+972 Magazine » Larry Derfner http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 23 Jul 2014 00:05:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 ‘Finish the job’ http://972mag.com/finish-the-job/94114/ http://972mag.com/finish-the-job/94114/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:01:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94114 This is the watchword in Israel today, no matter the price.

Late last night (Monday), I was driving home from work and listening to the talk show hosted by Jojo Abutbul, who is sort of an old-time folk hero in this country – a Mizrahi Jew with down-to-earth wisdom. An Israeli common man. He speaks mainly to an older, Likud-oriented Mizrahi crowd, which is still very reflective of Israeli mainstream views, and is disproportionately represented in Sderot and some of the other towns near the Gaza border that have taken the brunt of Hamas’ rockets. Jojo Abutbul and his callers are an important voice in Israeli public opinion, especially now, during the war. They’re thought to be on the right wing of the mainstream.

They were speaking after a day in which seven Israeli soldiers had been killed, and a family of 26 had been killed in Gaza. The first tragedy overhung everything they said; the second was not mentioned. And the phrase that kept being repeated was, “Finish the job.” Abutbul said, “It hurts me, the number of soldiers who have fallen. But I think I’ll be able to withstand any number if they finish the job. But if even one soldier meets his fate and they don’t finish the job, then I’m going to find this impossible to take.”

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip.

I thought, well, that’s an “authentic” Israeli voice today, but it’s not the only one, and it’s probably somewhere to the right of the center of gravity. I still believed there were a lot of Israelis who are saying “enough” – not just left-wingers but centrist Israelis who cannot take anymore Israeli soldiers getting killed and want the fighting to end now. This, after all, is supposed to be a basic truth about the Israeli political mentality – that they won’t stand for large numbers of casualties in war. And seven soldiers were killed yesterday, and 13 the day before, and now 27 Israelis have been killed all told. This morning the news is that a soldier is missing in action, which means a whole agonizing bargaining ordeal again.

All the things Israelis were warned about if the fighting went on too long – international outrage over the scenes of Palestinian civilians being slaughtered, large numbers of Israelis being killed, soldiers being captured – have now happened. I would expect that a lot of people, not just leftists, would be echoing the world by calling for a ceasefire right now.

Then this morning I picked up a copy of Yedioth Ahronoth, the “newspaper of the nation,” what I consider to be the clearest window there is into Israeli society. The front-page commentary is by Yuval Diskin, the former Shin Bet chief and conscience-ridden star of “The Gatekeepers,” the incessant critic of Netanyahu’s hardline policies – and the title of his commentary is “Don’t Stop Yet.”

We need to expand the ground operation because the operation must not end with the status quo. The home front is prepared to pay the price so that the problem of the rockets will be solved for the long term. The operation to destroy the tunnels is absolutely vital.”

Actually, the main price for the home front now is not the rockets, but the deaths of the soldiers. Are we prepared to pay that price? Evidently.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

But there was also a column inside by Shimon Shiffer, who wails away at Netanyahu’s rejectionism toward the Palestinians; his commentary was titled “The Next War.” Ah, he’s going to provide a little balance, he’s going to say the war is futile, that either we change our approach to the Palestinians or the next war is on the way.

Shiffer slammed Netanyahu alright – but for failing to be warrior enough, for bending to international pressure.

As has happened in past military campaigns, so it threatens to happen again: the operation against Hamas ends with a sense of missed opportunity, with the knowledge that the mission and objectives of Operation Protective Edge were not fully achieved. … It can be assumed, without cynicism, that Netanyahu will find a way to sell us the successes of Protective Edge.”

Well, he took it to Bibi, anyway, so he earned his paycheck from Yedioth.

The front-page headline, beneath the photos of 10 soldiers who were killed, reads “Model Commanders.” The tone of the paper is not tragic, it’s heroic. The message is that the deaths of the soldiers has only increased our will to fight to the end, to finish the job.

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It’s pretty much in line with what I’m hearing from the people in my “social circles.” They’re not mainly leftists, they’re mainly center-leftists – they’d like Labor leader Isaac Herzog or Tzipi Livni to be prime minister. They’d love to be rid of the settlements. They’re completely heartbroken over the soldiers’ deaths, and they’re sorry for the Palestinian civilians’ deaths, too. But as far as I can tell, they believe in the necessity of this war, they see it as a war of self-defense against Hamas. And if the army says it needs to finish the job and that now is not the time for a ceasefire, which is what the army is saying, they’re not going to disagree.

I wasn’t here in 1982, but it is said that 400,000 Israelis protested in Tel Aviv’s Malchei Israel (now Rabin) Square against the Lebanon War. What happened? I know what happened, but the contrast between then and the way things are now is still uncanny.

At the beginning of this war, when it was impossible to call it a war, when the “kill ratio” was 200 to 0, I was filled with loathing at this country, at the complacency in the face of what the air force was doing to people in Gaza. But now that Israeli soldiers are dying – mainly young soldiers, of course – I don’t think I have any anger left in me.

Sunday morning, after a day in which 13 soldiers were killed and 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, mainly in Shujaiyeh, I thought, That’s it. Israelis are not going to tolerate so many soldiers being killed, and the world is not going to tolerate so many Palestinian children getting killed. Putting aside the world reaction, I thought Israelis, as deadened as they are toward the evil we do to the Palestinians, would save the situation with their finest quality: their inability to withstand the deaths of their own, especially their young.

I was wrong. Evidently, if they believe that the war is serving a purpose, in this case to bring long-term security to Israel, at least from Gaza, then they will put up with the deaths of their soldiers.

They’re not callous – far, far from it. Israelis really do have good hearts, and they love their own, especially their young, as much as any people on earth. The problem is their minds, or rather their collective mind, the mind of this society – it is geared like a sports car engine to war.

