Echoing Hamas’s narrative on Israel-Gaza conflict enables terror - opinion

A critique of a leading American rabbi's mass-media-generated blame-Israel-first spin.

A Palestinian holds a Hamas flag as he stands next to others atop a walk of the al-Aqsa mosque following clashes with Israeli police at the compound that houses al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City May 10, 2021. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A Palestinian holds a Hamas flag as he stands next to others atop a walk of the al-Aqsa mosque following clashes with Israeli police at the compound that houses al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City May 10, 2021.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
 On May 10, a leading American rabbi posted this on Facebook. This appalling mass-media-generated blame-Israel-first spin ignores Hamas’s charter calling for Israel’s destruction, which is like explaining America’s Civil War without mentioning slavery. It also ignores the underlying causes of this conflagration: Hamas’s Iranian-funded power struggle with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas’s desire to exploit Israel’s leadership crisis while preventing Israeli-Arabs from joining Israel’s government. By spewing the terrorists’ narratives, people with the loveliest of intentions encourage killers with the ugliest of intentions.

I offer the critique I sent this rabbi in bold to those who can distinguish right from wrong – an imperfect democracy from a perfectly awful dictatorship – yet seek the right words and frameworks to refute the mass media’s massive assault on Israel.
“Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day. For many Jews this is a day to celebrate the return to Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Kotel, the Western Wall, in 1967. But this day has also long been a flashpoint for conflict and violence, with Jewish extremists marching through East Jerusalem and the Muslim Quarter, threatening and intimidating Palestinian residents.” This day has also been one of healing, with a lovely counter-march in Hamesila Park along the old railway track in Jerusalem reaching out to our Arab brothers and sisters.
“This year, we’ve been especially concerned in the lead-up to Yom Yerushalayim as Lehava, a group of extremists that now has the backing of Jewish supremacists recently elected to the Knesset, has inflamed tensions by marching through Palestinian neighborhoods chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ and assaulting residents.” I’ve also been especially concerned about the increasingly harsh rhetoric from Hamas and the supposedly moderate PA denouncing Jews, demanding mass slaughter, reflecting the growing power struggle triggered by Mahmoud Abbas’s long-overdue call for elections – subsequently, predictably, rescinded.
“The closing of Damascus Gate plaza during Ramadan and the TikTok trend of Palestinians assaulting religious Jews have only added fuel to the fire.” Talk about burying the lede – and always framing every Palestinian crime in this false box of tit-for-tat moral equivalence! You have to read carefully and be very familiar with the story of Palestinians beating on Jews to find this half-line. Why emphasize “religious Jews” – I call them fellow Jews, humans. And why aren’t you “especially concerned” about those attacks: that’s REAL violence not democratic “marching” (I also oppose the anti-Arab Jewish bigots, but it’s not the same as hitting people on the head for sport).
“In the midst of all of this, this week brought to a head a multiyear effort by settlers to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in an effort to assert Jewish dominance in East Jerusalem. This has led to nightly protests and police crackdowns in which hundreds of Palestinians have been injured.”  This implies that the protests triggered the crackdowns, not the protesters’ VIOLENCE. I presume you, like me, denounced politically motivated violence after Trumpians’ January 5 assault on Capitol Hill – that’s easy. Why not demonstrate true nonviolence? Even when sympathetic to the cause, I have zero tolerance for unprovoked violence.
P.S. Police officers are people, too.
“And this morning, the violence spread to al-Aqsa Mosque as well.”  Such violence doesn’t “spread” like coronavirus – it’s fomented, cultivated, manipulated – and you fell for it all. On any given day, Hamas could find a hot spot to exploit. The timing is suspicious: playing Palestinian politics, Hamas profaned the holy period of Ramadan to stoke all this.
“Now, Hamas and other terrorist organizations are targeting Israeli civilians, firing rockets toward communities in the South and near Jerusalem.” Your “now” implies that Hamas is responding reasonably to all those especially triggering attacks about which you are “especially concerned.” Why aren’t you “especially concerned” about my cousin being bombed regularly for years now in her Peace Now, left-wing kibbutz bordering Gaza (since Israel withdrew!) – or me, my kids, my fellow Israelis (Arabs and Jews)? This is very personal.
“Many of our family and friends in Jerusalem are spending the night in bomb shelters.” Note these statements lack any emotion, any empathy. That’s the impression your words make. It’s revealing.
“Israel immediately retaliated in Gaza, where reports indicate that at least 20 people were killed, including several Palestinian children. The toll is already devastating, and the situation remains extremely volatile. In anguish, we pray and call for immediate de-escalation and cessation of violence before more blood spills.” I join your prayers and remember fondly our joint prayer two years ago.
“But let’s be clear: our most fervent prayers are not enough. We must address the root causes of this conflict, decrying extremism, hatred and dehumanization wherever it appears. We must urge Israel to end the unjust and un-Jewish policies that have brought 54 years of degradation, humiliation and hardship to millions of Palestinians and which threaten the democratic fiber of Israel itself.”  Really? It’s only Israel’s fault? What about Israel’s peacemaking offers in 1993, 2000, 2008, which Palestinians rejected?
Why not urge the end to delegitimization, demonization, degradation of Jews and Israelis, while denouncing this evil assumption that whenever they decide to turn to terrorism, Palestinians are justified? See the attached which my most nonpolitical daughter shared with me (a chilling Middle East Media Research Institute video showing Hamas leader Fathi Hammad teaching Arabs how to behead JEWS – which includes you – and noting knives are cheap: only NIS 5!).
“As American Jews, we must demand that our community stop funding, platforming and mainstreaming Jewish extremist groups, like the ones working to expel Palestinians from East Jerusalem today.” Is that this moment’s most important takeaway? You descend from the rabbinic to the partisan. While I have publicly opposed these extremist groups, too, my priority now is defending myself, my kids, and my fellow citizens – which includes the two Israeli-Arabs, Halil Awad, 52, and his 16-year-old daughter, Nadine, murdered last week by Hamas rockets.
“And we must continue to amplify the voices of the many Israelis and Palestinians who are working together toward a just and shared future, in which every person is able to live in dignity and without fear.”
I am with you there! Shalom.
Gil Troy is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University and the author of nine books on American history and three on Zionism. His book Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, coauthored with Natan Sharansky, was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.