Cultural Prism: Merely expressing grievances

The US ambassador to Israel masterfully maneuvers between conflicting messages, always demonstrating ironclad support and genuine empathy.

Moshe Yaalon
It seems that escalation of violence is usually paralleled by confrontation between the US and Israel, following a regular pattern.
First US officials express “deep concern” and issue self-righteous, patronizing, ambiguous, and “neutral” statements. As the situation unfolds, the State Department irresponsibly jumps to conclusions and adopts false “reports” and narratives, leading to condemnations of vague violations and wrongdoings, such as “not doing enough.”
Israeli leaders, shocked by what they see as backstabbing by our close ally, respond with strong rebuttals, delivered Israeli style – in a crude and direct manner (this part usually played by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon).
The administration is then overwhelmed by what they perceive as Israel’s over-sensitivity, pettiness and ungratefulness, and is personally insulted by the barbed criticism.
Washington then takes corrective measures and issues clarifications relating to previous comments. The President comments, carefully balancing “Israel’s right to defend itself” with calls to “all sides” to show restraint and deescalate the situation.
At this point the Israelis realize the volatility of the situation, and the ministers are disciplined to switch to “radio silence” concerning the US.
The US ambassador to Israel masterfully maneuvers between conflicting messages, always demonstrating ironclad support and genuine empathy.
This time was no different.
On October 13, Secretary of State John Kerry said he knows what is going on from reading intelligence assessments and newspapers, but distorted reality by addressing the violence using terms such as “back and forth,” “wherever it may be,” “on either side,” “revolving cycle” and “tit-for-tat.”
Kerry also explained the terror attacks as a consequence of growing frustration due to “massive increase in settlements.”
At a press briefing on October 14, State Department spokesman John Kirby grotesquely claimed that “some reports” pointed at “excessive use of force” by Israel.
On October 16, President Obama addressed both sides in fake symmetry relating to violent rhetoric, respecting holy sites, and actions of “random violence.”
He later even reinforced the false narrative about the Temple Mount, which has been at the core of the current violence.
These and other warped statements have since been amended, and condemnation of terrorist attacks have been voiced, but the damage has been done.
We have learned to expect distortion from Palestinian leaders, but to get this from Washington is extremely offensive, disappointing and disheartening.
The US is not obligated to support Israel unconditionally, but a minimum requirement should be getting the facts straight and telling it as it is.
At stake here is much more than our hurt feelings.
Wishing to be perceived as impartial, the US fuels violence by demonstrating to the Palestinians that their methods of narrative manipulation and terrorism pay off. Perhaps counter-intuitively, supporting the Palestinians is betraying them.
Mentioning very rare and unfortunate occasions of violence carried out by Jews, as somehow balanced by Palestinian “titfor- tat” actions, is morally wrong.
Enough with this “all sides” nonsense, especially when dealing with terrorism.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also issued pointless statements, one-sidedly addressing Israel, and referring not to terrorist attacks, but to “incidents” and “clashes.” When condemning “killings,” he meant Palestinian deaths – mostly terrorists shot during attacks.
Nothing new here. All the UN is doing so far is strengthening the extremists, promoting violence and distancing peace.
Instead of helping the Palestinians and leading them in the right direction, the international community leads them on with delusions.
The Palestinian leadership should be told that it will achieve nothing by pursuing this course of action, and that it is distancing their chance of ever achieving statehood. It should be told to stop inciting and promoting terrorism. It should be told to stop spreading ridiculous lies.
It should be told that praising terrorists as heroes and martyrs is a crime against humanity. It should be told to stop poisoning the minds of children and destroying any chance of reconciliation.
The Palestinian people should be told that there is absolutely no threat to the Aksa Mosque, and that their leadership is manipulating them.
It is outrageous that Arab leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and elsewhere, continue to incite and send young people to kill and be killed, believing that they are promoting a noble religious and national cause.
Although Abbas did not initiate this wave of terror, he joined Hamas and Islamic Jihad in explicit incitement, chanting the ridiculous claim that the Jews are threatening al-Aksa, and “desecrating” it with their “filthy feet.”
A leader who “welcomes every drop of blood spilled” is conveying a clear message.
Internally, knife-wielding terrorists are hailed as brave martyrs who slay the descendants of apes and pigs, but for international consumption, the events are portrayed as though Israelis are arbitrarily gunning down innocent Palestinians in the streets.
The fact that many attacks are captured on video does not prevent the circulation of these libels, as was demonstrated when a radio handset handed from one soldier to another was decried as a conspiracy to plant a knife on an innocent victim.
Facts don’t matter when it comes to constructing false narratives.
Trying to define the “root causes” while terrorism is raging, and injecting – as a conditional reflex – issues like the settlements, is a mistake, for it conveys a message that violence is an acceptable way of expressing “grievances” and that there are ends which justify the means of terrorism.
Another huge mistake is always assuming that Palestinian hardships must be Israel’s fault. Gaza is an obvious example.
For some ridiculous reason, Israel is seen as responsible for this failed entity, but it is Hamas which cynically drains all resources to its terrorist apparatus, using international aid for destruction instead of construction.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency supports this terrorist stronghold and perpetuates instability and conflict.
The world could have solved Gaza long ago by imposing and enforcing demilitarization, but is instead assisting Hamas to prepare for the next confrontation.
The West Bank is not much different, for obviously billions of dollars allocated by the international community have not been used to boost the economy, but are funneled to private bank accounts of corrupt officials.
So where are we now, and where do we go from here? President Abbas is not seeking reconciliation, at least not through direct negotiations.
It seems that he believes he can achieve statehood through external coercion and the vilification and delegitimization of Israel. Sadly, the international community is showing him that he is correct.
Abbas does not want an all-out intifada.
He carefully balances his messaging – inward and outward, manages the pressure from his opposition, plays with fire hoping he can control the flames, and plays his people to garner support.
To see this in perspective, the third intifada, or wave of terrorism, or whatever you wish to call it, is only another phase in an ongoing conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. It is not a mere “territorial dispute” and has nothing to do with 1948 or 1967. The riots of 1929 were ignited using the exact same falsehood of a Jewish threat to the Temple Mount.
As always, Israelis are divided between those who believe that these developments prove there is no chance for reconciliation, and those who see this as proof that without a two-state-solution, we are doomed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been leading a measured and calculated policy so far, but he and his ministers seem to be stepping up and overdoing their verbal assault on Abbas. Israeli leadership should tone down and focus less on blame and more on promoting stability.
Yes, Abbas lies, but he is not the only leader who manipulates narratives. He’s also a relatively moderate leader and even a potential partner, if only he would receive the appropriate encouragement and backing.
I believe we should refrain from harsh measures such as full closure of the West Bank, which would deliver a blow to the Palestinian economy and increase tension.
There is a delicate balance between immediate security and long-term stability.
It is critical to maintain the good security cooperation with the PA, which has proven vital so far.
The immediate focus must be to stop incitement and terrorism. The long-term objective must be direct negotiations and an internationally and regionally facilitated agreement.
But an agreement will only succeed if the international community and regional moderate Arab countries all assume a positive, instead of destructive role.
The writer is the founder of Cross Cultural Strategies Ltd.