It’s still not clear whether the attack on the Israeli tow truck driver near Hebron last Sunday can be attributed to criminal intent or a terrorist plot. Often these motivations are intertwined and not readily distinguishable.

In the end, therefore, it doesn’t really matter what impelled local Palestinian Arabs to phone for a tow truck and then set upon the Israeli who responded to their purported call for help, pounding his head with metal pipes and wrenches.

That attack didn’t raise much commotion in the Palestinian Authority. What did cause outrage was that the driver, bleeding profusely from his wounds, dared defend himself.

He pulled out a pistol and shot at his three assailants, killing two and wounding a third who escaped.

It’s what happened next that is most instructive about our situation. After the driver, a 52-year-old Ashkelon resident, was taken to the hospital, he was interrogated by police and a comprehensive forensic investigation was launched.

No such moves were necessary for the PA. Its spin was instantaneous and unambiguous. In an official statement, PA President Mahmoud Abbas decreed without hesitation or inspection that “settlers commit crimes under the auspices of the Israeli government and the IDF.”

This contention resonated in the international media.

The attack on a middle-aged Israeli civilian disappeared under the radar overseas, but his reaction generated indignation without question. It was man bites dog.

Yet Abbas’s unsubstantiated declaration couldn’t be more skewed. He willfully disregarded the fact that a trap was set for an unsuspecting victim. This could have been a scheme to heist his vehicle or a kidnapping attempt (of the sort tried of late several times in Judea and Samaria).

Not only didn’t this prevent Abbas from asserting that it was the Israeli who had committed a crime, but he ascribed malevolent involvement to the Israeli government and army. This vilification constitutes incitement to more violence and vendettas, in keeping with the PA’s traditions.

But the slander extends further. Without a second thought, Abbas’s knee-jerk inclination was to identify the Israeli shooter as a settler, thereby casting aspersions on all so-called settlers and giving increased legitimacy to violence against them.

It’s immaterial that the driver in question hailed from Ashkelon. The bottom line is that all Israelis, regardless of their place of residence, are considered settlers and that any accusation may be leveled at “settlers,” the facts notwithstanding.

If any additional evidence were needed of the PA’s official succor for anyone who attacks Israelis, it was furnished by Abbas’s official news agency, WAFA, which lamented the two deceased attackers as “martyrs.” WAFA’s report cited unidentified “speakers” who “denounced the crimes of the settlers under the continued support and protection of the Israeli occupation army, demanding the international community to intervene to end the occupation and to end crimes against our people and land and property....

“They stressed the importance of national unity and closing ranks and activating the popular resistance against the occupation and the settlers to leave our land and establish an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.”

In other words, a foiled onslaught against a Jew becomes the pretext for calling for “activating the popular resistance against the occupation and the settlers” – a code phrase for terrorism.

This is disconcertingly reminiscent of the calumny Ramallah disseminated following the February 16 overturning of an Arab school bus outside Jerusalem. Israeli paramedics risked their lives by venturing into the still-burning bus to rescue trapped children.

Yet IDF servicemen were vehemently accused of malice and of “intentionally foiling Palestinian rescuers.” There was no note of the cutting-edge resuscitation and subsequent treatment accorded the injured in Israeli trauma wards. Not only weren’t there even grudging hints of gratitude, but the accident was turned into another blame-Israel fest.

Anyone who genuinely desires peace must ponder hard whether unbridled, cynical incitement is at all compatible with lip-service to coexistence.

Can a credible peace momentum materialize from such callous manipulations of information? When no opportunity is missed to deepen the deception, it gains a raison d’être of its own.

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