Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Myth and Reality about the current terror wave in Israel

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Update from AIJAC

October 15, 2015
Number 10/15 #03

This Update contains further analysis of the roots and dynamics of the wave of terror attacks which have been rocking Israel in recent weeks and which saw a major upsurge Tuesday, with three Israelis killed and nine wounded in 4 terror attacks in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv suburb of Ranaana. This followed a weekend which saw a dozen Israelis wounded in a series of stabbings, along with a suicide car bombing attempt.

A particular focus of this Update is to identify and debunk some of the myths being spread about these attacks.

The first piece comes from Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a former senior IDF officer who also was Israel's National Security Advisor, but is now in academia. He takes on four myths in all, both from the left and the right, in Israel and internationally. These are: 1. That a bold diplomatic initiative could end "Palestinian despair" and thus the violence; 2. That the Arab states could be prevailed upon to get the Palestinians to stop; 3. That new settlement announcements could deter this violence; 4. That a tougher Israeli military response would solve the problem. For his very knowledgeable explanation of why all these claims are wrong, CLICK HERE.

Next up is Washington Institute expert David Pollack looking at the Palestinian messaging about the current violence - both from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He points out that while neither group is directly trying to escalate and the PA is using its security forces to quell Hamas terrorism, both groups openly refuse to repudiate the violence; praise its Palestinian perpetrators; and blame Israel rather than their own people for it. Pollack also has some more analysis about the way incitement about the Temple Mount - both from the PA and Arab media outlets like al-Jazeera -  led to the current wave of violence. For his complete analysis of Palestinian messaging, CLICK HERE. More on the Hamas efforts to exploit the recent unrest here.

Finally, American columnist Bret Stephens takes on some of the media tropes which have often shaped reporting of this story. Among them are: this violence is the result of Palestinian despair over occupation, Israel is plotting to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, and there is a "cycle of violence." He takes on all of these - arguing these attacks must be seen as motivated by psychotic blood-lust, and looks at the incitement that is causing this to occur. For his full argument, CLICK HERE. More on how incitement over the mosque has lead to "hysterical intolerance" from David Horovitz of the Times of Israel, while Israeli diplomat Eitan Na’eh uses his own family history to illustrate the extent to which targeting Israeli Jewish civilians simply for being Jewish has long been a major feature of the Arab-Israel conflict.

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Myths, Facts, and Wishful Thinking in Responding to Palestinian Violence

By Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror

Israel Hayom, 13/10/15

The series of terrorist attacks throughout the Sukkot holiday, especially the brutal murders of a Jewish couple in Samaria and two Jewish men in Jerusalem's Old City, seem to have become the podium from which a slew of public figures, from both the Right and the Left, seek to peddle their illusions. Some of these individuals truly believe in what they are saying, while others seek only to promote their personal agendas and worldviews, despite their irrelevance.
 
These individuals have made various statements over the past few days, including the following:
 
"We need a bold diplomatic initiative and courageous leadership to end the [Palestinian] despair that results in these murders."
 
Really? It is well known that in the midst of the political process that culminated in the 1993 Oslo Accords, when Israel ceded vast territories, terrorism reached new heights. It was when the Oslo Accords were signed and the government was pursuing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in earnest that explosive devices and suicide bombers exploded nationwide, killing Jews indiscriminately.
 
There is no real proof that "diplomatic initiatives," bold or otherwise, can quell terrorism. Some would even argue that the opposite is true, which it is, especially with regards to organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
 
The chanting of the leftist mantra that "negotiations breed calm" is tantamount to a mystical ritual that has nothing to do with reality, regardless of the followers who believe in it.
 
"Regional peace could be used as leverage to have the moderate Arab states pressure the Palestinians to enable them to realize our shared interests. Cooperation with the region's nations is the key to a peace deal."
 
