Commentary Magazine


Topic: kidnapped Israeli teenagers

Where Apologies Are Needed

Some are reacting to the news that Israelis were responsible for the murder of an Arab teen by issuing apologies on behalf of all Jews for the crime. Some go further and also denounce anyone who tried to call the Palestinians to account for their applauding the kidnapping and murder of Israeli boys. But some of those who are now talking about Jewish collective guilt generally don’t apply the same standard to the Palestinians.

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Some are reacting to the news that Israelis were responsible for the murder of an Arab teen by issuing apologies on behalf of all Jews for the crime. Some go further and also denounce anyone who tried to call the Palestinians to account for their applauding the kidnapping and murder of Israeli boys. But some of those who are now talking about Jewish collective guilt generally don’t apply the same standard to the Palestinians.

Apologies for these crimes are in order. As our Seth Mandel wrote yesterday, the instances of anti-Arab incitement might not be as numerous as those of anti-Jewish rhetoric. Nor do they come from the organs of the Jewish state, as does the endless stream of hate that originates from official Palestinian Authority and Hamas sources. But they are nonetheless deplorable.

It doesn’t matter that what is rare among Jews is commonplace in the political culture of the Palestinians. If we have ignored or downplayed this virus, then it is appropriate at such moments to think seriously about where we have failed to sufficiently combat these awful tendencies. Even as we seek to place these views and the isolated actions of a few in the context of a conflict whose focus remains the determination of most of the Arab and Muslim world to destroy the Jewish state, there should be no downplaying the insidious nature of hatred expressed by Jews or, as our John Podhoretz noted earlier today, the profound betrayal of the Zionist enterprise that the actions of the killers of Muhammed Khdeir represent. If, while focusing so much on the behavior of Israel’s foes, we have, even unwittingly, given encouragement to those Jews who mimic the font of vicious anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic language that flows from the Muslim and Arab worlds, then we must hold ourselves accountable. As was the case when such things have happened in the past, this is the moment to say that we must be more vigilant in denouncing such expressions rather than ignoring or minimizing them.

But if our apologies are to be offered, is it too much to ask that both sides attempt to make amends? Is it offensive, as Bradley Burston says in a Haaretz piece, for Jews to have the temerity or the bad taste to mention the behavior of Palestinians during the two-week search for the three missing Israeli teenagers?

If Jews today feel ashamed about the murderers of an Arab teenager—and we are right to feel that way—is it really out of bounds to note the mainstreaming of hate and applause for terrorism that is integral to Palestinian nationalism?

Apologists for the Palestinians seem to think so. Palestinian identity has become inseparable not only from anti-Zionism but also from a sense of victimhood. It is true that the experience of the last two millennia culminating in the Holocaust has created a Jewish sense of victimhood that also tends to mire Jewish identity in purely negative history at the expense of more positive attributes. Yet the narrative of Jewish achievements and the triumph of the Zionist dream are able to mitigate the overpowering and lugubrious tale of woe. But for Palestinians, nothing is allowed to distract from their sacred “narrative” in which their martyrdom at the hands of wicked Jews is established.

It is not just that the Palestinian Authority has inculcated the youth of their country with hatred of Jews and Israel since they were given autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. The problem isn’t just hate speech and the glorification of terror by official media and textbooks. It’s that there is no place in Palestinian culture for competing views in which their leaders’ historic rejection of compromise is discussed.

Palestinians cheered the ordeal of the three Jewish teens in much the same way that they have always honored those who committed acts of the most brutal terror against Jews. They feel no obligation to apologize for these horrible acts because they believe their victim status entitles them to inflict any possible cruelty on their enemies.

What we must come to terms with in this discussion is that the contrast between Israeli and Palestinian society is not that one side obsesses with the wrongs committed against them and a desire for revenge and the other does not. These sentiments are natural to all human beings and are just as present among Jews as they are among Arabs. The difference rests in that the Israelis have, thank Heaven, never allowed their self-absorption to overwhelm their cultural norms that act as a check against such behavior. The Palestinians have enshrined their sense of grievance to a point where they no longer have any perspective on it or their collective relationship with other peoples.

That is why Jews, from Israel’s prime minister and chief rabbis to pundits on both ends of the spectrum, are falling over themselves to apologize for Khdeir and Palestinians are, with rare exceptions, treating the suffering of Jews as a non-issue and cheering the terrorist missiles now raining down on Israeli towns and cities. To state this does not relieve Jews of the obligation to account for senseless hatred against Arabs. But those who think Palestinians need not apologize for terror and a culture that glorifies such crimes are not only wrong but also helping to make peace impossible.

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Hamas Reaps Benefits from Terror

The arrest of six Israeli Jews for the murder of an Arab teenager last week has largely let Hamas off the hook for its campaign of terrorism.

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The arrest of six Israeli Jews for the murder of an Arab teenager last week has largely let Hamas off the hook for its campaign of terrorism.

The aberrant act of an isolated group that has been condemned by every sector of Israeli society has reinforced a narrative of moral equivalence. But Hamas’s confidence that it is profiting from the crisis that began with its kidnapping and murder of three Jewish boys last month is illustrated by the barrage of missiles it is firing on southern Israel.

The torrent of rockets—with hundreds being fired from Gaza in the last few days—is more than a routine statement about Hamas’s desire to show its belligerence to Palestinians who can always be counted on to applaud terror. The Islamist group was in dire straits when it decided in April to go into partnership with the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority. At the time, many commentators believed this would allow PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to tame the terrorist group and forge an alliance that would create room for both Palestinian unity and peace. But the events of the last month demonstrate just how foolish that hope proved to be.

Far from influencing Hamas to support peace, the Islamists have shown that they are the ones calling the tune. When a Hamas cell kidnapped three Israeli teens, Palestinian society didn’t recoil in horror. Nor did Abbas and Fatah drop Hamas from the PA government. While the PA leaders made a belated though welcome condemnation of the crime, Palestinian social media delivered the verdict that Hamas had hoped for as the atrocity was cheered with a popular three-fingered salute. Instead of supporting measures to isolate a movement that was determined to oppose peace, Palestinians took to the streets to obstruct and harass Israeli troops searching for the lost boys with rocks and violence.

Nor was there any outpouring of regret or soul searching about this behavior once the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found. After the Palestinian youth was discovered, the crime was used as an excuse for more Arab rioting, both inside Israel and in the West Bank. With Hamas now raining down hundreds of missiles on southern Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu finds himself in a quandary in which any action ordered to silence the terrorist enclave in Gaza will be seen as an escalation of the situation rather than a needed effort to contain it.

The despicable murder of Muhammed Khdeir has reinforced the Western media’s predictable narrative of moral equivalence in which all violence is seen as part of one pointless cycle of violence in which both sides are trapped. But though the two crimes give some superficial justification to that frame of reference, this focus has allowed the Obama administration to evade scrutiny for its coddling of the PA-Hamas alliance.

Netanyahu has good reason to be wary of a large-scale assault on Gaza. Israel has neither the desire to take back control of the strip nor any appetite for the casualties on both sides that would result from a new counter-offensive. The United States, which demanded that Israel show “restraint” in response to Hamas’s murder of the three boys, is now even more adamant about stopping any effort to make the terrorists pay for their crime. The prime minister also knows that Hamas is hoping for an opportunity to demonstrate to Palestinians that they are still the address for anti-Israel terror even as they remain firmly ensconced in the PA government.

How will all this end? At this point, Hamas seems to think that it will be Netanyahu who will blink first since at this point it seems unlikely that the normally cautious prime minister will risk further antagonizing the U.S. when he seems not to think that Israel has much to gain from a new fight in Gaza.

But if the two sides do merely stand down, there should be no illusions about who was the winner in this exchange. Hamas started this fight with a gruesome terror attack but rather than paying any real price—other than the arrest of some of its West Bank operatives—for this atrocity, it has enhanced its standing among Palestinians. By provoking a group of Jewish extremists to behave in the same bestial fashion, it has also obscured the real differences between the two societies and hurt their erstwhile rival/partner Abbas by exposing him to ridicule from Palestinians who saw his condemnation of terror as weakness or toadying to the Israelis. By firing rockets deep into Israel without incurring a response that will threaten its leadership or its weapon stores, Hamas will have re-established itself as an equal to Abbas rather than a junior partner.

