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Don't equate Paris attacks with those in Tel Aviv

Suggestions that terrorism in Paris springs from the same well as terrorism in Israel are misleading and dangerous. Erasing complexity may be a comfort in difficult days like these, but conflating the varying causes of violence won’t help us end it.

Israelis attend a solidarity vigil for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestill.org)

Israelis attend a solidarity vigil for the victims of the terror attacks in Paris, Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 14, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestill.org)

There are troubled currents flowing from unlikely sources these days. Terror attacks have continued to mar Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Yemen, Mali and others over the past two weeks, but the global chatter surrounding such events increased disproportionately with the attacks in France. Suddenly, two of Europe’s major capitals – Paris and Brussels – started receiving the kind of attention usually reserved for genuine conflict zones.

As someone who was born in Brussels to a French mother and who now lives in Israel-Palestine, it has been a particularly complex fortnight. For my country of residence has, too, been witnessing a spike in violence – albeit of a very different nature to that which has again turned up at Europe’s door.

So it has been with anguish that I have followed the current events and with troubled curiosity that I have watched commentators try to draw connections between the tensions in my countries of birth, residence and heritage. Under the guise of attempting to arrange the current wave of global violence into some kind of cohesive narrative, and with the debate on terrorism at saturation point, many observers of the Israel-Palestine conflict have seized on the opportunity to situate the bloodshed here as springing from the vaguely-defined, amorphous phenomenon of “global jihad” or “militant Islam.”

This line of reasoning posits Islamic State, Hamas and lone-wolf attackers on the streets of Israel-Palestine within the same nexus of expansionist religious fanaticism and has been adopted enthusiastically in Israel, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downward.

A prominent example of this unfortunate trend occurred last Thursday, when five people were killed in Tel Aviv and the West Bank in two separate attacks perpetrated by Palestinians. The killings took place exactly a week after the Paris attacks and marked the latest and, for Israelis, bloodiest day in a six-week stretch of heightened violence on both sides of the Green Line.

Palestinians take part in a solidarity vigil following the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris that killed 43 and 130 respectively, Bethlehem, West Bank, 14 November, 2015. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills)

Palestinians take part in a solidarity vigil following the terror attacks in Beirut and Paris that killed 43 and 130 respectively, Bethlehem, West Bank, 14 November, 2015. (Mustafa Bader/Activestills)

As is customary, people took to social media to voice their reactions, with countless Israelis and Jews in the diaspora – politicians and the general public alike – positioning the terror attack in Tel Aviv within the same framework as those in France. Ignoring the national-political dimensions of the violence in Israel-Palestine, many simply attributed the killings to Islamist extremism.

Absent from these assertions was any suggestion that the unique contours of the situation here – i.e. occupation, acute oppression and dispossession of Palestinians and a uniformly brutalized society – may be fertile ground for political violence. This attitude is perfectly embodied in the statements Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely made on Sunday, in which she claimed that “the settlement enterprise is the front line in the fight against global jihad.”

Domestically this approach is worrying, because it whitewashes the occupation and seeks to obviate the need for Israelis – and particularly the Israeli government – to look inwards. Without condoning or justifying the violence, there is nonetheless an urgent need for Israel to come to terms with the role that successive governments have played in cultivating the conditions for unrest.

But the implications of reassigning the roots of Israel-Palestine’s problems reach beyond our own borders. Firstly, it contributes to the broad trend of stigmatizing Muslims and treating Islam as inherently problematic, instead of trying to understand the exogenous causes of radicalization.

Secondly, it ignores the impact of the West’s frequently ruinous military adventurism in the Middle East and the fundamental role this has played in giving rise to violent groups with international designs. Islamic State, the latest and most gratuitously perverse of the lot, arose in large part due to a vacuum created by geopolitical developments that have little to do with Israel and Palestine.

Bunching terror attacks on the streets of Israel-Palestine with those in Europe also glosses over socio-political dynamics specific to Belgium and France, whose respective issues resemble each other far more closely.

Belgium, in spite of its reputation as a weekend-break haven, is a deeply divided country with a police force that seems to harbor a well-embedded tendency to overlook criminal activity going on under its nose. The country has long been a home for shady arms deals. A sustained period of terror attacks against civilians by a neo-Nazi gang and systematic police failings in the case of a serial child abductor and murderer were issues that marred Belgium when I was living there in the mid-1980s and again in the early 1990s. Additionally, Belgium’s dysfunctionality as a state has pushed much of its immigrant populace to the margins.