PHOTOS: A Gaza funeral for 26 members of one family
Mourning death wherever it strikes
Why Palestinians continue to support Hamas

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The ‘terror tunnels’: Another Israeli self-fulfilling prophecy http://972mag.com/the-terror-tunnels-another-israeli-self-fulfilling-prophecy/94053/ http://972mag.com/the-terror-tunnels-another-israeli-self-fulfilling-prophecy/94053/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:08:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94053 There were non-lethal ways to preempt Hamas’ underground attacks, but the Netanyahu government rejected them all.

Here is the current, ostensibly airtight rationale for whatever the IDF chooses to do in Gaza: armed Hamas militats are coming up out of tunnels that start in Gaza and end not far from kibbutz and moshav communities on the Israeli side. So if the IDF doesn’t go as far into Gaza as necessary to destroy the last of these underground passages, sooner or later Hamas will succeed in carrying out “catastrophic” terror attacks, as Netanyahu puts it. The army has stopped several of them since Thursday night’s ground invasion of the Strip; today (Monday) soldiers were wounded in Israeli territory stopping another one.

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel.  Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

Funeral of Israeli soldier Banaya Rubel, Holon, Israel. Rubel was killed during clashes in Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

An unnamed IDF commander put the case very well to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea:

The IDF’s war to wipe out the threat from the tunnels is not an aggressive operation. It’s a preemptive attack, a completely defensive operation. … Imagine if someone in Hamas makes the decision to send out on some dark night, by surprise, teams of commandos through all the tunnels, and they go on a killing spree in the communities near the Gazan border. …

It’s true that many soldiers [13 – L.D.] were killed tonight. It’s likely that more will be killed. But think of the alternative. How could we look kibbutz or moshav members near Gaza in the eye if a commando unit were to infiltrate and kill dozens of their people? Now that we know the tunnels are there, we can’t allow ourselves the luxury of doing nothing about them.

It sounds entirely reasonable – Hamas is using tunnels to try to kill Israelis on Israeli territory, so the IDF has to go into Hamas’ territory and wipe out those tunnels. And it might be reasonable – if there were no other way Israel could avoid being attacked through those tunnels. It might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t choking Gaza and the West Bank for 47 years. It might be reasonable if Israel hadn’t provoked the war that led to these underground attacks (after a year-and-a-half in which Hamas not only didn’t lift a finger at Israel, but also reined in, to varying degrees, rocket attacks by other Gazan armed groups). Going after the “terror tunnels,” even at the cost of Gazan and Israeli lives, might be reasonable if Israel wasn’t rejecting any cease-fire terms that would allow the 1.8 million people of Gaza to breathe for once.

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Israel could have preempted the tunnel attacks by ending the occupation; and failing that, by not provoking this war; and failing that, by accepting a ceasefire on humane terms. But Israel’s answer is no, no and no, so truly, the only choice it leaves itself if it wants to protect its citizens near the Gazan border is to send Israeli soldiers charging into Gaza, killing and getting killed.

Israel provokes Hamas into a war that escalates to the point where Hamas is fighting a war of survival, using everything it’s got, including tunnels for attempted terror attacks in Israeli territory – and Israel says, “Look what they’re using! My God! We can’t let them have that kind of capability – they’ll use it to kill dozens of people!”

If somebody hasn’t said it already, I don’t think it will be long before we hear, “Lucky for us that Hamas forced us to invade; otherwise we wouldn’t have known about all those tunnels.”

          Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence

Israel can play this game with any of its enemies. Hezbollah has 100,000 rockets and missiles pointed at this country; they haven’t fired a single one in eight years, since the Second Lebanon War. But let’s go provoke a war with Hezbollah, they’ll start firing thousands of rockets at us – Iron Dome can’t shoot them all down – and we’ll say, “You see? They’re firing thousands of rockets at us, we have to go into Lebanon and destroy them all.” We can play the same game with Syria, with Iran, with anybody.

Instead, why don’t Israelis ask themselves: if Hamas has this network of tunnels that leads into Israel, and which took them years to build, why didn’t they use them before? For that matter, why didn’t they use their long-range rockets before? Why were they sitting on 10,000 rockets and not firing any of them?

Could it be that they weren’t so eager to use everything they’ve got, to invite Israel’s wrath, to fight a war of survival?

But very few Israelis have any interest in questioning Operation Protective Edge. Israelis generally don’t ask a lot of questions about matters like these even between the wars, so they’re certainly not going to ask them now.

‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’
Mourning death wherever it strikes
PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation from deadliest day in Gaza
WATCH: Dozens of bodies strewn in the streets of Gaza

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Blame Israel and Hamas both for Gaza’s civilian deaths http://972mag.com/blame-israel-and-hamas-both-for-gazas-civilian-deaths/93351/ http://972mag.com/blame-israel-and-hamas-both-for-gazas-civilian-deaths/93351/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:02:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93351 Sorting through the propaganda war.

The main outrage now, in the fourth day (Friday) of Operation Protective Edge, as Israel calls it, is the rising number of killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli airstrikes, mainly as a result of attacks on residential buildings where militants live or are thought to live.

Haaretz reported that the Palestinian Health Ministry said that of the 86 Gazans killed by Wednesday night, most were children (22), women (15) and the elderly (12). And that didn’t count the five members, at least, of the Ghaneem family in Rafah who were killed when their four-story building, home to some 30 people, was hit overnight.

As usual, the propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians over civilian casualties goes like this: Palestinians accuse Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, while Israel blames the deaths and injuries on Hamas and other militant groups for using the civilian population as “human shields.”

But the Palestinians’ accusation against Israel is false, while the Israeli claim against the Palestinians is partly false, partly true, but basically misleading. The main reason for the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties, obviously, is that an incredibly powerful air force is bombing the hell out of one of the most crowded, vulnerable places in the world – and the fault for that lies with Israel, whose punitive, often lethal blockade of Gaza, together with its military occupation of the West Bank, invites Palestinians to fight back. As in all its wars with the Palestinians since 1967, Israel is the aggressor in Operation Protective Edge.