As attractive as this theory may be, it is not grounded in reality. Firstly, because the so-called "moderate" countries hold less than moderate views on some key issues, most notably Jerusalem; and secondly, it is clear to anyone who understands the workings of the Middle East that on most issues, these countries have no interest in pressuring the Palestinians. No Arab leader worth his salt will relinquish anything on behalf of the Palestinians, regardless of how "moderate" he may seem. Moreover, even if he wanted to, the Arab street will prevent such moves.
 
"Massive settlement construction is the only appropriate response to terrorism. It will deter the Arabs and decrease violence. It is the settlement freeze that leads to terrorism."
 
Such statements make me wonder if even those making them believe what they say. They know that settlement construction has never contributed to a decrease in terrorist activity, and there is no proof - none whatsoever - that anyone has ever shelved a terrorist plot over a settlement freeze.
 
Such statements seek only to take advantage of a difficult situation to promote a political agenda, which while legitimate, is ill-timed. Those endorsing settlement construction do so regardless of terrorism, and using this terrible time to push it further is just an excuse, and a poor one at that.
 
The problem is that the overall atmosphere has a powerful effect, and the government could find itself in a situation where this terrible excuse is somehow considered during the decision-making process. Responsible individuals, whose vision stretches beyond the short-term approval of 1,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria, must remember that Israel is waging a difficult battle in the international arena, and making hasty decisions because despicable murderers spill Jewish blood may have far-reaching ramifications.
 
"The problem is the lack of significant military response. Deterrence has been eroded and the military must be allowed to operate forcefully."
 
This is the emotional reaction of those who are struggling to deal with the situation, and those cynical enough to exploit security tensions to lambaste the leadership. I doubt any defense official thinks the problem lies in the need for a more forceful reaction.
 
In most similar cases, a more forceful response would solve nothing. For example, you cannot shoot an Arab on the streets of the Old City before he pulls out a knife. What directive should have been given to the police, what change to the rules of engagements could have prevented the stabbing attack near the Lions' Gate? The terrorist assumed he would be killed during the attack - most terrorists assume as much - so what more could have been done to deter him? Does anyone really believe that if Israel had hundreds of dead Palestinians to deal with it would somehow fare better or that terrorism would somehow diminish?
 
Anyone seriously under that impression is dangerously deluded. Additional casualties in the hundreds would see Israel facing uncontrollable, raging Palestinian crowds and even more terrorism. Contrary to inflammatory recommendations, Israel cannot and should not launch a destructive onslaught, because it is both unethical and ineffective.
 
Specific operational tactics, such as sniper fire against rioters throwing stones and firebombs, can and should be used and perfected, and additional troops should be deployed to certain flashpoints, such as roads across Judea and Samaria, but we must remember that such deployment may hinder preparations for the next round of violence in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
 
Unlike the time between the Oslo Accords and 2002's Operation Defensive Shield in Judea and Samaria, the military is under no operational restrictions. The fact is that the solution to this complex situation does not lie in military might, but rather in better intelligence, which in some cases can be the difference between a foiled attack and bloodshed.
 
No one is claiming that there is anything restricting intelligence-gathering efforts, but in some cases, especially when a "lone wolf" who is not affiliated with any terrorist organization is involved, even intelligence is useless. Security forces cannot be everywhere all the time, so it is pure luck and the rapid response of bystanders that determine the outcome of lone terrorist attacks.
 
"The attacker always takes the initiative and nothing can be done about it."
 
The Palestinians have no illusions when it comes to the immense power the IDF wields in the Middle East in general and opposite them in particular. Some of them are willing to die fighting the "occupation," especially when it comes to anything perceived as a threat to the Al-Aqsa mosque, namely the Temple Mount.
 
Some among the Palestinians are willing to abuse this zeal, especially the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, and some on the Israeli side are providing them with plenty of excuses for their nefarious acts, such as the arson attack in Duma.
 
One fact must be reiterated: We, the Jews, are the sovereigns. We are the stronger party in this fight, and no wave of terrorism, horrific as it may be, will change that basic element in the equation.
 