A woman lays flowers at an impromptu memorial a day after the Paris terror attacks, Le Petit Cambodge / Carillon, November 14, 2015. (Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/CC)

A woman lays flowers at an impromptu memorial a day after the Paris terror attacks, Le Petit Cambodge / Carillon, November 14, 2015. (Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/CC)

France, meanwhile, has been threatening to explode for more than a decade. The insistence on placing “Frenchness” above all else, and consequently failing to adequately integrate its immigrant populations – particularly those from its former colonies – has fostered resentment, crime and deep societal divisions. As in Belgium, the marginalization of the country’s Muslim communities has made their youngsters soft targets for radicalization.

The context in which attacks in Israel-Palestine take place, then, is wildly different from that in France, and any attempt to cast them as springing from the same well is facile, disingenuous and deeply misleading. It is also callous to try and appropriate the suffering of anyone affected by violence – in any measure – in order to gain political capital or prove a point. It is difficult to ignore the backhanded overtones in the social media memes announcing that Paris’s 13/11 is Israel’s 24/7.

And yet the impulse to conflate the causes behind these attacks is, on a human level, understandable. While it sows fear to inflate the perceived threat of “global jihad” by attributing every terror attack everywhere to its malign influence, it is nonetheless oddly comforting to paint using broad brushstrokes. Doing so erases complexity, and complexity is the last thing anyone wants to deal with when they are frightened. It raises more questions, when all we want is answers.

But we should be striving to maintain complexity. There are no straightforward answers at a time like this, and resorting to the Procrustean bed of grand narratives will only blind us to the real causes of the very diverse problems that we face. The fact that these problems are interconnected, as my colleague Amjad Iraqi so cogently argued after Paris, does not mean that they are alike. To suggest that they are only fosters the kind of short-sightedness that has led us into this mess in the first place.

In his recent essay on Islamic State, Adam Shatz wrote that “the theatre of conflict has no clear borders.” That is certainly true, and it is a profoundly discomfiting thought. It is complex, almost incomprehensibly so. But the fact that we cannot see where the conflicts end does not mean we shouldn’t try and understand where they begin.

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    1. Ginger Eis

      Mrs. Natascha Roth,

      The Evil That Men Speak Not Out Against Always Comes Back To Haunt Them!

      I am most sorrowfully reminded of the Dolphinarium Discotheque bloodbath, the Sbarro mass murders, the Jerusalem Passover massacre, etc. While thousands of ordinary Israelis were- and are being permanently maimed and murdered in terrorist attacks by Hezbollah and Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, etc. the Europeans (not all of them of course!), the self-styled Western “Liberals” and “Progressives” remained/remain silent, secretly admired/admire the “heroism” of Muslim (Arab) killers whose victims not only include unsuspecting Jewish civilians and those non-Jews either mistaken to be Jews or considered collateral damage in the commission of terrorism against Jews, but also juveniles having nice time dancing in discotheques, eating in pizzerias etc. and babies who were blown to bits in their baby-buggies. The Europeans, the so-called “Liberals” and “Progressives” hoped that through said murderous terrorist attacks the Democratic Will Of the People Of Israel will be subverted and that Jewish State will be forced to her knees give-in to Arab demands and commit national suicide.

      Most fortunately, NONE of the above European/”Liberal”/”Progressive” dreams has materialized. To the contrary, Israelis, as history has shown, are among the most resilient, the HAPPIEST (wooohoo!), most industrious and most descent people on earth! Despite the wars imposed on her and the murderous racist attacks against ordinary Israelis, the Jewish State has managed to become a Regional and World Super Power in Education, Innovation, Science and Technology, knows to fight terrorism and protect her citizens, while remaining true and loyal to Jewish Values and the demands of common decency and the Rule of Law as much as humanly possible.

