A 19-year-old young Israeli woman, Ori Ansbacher, was brutally raped and killed in the Jerusalem Forest on Feb. 7. Her body was found naked with stab wounds to her chest.
A Palestinian man Arafat Irfaiya, 29, was arrested on Feb. 9. Israel’s Shin Bet said that Irfaiya re-enacted the murder in front of investigators and “implicated himself definitively in the incident.” The Shin Bet also stated that the murder was a nationalistically-motivated terror attack. According to reports Irfaiya is affiliated with Hamas, has a criminal history, and has previously told Israeli authorities that he aspired to become a “martyr” or be incarcerated in an Israeli prison.
The murder has sent shockwaves around Israel, but sadly not around the world. There appears to be little coverage of this sickening crime in the international press.
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations Danny Danon on Feb. 8 called for the United Nations Security Council to condemn Ori’s brutal murder, while accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) of fostering a “culture of terror” that led to the terrorist act. Ambassador Danon said in a statement:
“The Security Council’s silence will not help in this fight against terrorism, and will only allow the waves of hatred to grow unchecked. While this silence continues, the PA maintains its policy of paying salaries for terrorists and educating its youth with incitement, and a 19-year-old girl was brutally murdered in Israel.”
“The Security Council has the responsibility and moral duty to make a clear condemnation of this barbaric murder and to act firmly against the culture of terror in the Palestinian Authority, the very culture that undermines stability in the region and destroys innocent lives.”
The PA provides salaries to Palestinians convicted of terrorist acts and to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out terror attacks, which amounts to NIS 1.24 billion (US$330 million) in the 2018 PA budget, according to a Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs report. That means that, if convicted, Irfaiya appears set to receive lifetime payments from the PA for his heinous crimes many times higher than the average salary for Palestinian workers in his hometown of Hebron. The PA adamantly refuses to change its “pay to slay” policy, despite strong criticism that it incentivises terrorism and severe international pushback – including from the US and Australia, who have cut funds to the PA over this issue.
In response to Ori’s murder, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to freeze money transfers to the PA by the end of the week. Last year the Knesset passed a law cutting Palestinian tax funds that Israel transfers to the PA by the amount of the PA’s “pay to slay” payments. However, the law has yet to be implemented because Israeli security officials were concerned that cuts to the PA budget could hurt security cooperation or destabilise the West Bank.
In response to Netanyahu’s announcement, Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh said “The Palestinian Authority will refuse to receive any cleared funds if Israel deducts a penny from it,” he told AFP in Arabic, but did not indicate what the PA’s next step would be. He also said that “if we have one dollar, we will spend it on the families of our martyrs and prisoners.”
To date, the PA has not condemned this terrorist act. Instead, the PA Minister for Religious Affairs Affairs Yusuf Ida’is strongly criticised Israel for searching in a mosque for the suspect – who was actually found in a nearby building – without mentioning the reason for the search, the murder of a young Israeli woman. According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) in the PA’s official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Feb. 9, a PA minister said: “This cowardly attack against a religious and sacred place of worship, without any consideration for its sanctity and its religious and spiritual value, constitutes part of a series of daily attacks against our Islamic and Christian holy sites”. Moreover, PMW notes the article itself made no mention of terror attack as the context for Israel’s search of the mosque. PMW also found another report in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Feb. 10 which falsely claimed that Ori Ansbacher was “a female soldier in the occupation army.” She was actually performing civilian national service at a youth centre.
Meanwhile, the hearts of many in Israel and throughout the Jewish world are breaking for Ori and for her family. Na’ah Ansbacher described her daughter whose name “Ori” means “my light” in Hebrew, as a “Child of light, adding so much light in the world.” Her death should be yet another reminder of how terrorism creates darkness around the world.