But while the Israeli Air Force’s assault guarantees that a high proportion of civilians in Gaza are going to get killed and maimed, that’s not because of the air force’s efforts in this respect, but despite them. TIME Magazine’s Karl Vick wrote on Thursday:

Compared with any other military, [Israel’s] armed forces take exceptional care to avoid civilian casualties. If a house is going to be bombed, a call is placed to it announcing this fact, and explicitly warning civilians to get out. A pilot might also drop a “door-knocker” on the roof — a nonlethal sound bomb also intended to announce an impending attack. The real bomb that’s then loosed on the target is often a munition, sometimes quite small, specifically selected to contain damage to the target and spare the neighbors.

The problem is not that the Israeli army is unusually brutal, as armies go; if anything, the opposite is the case. The problem – in Gaza and the West Bank, now and before – is that the IDF is a colonial army, which is an inherently brutal role, one that other armies were ordered by their governments to give up decades ago.

About Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups using Gazan civilians as “human shields.” This Israeli claim is based on the fact that Gazan militants live among the civilian population and keep much of their weaponry in the neighborhoods. But this is hypocrisy; every guerrilla army that fights on its own turf against an incomparably stronger enemy fights from among the civilian population. The pre-1948 Irgun and Lehi guerrillas would kill the British, then “melt back” into the Jewish neighborhoods. In Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, there are civilian public buildings – including schools – with plaques at the entrance telling how they housed weapons caches and training camps for the Irgun, Lehi or Haganah. Up through Israel’s War of Independence, the kibbutzim were military outposts as much as they were civilian settlements.

But in another regard, the charge that Hamas uses Gazan civilians as human shields is absolutely true, and Hamas deserves loud condemnation for it. Karl Vick in Time:

Israel’s military says Hamas is promoting civilian deaths in Gaza, not only by operating from private homes but through posters and slogans actually urging people to cluster around targets as human shields. In one instance Tuesday, by numerous accounts local residents ran toward a building that had just received a phoned warning it was about to be bombed, apparently counting on their presence to protect. And it might have worked: an Israeli military spokesman said an effort was made to divert the incoming missile, but it was too late.

Haaretz reported on Thursday that the Gaza Interior Ministry – run, of course, by Hamas – sent out text messages to Gazan residents calling on them to disregard Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes ahead of the airstrikes. “The aim of the [warnings] is to scare civilians, and civilians must act responsibly and not follow misleading Israeli instructions,” the message read.

This is vile; families are told by their leaders to stay put in their homes when they know they are about to be bombed by F-16s? It’s something like this that tells you no matter how much Hamas may be on the receiving end of Israel’s manhandling of Gaza, and no matter how much it may be the weaker side, it is not any reasonable person’s idea of the “good guy” in this or any other circumstance.

And yet. Hamas’ terrible abuse of Gaza’s civilians in this way is not entirely divorced from (though it is much worse than) the way Israeli society used to consider it shameful for civilians to leave their homes under rocket attack. Good Israelis were supposed to say, defiantly, “This is my home and no terrorist is going to run me out.” As late as the 1991 Gulf War, when many Tel Aviv residents rode out the Scuds at their parents’ homes out of town instead of trusting the plastic sheeting and tape on their windows to protect them from harm, they were widely accused of cowardice. Things have changed since then; the “I” has overtaken the “we” in the Israeli mentality. But through the 1980s, which saw thousands of Lebanese rockets fall on northern Israeli towns, it was considered an Israeli adult’s patriotic duty (though not that of the children, who were sent to safety if possible) to sit at home, helpless, risking his or her life against incoming rockets, for the sake of national morale.

So Israelis should not act that uncomprehending and self-righteous about Hamas’ conscription of defenseless civilians for the cause. And if Gazans are still pretty much stuck in the “we,” not “I,” mentality, Israel bears much of the blame.

But again, it is a great deal worse to pressure people into sitting still for almost certain death or serious injury than it is when such a fate is possible but not very likely. Hamas should be denounced for telling civilians to disregard the Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes. This directive is no doubt driving up Gaza’s civilian death and injury toll, and makes Hamas’ leaders the last people on earth to complain about it. If there’s any ray of hope in this ghastly matter, it’s that the Gazan Interior Ministry’s text message to ignore Israel’s warnings may indicate that a lot of  Gazan families have been doing the right thing and running for their lives.

Why are there are no white flags in Gaza?
‘They left us no choice’: On military escalation and its Israeli rationale
What Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ of Gaza looks like

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How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza http://972mag.com/how-netanyahu-provoked-this-war-with-gaza/93200/ http://972mag.com/how-netanyahu-provoked-this-war-with-gaza/93200/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:29:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93200 His antagonism to all Palestinians – to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than to Hamas – started and steadily fueled the chain reaction that led to the current misery.

On Monday of last week, June 30, Reuters ran a story that began:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas on Monday of involvement, for the first time since a Gaza war in [November] 2012, in rocket attacks on Israel and threatened to step up military action to stop the strikes.

So even by Israel’s own reckoning, Hamas had not fired any rockets in the year-and-a-half since “Operation Pillar of Defense” ended in a ceasefire. (Hamas denied firing even those mentioned by Netanyahu last week; it wasn’t until Monday of this week that it acknowledged launching any rockets at Israel since the 2012 ceasefire.)

So how did we get from there to here, here being Operation Protective Edge, which officially began Tuesday with 20 Gazans dead, both militants and civilians, scores of others badly  wounded and much destruction, alongside about 150 rockets flying all over Israel (but no serious injuries or property damage by Wednesday afternoon)?

We got here because Benjamin Netanyahu brought us here. He’s being credited in Israel for showing great restraint in the days leading up to the big op, answering Gaza’s rockets with nothing more than warning shots and offering “quiet for quiet.” But in fact it was his antagonism toward all Palestinians – toward Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority no less than toward Hamas – that started and steadily provoked the chain reaction that led to the current misery.