American officials who wring their hands about a cycle of violence need to understand that their initial appeasement of Hamas after the signing of its unity pact with Fatah has done real harm to the already dim prospects for peace. If in April there was an opportunity for the U.S. to make a statement about isolating the terror group after the unity deal was signed, the prevarications of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry on the issue have created an opening for Hamas to gain ground in a way that few predicted. Unless Netanyahu is willing to take the risks associated with actions that will really make the terror group pay, it is Hamas that will emerge from these events as a stronger and more dangerous force than it was only a few weeks ago. In this case, terrorism has paid handsomely for a group the administration dismissed as having been past its expiration date.

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Two Crimes and the Myths of the Intifadas

Today’s news of the arrests of six Jewish extremists in the murder of an Arab teenager last week will likely only add to the anger fueling violent Arab protests both inside Israel and in the West Bank. As Seth Mandel and Eugene Kontorovich ably pointed out earlier today, there is no excuse for this heinous crime and no comparing it to the murders of Jews that are widely cheered by Palestinians. But this atrocity could turn out to be the event that sets a third intifada in motion.

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Today’s news of the arrests of six Jewish extremists in the murder of an Arab teenager last week will likely only add to the anger fueling violent Arab protests both inside Israel and in the West Bank. As Seth Mandel and Eugene Kontorovich ably pointed out earlier today, there is no excuse for this heinous crime and no comparing it to the murders of Jews that are widely cheered by Palestinians. But this atrocity could turn out to be the event that sets a third intifada in motion.

As the Times of Israel’s Elhanan Miller writes today, the gruesome death of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir brings to mind the alleged justifications for the events that were used to exploit Arab anger and begin both the first and second intifadas. Like the 1987 traffic accident that took the lives of Palestinian laborers and Ariel Sharon’s stroll on the Temple Mount in 2000, the murder of the Palestinian teenager is merely an excuse for Arabs, both in Israel and the West Bank, to vent their spleen at the Jewish state rather than a protest focused on a specific grievance or injustice.

Miller rightly points out that those intifadas didn’t come out of a void. Both had the appearance of a spontaneous uprising but were exploited by the Palestinian leadership. In particular, the second intifada was a calculated response by Yasir Arafat to a peace offer that cynically plunged the country into a war that cost thousands of casualties to both sides and did incalculable damage to the Palestinian economy and Israeli faith in the peace process. While an intifada isn’t in the interests of Arafat’s successor Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the bloodletting could be exactly what his new partners/rivals of Hamas want to rebuild their tarnished political brand.

As such, the rioting that spread throughout Israel and the territories over the weekend must be understood as being more than a natural reaction to a horrendous crime against an Arab. Like previous rationales for Arab violence—whether taken out of context or pure fabrications such as the claim that Sharon’s walk was a prelude to the destruction of the mosques on the Temple Mount—Abu Khdeir’s death is well on its way to becoming part of the Palestinian martyrology used to justify violence against the Jewish state.

To state this fact is not to minimize the disgusting nature of the murder of the Arab teenager or the revulsion felt by Jews around the world at the thought that some of their co-religionists have sunk to such barbarism. This senseless act may, for once, justify efforts to treat competing Arab and Jewish actions events as morally equivalent. Unlike comparisons such as the one attempted by the New York Times that I wrote about last week, which treated the death of kidnapping victims as no different from that of an Arab who took to the streets to fight Israeli forces attempting to find/rescue the teens, Abu Khdeir appears to have been the innocent casualty of an act of terror. That most Israelis condemn the murder of Abu Khdeir while most Palestinians mocked the plight of the three Jewish teenagers will not prevent the world from treating these two incidents as essentially cancelling each other out.

But the manner in which the Palestinians are exploiting this crime has little to do with these specific circumstances. If indeed this is to be the start of a third intifada, it will have no more to do with one Arab teenager than the incidents that allegedly set them off. Just as the murder of the three Israeli teens did not justify any attacks on individual Arabs, the riots that broke out today are not really about the death of a Palestinian boy or even generalized grievances against Israel. Rather, it a violent expression of resentment against Zionism and the existence of a Jewish state that they would like to see disappear.

It should be remembered that Palestinians took to the streets in large numbers to protest after the kidnapping but before the news about the death of the Abu Khdeir. In the first round of demonstrations, the Palestinians were seeking to oppose the efforts of Israelis searching for kidnapping victims. In the current riots, they are expressing anger in a way that actually seeks to target individual Israelis within reach who had nothing to do with what happened to the Arab victims. The rocket fire from Hamas terrorists that is raining down on southern Israel the last few days also is motivated by their desire to exact a price for the arrests of their operatives in the wake of the kidnapping, not a protest about one Arab teenager.

The unbalanced nature of this conflict remains. A two-state solution in which both sides would accept each other’s legitimacy remains more popular among Jews than Arabs. The force motivating Palestinian political efforts remains a belief in the struggle to eliminate Israel, not a desire to rectify any particular misbehavior on the part of their antagonists. In Palestinian eyes, every act of terror against the Jews remains justifiable if not heroic. Their objections about Israeli misbehavior, even when their complaints are genuine, are not about redressing grievances but an excuse to exacerbate the conflict so as to make their own attacks more effective. If, as many fear, another round of violence that will be dubbed an intifada will follow these tragic events, no one should confuse it with a genuine protest. Instead, it will be, as was the case with the first two intifadas, a mere pretext for more violence. When seen in that light, even when we acknowledge the horror of the murder of the Arab teenager, the mythology of this intifada will be just as much of a lie as its predecessors.

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Not the Moment for “Restraint” Against Hamas

In a sentiment that was echoed across the Israeli political spectrum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed today that “Hamas will pay” for the murders of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped two weeks ago. What exactly Netanyahu meant by this phrase isn’t yet known. But given the track record of both Israel and the Palestinians and the efforts by President Obama to head off any tough action by Netanyahu, the leaders of the terror group may not exactly be shaking in their boots.

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In a sentiment that was echoed across the Israeli political spectrum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed today that “Hamas will pay” for the murders of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped two weeks ago. What exactly Netanyahu meant by this phrase isn’t yet known. But given the track record of both Israel and the Palestinians and the efforts by President Obama to head off any tough action by Netanyahu, the leaders of the terror group may not exactly be shaking in their boots.

In the wake of the discovery of the victims’ bodies, anger against the Islamist terror group is widely felt and it is likely that Netanyahu’s government will have wide political leeway to hit Hamas hard, both in the West Bank and Gaza. But the question facing Israel is not so much whether to launch air strikes at Hamas headquarters or to round up even more of their supporters. Rather, it is whether if, after an interval of a week or two, Hamas is still functioning and is still part of the ruling coalition of the Palestinian Authority. If, after absorbing a pounding from the Israeli army, the Islamist movement’s leadership can claim that it not only shed more Jewish blood but also survived another Israeli counterattack, then despite all of the fearsome rhetoric coming out of Jerusalem, Hamas will have won.

President Obama’s condemnation of the deaths of the three Israeli teens was appropriate but it was accompanied by the standard call for “all sides to exercise restraint.” Which is to say that the U.S. is making it clear to the Israelis that anything beyond a minimal retaliation that will not make a difference will be condemned as worsening the situation. But, like all past efforts to enforce restraint on Israel, such counsel merely ensures that this tragedy will be played out again and again.

It must be understood that while the gruesome crime committed against three teenagers may damage Hamas’s already shaky reputation in the West, the willingness of the group to commit this atrocity may increase its popularity among Palestinians. In the last year, Hamas’s political stock has fallen as the cash shortfall caused by its rift with Iran and the closing of smuggling tunnels to Egypt undermined its ability to maintain local support. Where once it was seen as a viable alternative to the Fatah kleptocracy that rules over the West Bank, it is now seen as merely an Islamist version of the same corrupt model. Its willingness to maintain a rough cease-fire with Israel along the border with Gaza also robbed it of its mantle as the standard-bearer of the struggle against the Jewish state. It was for these reasons that it was forced to sign a unity agreement with Abbas’s Fatah.

Should a determined Israeli offensive take out some of its leadership and undermine its capacity to function, perhaps that decline will continue. But Hamas and its backers also know that violence has always been the main factor legitimizing Palestinian political parties. Should the kidnapping lead to another round of violence in which Hamas could portray itself as the true defender of Palestinian honor, then the incident could give it a new lease on life even as its members duck for cover.

