It’s been a bizarre holiday season in Israel, with most Israelis – tragically not all – blessedly insulated from the growing violence, distracted by the frozen chicken shortage and the overpriced tomato crisis while celebrating our traditions with loved ones. But like the hot weather, the Palestinian terrorism has been an uncomfortable presence you try ignoring while it hangs heavily in the atmosphere.
And for the friends and families of Eitam Henkin, Na’ama Henkin, Aharon Banita, Nehemia Lavi and other victims of this war against Israel’s right to exist, these were the holidays from hell, the start of nightmares that will last the rest of their lives as they mourn their loved ones’ murders.
As I type, I am flooded by the dread, disbelief and dark flashbacks associated with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. I remember the bad old days of Yasser Arafat’s war, which began 15 years ago. I remember writing article after article, giving speech after speech, trying to commemorate beautiful lives lost, trying to commiserate with crushed survivors, and trying to convince “the world” – as we tend to conceptualize it – to care. But, then, as now, we know what to expect. At best, we get the silence Benjamin Netanyahu mocked in his recent UN speech, when he glared quietly from the General Assembly’s podium, mimicking and defying the self-righteous hypocrites of the overwhelmingly undemocratic, outrageously inconsistent, Third World Dictators’ Debating Society.
Unfortunately, increasingly, even worse than silence, we get blame. Note the similar Al Jazeera and BBC headlines after a terrorist in Jerusalem’s Old City slashed a woman and toddler while murdering her husband and a good Samaritan who intervened.
The terrorist only stopped when shot. Nevertheless, Al Jazeera tweeted: “Palestinian Shot Dead after Fatal Stabbing in Jerusalem; 2 Israeli victims also killed.”
The BBC headline read: “Palestinian Shot Dead After Jerusalem Attack Kills Two.” These distortions – corrected under pressure – echoed the Palestinian Authority’s official statement condemning Israel for killing a seemingly innocent Palestinian, without mentioning the murder of Israelis.
These one-sided condemnations are anti-Semitic, echoing centuries of always blaming Jews for all that goes wrong. Today’s exaggerated perception of Jewish power has made the complicated conflict between Israelis and Palestinians a left-wing Western obsession, according to which the Jewish state is permanently guilty, even when victimized. These one-sided condemnations are also anti-Palestinian, reflecting a liberal Western condescension treating Arabs as Noble Savages, sheltered from any responsibility, including basic morality like “Thou Shalt not Kill,” especially innocent families.
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What’s next, headlines proclaiming: Evil Israeli Impales Self On Palestinian Knife; Evil Israeli Steals Palestinian Bullet With His Head? Too many in “the world” equate Israeli defenders killing a terrorist with Palestinian criminals cold-bloodedly ambushing families.
“The world” also ignores most Israelis’ regret when compelled to defend themselves violently versus the Palestinian street’s glee when a young teacher and his wife are slaughtered or other premeditated terrorism occurs. Hamas sickos praised the Henkin homicides as a “heroic terror attack” and requested more “quality attacks.” At least they’re honest. They follow their anti-Semitic Charter endorsing Israel’s destruction, which would require another mass murder of Jews – and which most Europeans excuse or overlook.
Characteristically, in the age of Barack Obama, I mean, Israel’s Best Friend Ever, America’ State Department condemned the violence blandly, urging “all sides” to avoid escalating tension.
I hate the word “intifada,” which means “the shaking off,” reinforcing Palestinian propaganda claims that their evil deeds are justified responses to Israeli oppression. Names count. We Northerners got to call America’s divisive fight “The Civil War,” not, Southern style, the “war between the states” or “the war of northern aggression.” The word “intifada” romanticizes terrorism and perpetuates Palestinians’ victimhood narrative, obscuring Palestinian blame for sabotaging the peace process repeatedly.
Still, if “the world,” particularly Israel’s key ally, America, continues condemning terrorism so limply, and if Israel is not more vigilant, and if the Palestinian’s don’t resist their worst impulses, we risk not only a third intifada but an Obama intifada. Mushy denouncements of terror encourage terror.
I know this is an ugly charge. I regret making it. But America’s commander-in-chief has become the equivocator-in-chief. Americans and Europeans must condemn Palestinian terrorism clearly, reaffirming the post-9/11 consensus that helped curtail Palestinian suicide bombing. The last wave of terrorism ended when enough Palestinians realized their suicide bombing strategy was counterproductive.
Israel’s military counterattack, combined with building the security barrier, hurt the Palestinian economy, put the terrorists on the defensive, and cost the Palestinians land seized to build the anti-terrorism barrier. Reinforcing the Israeli actions, the West’s increasingly clear disgust for terrorism, led by a post-Twin Towers George W. Bush, proved that Palestinian strategy was backfiring.
Today, the US and EU must reinforce clear moral condemnations by freezing Palestinian funding to punish terrorist attacks, especially to Gaza/Hamasistan.
Israel must reassert control over all Jerusalem neighborhoods, with zero tolerance for rock throwing, deploying more guards as a deterrent while punishing violence by heavily fining families whose relatives destroy property and threaten lives. Israel should also seize some territory each time a Palestinian murders an Israeli. And the Palestinians must stop feeling victimized and start controlling their thugs.
Simultaneously, Netanyahu should stop sloganeering about peace and start thinking boldly, creatively, wondering what more Palestinians can get symbolically to acknowledge how much independence they already have. Gussying up the status quo could be a helpful first step toward changing it.
Everyone will suffer if Hamas feels emboldened by this president’s Blame Israel First policies, his moral equivalence and his shrinkage of American power, confidence and influence worldwide. Broadcasting weakness, ethically and strategically, from the White House, could trigger an Obama intifada. Let’s hope shrewd, constructive leadership from all sides prevails.The writer is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, which was just published by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press. A Professor of History at McGill University who will be a Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution this fall, this is his eleventh book. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy www.giltroy.com,
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