The Jewish world is still coping with the aftermath of Monday’s violence in Jerusalem. Today Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset visited a 17-year-old Arab in the hospital where he was still recovering from injuries inflicted by a gang of Jewish teenagers who assaulted him and two others in the capital’s Zion Square. Rivlin condemned the attack and said Israel must increase his efforts to combat hate via education. Rivlin’s sentiments were entirely correct and echoed those of every other leading Israeli political figure. But that hasn’t stopped many observers from highlighting this crime and other incidents as proof that Israel is beset with hate. But as much as Jews are beating their breasts wondering why Jewish kids would behave in this manner, a partial answer was readily available. As the Arab media monitoring group MEMRI reported, the broadcast of hate directed at Jews via official Palestinian media is making it difficult for some Israelis, especially those who have grown up in the shadow of the suicide bombings of the second intifada to accept the idea that they shouldn’t respond in kind.
A good example of the depth of this hatred is exhibited in this segment broadcast by Aqsa TV, the official television of the Hamas government of Gaza. In it, Ahlam Tamimi, who in 2001 took part in the bombing of the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem happily boasted of her role in the murder of 15 people, including seven children as her interviewer smiled along as she recounted her joy at taking part in such an atrocity. But what is so chilling about this video — which is provided by the invaluable Arab media monitor group MEMRI — is not just her perverse pride in the crime but that she is sure that the Palestinian people not only approve of her conduct but also agree that she should be considered a heroine rather than a sociopath. Given the way she is treated in this interview, it’s hard to argue with her opinion on that score. As I first wrote yesterday, since Israelis are well aware of this disturbing reality, how can we then be surprised when a small minority of Jews react to this situation with anger and violence?
An Al Jazeera documentary and a statement from Yasir Arafat’s widow has led to a decision by the Palestinian Authority to exhume the former leader of the PA and to conduct an investigation into the cause of his death in 2004. While Palestinians have often spoken of Arafat’s demise being the result of an alleged Israeli plot, were such a probe to be honest, the Jewish state would probably have nothing to fear. More to the point, any discussion of Arafat’s death will necessarily involve highlighting what he did before he expired in Lausanne, Switzerland. And that is not something the Palestinians or their apologists ought to welcome.
Arafat’s death at the age of 75 was something of a mystery and predictably fueled conspiracy theories. Suspicion that foul play was involved will only be heightened if Al Jazeera’s allegation is accurate that his clothes contained trace amounts of polonium, a radioactive substance generally associated with assassinations carried out by agents of the former Soviet Union and the current Putin regime in Russia. That helps to remind us that of all the players in the Middle East drama at the time of his demise, Israel was probably the only one that had an interest in keeping him alive rather than putting an end to his pathetic misrule of the territories. Hamas, his Fatah underlings as well as the host of enemies Arafat made during his career as the world’s number one terrorist, are all far more likely suspects than Israel. However, if Arafat is to be dug up, the focus on the mystery of his death ought to also revive some interest in his criminal career that provides an appropriate context to his ignominious death.
Earlier this week, a mosque in the West Bank was vandalized. This reprehensible attack is believed to be the work of radical Jews who wished to make it plain to Israeli authorities — and not as probably most Westerners think — the Palestinians, that the removal of settlers from housing that was not legally purchased or constructed with the permission of the state will carry with it a “price tag.” These so-called “price tag” attacks have grown in recent years, even though the overwhelming majority of settlers, not to mention the Israeli people, deplore them. But though any such attack on a religious institution is a stain on the honor of the Jewish people and inevitably generates negative coverage of Israel such as this feature published in the New York Times on Tuesday, the bottom line is that in a democracy thugs do not get their way. As the Times reported that same day, the Israeli government has secured agreement from the few inhabitants of Ulpana to leave their homes that were ruled by a court to be built on private Palestinian property in the vicinity of the existing and quite legal Beit El settlement. In doing so, the rule of law has been vindicated.
But amid the general condemnation of the behavior of the extremist settlers that for some calls into question the legitimacy of the entire Zionist enterprise, it is worth noting an element of the story generally missing from most accounts in the Western press of the “price tag” attacks as well as allegations of settler violence toward local Arabs. However wrong the extremists are–and they are dead wrong–their behavior has not occurred in a vacuum. To focus only on settler misbehavior ignores a context in which attacks on Jews in the West Bank is a regular occurrence. And that includes Arab attacks on synagogues. The problem is that the foreign press gives the Jewish violence the sort of “man bites dog” treatment that makes it worthy of notice, whereas Palestinian misbehavior is simply taken for granted. This bigotry of low expectations is at the heart of the problem.
Critics of Israel’s decision to exchange 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit predicted it would happen. And they were right. Israel’s Shin Bet — the country’s national security agency — announced today that two of those released in order to gain Shalit’s freedom were rearrested on terrorism-related charges. One was brought up on charges of buying illegal weapons while the other was part of a plot to commit more kidnappings of Israelis. This will, no doubt, lead to a chorus of “I told you so’s” from those who blasted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to the lopsided exchange.
These two are probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of recidivism. As was the case with past prisoner exchanges, there is every expectation that many more of those released in order to save Shalit will be back trying to kill Israelis before long. But though this will lead many of those who were opposed to the trade to believe this discredits Netanyahu’s choice, they will discover the vast majority of Israelis who approved it probably won’t change their minds. The possibility that many, if not most, of the released prisoners would not abide by the terms of the deal was raised in advance of the exchange and acknowledged by its supporters, if not Netanyahu himself. Yet the same reasons that led this point to be discounted last year still apply.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset today that recent missile attacks on southern Israel from Gaza ought not to be regarded as a separate struggle from the international focus on halting Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. He laid the primary responsibility for the violence squarely on Tehran, saying, “Gaza is Iran.” The allusion was to the fact that the groups that launched the barrage, including Islamic Jihad, are directly linked to the Iranian regime. While some of Netanyahu’s Palestinian critics understand he is right about Iran being behind the terrorist groups who are most interested in heating up the conflict, they still reflexively blame Israel for the incidents. They claim there was something wrong about efforts to interdict terror squads as they are launching missiles or other attacks. This is not only morally obtuse in that it treats Israeli self-defense as inherently illegitimate but also helps to obscure both the immediate and underlying responsibility for the flare up.
As Jonathan Schanzer writes in Foreign Policy, the latest terror offensive that led to more than 200 missiles being fired at Israel was the brainchild of the Iranians. By starting the fight that the Israelis finished, Iran’s terrorist proxies were not just seeking to burnish their image by seeking to kill Jews; they were also punishing Hamas for walking away from its long alliance with Tehran: