Why is only Israel blamed when Palestinian leaders cause death, harm? - opinion

Holding Palestinian leaders accountable for the death, destruction, and suffering they have caused for both Palestinians and Israelis is not just a matter of principle.

 THE EVIDENCE is beyond clear; the elephant is huge, says the writer.  (photo credit: STANDWITHUS)
THE EVIDENCE is beyond clear; the elephant is huge, says the writer.
(photo credit: STANDWITHUS)

There is a mystery that needs unraveling, and after more than two decades of being baffled, I think I might have figured it out. The mystery relates to a question: Why do so many people who comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict blame Israel alone, while ignoring the ongoing deadly harm done by Palestinian leaders?

For example, and I really should not have to spell this out, but bear with me:

  • Palestinian leaders and institutions encourage little children to hate and kill Jews. There are even kindergarten plays and militarized summer camps where kids are made to practice carrying out terrorist attacks. The deeply disturbing footage of this is readily available online from MEMRI, Palestinian Media Watch, and other sources. It should be crystal clear that this is not only child abuse, but a recipe for endless conflict and suffering.
  • Time after time, we see footage of extremists celebrating the murder of innocent Israelis by distributing sweets in Palestinian communities.
  • The Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to financially reward terrorists who are convicted of murder and other crimes, with Mahmoud Abbas insisting that this will continue even if the PA is, “left with one penny.”
  • Meanwhile, Hamas continues to rule Gaza with a murderous iron fist, store weapons and launch rockets at Israel from houses, hospitals and schools, and fuel deadly waves of violence in the West Bank.
 PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, 2020. (credit: FLASH90)
PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, 2020. (credit: FLASH90)

Alongside the widespread silence about this “elephant in the room,” is a constant and aggressive drumbeat of anti-Israel propaganda. This is not the type of informed criticism that Israel and all other countries should be subject to, so they can address problems and improve. Nor is it an effort to oppose the Israeli government or specific Israeli policies. It has been a dehumanizing and false story about how one player, Israel, is solely responsible for the entire conflict and all the suffering that comes with it.

In this story, Palestinian leaders and terrorist groups have zero responsibility or agency, despite their countless decisions and actions which have made life worse for Israelis and Palestinians alike. And the proposed solution? Dismantling the world’s only Jewish state, for the sake of “justice” and “peace.”

While it’s not surprising that anti-Israel extremists would promote lies, it is surprising how many people believe and repeat them. That’s the mystery. Why would the lie that Israel is the only party that has any responsibility resonate with anyone, even though evidence to the contrary is widely available?

Why does only Israel get the blame?

I think there are a few possible reasons why this would be the case.

First: Ignorance is one of the culprits because it leaves good people of all backgrounds, including Jews, susceptible to lies and misinformation. There is a difference between spreading falsehoods out of ignorance, and out of malice. Clearly, the remedy for ignorance is education.

Second: Cognitive dissonance. Once someone develops a strong opinion about Israel, (or anything for that matter) presenting contradictory information can cause discomfort that leads to defensiveness or even anger. Rather than adopting a more balanced and fact-based opinion, some will double down and disregard all conflicting evidence so they can feel stable or consistent in their world view.

Third: In a battle for hearts and minds, the weaker party gets more sympathy. It is a fact that Israelis have overcome countless challenges and become powerful on many levels, including militarily, politically, economically, scientifically, and culturally. It is also true that Palestinians are far weaker and have suffered more from the conflict.

For some, that’s enough to conclude that Israel is to blame, especially when anti-Israel propagandists relentlessly frame Palestinians as blameless victims of random Israeli cruelty. Even when one points out that Palestinian leaders have rejected every major peace offer and chosen a destructive path of endless conflict, the assumption is that their bad decisions are ultimately Israel’s fault.

Fourth: Antisemitism – there are malicious people who know the facts on the ground, but intentionally omit them in favor of blaming the one Jewish country in the world. Blaming the Jewish State is such a convenient way to promote ill will against not only Israel, but also against Jews in general. In the fight for hearts and minds, there is a deliberate cover-up of the ugly and inconvenient truths about Palestinian leaders and terrorist groups, so the propagandists can convince more people to join campaigns of hate that seek to end Israel’s very existence.

In contrast, Palestinian leaders, from Haj Amin Al Husseini and Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, have not hidden their destructive goals and actions. One need only read the Hamas charter or statements by Mahmoud Abbas insisting that the PA will continue paying terrorists who have been convicted of murdering Israelis. I could go on. The evidence is beyond clear. The elephant is huge.

Holding Palestinian leaders accountable for the death, destruction and suffering they have caused for both Palestinians and Israelis is not just a matter of principle. According to two former Palestinian negotiators, “the Palestinians’ readiness to take the negotiating path to its logical conclusions was restrained by a perception that they were winning the moral and psychological high ground. The paradoxical effect was to make it harder to progress toward an agreement with Israel because it seemed that other influential parties might do the job.”

It’s time to stop ignoring the elephant and confront the vicious lies that blame Israel alone for the lack of peace, and start focusing on what will foster trust, cooperation, and a better future for both peoples.

The writer is cofounder and CEO of StandWithUs, an international nonpartisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.