That may incline some to counsel Israelis to avoid what in the past has been considered a “disproportionate” response to Palestinian provocations. Since Israeli attacks may actually undermine Abbas and boost Hamas, some (especially in the United States) may advise Netanyahu to make some noise but then get back to business as usual as quickly as possible lest a new counter-terror campaign serve to create a new generation of terrorists.

While that line of reasoning may sound logical, it would be a mistake. Israel needs to do more than launch some symbolic strikes that will do nothing to assuage Israeli anger while doing nothing to deter Palestinians from emulating this horrific deed. Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Palestinians that Hamas has made a mistake.

As a poll I discussed last week showed, the vast majority of Palestinians want the struggle against Israel to continue but they don’t want to personally pay the price of that conflict. Making the vast majority of Palestinians pay for Hamas’s outrages would deepen their bitterness against Israel and lead to charges of collective punishment. But if, instead, Israel makes Hamas’s leaders pay in such a measure as to make it difficult if not impossible to carry on then perhaps Netanyahu can thread the needle in between an escalation and a weak non-response.

It may be that Israel’s options are limited by political realities and Hamas’s ability to withstand attacks. But no matter what choices Netanyahu makes, “restraint” will be merely an invitation for Hamas to repeat this crime again in the future.

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Moral Equivalence No Answer to Terror

Now that the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers have been found, we can expect the usual chorus of pro forma condemnations of terrorism and sympathy for the victims to be voiced by many world leaders. But the willingness of so many of the same people to treat deliberate attempts to target civilians by the Palestinians as morally equivalent to the fate of those Arabs killed while conducting violence against Israelis gives the lie to their pose of objectivity.

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Now that the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers have been found, we can expect the usual chorus of pro forma condemnations of terrorism and sympathy for the victims to be voiced by many world leaders. But the willingness of so many of the same people to treat deliberate attempts to target civilians by the Palestinians as morally equivalent to the fate of those Arabs killed while conducting violence against Israelis gives the lie to their pose of objectivity.

The discovery of the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel brings an unhappy ending to the effort that transfixed Israelis and Jews around the world but aroused relatively little interest outside of the Jewish community. The Hamas terror group that is believed to be behind the crime will feel the consequences of what appears to be the cold-blooded murders of these three boys shortly after their abduction. Hamas’s partners in the Palestinian Authority will also be put to the test as the Israelis will now see whether PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s helpful rhetoric condemning the kidnapping will be matched by actions that disassociate his government from terrorists.

But once condolences have been given and the boys buried, the atrocity will probably be shoved down the global memory hole as Palestinians and their cheerleaders contend that the terror attack on the teens must be seen as either an understandable reaction to the “occupation” or morally equivalent to the fate of those Palestinians who die while attacking Israeli forces. The New York Times provided a prime example of such thinking this morning in an article published only hours before the bodies were found.

In this piece by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, the paper contrasted the grief felt by Naftali Fraenkel’s mother Rachel and that of another mother, Aida Dudeen, whose son Muhammad was killed while confronting Israeli soldiers searching for the boys.

The loss of any life is a tragedy and the sadness of both mothers is genuine. But other than those bare facts, there is no real basis of comparison between these two families. In one case, you have a boy who was targeted by terrorists because he was a Jew and vulnerable and then murdered. In the other, another boy actively chooses to join the ranks of those attempting to obstruct the forces attempting to find the kidnapping victims and attacks them with rocks, seeking to provoke the Israelis into firing to protect their own lives.

The words of the two mothers also belie any moral equivalence. While Fraenkel expressed sympathy for any Palestinians who have been hurt, Aida Dudeen proclaimed her boy to be a “martyr” who “died for his homeland.” Dudeen, who said she tried to prevent her son from joining in the violence, also regards the Jewish presence in the land to be a matter of “colonialism.” Like the Palestinian social media campaign mocking the kidnapped boys, there is a clear sense on the part of the Arabs that any Jew who suffers in the conflict had it coming.

Reduced to the personal human element of mothers and sons, one can argue that one is no different from the other. But so long as the Palestinians cling to the notion that the country can be “liberated,” as Dudeen suggests, from the Jews, nothing will change. Despite the clichés about a cycle of violence in which both sides are stuck, the events that led to the deaths of Fraenkel and Dudeen were not involuntary. They involved the decision on the part of Hamas terrorists to kill Israeli kids and the subsequent decisions of other Palestinians to pour into the streets in an effort to either impede Israeli searchers or to seek out confrontations in which the ranks of Palestinian “martyrs” will be replenished.

The problem here is not merely a misunderstanding between the two sides that can be resolved by a superficial juxtaposition of the two families. The deaths of these two boys stem from a belief on the part of the Palestinians that they have the right to “resist” the Jewish presence with terror as well as the duty to attack those Israelis who sought out the terrorists and their victims.

Israel will be justified in taking drastic actions against Hamas in the coming days, especially in light of the news that, for the first time in years, the Islamist group is firing missiles into southern Israel from Gaza rather than farming out that duty to other Palestinian groups. But the point here isn’t so much the necessity to mete out retaliation for the kidnapping/murders as it is the necessity of the Palestinians to reassess their actions and belief system that set this chain of events in motion.

The tragic ending to the search should also cause those—like the New York Times—who routinely treat the victims of terror as somehow morally equivalent to those who aid and support terror to think again about what it truly means to be evenhanded in one’s thinking about the conflict. By treating these events as an excuse for superficial moralizing rather than an honest evaluation of a toxic Palestinian political culture that glorifies terror, the Western media plays a not insignificant role in perpetuating a conflict that they deplore.

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The Kidnapping, the Settlements, and History

As the second week of the ordeal of the three Israeli teens kidnapped by Hamas terrorists begins, there were few signs, other than yesterday’s announcement of the names of two suspects, of progress in the search. But the indifference of much of the world to the abduction stems from the fact that the yeshiva to which the trio was hitchhiking is located in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion. But, as historian Benny Morris noted this week in Tablet, the notion that a resident of this community is an “illegal settler” contradicts history.

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As the second week of the ordeal of the three Israeli teens kidnapped by Hamas terrorists begins, there were few signs, other than yesterday’s announcement of the names of two suspects, of progress in the search. But the indifference of much of the world to the abduction stems from the fact that the yeshiva to which the trio was hitchhiking is located in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion. But, as historian Benny Morris noted this week in Tablet, the notion that a resident of this community is an “illegal settler” contradicts history.

To most Westerners, the “West Bank” is a place where illegal Israeli colonies have been planted among Palestinians in order to rule over them. That this territory is the heart of the historic Jewish homeland to which Jews have legal, religious, and moral claims is something that is almost never discussed. But even if you wish to ignore the fact that the West Bank is merely disputed territory where both Jews and Arabs have valid claims rather than “occupied Palestinian land,” it is not possible to classify Kfar Etzion in that manner.

As Morris writes, the existence of what is known as the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem on the road between Bethlehem and Hebron predates Israel’s War of Independence. When war broke out in 1947 after the Arabs rejected the United Nations partition of the country into Jewish and Arab states, the Etzion bloc came under siege from Arab gangs and eventually the Arab Legion, the Transjordan army  commanded by British officers.

Though the leaders of the Jewish state sought to reinforce the bloc, the settlements succumbed to Arab attack in the days before Israel declared independence. The battle cost the lives of 151 Jewish fighters (27 of them women), most of which, as Morris writes, were killed while surrendering or after they had surrendered. Both local Arab fighters and British-led Legionnaires carried out the massacre of the Jews.

While Palestinian Arabs have burnished the memory of the towns and villages they abandoned when their war of aggression against the Jews failed, they and their foreign cheerleaders have conveniently forgotten the fact that in some cases, it was the Jews who lost their homes. As with the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, which was similarly besieged and eventually fell, the survivors of Kfar Etzion were driven from their homes. But in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel came into possession of all of the Jewish heartland, the first request of many Israelis was to see the Etzion bloc rebuilt.

