In the aftermath of the gruesome terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night that took the lives of four people, Israel’s government reacted with what any objective observer might consider restraint. While Palestinians celebrated this atrocity, the reaction from most Israelis was their characteristic to get on with normal life despite the threat of murder from those who wish their destruction. But faced with the possibility of more such attacks—cheered as they were by the Hamas government in Gaza and encouraged by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, especially during Ramadan–Israel’s government did the sort of responsible thing any government would do. It not only sent troops to the part of the West Bank where the terrorists originated, it also revoked the permits of 83,000 Palestinians to visit Israel during the holiday. The purpose of these moves was to do everything possible to prevent another bloody terrorist incident while avoiding the sort of action that might set off a general conflict with Hamas.
But predictably, Israel’s actions brought down upon it the opprobrium of the United Nations. In Geneva on Friday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the cancellation of the permits amounted to “collective punishment” of Palestinians that violate international law. Though it was accompanied it with a pro forma condemnation of terrorism, the statement also said Israel’s actions would, “increase the sense of injustice and frustration felt by Palestinians.”
While the issue of collective punishment is a thorny legal issue in a time of war, the U.N.’s reflexive attack on Israel shows again not only the bias of the world body against the Jewish state but also demonstrates the double standard by which it is judged. When it comes to the Palestinians, defense of their human rights apparently mandates that they be allowed to cross borders with impunity. But when it comes to Israelis, the human right to live in peace and security is not high on the U.N.’s priority list.
One can argue that curfews or restrictions placed on the movements of populations can sometimes amount to collective punishment. But the idea that a sovereign nation doesn’t have the right to close its border when it is under attack turns the very concept of international law on its head. Israel may grant West Bank Palestinians permission to enter but they do not have a “right” to cross into the Jewish state. Moreover, the notion that Israel may not in any way control its borders, even when under attack is to treat it as somehow less than sovereign over even the territory that the UN recognizes as part of the Jewish state.
Palestinian terror, such as the Tel Aviv attack, is, after all, not merely a random act in which individuals are acting on a personal agenda. Whether these terrorists were acting directly on the orders of Hamas, or merely inspired by the terror group that rules the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza, they are part of an ongoing conflict involving more than themselves. Like other Palestinian terrorists in Israeli custody, they will doubtless be given pensions by the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority and be treated as heroes by its official media. It is a certainty that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask for their release along with others with blood on their hands the next time he seeks a reward for taking part in negotiations or as part of a goodwill gesture to ensure that he will keep the peace.
While no nation can seal itself off from potential attacks, limiting those who enter from a territory that is a hotbed of terror is a minimal and entirely reasonable action especially during a time of year when some sort of flamboyant gesture of terror, from Hamas or its sympathizers, might be expected.
But when it comes to Israel, any measure of self-defense, even one that involves no counter-attack against terror bases but merely limiting entry to the country, is deemed not only illegal but also some sort of provocation. But not only was the UN chiding the Israelis, the Obama administration chimed in with its own warning as State Department spokesman Mark Toner declared bemoaned the possibility that Israel would “inflame” and “escalate tensions.”
Both the UN and the administration need to be reminded that the source of the “tension” remains a Palestinian belief that all of Israel is “occupied” territory—a stance shared by Hamas and Abbas alike—not the fact that the Jewish state seeks to defend itself.
The right to self-defense and to have one’s government take the minimal steps expected to prevent acts of terrorism is also a fundamental human right. The day when the international community starts acting as if Israelis are entitled to that right will be the moment when perhaps some sanity will return to discussions about the Middle East. Until that happens, the Palestinians will continue to believe that the world sympathizes more with their desire to wipe out Israel than with the Jewish state’s ongoing and successful fight for survival.