrote that it was “simply unimaginable that anyone could commit such a heinous and despicable act such as this.”

“As Jews, as mothers and fathers, as sons and daughters, and simply as people, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad at this time,” Siegal added. “There is no reason – none – why a tragedy like this should have occurred. The Jewish Federations stand alongside our brothers and sisters across the world and in Israel in condemnation of this senseless murder, and we pray that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.”

The American Jewish Committee similarly said that it was “horrified” by the murder of the three teens.

“We share the anguish of the parents and families of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, and of the entire Israeli nation,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Cowardly terrorists chose three Jewish youths, innocently hitchhiking to return home for Shabbat, to seize and mercilessly kill.”

The organization noted in its official response that the kidnapping and murders took place shortly after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas established a unity government with Hamas and that since the kidnapping, more than 25 rockets have been fired into Israel.

“We can only hope that all people of goodwill will stand together in unambiguous, immediate condemnation of this murder, and give further thought to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas as one of its two pillars,” said Harris.

AIPAC also issued a statement saying that it “stands with the people of Israel at this moment of sorrow and loss.”

The organization asserted that “Americans and Israelis understand that terrorist barbarism cannot be tolerated.”

Like the AJC, AIPAC’s response references, albeit indirectly, the recently established Palestinian Authority unity government.

“We have once again witnessed that Hamas is an enemy of peace, reconciliation and fundamental human decency. For the sake of peace, all people of goodwill should distance themselves from this terrorist body,” AIPAC asserted.

“Israel is not alone at this terrible time of mourning. America and all civilized people share Israel’s loss and identify with her determination to defend her people,” the organization concluded. “Terror must be given no quarter.”

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs expressed its “profound sorrow and extended condolences” to the families of three teenagers.

“All of us today are mourning for Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “They were just boys. They had their futures inhumanely robbed from them. We are torn to pieces with sadness. Our grief is matched by a resolve to support the effort to find those whose are responsible and expeditiously bring them to justice.”

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly offered condolences to the three teens’ families but also made a point of thanking the “Israeli government and security forces for their unceasing efforts to locate the boys, as well as the various international officials, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.”

Schonfeld called upon President Abbas “to follow through on his condemnation of the kidnapping by doing everything within his power to ensure that such acts of terrorism do not happen again.”

The same governments, Schonfeld said, which spoke out against the kidnapping “must now help ensure that the perpetrators of this outrageous crime are brought to justice and that the physical security of Israeli citizens is assured in all considerations.”

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League extended condolences to the boys’ families, and asked to “affirm our solidarity with the State of Israel at this difficult time and to condemn all those who engage in and support terrorism.”

Foxman also emphasized that he reiterated support for Israel’s right to self-defense.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in a statement that “the hearts of our entire people are broken with the discovery of the murdered bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach.”

Saying that the sadness connected Jewish people worldwide, Jacobs added that “the callous slaughter of these three innocent teens sends shudders through the conscience of all feeling people,” and said that he hoped that the “boys’ unfinished lives be remembered for a blessing” and that “their memories inspire us as we pray, and work, for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Stand With Us, a pro-Israel activist organization, commented that “this sad news reminds us that terrorists continue to act with impunity under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It reminds us that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no place in any serious leadership or negotiating position.”

The organization criticized “hate education against Jews and Israelis” which it says “continues unabated in the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and many other Arab countries.”

“The result is bigotry, violence and murder. The institutionalized incitement against Jews and Israel permeates education, the media, mosques and other social institutions, directed and supported by the Palestinian leadership,” the statement continued. “This ‘education’ produced the stomach-turning images of some Palestinians celebrating the boys’ abduction. This “education” resulted in the murder of our thee innocent boys.”

While saying that its supporters would continue to keep the boys’ families in its thoughts and prayers, Stand With Us also called for international pressure to be placed on the Palestinian Authority “to stop the ongoing incitement to bigotry, hatred and violence.”

The organization said that “the Palestinian leadership, both Abbas and Hamas, must finally be held accountable for their actions.”

In a similar vein, the Zionist Organization of America condemned “this heinous crime committed by the Palestinian Arab terrorists,” adding at the same time that it is “ deeply critical of the fact that President Barack Obama did not condemn the kidnapping of the youths at any time during the 18-day ordeal, even though one of the youths, Naftali Frankel, was a dual American-Israeli citizen.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said went on in an official statement to call upon Abbas to “terminate his Fatah/PA unity regime with Hamas, especially in view of the PA’s statement earlier this month that it would do so if Hamas was involved in the kidnapping.

The ZOA called on Obama “to demand that Abbas terminate his unity regime with Hamas, failing which he will cut relations and aid to the PA. In particular, he should immediate announce the cancellation of nearly $500 million recently announced to the Hamas/Fatah regime.”

At the same time, the Israel Policy forum also mourned the deaths, releasing a statement saying that it “shares the sadness and outrage of every Israeli, and of Jews across the world, over the devastating news that three kidnapped yeshiva students have now been confirmed murdered by terrorists.”

“These young men could have been anyone’s sons, whose only mistake was trying to get home to their families, and they will not be forgotten,” the organization continued.

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