In the wake of the horrific murders at Itamar, many people are pointing to it as illustrative of the sick nature of Palestinian terrorists. Others claim that Jews can be just as bad, as demonstrated in the genocial mitzvos of the Torah and Baruch Goldstein. To my surprise, even a commentator on this website, Todd, argued that we are no better than Muslims, probably worse, and that it's only the lack of opportunity that keeps our fanatics at bay (see his comments here and here).
Now, clearly there are moral questions raised by some mitzvos in the Torah. I can think of ways of resolving them, but I'm not sure that it's relevant here. I really can't see that it's relevant to compare accepted norms of today with an unclear situation of three thousand years ago. The point is to compare Jews of today with Palestinians of today.
There's no doubt that Jews can sometimes do terrible things. There are plenty of extremely violent lunatics in my own neighborhood, who act in the name of Torah, and there are even some Jewish terrorists. Conversely, there are many, many fine Palestinians who are appalled at the Itamar murders. And this is even though the Palestinians have the lower hand in the overall conflict.
Nevertheless, I think that it's abundantly clear that, as a general truth, the Palestinian culture is one of violence and death, and Israeli culture is one of peace and life. As a Hamas MP infamously said, "We desire death like you desire life!” In Judaism, warfare is only ever a regrettable but necessary means to an end, never something in which we revel.
Some people will point to counter-examples. But a few counter-examples do not disprove a trend. Terrorism by Jews is an aberration that is widely condemned, whereas terrorism by Palestinians is a norm that is widely acclaimed. Baruch Goldstein was roundly condemned in Israeli circles, and even those who consider him a hero, do so because they believe he was trying to avert an immediate greater catastrophe, or that his mind snapped as a result of the trauma that he saw. Contrast that to various Palestinian terrorists, who are widely acclaimed as heroes and have streets named in their honor. In Gaza, they celebrated the Itamar massacre, while an editorial in a Palestinian newspaper claimed that the "real murderers in Itamar are the zealous settlers and anyone who burned a tree, vandalized the cemetery in Awarta, forced out the residents of Khirbet Yanun, took control of a plot of land or robbed an olive harvest."
I will never forget the video of hundreds of Palestinians cheering on the lynching of two soldiers who accidentally entered Ramallah. Such a scene would be inconceivable with Jews. There were SS guards who were lynched by concentration camp survivors, but aside from the vastly different nature of that situation, such lynches were rare events with little support - and no Jews gleefully bathed their hands in the blood, as the Palestinians did. Contrary to Todd's claim, it's not Jews who are restrained by lack of opportunity, it's Palestinians.
So many alleged similarities between Israelis and Palestinians are facile. It is popularly argued that plenty of Palestinian children have been killed by the IDF - but plenty of German children were killed by Allied forces. There is a world of difference between inevitable civilian deaths in a war, and the deliberate targeting and hands-on murder of children, rachamana liztlan. And the idea that the side inflicting more casualties is in the wrong is especially bizarre - does anyone apply that reasoning to WWII?
Todd argues that Jews have a tendency to make fine distinctions with their own, and to paint their opponents with a broad brush. I have no doubt that that is often the case. But I think that even a careful analysis will reveal a vast cultural difference. Cultures are not all the same. British culture is different from American culture, and even more different from African culture. And Israeli/Jewish culture is very, very different from Palestinian culture.