The battle for public opinion in the media is crucial -editorial

The lackluster response to the events over the weekend in Huwara show: Israel has to catch up in responding to terror in the media.

 IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The response by top UN and EU officials to the ongoing wave of Palestinian terrorism is disturbing. Take the case of the events over the weekend in Huwara, just south of Nablus. A terrorist attack took place on Route 60, the main highway crossing Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Ammar Mefleh, a Palestinian man, attempted to break into a vehicle with an Israeli couple inside, first trying to force open the door and then using a rock to try to smash his way in, before being shot at by the driver, an off-duty IDF officer.

Mefleh then approached a team of Border Police soldiers and stabbed one of them in the face. Footage on social media showed another Border Police officer trying to arrest Mefleh as two other Palestinians attempted to pull him away from the officer.

The officer put Mefleh in a headlock, pulling him away from the other Palestinians until he broke free from the officer’s grasp. The attacker then appeared to grab for the officer’s weapon. At that point, the officer pulled his handgun and fired four shots at Mefleh.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland ignored the chain of events, tweeting, “Horrified by today’s killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mifleh, during a scuffle with an Israeli soldier near Huwara in the o. [occupied] West Bank. My heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family. Such incidents must be fully promptly investigated, those responsible held accountable.” 

“This is NOT a ‘scuffle’ – this is a terror attack!”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon responded that Wennesland’s statement was a “total distortion of reality.”

As Nahshon noted, “This is NOT a ‘scuffle’ – this is a terror attack!” 

It’s bad enough that Wennesland dismissed the terrorist attack as a minor skirmish, but that he went on to express “heartfelt condolences” to the bereaved family of the terrorist and immediately demand that the Israeli officers who prevented a terroristic rampage be held accountable is appalling. Wennesland, in short, bought the Palestinian narrative in its entirety. 

The UN special coordinator wasn’t the only one who came to the defense of the “defenseless” terrorist. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Saturday, “The EU is greatly concerned about the increasing level of violence” in the West Bank, noting that “during the last days alone, 10 Palestinians have been killed by ISF [Israeli security forces]. Yesterday’s tragic killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, by a member of the ISF was the latest example.”

So Mefleh has now been promoted from a terrorist who attacked Israelis to someone whose death should be mourned as “tragic.”

 IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

A terrorist stabbing an officer in the face and trying to grab his gun is not, apparently, enough of a risk, as far as Borrell is concerned.

There is further context lacking in the UN and EU officials’ knee-jerk response. Terrorists have proven that they don’t need anything more than a sharp instrument and a stolen car to commit a deadly attack. Just last month, a terrorist committed a ramming attack on soldiers at Nebi Musa, and although they responded with fire, he was not stopped. The terrorist went on to kill three Israelis, stabbing one at a gas station and stealing a car with which he deliberately rammed other victims before being shot dead. Last week, a young woman soldier was seriously wounded in a car-ramming attack on Route 60. 

The response of the UN and EU officials to the attack is worrying. But so, too, is the way that Israel handled it. Although the attack was caught on video, Palestinians were the first to release the footage, editing to show the struggle during the attempted arrest but not what had preceded it. The IDF, Israel Police and Foreign Ministry only reacted after the Palestinian version was already established. 

That the incident took place on a Friday night is no excuse. The incoming IDF chief of staff and new government must understand that the battle for public opinion via the media is no less important than any other aspect of the battle against terrorism. 

Israel needs to get the facts out and get them out fast, before the terrorist with murderous intent becomes the “victim.”