For the past several months, Israel has been under siege as a wave of Palestinian attacks, popularly called the “stabbing intifada” has brought to terror to the streets of the country. Individuals and groups of Palestinians have sought out random Jews — or people that they believe are Jews — to murder with knives, guns and any other weapon to hand. The result has been a surge in bloodshed with many if, not most of the Palestinian attackers, bent on carrying out their murderous intentions even in the presence of police, security forces or the army, being killed or wounded during the course of their attacks.
This terror wave should remind Americans that the perils their Israeli ally faces are not so dissimilar to the challenges the West is dealing with as Islamist terror stalks the streets of Europe and even sometimes in America as we learned in San Bernardino. But for one member of the U.S. Senate, Israel’s struggle is merely an opportunity to echo some of the worst libels of the Jewish state being broadcast by the Palestinians and their European cheerleaders. In doing so, he is demonstrating again how the left-wing base of the Democratic Party has drifted away from support for Israel.
Senator Patrick Leahy has been a longtime critic of Israel and sought to impose restrictions on U.S. aid to the Jewish state. In particular, he has always viewed Israeli self-defense efforts as somehow suspect. So for the Vermont Democrat, the stabbing intifada is only of interest in as so much it provides ammunition for his campaign to delegitimize Israeli counter-terror operations. Thus, in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry also signed by nine House Democrats, Leahy demanded that the U.S. investigate “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians and what he says are reports of torture of suspects.
For good measure, the ten Democrats also demanded the U.S. investigate the behavior of Egyptian forces during its recent life-and-death struggle against Muslim Brotherhood insurgents and terrorists.
The trigger for this letter was undoubtedly the case of an Israeli soldier that has been accused by the army of killing a wounded terrorist in Hebron after he had been subdued after an attack. As I wrote earlier this week, instead of symbolizing Israeli misconduct as its foes allege, the actions of the army to investigate the incident illustrates the high standards that the country’s forces and police have when it comes to dealing with enemies. But whatever the outcome of the probe into that incident, the point of Leahy’s provocation is to bolster a distorted narrative of the conflict in which the terrorists become the victims, and the victims become the terrorists.
Leahy’s excuse for this fishing expedition is a U.S. law that he authored that would deny aid to nations that deny human rights. That puts Egypt, which is ruled by a military regime that is not only undemocratic but which does abuse its own people. The Obama administration flirted with aid cutoffs to Cairo after the military’s overthrow of a dictatorial Muslim Brotherhood government that was backed by the mass action of tens of millions of Egyptians. But even Obama and Kerry understand that it is now in the interests of the United States and the West to allow the Sisi government to battle the Brotherhood and its Hamas allies in a no-holds-barred manner.
But whatever excises the U.S. might have to make to justify its aid to Egypt; no such compromises are needed for Israel. Israel remains a nation of laws in which its armed forces and police are subject to the same sort of constraints that are in force in the United States. While, as the shooting incident in Hebron demonstrates, all Israelis may not necessarily be perfect, the Jewish state need not apologize for its efforts to stop terrorists.
More to the point, the talk of “extrajudicial killings” — a line that has been used by Palestinians that support terror as well as extreme foes of Israel like Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom — isn’t really a serious argument about Israeli misconduct. What it amounts to is a claim that somehow Israelis, unlike any other people in the world, don’t have right to defend themselves against murderous terror attacks.
It is true that more Palestinians have been killed during the course of the stabbing intifada than their intended victims. But that is not something for which Israelis ought to be ashamed. It is, instead, a commentary on the suicidal instincts of Palestinians who have been incited to commit terror by their leaders and media with false claims about Jewish intentions to harm the Temple Mount mosques and other blood libels. Those who seek to kill must reckon with resistance in the Jewish state whether it is from the army, the police or armed citizens defending their lives.
As Daniel Polisar writes today in Mosaic Magazine, six months into this intifada, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians continue to not only support these acts of terrorism but to think them both justified and heroic. The violence isn’t rooted in grievances about settlements or alleged human rights violations as some of their Western sympathizers think. Rather, it is a function of their belief that Israel has no right to exist and that Jews, whether in West Bank settlements or older Jewish settlements such as the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, are fair game for slaughter.
The only way to construe the deaths of terrorists as a result of defensive fire from their intended victims as a crime is to accept the myth that the murderers are somehow the real victims of the story, and that their victims can be construed as the aggressors by the mere act of their choosing to live as Jews in the Jewish state.
Israel needs no assistance from the U.S. when it comes to ensuring that its armed forces maintain the high standards by which they have always been governed. But it is a sad commentary on the way increasingly large numbers of Democrats have become part of a chorus calling for aid cutoffs to Israel or to falsely label self-defense as aggression. That is the same mistake that Leahy’s Vermont colleague Bernie Sanders made during the course of a Middle East policy speech that he choose not to deliver at last week’s AIPAC conference. For Sanders, Israel’s counter-terrorism actions during the 2014 Gaza War were disproportionate, a gross distortion of the truth that, like Leahy’s charges, is more a product of Palestinian propaganda than reality.
While Leahy received a stern and entirely appropriate response from Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is the remaining pro-Israel elements of the Democrats that he really needs to hear from. Leahy’s provocation, like Sanders speech, demonstrates the willingness on the part of American left-wingers to believe lies about Israel. That terrorists are not victims, and those who fight them aren’t the terrorists, shouldn’t need to be pointed out to a U.S. Senator. But in the Democratic Party of 2016 such sentiments are, unfortunately, not as rare as they should be.