Commentary Magazine


Topic: second intifada

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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Rachel Corrie Was No Peace Activist

The verdict handed down today by a Haifa court in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Rachel Corrie will be denounced by Israel-bashers everywhere, and taken as confirmation of their dim view of the country’s justice system. For them, Corrie, a 23-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in 2003, is a martyr to the cause of peace and freedom for the Palestinians. They continue to believe Corrie was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer knocking down the homes of innocent Arabs. But, as the court rightly pointed out, the truth is that though her death was regrettable, it was an accident caused by her own rash behavior.

The structures that she was attempting to protect by lying down in front of a bulldozer were fronts for tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza through which munitions and explosives intended to kill innocent Israelis were being smuggled. Even more to the point, the idea that Corrie was in Gaza to promote peace is a myth. The purpose of the International Solidarity Movement’s activities in Gaza was to shield Hamas and Fatah terrorists and to prevent the Israel Defense Forces from carrying out measures intended to stop the flow of arms and terrorist activity. If Corrie’s parents, who have pursued efforts to hold the state of Israel responsible for her death, should sue anyone it is the group that led the foolish American to Gaza and deliberately placed her in harm’s way.

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The verdict handed down today by a Haifa court in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Rachel Corrie will be denounced by Israel-bashers everywhere, and taken as confirmation of their dim view of the country’s justice system. For them, Corrie, a 23-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in 2003, is a martyr to the cause of peace and freedom for the Palestinians. They continue to believe Corrie was deliberately run over by an Israeli bulldozer knocking down the homes of innocent Arabs. But, as the court rightly pointed out, the truth is that though her death was regrettable, it was an accident caused by her own rash behavior.

The structures that she was attempting to protect by lying down in front of a bulldozer were fronts for tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza through which munitions and explosives intended to kill innocent Israelis were being smuggled. Even more to the point, the idea that Corrie was in Gaza to promote peace is a myth. The purpose of the International Solidarity Movement’s activities in Gaza was to shield Hamas and Fatah terrorists and to prevent the Israel Defense Forces from carrying out measures intended to stop the flow of arms and terrorist activity. If Corrie’s parents, who have pursued efforts to hold the state of Israel responsible for her death, should sue anyone it is the group that led the foolish American to Gaza and deliberately placed her in harm’s way.

Over the past decade, pro-Palestinian groups and activists have done their best to burnish Corrie’s legend as an American idealist whose death shone a spotlight on Israeli evil. Her diary was adapted by actor Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner into a play–“My Name is Rachel Corrie”–which earned raves in London and a slightly less enthusiastic reception in New York. The play was the centerpiece of a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the world that Israel was committing barbarous acts in Gaza against helpless people.

But the truth about the International Solidarity Movement was something very different than what has been depicted on stage. Rather than advocating a two-state solution, the group is opposed to the existence of the State of Israel and opposes all measures of self-defense on the part of the Jewish state. What was going on in Gaza during Corrie’s time there was a terrorist war of attrition in which Palestinians sought to bring Israel to its knees with a campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks which, over the course of the second intifada, took the lives of over 1,000 Israelis. You hear nothing about this in “My Name is Rachel Corrie” or any of the accounts of her activities by her fans. Nor do you see the Rachel Corrie captured in a photo of her at the time, face contorted by rage as she joins Palestinians in burning an American flag.

But, as British journalist Tom Gross memorably wrote back in 2005 in his piece, “The Forgotten Rachels,” those promoting the cult of Rachel Corrie don’t seem to care about the Jewish girls by the same name who were slaughtered by the terrorists the ISM activist sought to shield.

As for the particulars of the incident, Corrie’s death was unfortunate. But, as the judge said in his verdict, her death was an accident that occurred during “a military activity meant to prevent terrorist activity.” As the Times of Israel noted:

The commander of the troops on the scene, an infantry major, testified last year that the activists had ignored repeated warnings to leave and were endangering his troops. “It was a war zone,” he told the court. The judge repeated that description in Tuesday’s decision, saying that from the outbreak of violence in September, 2000, and until the day of Corrie’s death Israeli forces counted some 6,000 hand grenades thrown at them in the area, as well as 1,400 shooting attacks, 150 explosive devices, 200 anti-tank rockets and more than 40 instances of mortar fire.

As the judge said in his verdict: “She chose to put herself in danger. She could have easily distanced herself from the danger like any reasonable person would.”

The Jewish Rachels who died at the hands of Ms. Corrie’s Palestinian friends had no such chance. They were blown up or shot by Palestinians with munitions like those smuggled in the same tunnels that Corrie was protecting, while driving in a car, sitting in a pizza parlor, waiting for a bus, shopping in a grocery store or just sitting in their own home. But there are no plays about them.