As such, the communities of Gush Etzion were Israel’s first West Bank settlement. But the notion that the people who live there on Jewish-owned land and in homes that were built on the ashes of those torched by the vandals who destroyed the place and killed its inhabitants in an orgy of anti-Semitic blood lust are “illegal settlers” is a hard sell even among left-leaning Israelis. When Israelis speak of retaining settlement blocs close to the 1967 lines they are speaking primarily of the 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods that were built in Jerusalem and its environs after the war where hundreds of thousands now live. But they are also speaking of Gush Etzion, which came to symbolize both the heroism of the Jewish nation and its indomitable will to survive on its own land.

For Palestinians, the presence of any Jew in the West Bank (if not inside the 1967 lines) is both an intolerable insult to their national pride and an indicator of the theft of what they believe to be their country. That is why the majority of Palestinians has not only condoned terrorism against Israelis, but have cheered the abduction of the three boys. To them, the mere fact that they were studying in the Etzion bloc is a crime that renders violence against them an act that can be rationalized if not treated as a heroic endeavor. This is an expression not merely of Palestinian nationalism but of intolerance. But though violence against all West Bank Jews cannot be defended, the notion of treating the inhabitants of the Etzion Bloc as “illegal settlers” is particularly objectionable.

If the Palestinians wish to live in peace with Israelis, they must come to terms with the permanent nature of the Jewish return to the country and give up fantasies of Israel’s elimination. Even more to the point, if they wish Israelis to come to terms with the reality of Palestinian nationality, the abduction of the Etzion yeshiva students is a good occasion for them to stop ignoring or denying Jewish history.

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No Separating Palestinian Corruption From Terror

As the second week of the search for the three Israeli teenagers abducted by Hamas terrorists comes to an end, the announcement of the names of two prime suspects in the kidnapping is all that passes for progress in the search. But while these Hamas operatives are still on the loose, the international community is grappling with what it seems to consider a more important problem: how to pay 42,000 Hamas employees in Gaza.

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As the second week of the search for the three Israeli teenagers abducted by Hamas terrorists comes to an end, the announcement of the names of two prime suspects in the kidnapping is all that passes for progress in the search. But while these Hamas operatives are still on the loose, the international community is grappling with what it seems to consider a more important problem: how to pay 42,000 Hamas employees in Gaza.

The 42,000 Hamas workers seem to be the big losers in the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement that put an end to Secretary of State John Kerry’s Middle East peace initiative. The unity deal was motivated in large measure by the fact that the Islamist group has run out of money due to its break with its former Iranian sponsors and the shutting down of smuggling tunnels to Egypt by the military government in Cairo. They hoped the shortfall would be resolved by going into business with their Fatah rivals in control of the Palestinian Authority. The PA, which is subsidized via aid from the European Union and the United States, was supposed to pay the salaries of the 42,000 Hamas government employees. But since the Fatah-run kleptocracy has also been paying the salaries of the workers that it employed in Gaza since the Hamas coup in 2007, it has now said that it can’t afford to pay both them and the Hamas staff.

This both exposes the corruption at the heart of Palestinian governance and also raises some serious questions about how and why the U.S. can go on in its relationship with the PA.

The fact is Fatah governs the West Bank largely by the traditional Tammany Hall tactic of spreading around the wealth. The roster of Palestinians with government jobs of the no-work and the no-show variety is so vast that estimates vary. But no matter what the actual number is, the point is that Fatah uses foreign aid money to support large numbers of West Bank Palestinians in this manner. Hamas played the same game in Gaza before the cash ran out. Neither group cares much about actually using their funds to provide even basic services for Palestinians. The point of jobs that are in the gift of either Fatah or Hamas is to secure political loyalty and all that it entails when you are dealing with organizations that have both “political” and “military” wings.

That fact doesn’t come across in the latest sympathetic piece about life in Gaza from the New York Times. In it, the paper profiles two Gazans. One, a Fatah supporter, has been living the Palestinian version of La Dolce Vita since 2007 as he collected his full salary without ever doing a day’s work in the last seven years. The other, the Hamas supporter, made peanuts and was actually forced to perform some duties while his friends were in power. But now that they’ve run out of money, he’s been plunged back into poverty. The upshot of all this is that the international community needs to step up and give him his old salary back even though the tiny, though overpopulated Gaza Strip does not need two bloated sets of civil servants.

But what needs to be remembered here is that you can’t really separate what might be dismissed as routine political corruption from the more dangerous and deadly work that other people do for Hamas. The two Hamas members that are being named as suspects in the kidnapping have been missing since the crime occurred. That has led Israeli authorities to the not unreasonable conclusion that it wasn’t a coincidence that a pair of veteran terrorists who operate in the area of the kidnapping just happened to go out for a walk that night and never came home.

The international community, which has refused to shut down aid to the PA after it allied itself with open terrorists even after the kidnapping, may view the plight of the horde of underemployed Palestinian government employees as an entirely separate issue from that of violence. But though foreign governments may think Palestinian graft isn’t something they should care about, they need to understand that money that is donated to pay the out-of-work Hamas guy in Gaza is just as likely to find its way to men like the kidnappers. Money is, after all, fungible. The same applies to funds donated to the PA since it pays salaries and pensions to convicted terrorist murderers sitting in Israeli jails or living in a comfortable retirement after being exchanged for Israeli kidnap victims like Gilad Shalit. Though the PA is attempting to financially squeeze Hamas, as long as the terror group is going to be part of Mahmoud Abbas’s government, the notion that the PA is a legitimate peace partner is a myth.

If the Palestinians are to go on shaking down Western governments for contributions to pay their people for no-work or no-show jobs, they at least need to put a halt to terrorism. Sympathy for Palestinian workers is easy. But so long as the Israeli teenagers remain missing—and with each passing day hope for their safe recovery may be dimming—the West needs to refuse to go on doing business as usual with the corrupt Palestinian bureaucracy that turns a blind eye to, and subsidizes, terror.

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Is Hamas Coming Out Ahead?

There were two ominous developments on the 12th day since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists. While the Israel Defense Forces continued to scour the West Bank, and in particular the Hebron area, in an attempt to find the boys and to take out the Hamas terror infrastructure, Israel’s leaders seem to be coming to terms with the failure of this operation.

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There were two ominous developments on the 12th day since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists. While the Israel Defense Forces continued to scour the West Bank, and in particular the Hebron area, in an attempt to find the boys and to take out the Hamas terror infrastructure, Israel’s leaders seem to be coming to terms with the failure of this operation.

IDF chief General Benny Gantz finally said what many Israelis have been worrying about: that the chances of finding the victims alive may be getting smaller. Contradicting a previous statement by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who claimed it “was only a matter of time” before the case was cracked, Gantz struck a less hopeful tone when he said, “with the passing of time, fears grow.”

Just as important was the vote of the Israeli Cabinet to scale back the army’s search in the coming days. This is partly a reaction to the widespread protests the IDF’s actions have provoked among a Palestinian population that has treated the kidnapping as an act of national heroism. It may also signify that they recognize that the presence of so large a force in the West Bank may be a matter of diminishing returns. Moreover, with the start of the Ramadan holiday this Saturday night, the optics of Israeli troops rummaging through Palestinian villages searching for the boys and their kidnappers during the Muslim holy month will do more harm than good.

While Israelis, Jews, and civilized people everywhere have to pray that a breakthrough in the case happens soon, Gantz’s talk of fear is an acknowledgment that the longer this drags on without the kidnappers showing proof of life of their hostages, the less likely it will be that the boys will be rescued. If Israel is about to pull back its forces to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities, there’s no avoiding the possibility that Hamas may have successfully hidden its hostages or have already killed them.

All of which means that even though the kidnapping has cost Hamas dearly in terms of its ability to operate openly in the West Bank, it has nevertheless scored an impressive victory over both Israel and its Fatah rivals/partners in the Palestinian Authority.

The sense that Hamas feels itself the winner in this exchange was clearly on display in the interview given by Khaled Mashaal to the Al Jazeera network in which he praised the kidnapping. The political chief of the Islamist terror movement, who operates from the group’s Qatar base rather than Hamas’s Gaza stronghold, said that he could “neither confirm nor deny” the group’s involvement in the crime. But he praised the kidnappers and strained the credulity of even that network’s viewers by claiming the boys—teenage yeshiva students—were “soldiers.” He then produced a photocopy of a picture of an IDF solider that is an Israeli reality-show contestant and claimed that person was one of the victims.

But leaving that farcical presentation aside, Hamas has good reason to be boasting in this manner about what it has accomplished. Mashaal doesn’t really care about whether more Hamas members are jailed or even if some of its terrorists who were freed as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange are now back in prison. By operating in the West Bank ruled by Fatah, it has shown that it is capable of carrying out acts of terror and to have the perpetrators avoid capture in spite of the claims of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas that his security forces are cooperating and the large-scale rescue operation conducted by Israel. In doing so, it has not only won the applause of most Palestinians, who have mocked the boys’ plight with a three-fingered salute on social media, but also demonstrated that the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement didn’t stop Hamas from pursuing violence against Israel.

This means that this episode is not only a tragic instance in which a terror group has targeted children and seemingly evaded justice. It also proves that despite the progress that Abbas has made in condemning terror—which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly praised today—the reaction to the kidnapping shows the Palestinians are more of Hamas’s mindset on this question than their leader. So long as that is the case, talk about more pressure on Israel to make concessions for the sake of peace is not only pointless; it is actually counter-productive since it lets the Palestinians off the hook for their vocal support for violence rather than negotiations.

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The Collective Punishment Canard

Eleven days have now gone by since the abduction of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists. But rather than international sympathy building for the victims, their families, and a nation that has become transfixed by their fate, it is, instead, the Palestinians who appear to be winning the public-relations battle over this incident.

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Eleven days have now gone by since the abduction of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists. But rather than international sympathy building for the victims, their families, and a nation that has become transfixed by their fate, it is, instead, the Palestinians who appear to be winning the public-relations battle over this incident.

As even the New York Times finally reported in a belated article by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, the Palestinian people seem united in their support for the kidnappers and dismay at the halting statements of condemnation of the crime uttered by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian mobs have taken to the streets in what is increasingly being thought of as a new intifada protesting the Israel Defense Forces’ attempts to find the boys and to hunt down Hamas terrorists as well as what appears to be the ineffective cooperation of the PA’s security forces with that effort.

Yet the narrative about the kidnapping and its aftermath now seems to be changing from one focused on the plight of the victims to whether the IDF has overstepped in its bounds. Many international critics as well as some on the Israeli left are echoing charges leveled by the Palestinians that the army’s operations are not only undermining the PA but that they constitute a form of collective punishment and are therefore illegal. That’s the line being adopted by some Israeli NGOs like B’Tselem. While such groups have a record of opposing virtually any measures undertaken by Israel to defend its citizens, the notion that the army’s actions are high-handed and do more to create trouble than to actually find the teenagers or to impede Hamas’s terror campaign is one that is gaining some traction in the media.

As the Times of Israel reported, even as it is supposedly assisting the IDF hunt for the kidnappers, the PA is claiming that the arrests of Hamas officials and the temporary closures of various areas in the West Bank where the search is being conducted is a form of collective punishment. But a strong distinction must be drawn between broad measures aimed at squeezing not only the PA but also the Palestinian people in a probably vain effort to force them to produce the boys and their captors and the Israeli army operations that are currently being conducted. While proposals such as the one mooted by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon for “a wide-reaching operation against the civilian population” of the terrorists would clearly be a form of collective punishment, what actually has been going on in the West Bank is nothing like that.

As legal expert and COMMENTARY contributor Eugene Kontorovich told the Times of Israel, there is a vast difference between police and military operations that may inconvenience civilians whose aim is to find captives and terrorists and those that are specifically aimed at making a broad population miserable:

“Rounding up suspects, or potential witnesses, is not punishment, but rather rudimentary investigative process,” Kontorovich said. “Especially when the crime is thought to be committed by a complex terror organization, the number of potential witnesses is high. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Palestinians are being rounded up just to get back at Palestinians, without any regard to their having potentially useful information.”

Collective punishment means targeting the broader community for the crimes of an armed group, Kontorovich added. “However, members of a criminal group can be punished for each others’ crimes as part of joint criminal enterprise. This is widely used against everyone from the Nuremberg defendants to drug dealing gangs.” Police often round up gang members after a crime hoping they can shed light on the perpetrators or that they themselves might be liable for offenses committed in furtherance of the joint criminal enterprise, he said.

The point is that so long as the IDF is focused on finding the boys and Hamasniks, what is happening on the ground in the West Bank cannot be considered collective punishment. Despite ceding operational control of most of the West Bank to the PA, as the sovereign power in the area Israel has an obligation to both root out terrorism and to protect is citizens. The reason why Palestinians have taken to the streets to protest the search and the arrests of Hamas members (as well as the seizures of caches of arms and explosives that were discovered in the course of those searches) is not because the IDF’s measures are unreasonable or cruel but that the Arab population opposes the safe return of the boy and any measures intended to hinder Hamas’s efforts to kidnap and/or kill more Israelis.

In a sense, the collective punishment charge has resonance not so much because of any intention on the part of the Israelis but because the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians seem to identify with the kidnappers. That is unfortunate not just because it complicates the efforts of the Israelis and any PA security forces that are actually trying to solve the crime but because it demonstrates the futility of efforts to revive the peace process. The three-fingered salute mocking the kidnapped boys and the pain of their families and the Israeli people that has been adopted by Palestinians and their social media shows just how great the gap between the two peoples have grown.

One needn’t be a supporter of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government to understand that so long as the kidnapping of Israeli boys is thought to be an act of heroism that should be emulated, the political culture of the Palestinians will not allow any leader to make peace in their name. That’s tragic, but it should not deter Israel from doing everything possible to find the boys and to prevent Hamas from committing more acts of terrorism. Criticizing Israel for acting in this manner stems from from a desire to delegitimize any measures of self-defense, not the collective punishment canard.

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Palestinians Play the Victim Again

More than one week into the search for the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, the Palestinians have gone beyond mocking the boys and their families on social media with their three-fingered salute taunt. They are now attempting to use the Israel Defense Forces’ search operation as an excuse to turn the tables on the Jewish state.

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More than one week into the search for the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, the Palestinians have gone beyond mocking the boys and their families on social media with their three-fingered salute taunt. They are now attempting to use the Israel Defense Forces’ search operation as an excuse to turn the tables on the Jewish state.

Since neither Hamas nor their Fatah partners in the Palestinian government have produced the boys or the captors (despite PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s promises that his security services are aiding in the hunt), these political parties are beginning what is, in effect, a third intifada, as they send their own children and young people into the streets to resist army searchers, producing confrontations that inevitably lead to violence and casualties. Having then provided the international media with a new set of grievances, the Palestinians now are claiming that those who both applauded the kidnapping and who are actively obstructing the lawful operations aimed at rescuing the boys are the real victims. The only question is how long it will take before the United Nations and the rest of the international community starts mulling resolutions condemning the Israelis for leaving no stone unturned in their quest to find the boys as well as for having the chutzpah to resist terrorism.

To listen to officials like Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, the kidnapping is either an Israeli hoax or the act of Jewish criminals rather than terrorists. This variant on 9/11 truther myths is a mixture of the traditional imagery of anti-Semitism as well as modern disinformation. But like PLO official Hanan Ashrawi and his boss Abbas, al-Maliki’s real complaint is that the focus on Jews suffering at the hands of Palestinian terrorists helps “turn Israelis from aggressors to victims.” He’s right about that.

Though Israelis are routinely portrayed in the international media as the bullies of the Middle East, the kidnapping and the latest rocket attacks into southern Israel from Hamas-run Gaza (the independent Palestinian state in all-but-name that reminds Israelis what they would get if they withdrew from the West Bank) highlight the fact that it is Israel that remains under siege from its hostile Arab neighbors, not Gaza or the West Bank.

If there is any conscious attempt to manipulate public opinion, it is the efforts of Palestinians to turn a lawful search operation for the boys into a series of unfortunate violent incidents. What is happening is similar to past intifadas during which cynical Palestinian leaders sacrificed their children on the altar of hate for Israel in order to produce victims for the international media to aid the campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense.

If the Palestinians don’t want Israeli troops searching their towns and villages and fields for terrorist victims, they have an easy solution to their problem. They can demand that Hamas surrender the terrorists and produce the boys. Even more to the point, if they don’t want the present diplomatic stalemate to continue, which has left Abbas’s PA in control of most Palestinian areas but with Israel retaining the right to guard its security in the West Bank, they can return to the negotiating table and finally accept a peace offer that would, in return for their recognition that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and a permanent end to the conflict, gain sovereignty over most of the territory they claim as their own.