During the British Mandate, when the government often sided with the Arab rioters, the Jewish resistance groups Irgun and Lehi were right to mount a forceful response against murders. Now, we no longer have to prove anything. Israel is a strong, sovereign state, and as such it must use its force prudently, only when its results have proven benefits, and only as a last resort.
 
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror is a distinguished fellow at JINSA's Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy. He is also is the Greg and Anne Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and former national security advisor to the Prime Minister. He served 36 years in senior IDF posts, including commander of the Military Colleges, military secretary to the Minister of Defense, director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Military Intelligence, and chief intelligence officer of the Northern Command.

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PALESTINIAN MESSAGING ABOUT VIOLENCE: BLAME ISRAEL, BUT KEEP CONTROL

By David Pollock

PolicyWatch 2504
October 14, 2015

Having stoked tensions in Jerusalem, Mahmoud Abbas and his government now find it hard to reassert their authority.

As two weeks of stabbings and violent demonstrations in and around Jerusalem continue, along with sporadic mass breaches of the Gaza border, official Palestinian statements and media commentary are sending a dual message. Generally speaking, neither Palestinian Authority (PA) nor Hamas messages call for more violence in their own territory -- although Hamas does call for more murder of Jews in Jerusalem. But neither Palestinian government repudiates the violence; both praise its Palestinian perpetrators; and both blame Israel rather than their own people for it.

BACKGROUND: TEMPLE MOUNT TENSIONS

Leading up to this crisis, PA accusations against Israel had turned increasingly shrill. This campaign built upon the widespread but false Palestinian perception that Israel was trying to stake new claims to al-Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) and its al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims -- and that Jews have no history or rights in that area. Sadly, repeated disavowals by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others of an extremist Jewish fringe's provocations did not offset incitement by the fundamentalist Israeli Arab "Northern Branch" movement or other radical Islamist groups -- or by the PA itself.

During the Jewish holiday season in mid-September, in the wake of demonstrations and Israeli police action at the al-Aqsa Mosque, PA president Mahmoud Abbas personally and publicly denounced the "filthy feet" of Jews trampling there, while praising "every drop of blood shed...for the sake of Allah." This outburst elicited a highly unusual private admonition against such incitement, according to Israeli press accounts, from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Nevertheless, Abbas did not recant, and went on to repeat such inflammatory and misleading accusations against Israeli policy toward the Temple Mount in his UN General Assembly address a week later. Shortly thereafter, on several occasions when Israelis were shot or stabbed to death by terrorists in the West Bank and Jerusalem, Abbas did not repudiate those actions -- as he sometimes had in the past. His silence was especially noteworthy because a Fatah faction had publicly taken responsibility for two of these most recent killings. Instead, the PA officially called for the UN and the international community to "protect" Palestinians against Israeli "escalation."

PALESTINIAN STATEMENTS VS. ACTIONS

Early statements by Palestinian officials blamed Israel for escalating the crisis -- although privately these officials were reportedly trying to rein in the potential for larger-scale disorder. And some Palestinians privately pointed out that most of the violence was taking place not in the West Bank but inside Israel, especially in Jerusalem or on the border with Gaza -- where PA officials and security agents had no access or control. Behind the scenes, according to Israeli officials and experts, PA security continued to coordinate with Israel against Hamas terrorism -- going so far, according to Hamas, as to deliver the five-member underground Hamas cell in the Nablus/Jenin area responsible for shooting two Israeli settlers to death.

By the second week of October, a familiar pattern of mixed messaging had reemerged, but in a higher key. Abbas reiterated, to his own domestic audience in Arabic, that he opposed violence and wanted only "peaceful, popular resistance." To Israelis, he said, "We want peace and our hands will continue to be extended in peace, despite all our suffering at your hands." In the same breath, however, he urged Palestinians to "defend" themselves and "protect" al-Aqsa, and warned Israel to "stay away from our Islamic and Christian holy places."