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

And nobody knows this, or should know it, better than the Obama administration, which is now standing up for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

It was Netanyahu and his government that killed the peace talks with Abbas that were shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; the Americans won’t exactly spell this out on-the-record, but they will off-the record. So a week before those negotiations’ April 29 deadline, Abbas, seeing he wasn’t getting anywhere playing ball with Israel and the United States, decided to shore things up at home, to end the split between the West Bank and Gaza, and he signed the Fatah-Hamas unity deal – with himself as president and Fatah clearly the senior partner. The world – even Washington – welcomed the deal, if warily so, saying unity between the West Bank and Gaza was a good thing for the peace process, and holding out the hope that the deal would compel Hamas to moderate its political stance.

Netanyahu, however, saw red. Warning that the unity government would “strengthen terror,” he broke off talks with Abbas and tried to convince the West to refuse to recognize the emerging new Palestinian government – but he failed. He didn’t stop trying, though. At a time when Hamas was seen to be weak, broke, throttled by the new-old Egyptian regime, unpopular with Gazans, and acting as Israel’s cop in the Strip by not only holding its own fire but curbing that of Islamic Jihad and others, Netanyahu became obsessed with Hamas – and obsessed with tying it around Abbas’ neck. Netanyahu’s purpose, clearly enough, was to shift the blame for the failure of the U.S.-sponsored peace talks from himself and his government to Abbas and the Palestinians.

But it wasn’t working. Then on June 12 something fell into Netanyahu’s lap which he certainly would have prevented if he’d been able to, but which he also did not hesitate exploiting to the hilt politically: the kidnapping in the West Bank of Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.

Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the kidnapping. He said he had proof. To this day, neither he nor any other Israeli official has come forward with a shred of proof. Meanwhile, it is now widely assumed that the Hamas leadership did not give the order for the kidnapping, that it was instead carried out at the behest of a renegade, Hamas-linked, Hebron clan with a long history of blowing up Hamas’ ceasefires with Israel by killing Israelis. Besides, it made no sense for Hamas leaders to order up such a spectacular crime – not after signing an agreement with Abbas, and not when they were so badly on the ropes. Khaled Meshal, while refusing to confirm or deny giving the order, and saying he had no idea of the three boys’ whereabouts, lauded the kidnapping as a means of freeing Palestinian prisoners. This showed a certain moral idiocy on Meshal’s part, and on the part of his audience – the many, many Palestinians who likewise cheered the kidnapping – but it did not show that the Hamas leadership had ordered the deed. And we are still waiting to see that proof.

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, June 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron take part in the search operation for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, June 18, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But Netanyahu used the kidnappings to go after Hamas in the West Bank. The target, as one Israeli security official said, was “anything green.” The army raided, destroyed, confiscated and arrested anybody and anything having to do with Hamas, killed some Palestinian protesters and rearrested some 60 Hamasniks who had been freed in the Gilad Shalit deal, throwing them back in prison.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel had already escalated matters on June 11, the day before the kidnappings, by killing not only a wanted man riding on a bicycle, but a 10-year-old child riding with him. Between that, the kidnappings a day later and the crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank that immediately followed, Gaza and Israel started going at it pretty fierce – with all the casualties and destruction, once again, on Gaza’s side only.

Read: ‘They left us no choice’ – On military escalation and its Israeli rationale

And that was basically it. Netanyahu had given orders to smash up the West Bank and Gaza over the kidnapping of three Israeli boys that, as monstrous as it was, apparently had nothing to do with the Hamas leadership. Thus, he opened an account with Israel’s enemies, who would wish for an opportunity to close it.

On June 30, the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli boys were found in the West Bank. “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay,” Netanayhu intoned. That payment was delayed by the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 15, which set off riots in East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” and which put Israel on the defensive. It probably encouraged the armed groups in Gaza to step up their rocketing of Israel, while Netanyahu kept Israel’s in check. Then on Sunday, as many as nine Hamas men were killed in a Gazan tunnel that Israel bombed, saying it was going to be used for a terror attack. The next day nearly 100 rockets were fired at Israel. This time Hamas took responsibility for launching some of the rockets – a week after Netanyahu, for the first time since November 2012, accused it of breaking the ceasefire.

And the day after that, “Operation Protective Edge” officially began. By Wednesday afternoon, there were 35 dead and many maimed in Gaza, Israelis were ducking rockets, and no one can say when or how it will end, or what further horrors lie in store.

Netanyahu could have avoided the whole thing. He could have chosen not to shoot up the West Bank and Gaza and arrest dozens of previously freed Hamasniks (along with hundreds of other Palestinians) over what was very likely a rogue kidnapping. Before that, he could have chosen not to stonewall Abbas for nine months of peace negotiations, and then there wouldn’t have even been a unity government with Hamas that freaked him out so badly – a reaction that was, of course, Netanyahu’s choice as well.

But Israel’s prime minister is and always has been at war with the Palestinians – diplomatically, militarily and every other way; against Abbas, Hamas and all the rest – and this is what has guided his actions, and this is what provoked Hamas into going to war against Israel.

Live blog: Escalation in Gaza – July 2014
Dispatch from Gaza: You can never be emotionally ready
Why Netanyahu will lose this Gaza war, too

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Why isn’t the West Bank rioting, too? http://972mag.com/why-isnt-the-west-bank-rioting-too/93056/ http://972mag.com/why-isnt-the-west-bank-rioting-too/93056/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 12:26:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93056 And why doesn’t anyone in Israel seem to notice this? Answer: for the same reason that the Palestinian riots started in the first place.

With Palestinians protesting violently in East Jerusalem and the Israeli north, and with Palestinians in Gaza, or some of them anyway, firing rockets into Israel’s south, who are the only Palestinians in this land who are not raising hell these days?

The Palestinians of the West Bank. They threw a lot of rocks when the Israeli army invaded the Hebron area gunning for Hamas and looking for Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaar and their kidnappers, but since the boys were found murdered a week ago and the army left, the West Bank has been remarkably quiet. Even in the last few days, following the discovery of Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s burnt body, when Palestinian violence has spread through East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” when we’re on the verge of war with Gaza again, there’s little news from the West Bank.

Yet nobody notices.