Rachel Corrie should not have put herself in front of a bulldozer in the middle of the confusion of a military action in a war zone in which she was taking a side. Her death was as unnecessary as the intifada itself. Had the Palestinians accepted Israel’s offers of an independent state in 2000 and 2001 (and repeated and turned down again in 2008), there would have been no need for any hostilities in Gaza. But they chose war instead of peace and were aided by fools like Corrie in this futile endeavor. Peace will never come to the Middle East so long as Palestinians devoted to destroying Israel can count on the support of Western elites and pilgrims like Corrie to support their murderous activities.

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Video Answers Why Some Succumb to Hate

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?

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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?

Tamimi, a college student and part-time journalist, was sentenced to 16 terms of life in prison for helping to lead the suicide bomber to the Sbarro outlet. The crime, which was perpetrated on a Friday, caught many young mothers and their children in the place where they had stopped for lunch during pre-Sabbath shopping.  Ten years later she was released from prison as part of the deal with Hamas to gain the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit after which Tamimi returned in triumph to Gaza where she continues to receive the acclaim of Palestinians.

Watching this video is a chilling experience for anyone who remembers the shocking pictures of the aftermath of the crime as bloody body parts and dismembered bodies of women and children littered the street in front of the restaurant. Here’s what Tamimi says about her escape from the crime scene:

Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target] … I was feeling quite strange, because I had left [the bomber] ‘Izz Al-Din behind, but inside the bus, they were all congratulating one another. They didn’t even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings…While I was sitting on the bus, the driver turned on the radio. But first, let me tell you about the gradual rise in the number of casualties. While I was on the bus and everybody was congratulating one another.

After hearing an initial report that only “three people were killed” in the bombing, Tamimi said this:

I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said “three dead,” I said: ‘Allah be praised’… Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.

She later states in the video that the applause continued in Ramallah where her bus took her and that Palestinian policemen there “congratulated” all on the bus for the news about the death of the Jewish men, women and children even though they had no idea she was one of those who had accomplished this feat.

Were Tamimi and those who applauded her action a tiny minority of Palestinian society or merely members of an extremist faction with no support it might be possible to dismiss her as an aberration. But she is not an outlier. Tamimi is right that the vast majority of Palestinians supported her crime and still consider her praiseworthy. Those who cannot understand the lack of support among the Palestinians for a peace deal that would give them a state including parts of Jerusalem need to realize that the hate that is routinely broadcast on the stations controlled by both Hamas and Fatah merely reflects popular sentiment. For them, the Jews killed at Sbarro’s were merely, as she put it, “Zionists” who deserve to die.

Arab hatred does not justify Jewish misbehavior. But those lamenting a disturbing trend among Jews to mirror the hatred of the Palestinians need to look at the environment in which Jews are living and ponder how it is that so few Israelis have succumbed to the virus of hate.

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Dig Up His Crimes Along With Arafat’s Body

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.

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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.

It bears remembering that at the time he fell ill in his besieged compound in Ramallah, Israel had good reason to keep the old terrorist safe and sound. So long as Arafat was the face of Palestinian nationalism, his bloodthirsty reputation guaranteed the Jewish state a degree of sympathy that it lost once he was replaced by the more presentable Mahmoud Abbas, though the latter was no less obdurate in his refusal to make peace than his predecessor.

Arafat more or less invented modern international terrorism in the 1970s. But even after supposedly embracing peace with his historic handshake with Yitzhak Rabin on the White House Lawn in September 1993, Arafat had continued to promote and subsidize terror attacks against Israelis, Jews and Americans. When then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered him an independent state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem at Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001, he turned the offers down flat. His answer to these peace initiatives was a terrorist war of attrition, the so-called second intifada that cost the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis and far more Palestinians.

In the aftermath of that debacle, Arafat was isolated and humiliated, living in the ruins of his compound in Ramallah after Israeli forces complied with American requests to spare the Palestinian leader. At this stage, he was unlikely to be able to do Israel any more harm, but both Hamas and his Fatah underlings had good reason to want him gone.

Hamas knew that without Arafat, their campaign to oust Fatah from Gaza and launch a long march to Palestinian power could never begin. Though Arafat ruled Fatah and the territories with an iron hand and the help of 17 separate and competing intelligence agencies, the mainstream Palestinian party and its terrorist thugs understood that recovery from the intifada required the imperious and corrupt Arafat to exit the stage. The bottom line is that a lot of people wanted Arafat dead. But Israel was the only party that had a vested interest in keeping him alive.

The puzzle of his death has so many pieces it is unlikely we will ever get to the bottom of the story, especially because Palestinian politics will require that Israel be branded as the guilty party even if all the evidence points in a different direction. The role of Suha Arafat, his much younger widow who has continued to live like a queen in Paris in the years since these events, is also complicated because, as Ha’aretz notes, she refused his doctors her permission for them to conduct a liver biopsy as he lay on his deathbed.

But no matter who was responsible for his death, there should be no doubt that the man who died in France November 2004 was responsible for the slaughter of countless thousands, the introduction of new and fiendish methods of terrorism and for preventing any hope of peace between the Palestinians and Israel. The Palestinians would do better to examine their own failed and distorted political culture that makes peace impossible rather than worry about who killed the man who put them in the impossible position in which they still find themselves.

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