      Most Unfortunately today, as we speak, innocent French civilians are going through just a fraction of 1% of what Israelis have been going through for several decades now and they can’t even handle it as good as Israelis (Paris and Brussels have been on lockdown for days). The French are being slaughtered in the streets and theaters of France by the same Muslim (Arab) jihadis. The Evil that the Europeans and the so-called “Liberals” and “Progressives” refused/refuse to speak out against and condemn when perpetrated against Jews have come back to haunt them. This is just the beginning. The chickens are coming home to roost. As one French Official put it: “the barbarians are already in”! Don’t equate the Paris attacks with the attacks in Tel Aviv? That is the product of a degenerate mind.

      LESSON: Stand With Israel Against Evil. Or, Perish Along With Evil.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Gustav

      “And yet the impulse to conflate the causes behind these attacks is, on a human level, understandable.”

      …especially when it is justifiable because there ARE similarities. Here it is…

      Before 1967 there was no occupation but there WAS Arab violence against us. And that resulted in the occupation.

      France is just a few decades behind. No occupation by France yet. But there is Arab violence against France.

      French occupation of Arab lands will either follow, or they will get more Arab violence. Come to think of it, they will be subjected to Arab violence, with or without occupation. The question is: are they going to be willing to be ruthless enough to do whatever is necessary to stop it? We would have been had it not been for myopic leaders such as previous French governments who restrained us for their own selfish geopolitical interests. And now that restraint which they forced on US is coming back and biting THEM!

      Reply to Comment
      • hors

        “No occupation by France yet.” No occupation by France anymore. That’s the right sentence. They were colonilistic land thieves like you.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      After Paris, Israel so wants its terror to be equated with Europe’s

      http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.687850

      “Just because the paucity of our expression compels us to describe both ISIS nihilists and desperate, 15-year-old Palestinians with knives as “terrorists,” that does not make them the same – even if they both target random civilians. The one wants to destroy the west while the other is ostensibly fighting to join it.

      That is Israel’s conundrum. We want to see ourselves – and to be seen – as being in the same boat as Europe, but we’re not. We want the world to regard our enemies as ISIS clones, but the world doesn’t see them like that. We want Europeans to regard their fight as ours and ours as theirs, but they don’t.

      Unlike most Israelis, Europe has not forgotten the occupation and it does not live in a stupor of denial. It may be sidetracked for a while by its current problems with ISIS, but it will be back. People will return to the restaurants and concert halls of Paris.

      And when they do, Europe will return to labeling settlement products and to its insufferable moralizing about the occupation. Because the Palestinians are not ISIS and colonial Israel is not on the side of humanity and justice. Israel and Europe occupy different moral universes.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Benny deliberately compares apples with oranges. 15 year old kids are not ISIS but I was not talking about 15 year old kids you deceiver Benny.

        I was talking about Hamas and Hezbollah who have the same mentality as ISIS and employ the same tactics.

        Moreover, as I said. I compared Paris to our pre 1967 days when there was no occupation but there was Arab violence against us.

        Now you wanna argue again Benny but this time without you straw man? Oops, I mean your straw 15 year old idiot kid who has nothing to do with what I said, Benny?

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          I just love how Benny and that leftist publication, Haaretz argues their case. their approach is…

          I Benny/Haaretz am not interested in what you really have to say. I’ll just put words in your mouth instead and then proceed to knock down those imaginary words which you didn’t really say.

          I know it and Benny/Haaretz know it too but they do not care. They are not interested in really arguing a case. They are just interested in scoring imaginary points which they hope will convince some cursory visitors.

          Hey Benny, you know what they call what you do? Of course you do. It’s called the straw man argument or an alternate name for it is BS propaganda.

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          First of all, Gustav, it’s not all about you. Though you’d like to turn everything into an argument with you. Step back, take a deep breath, and look at the overweening self-absorption in your post. I posted that link to the page, not to you. It dovetails perfectly with what Roth is saying.

          Secondly, your apple and Isacowitz’s orange end after the first sentence of the excerpt I posted. The entire rest of that excerpt and Isacowitz’s entire essay about Israel’s conundrum, and how Israel and Europe occupy different moral universes, applies directly and in full to what you (and Eis) wrote on this page and to just about everything you (and Eis) have ever written on these many pages. And dovetails precisely with Roth’s main point. Read it.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            As always, Benny chooses generalities. Spell out the differences Benny. And it isn’t about YOUR essay either, Benny. I said something even before your post. If you disagree with it as you seem to coz you deny the similarities which I did bring up about Paris and our situation, but if you disagree with it then argue against what I said or shut up. Bringing up straw man arguments or just dismissing what I said with generalities just does not cut it.