Why is the West Bank, the heart of the Palestinian nation, the most populous part of it, and the part that comes most harshly under Israel’s malign power, davka the one part of the Palestinian nation that isn’t rebelling against Israel today? Why is the West Bank, which is most closely associated with the first and second intifadas, now largely absent from the action that threatens to turn into a third one?

Because of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. It’s not that the people of the West Bank don’t want to attack Israeli soldiers and settlers, it’s that the PA security forces are doing their best not to let them. PA troops, not Israeli troops, keep order in the cities, villages and refugee camps where the West Bank’s Palestinians live, and it is those PA troops – unlike Israeli police in East Jerusalem and the Triangle these days – who are keeping a lid on the tension. It is thanks to Abbas and the PA that the 2.5 million Palestinians of the West Bank are not rioting en masse against Israeli soldiers and settlers.Newsletter banner 6 -540
And nobody in Israel notices. Just like nobody in Israel noticed it for the past several years when PA troops, at Abbas’ orders, were working alongside the IDF and Shin Bet hour-by-hour to shut down terror to a remarkable degree. Two and a half weeks ago, on June 19, Haaretz’s Ari Shavit, the voice of the so-called Israeli center, wrote a column titled “Seven Good Years.”

The suicide bombers’ offensive abated already in 2005, but from 2007 onward Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, the IDF, the Shin Bet security service, Palestinian security forces and the separation fence managed to silence the next violence from the east. The number of Israeli casualties from terror attacks – and the number of Palestinian casualties from Israeli fire – dwindled in the last half-decade to levels the likes of which we hadn’t known in previous decades. The second intifada dissipated and even the street pressure of the first intifada wasn’t resumed.

Until the abduction of the three youths in Alon Shvut a week ago, no strategic attack had been launched. The bloody attacks on Israeli cities and even the attacks on the settlements and settlers dramatically diminished. The economic prosperity, cultural boom and good life … since 2007 were possible only because the violent reality we had lived in was replaced with a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability.

We didn’t notice then, like we don’t notice the relative quiet in the West Bank today. And it’s because we didn’t notice what Abbas was doing for us – not because he loves us, but because his interests coincided with ours – that we pissed away the best chance we ever had or ever will have to make peace with the Palestinians. Not only didn’t we make peace, but the Israeli government and public grew steadily more contemptuous of the Palestinians, beginning with Abbas. And it’s because we’re so contemptuous of the Palestinians that we’re incapable of acknowledging that they’re doing anything good, that they’re helping us instead of hurting us, that we should appreciate what they’re doing instead of trashing them. And, in turn, it’s because of that callous indifference of ours, years and years of it while we enjoyed “a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability,” that we’re seeing the Palestinians finally erupt.

Except in the West Bank, where Abbas’ men are still holding the fort, still protecting us. We’ll notice them when they’re gone, not before.

Why this isn’t a ‘new’ intifada
A premier failure: Where is Israel’s leadership?

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The bigoted rants of Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s rabbi’ http://972mag.com/the-bigoted-rants-of-shmuley-boteach-americas-rabbi/92591/ http://972mag.com/the-bigoted-rants-of-shmuley-boteach-americas-rabbi/92591/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:45:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=92591 If any gentile in America wrote about Jews the way he just wrote about Presbyterians – for any reason – he or she would be ostracized from public life for good.

So many pro-Israel Jews are coming down on the Presbyterians as anti-Semites because of their divestment vote, which is a slander. But why aren’t any of them calling out Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s rabbi,” for the bigotry he has been spewing? From his Jerusalem Post column a few days ago:

The rotting corpse of the Presbyterian Church got another nail in its coffin with the vote on Friday …

Now the Church demonstrates that it has no moral compass …

The Presbyterians supposedly believe in the Bible. I say supposedly because I’m confused by their general approach to morality, which seems to follow a show of hands every year at their general conference.

I’m not surprised that the Presbyterians – once the Church of choice for American presidents – is on a steep downward decline and seeing its membership being slowly decimated. The first responsibility of a religion is to serve as a moral voice and teach people right from wrong.

If any gentile in America said that about any stream of Judaism for any reason, he or she would be ostracized from public life for good. But “America’s rabbi” gets away with it.

News flash: Jews aren’t weak anymore, they aren’t oppressed, not in Israel nor in America, and in Israel they are the oppressors, so Jews who defend that oppression with hate speech, like “America’s rabbi,” are entitled to no immunity whatsoever.

Shmuley Boteach is not my idea of a rabbi. He’s my idea of a right-wing religious hustler.

Is Presbyterian divestment a BDS victory? Who cares
How Israel’s settlement addiction led me to support BDS

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The Israeli media’s hit job on MK Haneen Zoabi http://972mag.com/the-israeli-medias-hit-job-on-mk-haneen-zoabi/92230/ http://972mag.com/the-israeli-medias-hit-job-on-mk-haneen-zoabi/92230/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 13:57:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=92230 In a now-infamous radio interview, the nation’s Public Enemy No. 1 made it clear she disagreed with the kidnapping of the three Israeli boys. But that part has been edited out of the story by every major news medium except ‘Haaretz.’

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

MK Hanin Zoabi (photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Once again, Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian from Nazareth, is Public Enemy No. 1 in Israel. The Knesset just gave her a bodyguard because of all the death threats she’s been getting, and she’s being investigated for incitement. Everyone is convinced she endorsed the kidnappings of the three Israeli teenagers.

I was convinced, too, after I heard the news reports on Tuesday about her radio interview. It was only this morning, Wednesday, when I saw a translation of the interview and read the story in Haaretz about the whole uproar that I saw Zoabi had made it clear she disagreed with the kidnappings.

“Even if I do not agree with them …” is the phrase she used – and that phrase has been edited out of the reporting of this latest “Zoabi affair” by Israel’s most popular TV news show, Channel 2; its second-most popular one, Channel 10; its most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth; its most widely-distributed newspaper, the freebie Israel Hayom; by the once-influential Ma’ariv newspaper; and by two of the three leading English-language news sites, the Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel (the latter did, however, report that “Zoabi later clarified in an interview on Israel Radio that she does ‘not support the kidnappers, but [kidnapping] is the result of frustration.’”)