But since the Palestinians remain uninterested in pursuing either of those rational options or in being led by people more interested in developing their economy and respecting human rights than in pursuing a century-old futile quest to destroy Israel, they are stuck in their preferred tactics of the past. That is why they are dusting off the old intifada playbook and trying to play the victim instead of ending this crisis or negotiating peace. While much of the international community will probably fall for this ploy, they should not expect the Israeli public to be so simple. After more than 20 years of failed efforts to get the Palestinians to take yes for an answer, the Jewish state is determined to defend itself. Those who attack their children and mock them are not the victims in this story.

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Is Israel Overreacting to the Kidnapping?

Eight days into the search, Israeli troops have still apparently found no trace of the three teenagers kidnapped last week by Hamas terrorists. Though the army continues to claim that it is tightening the noose around the kidnappers, as the country welcomed the Sabbath, there was no sign that the government’s faith that the victims could be still be rescued would be vindicated in the coming days. Read More

Eight days into the search, Israeli troops have still apparently found no trace of the three teenagers kidnapped last week by Hamas terrorists. Though the army continues to claim that it is tightening the noose around the kidnappers, as the country welcomed the Sabbath, there was no sign that the government’s faith that the victims could be still be rescued would be vindicated in the coming days. Instead, prayers for the safe recovery of the boys are being drowned out in the court of international public opinion by complaints from Palestinians that Israel’s efforts to ferret out the terrorists are an overreaction or that it is inflicting “collective punishment” on innocents even if those complaining about disproportionate use of force are also the same people who have been promoting a social media campaign supporting the kidnapping and mocking its victims. The purpose of Israel’s West Bank offensive is to find the boys and to take down Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure that made the kidnapping possible. But the problem the country faces is that if another few days go by without results, international pressure to stand down and to even release some of the Hamas personnel that have been arrested in recent days will begin to grow.

Those who are lighting an extra three candles tonight for the three boys are holding onto hope that they will soon be found alive, the sobering fact is that the Israel Defense Forces have never yet rescued a Hamas kidnapping victim alive. The prayers of decent people around the world are focused on the desire to see the three boys being the first such victims returned home without Israel being forced to pay a ransom in the form of released killers. But the problem facing Prime Minister Netanyahu this evening is what he will do if by this time next week, the IDF is no closer to bringing this episode to a successful conclusion as it is today. The depressing truth is that in the absence of Israel finding either the victims or their captors, the desire of the Obama administration and its European allies to return the discussion about their recognition of the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian coalition and decision to keep funding that terrorist-backed government back to where it was before the kidnapping will become all too clear.

But before that happens, it should be understand that nothing that Israel has done should be considered an overreaction or a disproportionate use of force. Regardless of its ultimate disposition, as the current sovereign power in the West Bank, Israel has the obligation to both defend its citizens and maintain order. That includes the responsibility to root out terrorists and to rescue anyone who has been captured by them. If that means turning much of the West Bank upside down that will certainly inconvenience a great many Palestinians. But what is disproportionate is for the same people who are cheering the kidnapping with three-fingered salutes and promoting the crime as an act of heroism on social media to carp about Israeli troops searching for the boys. If Palestinians have taken to the streets to protest IDF movements, it is because they wish to hinder the search. So long as they regard any cooperation with the search for the boys as an act of treason and obstruction of their rescue as patriotism, it is difficult to see much hope for peace.

In the meantime, Netanyahu must decide whether the army’s efforts will at some point in the near future reach a point of diminishing returns if none of the three are found. While he will have the support of his nation behind continued efforts whether successful or not, the same cannot be said of his American allies, let alone the Europeans. All this means that sooner rather than later Netanyahu will have to choose whether to continue the counter-attack on Hamas terrorists. While the Americans would like nothing better to pretend none of this happened and that it has nothing to do with the peace process, this incident illustrates the futility of negotiations that treat terrorists and their collaborators as if they were peace partners. The U.S. would like to treat the kidnapping as a lamentable distraction from the business of Middle East peace. But the more Israelis are confronted with the callous three-fingered salutes of the Palestinians, the less likely they will be to ever listen to the siren song of the peace processers again.

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Kidnapping Hasn’t Altered West’s View of Conflict or the Palestinians

Another day went by without any word about the whereabouts of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by Hamas terrorists last week. While the lack of any evidence that the three are still alive or a ransom demand is deeply troubling, the Israel Defense Forces have conducted extensive searches throughout the West Bank as well as seeking to exact a severe price from the terrorist group. The IDF has arrested scores of Hamas operatives as well as taken into custody 50 of the terrorists freed in the 2012 swap in which the Jewish state traded over 1,000 prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

These sweeps have caused IDF commanders to claim they have inflicted a powerful blow against Hamas’s infrastructure. Re-arresting some of the prisoners traded for Shalit also allows Israel to make a crucial point. Since the object of the abduction of the three boys was to force Israel to release even more terrorists—including some, like those in the Shalit deal, with blood on their hands—this move is an attempt to demonstrate that the kidnapping has backfired. But the boasts from both Israeli politicians and military officials that Hamas is already the loser in this affair may be more intended to boost their citizens’ morale than an objective analysis of the situation. While Hamas may have been dealt a setback that makes it less able to operate in the West Bank, unless the Israelis are prepared to stand their ground on demands for release of the Hamas prisoners, the Islamist group will still be able to claim victory. That’s especially true if the boys aren’t found, if more terrorists walk free as a result of this affair or if, as appears likely, international public opinion begins to swing back to the Palestinians after a week during which the kidnapping engendered more sympathy than usual for the Israelis.

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Another day went by without any word about the whereabouts of the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by Hamas terrorists last week. While the lack of any evidence that the three are still alive or a ransom demand is deeply troubling, the Israel Defense Forces have conducted extensive searches throughout the West Bank as well as seeking to exact a severe price from the terrorist group. The IDF has arrested scores of Hamas operatives as well as taken into custody 50 of the terrorists freed in the 2012 swap in which the Jewish state traded over 1,000 prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

These sweeps have caused IDF commanders to claim they have inflicted a powerful blow against Hamas’s infrastructure. Re-arresting some of the prisoners traded for Shalit also allows Israel to make a crucial point. Since the object of the abduction of the three boys was to force Israel to release even more terrorists—including some, like those in the Shalit deal, with blood on their hands—this move is an attempt to demonstrate that the kidnapping has backfired. But the boasts from both Israeli politicians and military officials that Hamas is already the loser in this affair may be more intended to boost their citizens’ morale than an objective analysis of the situation. While Hamas may have been dealt a setback that makes it less able to operate in the West Bank, unless the Israelis are prepared to stand their ground on demands for release of the Hamas prisoners, the Islamist group will still be able to claim victory. That’s especially true if the boys aren’t found, if more terrorists walk free as a result of this affair or if, as appears likely, international public opinion begins to swing back to the Palestinians after a week during which the kidnapping engendered more sympathy than usual for the Israelis.

As Raphael Aren wrote in the Times of Israel today, the IDF operations have sought to delegitimize the Fatah-Hamas unity government in the eyes of the world by pointing out the involvement of Hamas in terrorism. But as Israel has learned to its sorrow many times in the past, there are severe limits as to how much leeway the world is prepared to grant it when it comes to self-defense. Though the kidnapping has been roundly, if sometimes belatedly condemned by world leaders, none have drawn the appropriate conclusion from the spectacle of a partner in the Palestinian government conducting terrorist operations. Neither the U.S. nor the European Union has halted aid to the PA in spite of the clear indication that rather than being absorbed by the supposedly more moderate Fatah, Hamas has remained steadfast in its support for terrorism. Just as telling are the calls from Washington and European capitals for Israel to show “restraint” in its efforts to strike back at the terrorists or to find the boys.

While the West will tolerate some Israeli efforts aimed at hindering Hamas operations as well as those focused on recovery of the kidnapping victims, it’s clear that none will endorse anything that would go beyond those limited measures. Though the U.S. is preoccupied with the crisis in Iraq, there is little doubt the Obama administration would lash out at Israel if it expelled senior Hamas members from the West Bank to Gaza. Nor would it stand by if the Israelis put the squeeze on PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to make good on his pledges to help find the boys or in any way punished Hamas’s Fatah partners.