Moreover, even Hamas statements seem designed to preempt drastic escalation and Israeli retaliation in Gaza. Early on, Mousa Abu Marzouk, a deputy to Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, announced that Hamas would refrain from rocketfire into Israel, so as not to "distract" from the struggle in Jerusalem and the West Bank. And last week, Hamas declared that its side of the border with Israel would henceforth be a closed military zone -- presumably so that it could better control incursions or other incidents. Rival PA -- and some other Arab -- media hinted darkly that this exposed the real Hamas policy toward Israel: a "truce under the table," as the PA official daily wrote on October 13.  

At lower levels, every day in early October, the PA official newspaper still labeled Palestinian terrorists killed in action as "martyrs"; termed stabbing and other Palestinian attacks as "operations"; and reported in detail about social media approval for the murder of settlers. It published op-eds with sentences like the following: "My daughter made me happy when she said, 'I want to carry out a martyrdom operation and kill some Israeli soldiers.'" The official daily refrained, however, from openly endorsing such behavior.

But Fatah media, and sometimes official PA television, featured statements by senior party officials -- including Mahmoud al-Aloul and Sultan Abu al-Einein -- and others explicitly praising violence against Israeli civilians, such as by calling settlers "legitimate targets." On October 8, the PA cabinet issued a statement that did not mention Palestinian violence but accused Israel of acting "to kill and assassinate defenseless children and civilians...summary executions and cold-blooded murder." In the past few days, senior PA officials, including Saeb Erekat and Nabil Abu Rudeineh, have repeated and elaborated on these charges. Abbas himself is reiterating this canard in his "important speech to the nation" as this essay goes to press.

A perfect instance of mixed messaging came from an unexpected source. On October 11, in an open letter written from jail and published in Britain's Guardian newspaper, leading Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti endorsed the right of "unarmed" Palestinians to "resist the occupation" and denounced "Israeli attacks against the Palestinians in the city [Jerusalem] and in Muslim and Christian holy sites." Elsewhere in the piece, he also wrote, albeit without explicitly affirming support for a lasting two-state solution, that this was still "a solvable political conflict" and that "the last day of occupation will be the first day of peace." But that message could be found only in English, not in any major Arabic publication.

The differences in these messages are being amplified in the pan-Arab newspapers and satellite television channels -- which surveys show Palestinians watch and read at least as much as they do their own local media. For example, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV or al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat newspapers are playing down the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence, with at most one such lead story each day. In sharp contrast, Qatar-owned Al Jazeera TV or al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper are playing up the new "intifada," featuring three or four lead stories about it each day, plus inflammatory "analysis" about PA and even Hamas "cowardice" or "treason" in not expanding the violence. So far, the Arab League, in a Cairo statement on October 13, has toed the PA line about "Israeli provocations against al-Aqsa" and "international protection for the Palestinians," rather than the Hamas line calling for greater "armed resistance" activities in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Back in Ramallah on October 11, according to one Israeli press report, Abbas met with militant Fatah leaders from the Tanzim faction, and asked them to cease incitement. By this time, however, some analysts were speculating about just how much -- or how little -- difference Abbas could make in this volatile climate, given his declining popularity and internal political authority. Indeed, as Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki pointed out, two-thirds of the Palestinian public in the West Bank and Gaza now wanted Abbas to resign.

PROSPECTS

Without a clear successor, and with Hamas and other radicals seeking to supplant the PA president, the prospects are very dim for Palestinian messages of peace or reconciliation, either in the current or in a post-Abbas scenario. And the prevalence of inflammatory social media messages could well drown out whatever messages Abbas attempts to convey. In this fraught climate, any official call for nonviolence would require real action if it is to be effective.

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Palestine: The Psychotic Stage

The truth about why Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust.