Only in Haaretz did anyone read that Zoabi said from the beginning that she disagreed with the kidnappers and their deed. (Full disclosure: I work on the desk at Haaretz in English, but I was off Tuesday.)

Here’s the key passage from Zoabi’s remarks Tuesday morning on Radio Tel Aviv:

Is it strange that people living under occupation and living impossible lives, in a situation where Israel kidnaps new prisoners every day, is it strange that they act this way? They are not terrorists. Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any way open to change their reality, and they are compelled to use means like these until Israel wakes up and sees the suffering, feels the suffering of the other.”

Myself, I don’t think the occupation or anything else compels people to kidnap 16-year-old boys – though it clearly provokes them to. And the kidnappers do fit the common definition of “terrorists” – militants who target civilians – but the term “terrorists” also implies that they act purely out of evil intent, without any legitimate political cause, and in that sense the term does not fit the kidnappers.

But if you take Zoabi’s statement – and leave in her words “even if I do not agree with them” – you get a wholly different picture of what she said than what is being reported by the Israeli media, let alone what is being said by the crazy politicians. (The most deranged of all is Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who effectively called for Zoabi’s execution, saying, “The fate of the kidnappers and the fate of Zoabi, who incites and encourages the terrorists, ought to be the same.”) But everyone except Haaretz left out her all-important caveat and focused on her words “they are not terrorists” to brand Zoabi as a champion of the kidnapping, which is a lie.

Some of these media hit jobs are really crude. The introduction to the Channel 2 story on Tuesday night went, “Knesset member Haneen Zoabi keeps attacking Israel – first by sea, now by land.” The so-called sea attack was a reference to Zoabi’s presence on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla to Gaza in 2010, when Israeli commandos killed 10 activists aboard after being beaten with clubs. Yet Zoabi, who stayed below during the clash, was part of the “attack,” according to Channel 2.

Ynetnews, the English-language website of Yedioth Ahronoth, went one better than its competitors by not editing out Zoabi’s disagreement with the kidnapping, but rather mistranslating and twisting what she said. Instead of quoting her correctly as having told the interviewer, “They are not terrorists. Even if I do not agree with them, they are people who do not see any way open …” Ynetnews quoted her as saying, “They are not terrorists. I don’t agree with you, they are people …” That is a gross mistranslation, so much so that I can’t assume it was an innocent mistake.

Some of this stuff was comic. The Times of Israel reported that on Wednesday morning, “Zoabi clarified that if the teens were killed by their captors, that would qualify as terrorism. ‘Murder is terrorism,’ she said. ‘It is illegitimate and should never be repeated, but the State of Israel is the one that led us to this event.’”

That actually sounds like something she might have said. Now here’s the same morning-after clarification by Zoabi as reported by nrg, Ma’ariv’s website: “MK Haneen Zoabi refuses to apologize. In an interview broadcast on Army Radio, Zoabi said of the statements she made yesterday about the kidnapped boys: ‘I don’t agree with acts like these, but even if the youths are murdered, that’s not terror.’”

Bit of a difference there. And what was nrg’s headline? Once again, it left out the “I don’t agree with acts like these,” and ran only: “Zoabi: Even if the youths are murdered, that’s not terror.”

This is the shit Israelis read and hear every day; this is how they form their opinions not only of Haneen Zoabi, but of pretty much every Arab to the left of Zoabi’s 17-year-old relative who went on YouTube wrapped in an Israeli flag, demanding the release of the three boys and calling on Netanyahu to “wake up and stop cooperating with … the Palestinian Authority [which] is the biggest terrorist.”

And the Israeli media have an international reputation for being “vibrant” and “independent”; in Israel they’re commonly thought to be “leftist.” Maybe in an Israel on some other planet, but in the Israel on Earth, the media, with the exception of Haaretz, are politically dull, obedient and nationalistic as hell. And when the national mood demands it, which is often, they’re deceitful too.

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The kidnapping is indefensible – but Israel helped provoke it http://972mag.com/the-kidnapping-is-indefensible-but-israel-helped-provoke-it/92108/ http://972mag.com/the-kidnapping-is-indefensible-but-israel-helped-provoke-it/92108/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 12:26:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=92108 The pain Israelis feel over the three missing boys must be respected, but the fight to end the occupation – including a major BDS effort in America this week – must not stop.

The three boys kidnapped in the West Bank Thursday night are innocent victims. And given their youth (Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer are both 16, Eyal Yifrah is 19), there’s absolutely no justifying this attack. Youngsters should never be targeted, no matter the political cause.

But while the three boys are innocent and their kidnapping wrong, that doesn’t mean Israel is innocent or right in what it does to the Palestinians; the opposite is the case. Israel is running a military dictatorship in the West Bank, which means Israel shares in the blame for the kidnapping because Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was at least one of the things, probably the main thing, that provoked it. So ultimately the answer to kidnappings and other acts of terror against Israelis is to end the occupation, let the Palestinians have their state, put up a border between Israel and Palestine like there’s a border between Israel and the other neighboring states, and such attacks will end – especially if Israel has a peace treaty with Palestine like it does with Egypt and Jordan.

A long time ago there were influential Israelis making this argument, even in the wake of terror attacks. But you don’t hear them today, because anybody who says such a thing in 21st century Israel is by definition a person without influence. Outside of Arabs and Jews on the left-wing margin, who weigh nothing in the Israeli body politic, nobody is going to be influenced by such an appeal; nobody wants to hear it. Israelis are convinced they offered the Palestinians everything they could ask for – first with Oslo, then with disengagement from Gaza and the prospect of more withdrawals from the West Bank – but the Palestinians turned it down both times, so Israel is off the hook. That’s not true – Israel never offered the Palestinians anything anywhere that could be called independence, sovereignty or statehood – but that’s what Israelis believe.