While the Israeli government may think the kidnapping—and the broad support for it among the Palestinian people—ought to inform the world’s view of the conflict, neither the Obama administration nor its European allies share that opinion. From their frame of reference, the kidnapping is just an annoyance, albeit a painful one, that Israelis must put up with. Barring a swift resolution to this incident, it is likely pressure will start to build in the international community for the Israelis to stand down and begin releasing the re-arrested Shalit-swap prisoners. Indeed, already voices are being raised claiming that Israel is engaging in “collective punishment” against the Palestinians in its anti-Hamas campaign. While the charge is specious, the willingness to turn the tables on the Israelis and to treat Hamas and its supporters as the victims reflects the prejudicial atmosphere in which the Jewish state must operate.

Contrary to the expectations of some in Israel, the #bringbackourboys hashtag social media campaign hasn’t really caught fire outside of the Jewish community. Nor has the rival #threeshalits hashtag—a phrase that demonstrates the broad support for terrorism among Palestinians—influenced either the U.S. or international public opinion to cause them to question their belief that the Israelis are the real obstacle to peace. By raising the ante with Israel in this manner, Hamas has shown the Palestinians that they are the true standard-bearers in the ongoing conflict with the Jews. Unless the IDF can find the boys and the Netanyahu government sticks to its guns in the months ahead on prisoner releases, Hamas will be able claim victory despite the blows they have absorbed.

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Will Michelle Join Hashtag Battle Against Hamas Kidnappers?

When the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped 300 Nigerian girls not long ago, the response from the mainstream media as well as liberal elites was not long in coming. The outrage and calls for action seemed strangely disconnected from the enthusiasm on the part of many of those speaking up about the kidnapped girls for President Obama’s weak “lead from behind” foreign policy that has left the U.S. paralyzed in the face of egregious human-rights disasters, such as the one in Syria. But as much as many of those promoting the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, seemed to confuse a tweet with tangible action that might do something, the willingness of Americans both prominent and obscure to express their concern was appropriate. As we have since learned, it will take more than a hashtag and a selfie to rescue the girls that Boko Haram have boasted of selling into slavery. But the criticism of the naïveté of the tweeters revealed that social media has become one of the principal battlefronts in human-rights controversies.

That’s become apparent in the last week as both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings about the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were apparently kidnapped Friday by Hamas terrorists. These social media campaigns have now been taken up by the rest of the world and become fodder for media stories. But unlike the worldwide consensus that kidnapping Nigerian girls was a terrible thing, what we have discovered is that there is no such unanimity in the civilized world about the fate of Jewish boys. While Jews and friends of Israel have promoted the #bringbackourboys slogan on Twitter, Palestinians and their sympathizers have answered with #threeshalits, an expression that is not only a callous comment about their abduction but an explicit endorsement of kidnapping as a tactic to force Israel to release imprisoned terrorists.

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When the Boko Haram terrorist group kidnapped 300 Nigerian girls not long ago, the response from the mainstream media as well as liberal elites was not long in coming. The outrage and calls for action seemed strangely disconnected from the enthusiasm on the part of many of those speaking up about the kidnapped girls for President Obama’s weak “lead from behind” foreign policy that has left the U.S. paralyzed in the face of egregious human-rights disasters, such as the one in Syria. But as much as many of those promoting the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, seemed to confuse a tweet with tangible action that might do something, the willingness of Americans both prominent and obscure to express their concern was appropriate. As we have since learned, it will take more than a hashtag and a selfie to rescue the girls that Boko Haram have boasted of selling into slavery. But the criticism of the naïveté of the tweeters revealed that social media has become one of the principal battlefronts in human-rights controversies.

That’s become apparent in the last week as both Israelis and Palestinians have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their feelings about the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were apparently kidnapped Friday by Hamas terrorists. These social media campaigns have now been taken up by the rest of the world and become fodder for media stories. But unlike the worldwide consensus that kidnapping Nigerian girls was a terrible thing, what we have discovered is that there is no such unanimity in the civilized world about the fate of Jewish boys. While Jews and friends of Israel have promoted the #bringbackourboys slogan on Twitter, Palestinians and their sympathizers have answered with #threeshalits, an expression that is not only a callous comment about their abduction but an explicit endorsement of kidnapping as a tactic to force Israel to release imprisoned terrorists.

The competition between these two groups hasn’t engaged liberal elites the way the Boko Haram attack, did but the willingness of some liberal publications to engage in the worst sort of blame-the-victim memes with regard to the kidnapped boys illustrates that the pro-human rights mentality that made #bringbackourgirls such a huge success is based on sentiments that run about a millimeter deep in our culture. With supposedly cutting edge websites like Vox using the kidnapping as an excuse to engage in specious and largely false arguments about the evils of Israeli occupation of the West Bank to rationalize if not justify Palestinian terrorism, it’s little wonder that Mrs. Obama is not lending her immense prestige to the campaign to free the Israeli boys.

Why won’t Michelle Obama tweet her sympathy for the Israeli boys? The answer is obvious. To do so would be to make it clear that the White House believes that the human rights of Jews, even those living on what the administration thinks is the wrong side of the green line, are human beings with rights, rather than just flesh and blood targets.

While no individual or even any government can involve itself in every issue or incident on the planet, the choices we make are instructive as to whether our putative concern for human rights is a pose or a genuine commitment. In the case of Boko Haram’s victims, it was easy for liberal Americans to express anger for the terrorists and sympathy for the victims, since to do so involved no hard choices, other than the choice former secretary of state Hillary Clinton made in refusing to designate the kidnappers as a terror group during her time in office. Americans don’t really care who runs Northern Nigeria or the intricacies of that vast nation’s political and religious conflicts. But that didn’t stop them from rightly expressing their disgust with the notion that terrorists could simply snatch girls from school and force them to convert to Islam and/or to sell them into slavery.

But to use their hashtag power to speak up against Hamas and the widespread support for kidnapping among Palestinians, even though PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has belatedly condemned the crime, involves some real hard choices. It involves a realization that the Middle East conflict isn’t so much about borders or Israel’s policies as it is about the hate that drives Palestinian rejection of the Jewish state’s repeated offers of peace.

Boko Haram’s military was not matched by an ability to mobilize international opinion on behalf of their cause of preventing women from being educated. But Hamas is more fortunate. They can not only count on Palestinian social media users to glorify their crimes and to call for more such abductions but also rely on the willingness of many Western liberals to rationalize any violence against Israelis.

Up until now, the response of the U.S. to the kidnapping has been weak. While Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned it, he has not sought to draw conclusions from events about the wisdom of his decision to go on supplying the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government with American taxpayer dollars. Nor has the White House specifically called for the release of the boys and the surrender of the Hamas terrorists.

While we still know nothing about the fate of the boys, countering those who are supporting the kidnapping—a vicious campaign with overtones of traditional anti-Semitism—won’t be easy. But it would be helped if the first lady were willing to endorse freedom for the boys. A hashtag is no substitute for action or even a policy that sought to disassociate America from Palestinian terror. But it would be a start.

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The Kidnapping and Palestinian Aid

The United States decision to keep funding the Palestinian Authority even after its leader Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Hamas into the PA’s governing coalition helped legitimize the terrorist group. But in the wake of Hamas’ kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, it appears that even some of the Palestinians’ most ardent cheerleaders realize that pouring more money into the coffers of the PA right now may be more trouble than its worth. Thus, rather than plow ahead even in the midst of the furor over the Hamas kidnapping, Norway, which chairs the group coordinating international support for the Palestinians, has decided to postpone the next meeting where donors will discuss how to continue funding the PA.

That’s a smart decision but there’s more involved with the question of aid to the PA than bad optics. The willingness of the international community to go on subsidizing the Fatah-run kleptocracy that governs the West Bank despite its alliance with Hamas is clear. The Palestinians remain popular in Europe, though less so in the United States. But the funds that EU nations and the U.S. funnel into the coffers of the PA are supposed to promote peace and economic development. While the world is supposed to believe that the technocratic front men that Abbas appointed to his new coalition cabinet were going to do just that, the kidnapping is a reminder that getting into bed with Hamas involves subsidizing terrorism. The question is when will the Obama administration draw the appropriate conclusion from these events?