By BRET STEPHENS

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12, 2015

If you’ve been following the news from Israel, you might have the impression that “violence” is killing a lot of people. As in this headline: “Palestinian Killed As Violence Continues.” Or this first paragraph: “Violence and bloodshed radiating outward from flash points in Jerusalem and the West Bank appear to be shifting gears and expanding, with Gaza increasingly drawn in.”

Read further, and you might also get a sense of who, according to Western media, is perpetrating “violence.” As in: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police,” according to one headline. Or: “Israeli Retaliatory Strike in Gaza Kills Woman and Child, Palestinians Say,” according to another.

Such was the media’s way of describing two weeks of Palestinian assaults that began when Hamas killed a Jewish couple as they were driving with their four children in the northern West Bank. Two days later, a Palestinian teenager stabbed two Israelis to death in Jerusalem’s Old City, and also slashed a woman and a 2-year-old boy. Hours later, another knife-wielding Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli police after he slashed a 15-year-old Israeli boy in the chest and back.

Other Palestinian attacks include the stabbing of two elderly Israeli men and an assault with a vegetable peeler on a 14-year-old. On Sunday, an Arab-Israeli man ran over a 19-year-old female soldier at a bus stop, then got out of his car, stabbed her, and attacked two men and a 14-year-old girl. Several attacks have been carried out by women, including a failed suicide bombing.

Regarding the causes of this Palestinian blood fetish, Western news organizations have resorted to familiar tropes. Palestinians have despaired at the results of the peace process—never mind that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just declared the Oslo Accords null and void. Israeli politicians want to allow Jews to pray atop the Temple Mount—never mind that Benjamin Netanyahu denies it and has barred Israeli politicians from visiting the site. There’s always the hoary “cycle of violence” formula that holds nobody and everybody accountable at one and the same time.

Left out of most of these stories is some sense of what Palestinian leaders have to say. As in these nuggets from a speech Mr. Abbas gave last month: “Al Aqsa Mosque is ours. They [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet.” And: “We bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah.”

Then there is the goading of the Muslim clergy. “Brothers, this is why we recall today what Allah did to the Jews,” one Gaza imam said Friday in a recorded address, translated by the invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri. “Today, we realize why the Jews build walls. They do not do this to stop missiles but to prevent the slitting of their throats.”

Then, brandishing a six-inch knife, he added: “My brother in the West Bank: Stab!”

Imagine if a white minister in, say, South Carolina preached this way about African-Americans, knife and all: Would the news media be supine in reporting it? Would we get “both sides” journalism of the kind that is pro forma when it comes to Israelis and Palestinians, with lengthy pieces explaining—and implicitly justifying—the minister’s sundry grievances, his sense that his country has been stolen from him?

And would this be supplemented by the usual fake math of moral opprobrium, which is the stock-in-trade of reporters covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? In the Middle East version, a higher Palestinian death toll suggests greater Israeli culpability. (Perhaps Israeli paramedics should stop treating stabbing victims to help even the score.) In a U.S. version, should the higher incidence of black-on-white crime be cited to “balance” stories about white supremacists?

Didn’t think so.

Treatises have been written about the media’s mind-set when it comes to telling the story of Israel. We’ll leave that aside for now. The significant question is why so many Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust—by a communal psychosis in which plunging knives into the necks of Jewish women, children, soldiers and civilians is seen as a religious and patriotic duty, a moral fulfillment. Despair at the state of the peace process, or the economy? Please. It’s time to stop furnishing Palestinians with the excuses they barely bother making for themselves.

Above all, it’s time to give hatred its due. We understand its explanatory power when it comes to American slavery, or the Holocaust. We understand it especially when it is the hatred of the powerful against the weak. Yet we fail to see it when the hatred disturbs comforting fictions about all people being basically good, or wanting the same things for their children, or being capable of empathy.

Today in Israel, Palestinians are in the midst of a campaign to knife Jews to death, one at a time. This is psychotic. It is evil. To call it anything less is to serve as an apologist, and an accomplice.

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