Israelis are now transitioning from their annual day of remembrance to the day they celebrate their independence. But even in celebrating 65 years of statehood, Israel never forgets the sacrifices it has made over the course of its existence.
As Israelis mourn the 25,000 soldiers -- young men and women -- who have been killed in the course of defending the Jewish state against aggression and terrorism, Jordanian leaders (not including the King, at least thus far) are making a hero out of a Jordanian soldier who murdered seven Israeli school girls and wounded six others during a peace program in 1997. Ahmed Daqamseh, who expressed pride in his mass murder, was convicted of these crimes but spared the death penalty, despite the fact that Jordan executes large numbers of criminals for relatively trivial offenses.
Now after serving approximately two years for each of the murders, he is seeking his release and he has the support of a large majority of Jordanian parliamentarians, who regard him as a hero. The very word "hero" was used by the Jordanian Justice Minister in joining the chorus calling for his release.
Daqamseh's mother has said, "I am proud of my son and I hold my head high. My son did a heroic deed and has pleased Allah and his own conscience. My son lifts my head and the head of the entire Arab and Islamic nation. I am proud of any Muslim who does what Ahmed did."
Daqamseh himself has said, "I have no regrets." He continued, "The only thing I am angry about is the gun, which did not work properly. Otherwise, I would have killed all of the [children]." He also said he would do it again if given the opportunity.
The 13 school girls who were shot by the Jordanian soldier were on a peace mission at a place ironically called The Island of Peace. It is the man who shot these 13 school girls, wishes he had killed more, and promises to do it again, who is being called a hero by Jordanian public officials. The silence of King Abdullah speaks loudly about the widespread popular support that exists for this mass murderer of Jewish children.
In justifying his support for Daqamseh's release, the Justice Minister said, "If a Jew murdered Arabs, [the Israelis] build him a statue." In fact precisely the opposite is true. When a Jewish extremists (not a soldier) murdered Arabs at prayer, the Israeli government not only did not build him a statue, it forbade any statue from being built by private sources and has demonized the killer (who was himself killed), as a mass murderer deserving of no lionization.
Another indication of the widespread support is that 110 out of the 120 members of the lower house of Jordan's parliament have called him a hero and demanded his release. They are seeking "freedom for the soldier hero" and saying "we are all Ahmed Daqamseh." Leading this despicable effort to free a mass murderer is Ali Sneid, a man who claims to be of the left.
The effort to release Daqamseh has taken on elements of Islamic antisemitism by calling the continued imprisonment of this murderer "protection for the herds of the brothers of apes and pigs" and calling the victims of this mass murder by other anti-Semitic terms.
Nor is this hatred of Jews and the Jewish state by Jordanians limited to this particular case, despicable as that would be. Among grass root Jordanians, particularly those of Palestinian background, there is widespread hatred of all things Jewish, Israeli and even American. Islamic extremism is rampant in parts of Jordan, though suppressed by its King and his dictatorial minions. Jordan is ripe for yet another Arab Spring turned winter. All that stands between the current monarchy and an Islamic upheaval is massive American financial and military support for its charming King. King Abdullah presents a far more beneficent face of despotism than did any of the other Arab despots who were toppled, or in the process of being toppled, by the Arab Spring turned Islamic extremist winter. How long this situation will last is anyone's guess. But the possibility that before long Israel may have a neighbor to the east who is not as peaceful as the current Jordanian government, must be seriously considered.
If Daqamseh is released and treated as a hero, that unconscionable decision will tell us much about the direction of the Jordanian street. So next time you see the smiling face of King Abdullah on television speaking about peace, remember that many of his subjects regard the cold-blooded mass murderer of Jewish children as an Islamic hero.