            Knock down my points one by one Benny. Knock them down with logic not just by contempt and dismissal. Do ya think ya have it in ya, Benny? I doubt it very much.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wLjwe2b40YA

            Here watch this video Benny and argue with the son of Hamas leader who was so sick of Hamas atrocities that he converted to christianity.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            And here is the history of suicide bomb attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_suicide_attacks

            Care to explain the difference between Hamas’s methods and targets and those of ISIS, Benny?

            I can already hear you say that the lives of French civilians is worth more than the lives of Israeli civilians, right Benny?

            Oh and there is the small matter about the other point which I raised. Namely, that terrorism against Israeli civilians by Arabs, predates 1967 and the occupation. Much like what happened now in France violence against us was practiced by your Arabs even before the occupation.

            You are never going to admit that or discuss it, right Benny? Ok but then as I said, you are just guilty of looking at only the things that you want to look at selectively instead of the whole picture. And that is just perpetrating propaganda.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Wanna know what IS conflated Benny? Nah? Well I’ll tell ya anyways…

            The occupation of France by Germany during WW2 IS wrongly conflated with our occupation of the WB.

            Firstly, because the French did not commit constant terrorist acts against German civilians prior to the occupation so the occupation of France was unprovoked. Which is not the same with us coz your Arabs have been constantly attacking us before the occupation. So our occupationis a CONSEQUENCE of Arab aggression against us.

            Second, the French DID resist the German occupation but not by resorting to killing German civilians. Unlike your Arabs who have always targeted our civilians, the French targeted the German military.

            But that, you and your extreme leftie buddies deliberately ignore eh, Benny? And your aim is not just a vicious smear campaign against my country, eh Benny? Yeah… not much….(sarcasm).

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You asked.

            “Before 1967 there was no occupation but there WAS Arab violence against us. And that resulted in the occupation.”

            That there was both Arab and Jewish violence before the occupation in no way negates the fact that, 48 years onward, violence on both sides in 2015 is sustained by the occupation and the thuggish even murderous contempt on the part of the Israelis for non-violent peaceful protests against the occupation. It is not a get out of jail free card for you. Parisians are not occupying Damascus. Conversely, Isis is not a resister of colonialism, it is a criminal death cult. It has killed vastly more Arabs than Parisians.

            “France is just a few decades behind.”

            France is five decades ahead. It ended its occupation of Algeria in 1962.

            “French occupation of Arab lands will either follow, or they will get more Arab violence.”

            Preposterous. Utter blooming idiocy. Nothing will guarantee France “Arab violence” more than sustained “French occupation of Arab lands” in 2015-2016-2017….. And a five-decades-long occupation?? You really are inside a parallel Hasbara universe. You really are quite full up to the gills with Bibi’s Kool-Aid and it’s coming out your ears.

            “French and German blah blah blah”

            Another utterly fatuous claim wrapped in impossible self-righteousness. The Germans did not have a 48-year regime of gun-toting, land-thieving, tree-burning, pseudo-civilian settlers spreading like mold on a French bleu cheese and you can rest assured that had they then those German settler-proxies would have been targets of the French resistance.

            How can you say these fatuous things without thinking them through for a minute? Too much Bibi-Kool-Aid? You guys forget that the rest of the world isn’t drinking it and stare in shocked, angry disbelief when the rest of the world begs to differ with you. Such is the fate of all cults. The right wing Israeli state has become a cult. Such right wing cults have not turned out well in the modern era. But the self-righteousness, that is really what astonishes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”You asked.”

            Yes I asked and what did you come back with? Your usual long winded emotive tripe utterly devoid of logic but trying to stare one down and deny facts.

            Oh and one more thing. Your motivation for posting here comes through loud and clear. You want to depict Israel as the worst of the worst. Not just now but in the history of human kind. I will demonstrate this later in one of my later posts coz a single response would be much too long.

            GUSTAV:“Before 1967 there was no occupation but there WAS Arab violence against us. And that resulted in the occupation.”

            BEN:”That there was both Arab and Jewish violence before the occupation in no way negates the fact that, 48 years onward, violence on both sides”

            Here he goes again. Now he conflates the violence.