So the virtually unchallenged view today is that Palestinian terror comes out of the blue – it has nothing to do with the occupation, or Israel’s stance in the just-ended peace process, or its policy toward Palestinian prisoners, or anything at all. It follows, then, that there’s nothing really wrong with the occupation, or our stance in the peace process, or our policy toward prisoners or whatever else we do. What we do to them is irrelevant, it’s not worth any attention. The Palestinians act out of “motiveless malignity,” like Shakespeare’s evil character Iago.

This belief that Israel is a passive innocent and the Palestinians relentless evildoers leads the public, led perfectly by Netanyahu, to make endless demands on the other side while ignoring theirs. And when the Palestinian Authority keeps the peace year after year in West Bank cities, villages and refugee camps in the face of the most contemptuous, unyielding Israeli government in 30 years, Israelis don’t find anything remarkable there – that’s the way it should be. So when a terror attack does occur, Israelis are stunned: why are they doing this to us? Where does such evil come from?

I imagine that in the rest of the world (except America), the reaction to the kidnapping, to the extent that there is a reaction, is: “What does Israel expect?” Because the world (outside America) sees what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, which Israelis don’t.

An example of this one-eyed view is the resentment here being directed at PA leader Mahmoud Abbas because he hasn’t publicly denounced the kidnapping. What escapes Israelis’ notice, though, is that on Wednesday night, a day and a half before the news of the kidnapping, it was reported that a highly credible autopsy found that 17-year-old Nadim Nawarah, one of the two Palestinian boys killed in a Nakba Day protest, was shot with live bullets, despite the IDF’s claim that its troops shot only rubber-coated ones – yet not a word was heard from the Israeli army or government. First a video shows that Israeli troops shot and killed Nawarah and Muhammad Salameh, 16, while they were doing nothing but walking down a road, and the IDF denies responsibility. Then an autopsy proves the IDF wrong, and Israel reacts with a blank stare. Yet in Israel people are offended that Abbas, whose forces are reportedly combing the West Bank for the kidnappers, hasn’t spoken out publicly against the attack.

Members of the Palestinian national security forces carry the bodies of Nadim Seeam Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da'har during their funeral procession in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 16, 2014. Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da'har were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes the previous day outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison following a protest commemorating the Nakba. Foreign press published that the two died in a Ramallah hospital after being shot in the chest during a protest to demand the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel. (Activestills.org)

Members of the Palestinian national security forces carry the bodies of Nadim Seeam Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har during their funeral procession in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 16, 2014. Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes the previous day outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison following a protest commemorating the Nakba. Foreign press published that the two died in a Ramallah hospital after being shot in the chest during a protest to demand the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel. (Activestills.org)

This selective blindness only gets worse – every Palestinian act that’s not to Israel’s liking, from terrorism, to forming a unity government with Hamas, to going to the UN, to refusing to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, just makes the Palestinians more evil, and Israel the more injured party, which in turn makes Israel more rigid, and the Palestinians more frustrated and desperate. This is what’s been going on for many years, and the kidnapping is another low point in the process, one that will almost certainly have bad consequences for both sides.

The pain that Israelis feel over the three missing boys is something that must be respected; this was a horrible act. But it does not mean that Israelis’ political outlook must be deferred to, even now when sensitivities are very raw. The fight to end the occupation is a fight for Palestinians and Israelis both, so this is no time to stop. And since Israelis remain unwilling to end it, they must, unfortunately, be coerced into doing so.

The Presbyterian Church USA is voting this week on divesting from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard because these companies equip the Israeli occupation, and I hope the church votes “yes.”  The kidnapping of the three Israeli boys doesn’t discredit the BDS movement; it’s another harsh reminder of why it must succeed.

The kidnapping: Israelis aren’t the only ones facing national tragedy
West Bank kidnapping: The Palestinian unity government’s first real test

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First do no harm, J Street http://972mag.com/first-do-no-harm-j-street/91882/ http://972mag.com/first-do-no-harm-j-street/91882/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 09:20:27 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91882 With nothing left to offer except hollow pep talks about the peace process, the liberal lobby is fighting BDS – together with the pro-Netanyahu, pro-occupation American Zionist right. Next stop: the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly.

What is J Street doing? Why is it acting in concert with right-wing Zionist organizations like AIPAC and StandWithUs in fighting against boycott, sanctions and divestment, while offering no alternative of its own for ending the occupation?

Because the truth is that J Street offers no alternative anymore; now that the Kerry talks have failed, and all the secretary of state has to show for them is a footprint on his pants seat courtesy of the Netanyahu government, America is through trying to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And everybody seems to acknowledge this except J Street. Which is not a surprise, because without America in the peace process, J Street’s reason for being is gone.

That’s tough; the organization is going to have to change or close shop. And I hope it does change successfully by finding a new way to advance the two-state solution. Moreover, I hope it finds a less antagonistic way than BDS to accomplish this. And if it does find such a way, I will join J Street in a minute, because as an Israeli I don’t particularly enjoy supporting the boycott of Israel – but I do it because I see no other way anymore to end the occupation and allow the two-state solution to come into being. And nobody else has come up with another way, either. So as far as anyone can see, it’s either BDS or occupation forever.

Yet J Street, by default, has thrown in on the side of occupation forever. With nothing left to offer except hollow pep talks about the peace process, it’s fighting BDS – together with the pro-Netanyahu, pro-occupation American Zionist right.

Its Seattle branch just joined with AIPAC, StandWithUs, the Jewish Agency and Hillel (the last is not a right-wing organization; the first three are) to defeat a BDS motion before the University of Washington’s student government. Not only that, its Seattle branch wrote on its Facebook page that “global BDS is an ineffective, and worse, anti-Semitic, movement.”

Anti-Semitic? Is Jewish Voice for Peace anti-Semitic? Is Stephen Hawking anti-Semitic? Is the European Union anti-Semitic? That’s slander. That’s not liberal Zionism, that’s McCarthyite Zionism. What’s gotten into these people?

And now it’s moving on to the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly in Detroit, June 14-21. There it will argue against a motion for divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola, whose bulldozers, segregated biometric ID system and surveillance services, respectively, are used by Israel in its military dictatorship over the Palestinians in the West Bank.