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The United States decision to keep funding the Palestinian Authority even after its leader Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Hamas into the PA’s governing coalition helped legitimize the terrorist group. But in the wake of Hamas’ kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, it appears that even some of the Palestinians’ most ardent cheerleaders realize that pouring more money into the coffers of the PA right now may be more trouble than its worth. Thus, rather than plow ahead even in the midst of the furor over the Hamas kidnapping, Norway, which chairs the group coordinating international support for the Palestinians, has decided to postpone the next meeting where donors will discuss how to continue funding the PA.

That’s a smart decision but there’s more involved with the question of aid to the PA than bad optics. The willingness of the international community to go on subsidizing the Fatah-run kleptocracy that governs the West Bank despite its alliance with Hamas is clear. The Palestinians remain popular in Europe, though less so in the United States. But the funds that EU nations and the U.S. funnel into the coffers of the PA are supposed to promote peace and economic development. While the world is supposed to believe that the technocratic front men that Abbas appointed to his new coalition cabinet were going to do just that, the kidnapping is a reminder that getting into bed with Hamas involves subsidizing terrorism. The question is when will the Obama administration draw the appropriate conclusion from these events?

The standard excuse for propping up the PA no matter what it does is that it serves a purpose in giving the Palestinians some sort of government even if it is corrupt and helps foment the hate the fuels the conflict. Moreover, Israel is very wary about the possibility of a collapse of the PA since it needs a Palestinian interlocutor and, at least, in theory, benefits from cooperation with some of the various security forces that work for Abbas and the PA. The PA runs on graft in the form of no-work and no-show jobs to a vast population of Palestinians whose support for Abbas is bought in this manner. Without such corrupt practices, the PA as it is currently constituted probably cannot survive. That has led to a strange dynamic by which both the Israeli government and AIPAC, the principal pro-Israel lobby in Washington, have often sought to head off efforts by Americans to stop the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the PA.

But the plain fact is that so long as Hamas is in business with Fatah and Abbas, continued U.S. funding of the PA violates U.S. law in the form of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. Moreover, even pragmatists who rightly point out that Israel needs the PA in order to avoid having to directly administer the West Bank (Hamas-run Gaza operates as an independent Palestinian state in all but name). But what the kidnapping made clear to both Israelis and the rest of the world is that keeping the tottering PA afloat in this manner may be a case of diminishing returns.

In its current incarnation, the PA does more to prevent peace than to promote it. Its media incites hatred of Israelis and Jews and its focus seems more on glorifying and freeing terrorist murderers than working to build support for the two-state solution that Israel seems to want more than the Palestinians. Moreover, rather than building a Palestinian state, the PA’s efforts are a hindrance to economic development than anything else. The efforts of former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to create responsible governance and an economy that serves the needs of its people failed due to lack of support from Abbas and Fatah. Giving more money to Abbas under these circumstances is an international vote for a regime that does more harm than good.

Even if we believe the claims that Abbas actually wants peace, recent events prove that he is unable to deliver it. The U.S. and the international community may be waiting for the anger about the kidnapped teens to die down before resuming business as usual with the Palestinians. But simply keeping the money flowing to Abbas and his Hamas partners won’t help the causes of peace and a better life for the Palestinian people. So long as Hamas is part of the PA and continues to commit terrorism and work for Israel’s destruction, the aid must be stopped.

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Three-Fingered Palestinian Values

According to today’s New York Times there’s a debate going on in Israel about the “conduct” of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped last week by Hamas terrorists and whose whereabouts and safety remain unknown. While the Times conceded that the overarching concern of Israeli society today is the fate of the three boys, the story claimed that the victims’ decision to try and hitchhike their way home from the Hebron area was a “cavalier practice” that had endangered others because of the price their country might have to pay to obtain their return.

But the impulse here to blame the victims rather than the criminals seems to have more to do with a desire by some on Israel’s far left and foreign critics of the country to demonize any Jew who lives or studies in the West Bank. No matter what mode of travel these youngsters chose, they had a right to be able to move about the country without fear of being kidnapped or killed. Though West Bank Jews have recently come in for a great deal of criticism about the actions of a tiny minority that have committed acts of vandalism and violence against Arabs, the truth is that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish inhabitants of the settlements have done no harm to their Palestinian neighbors. Except, that is, by committing the sin of living where Arabs believe no Jew has the right to exist.

Rather than focusing on whether Jews have a right to travel without an expectation of being attacked — something that is so commonplace that the Western press only reports the most spectacular instances — what is needed now is an examination of why it is that Palestinian society not only doesn’t condemn such kidnappings but treats them as national achievements. The widespread applause for the kidnapping, similar to the cheers other acts of terrorism draw from Palestinians, is a significant story that the Times and most of the Western press continues to ignore. And it is that imbalance in the coverage of this story that is at the heart of the question of why Middle East peace remains nowhere in sight.

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According to today’s New York Times there’s a debate going on in Israel about the “conduct” of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped last week by Hamas terrorists and whose whereabouts and safety remain unknown. While the Times conceded that the overarching concern of Israeli society today is the fate of the three boys, the story claimed that the victims’ decision to try and hitchhike their way home from the Hebron area was a “cavalier practice” that had endangered others because of the price their country might have to pay to obtain their return.

But the impulse here to blame the victims rather than the criminals seems to have more to do with a desire by some on Israel’s far left and foreign critics of the country to demonize any Jew who lives or studies in the West Bank. No matter what mode of travel these youngsters chose, they had a right to be able to move about the country without fear of being kidnapped or killed. Though West Bank Jews have recently come in for a great deal of criticism about the actions of a tiny minority that have committed acts of vandalism and violence against Arabs, the truth is that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish inhabitants of the settlements have done no harm to their Palestinian neighbors. Except, that is, by committing the sin of living where Arabs believe no Jew has the right to exist.

Rather than focusing on whether Jews have a right to travel without an expectation of being attacked — something that is so commonplace that the Western press only reports the most spectacular instances — what is needed now is an examination of why it is that Palestinian society not only doesn’t condemn such kidnappings but treats them as national achievements. The widespread applause for the kidnapping, similar to the cheers other acts of terrorism draw from Palestinians, is a significant story that the Times and most of the Western press continues to ignore. And it is that imbalance in the coverage of this story that is at the heart of the question of why Middle East peace remains nowhere in sight.

As the Times of Israel notes today, when Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas belatedly condemned the kidnapping, he found himself a minority of one in Palestinian politics. The Palestinians have now adopted a ubiquitous three-fingered salute — mocking the plight of the three kidnapped boys — as their new symbol of “resistance” against Israel. Support for the kidnapping isn’t confined to extremists or the most violent elements of terrorist groups but seems to cut across Palestinian society from street demonstrations to social media as a symbol of national pride.

Despite some comments from PA officials about holding Hamas responsible for the crime uttered only to Western and Israeli reporters, the kidnapping seems to have revealed that the Fatah and Hamas are generally unified but not for peace but in support of terrorist acts against Israelis.

Apologists for the Palestinians claim this is a natural reaction to the imprisonment of some 5,000 Arabs by Israel for security offenses. The only way to free these prisoners is, they say, for Palestinians to seize Israelis and to trade them for their compatriots. Abbas has claimed that the fate of the Palestinian prisoners is the number one issue for his people and it is no surprise that he bartered his willingness to return to peace talks for the freedom of some 100 imprisoned terrorists

But the problem here is that this is not simply a matter of Palestinians wishing to redeem those held by Israel. While there are some among the 5,000 in Israeli jails who may not have shed blood, most are there because of participation in the campaign of murder and mayhem aimed at Jews that Palestinians and the international media dubbed the second intifada. The core of this issue isn’t a matter of prisoner exchanges but the overwhelming Palestinian support for the atrocities that landed most of the objections of their concern in Israeli jails. The cheers from Palestinian crowds that greeted some of those released last fall was not in spite of the fact that they had shed Jewish blood but because of it. Indeed, there is no way to explain the glee that is being displayed among Palestinians about the kidnapping of three teenagers other than as a function of their belief that Jews, whether young or old, secular or religious, living inside the ’67 lines or “settlers” are all legitimate targets for violence.

Abbas, who personally embraced many of the murderers he helped liberate, claimed when speaking to Western audiences that kidnapping and other acts of terrorism are “not part of our culture.” But everything we have seen from the Palestinians the last few days, as well as during the last two decades of peace processing, tells us that it is very much part of Palestinian culture and national identity. So long as that is the case, and no matter what the Israelis do or offer, the conflict will go on.

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