            I said the Arabs INITIATED the violence against us in general and the Israeli civilians in particular. Have you anything to say about that?

            Did we RESPOND to their violence? Of course we did. But INITIATING violence is called agression. Responding to it is called self defence.

            To be continued…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”in 2015 is sustained by the occupation and the thuggish even murderous contempt on the part of the Israelis for non-violent peaceful protests against the occupation. It is not a get out of jail free card for you.

            Yes it is. Firstly because your tripe about “non-violent peaceful protests against the occupation” is blatant tripe. No, a blatant lie. Push this lie and I will innundate you with endless statistics about Palestinian Arab “non violence”. They never stopped being violent you lying bastard.

            BEN:”Parisians are not occupying Damascus.”

            The very point that I made. Yet Arabs murdered French civilians callously. Much as they murdered us even before 1967, before the occupation. Keep on avoiding, Benny. Keep on dancing around my point.

            To be continued….

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            GUSTAV:“France is just a few decades behind.”

            BEN:”France is five decades ahead. It ended its occupation of Algeria in 1962.”

            What are you saying here Benny? That the recent atrocity in Paris was because of Algeria? Because if that is what you are trying to say, if we become convinced that they would behave similarily towards us, take it from me, we will never get out of the WB. Right now I am not completely convinced that 5 decades after we end the occupation in the WB, Arab violence would continue against us. But I definitely feel that there is a risk of it. That is why I am not one of those who pushes for an end to the occupation.

            GUSTAV“French occupation of Arab lands will either follow, or they will get more Arab violence.”

            BEN:”Preposterous. Utter blooming idiocy. Nothing will guarantee France “Arab violence” more than sustained “French occupation of Arab lands” in 2015-2016-2017….. And blah blah blah.

            Preposterous? Maybe. But I also said this…

            GUSTAV:”Come to think of it, they will be subjected to Arab violence, with or without occupation.”

            Of course Benny did not quote me saying that. Classic propaganda tactics. Hey Benny, did you know that telling half a truth is a form of lying?

            To be continued…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            GUSTAV:“The occupation of France by Germany during WW2 IS wrongly conflated with our occupation of the WB.

            Firstly, because the French did not commit constant terrorist acts against German civilians prior to the occupation so the occupation of France was unprovoked. Which is not the same with us coz your Arabs have been constantly attacking us before the occupation. So our occupationis a CONSEQUENCE of Arab aggression against us.

            Second, the French DID resist the German occupation but not by resorting to killing German civilians. Unlike your Arabs who have always targeted our civilians, the French targeted the German military.”

            BEN:”Another utterly fatuous claim wrapped in impossible self-righteousness. The Germans did not have a 48-year regime of gun-toting, land-thieving, tree-burning, pseudo-civilian settlers blah blah blah

            So now Benny tries to imply that Israel is even worse than Hitler’s Germany was. And that’s why the French did not resort to murdering German civilians as their primary targets as a form of resistance to the occupation.

            And Benny’s implication is? That since we are even worse than Hitler’s Germany was, it is ok to consider our civilians to be targets for attack by his Palestinian Arabs.

            Thank you Benny. Your mask is completely off now. You are mean and petty little hater who stops at nothing to smear us as the worst of the worst. Your hate driven bias shines through loud and clear…

            BEN:”How can you say these fatuous things without thinking them through for a minute?”

            Indeed Benny, time to apply your own question to yourself. I already answered your question above.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”Conversely, Isis is not a resister of colonialism, it is a criminal death cult. It has killed vastly more Arabs than Parisians.”

            Avoidance again. I gave him a video made by the disillusioned ex Hamas member whose father is one of the founding members of Hamas. He all but called Hamas criminals.

            I also gave Benny a list of Hamas atrocities perpetrated against our civilians over many years.

            Benny’s silence about all that can be contrasted to his enthusiasm to describe ISIS as criminals. I have no problems with THAT. But Benny’s silence about Hamas’s equal criminality says it all.

            Then again, maybe Benny is saying that to shed the blood of Israeli civilians is not criminal at all? What does that make Benny? It makes him a hateful callous individual who has been exposed as an out and out hater.

            To be continued….

            Reply to Comment