J Street was instrumental in beating back the same motion in 2012, when it failed before the church’s General Assembly by a vote of 333-331. But that was then. Then it was possible to argue (although I’d already stopped) that there was still hope the United States would pressure Israel into making peace. Then it was still at least reasonable for J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami to tell the Presbyterian Church: “Reject divestment, and embrace full-on pursuit of the diplomatic efforts necessary to create genuine and lasting peace for Israel and the Palestinian people.”

But now? What argument can an anti-occupation movement make to the Presbyterian Church in June 2014 about why it should not divest from Caterpillar’s bulldozers, Hewlett-Packard’s ID system for Palestinians, and Motorola’s surveillance machines? Because it would interfere with U.S. diplomacy in the Mideast? Because it would harden the Netanyahu government’s stance in the peace talks?

From an anti-occupation perspective, what is there to lose by a Presbyterian Church vote for divestment? Nothing. But what is there to gain? A blow against injustice, the kind that has been scaring the Netanyahu government and Israel lobby like nothing else – certainly not the Obama administration – which is a very good sign that the BDS campaign is on to something.

This time around, J Street will again be joined in the opposition by at least one right-wing Zionist organization: NGO Monitor, headed by one of the world’s leading McCarthyite Zionists, Gerald Steinberg. A friend of mine was at a talk he gave late last month and said Steinberg was going on about how “he spends time working with the Presbyterians documenting why divestment represents classic elements of anti-Semitism.” Great stuff.

But this is the sort of company J Street keeps these days in the only meaningful action it’s involved in anymore: fighting BDS. With no peace process left, the organization has inadvertently gone from being “pro-Israel, pro-peace” to “pro-Israel, pro-occupation.” I know that’s not what J Street wants to be, but that’s effectively what it’s become by offering no path to peace while opposing the one way that still shows any prospect of success.

If J Street still wants to help heal Israel and Palestine, and I have no doubt it does, let it act like a healer and remember the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm.

This article appeared originally (with minor style changes) in The Jewish Daily Forward on June 9.

Beware, J Street: The Kerry deal looks rigged against the Palestinians
J Street past, present and future: Let’s get on with it

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Israeli leaders’ obscene reaction to the Brussels murders http://972mag.com/israeli-leaders-obscene-reaction-to-the-brussels-murders/91405/ http://972mag.com/israeli-leaders-obscene-reaction-to-the-brussels-murders/91405/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 09:46:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=91405 Netanyahu, Bennett and Liberman used the most horrible sort of anti-Jewish attack as a shield against criticism of their anti-Palestinian policies.

Right-wing Israeli leaders get away with such shameless political exploitation of Jewish tragedies, and no one calls them on it. Their use of the Holocaust is of course an old story; the new one is the way they’ve capitalized on the murders of four people, including a Tel Aviv couple, at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Saturday.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the killings were caused by “ceaseless incitement against Jews and their state. On European soil, tales and falsehoods against the State of Israel continue to be heard …”

Far-right religious party leader Naftali Bennett made roughly the same point on his Facebook page: “In this generation anti-Semitism has disguised itself as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist. Why are there people who hate the Jews? That is just the way it is. Why are there people who hate Israel? That is just the way it is.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman singled out the BDS movement for blame. “It’s the result on the ground of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement, among other things in calls to boycott Israel and Israeli products, in anti-Israel activities in international forums and in an automatic, one-sided anti-Israel position.”

Every decent, intelligent person can see what this is: Israel’s leaders are using the most horrible sort of anti-Jewish attack as a shield against criticism of their anti-Palestinian policies. And every decent person has to be appalled by this. Yet you won’t hear any criticism of Netanyahu, Liberman or Bennett from mainstream Jews and certainly not from European gentiles. They’re intimidated, they’re being emotionally blackmailed – the Jews by their fear of being accused of Jewish self-hatred, or treason, or collaboration, or whatever; the gentiles by their fear of being called anti-Semites.

So Israel’s right-wing leaders get away with this, and with everybody else remaining silent, their views are considered the “official” Jewish position, and maybe even the accepted “truth” of the Brussels murders.

This is depressing. As with so much having to do with contemporary Israel, it brings to mind the line from Yeats’ “The Second Coming”: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

The murders in Brussels were most likely committed by a Toulouse-style jihadist or a Kansas City-style neo-Nazi – and neither of those two lethal strains of anti-Semitism have anything to do with the BDS, anti-Zionist or anti-occupation movements, the last of which counts basically the whole non-Israeli/non-Republican world as fellow travelers. I have some familiarity with the international anti-Zionist left, and while I have seen a thin streak of anti-Semitism there, it is nothing compared to the broad swath of Islamophobia that runs through the Israeli and pro-Israeli right.

In his statement on the murders during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu included critics of settlement construction and of the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement among the villains in the piece.

There are elements in Europe that rush to condemn the construction of a flat in Jerusalem but do not rush to condemn – or offer only weak condemnations of – the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself and, even worse, welcome unity with a terrorist element such as Hamas, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. We oppose such hypocrisy, we protest against it.”

First of all, this is false; the Brussels murders were widely condemned as a matter of course in Europe (here and here) and so are fatal terror attacks in Israel (while Israel’s leaders approve of every IDF killing of Palestinians and pay lip service at best to stopping settler attacks against them). But more importantly, no one, least of all the prime minister of Israel, should use a quadruple anti-Semitic murder to score points against European critics of settlement expansion and proponents of the Fatah-Hamas pact. Yet go explain that to the prime minister of Israel and the others who sit around the cabinet table.

If Netanyahu, Bennett and Liberman had blamed the murders on the true, indisputable sources of violent Jew-hatred today – jihadism and neo-Nazism – they would have been telling the truth, which is always a public service, and also would have shown respect for the victims. But by using the murders as an opportunity to strengthen their unholy cause by slandering its opponents, by blaming those opponents for the murders, they’ve done something obscene.

And with nobody of influence objecting, they’ve gotten away with it again.

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