When the chips are down, as isolated as ever.
The Palestinian terror wave that began on October 1 struck again on Sunday evening with an attack at the bus station in Beersheva, my town. Monday, at the time of writing, has been quiet so far, but it’s certainly too soon to say whether the wave is subsiding.
It’s not too soon, though, to point out some things that already emerge from this latest onslaught. They are not new phenomena. They indicate, though, that even as Israel keeps making great strides in various fields that benefit humanity (water use and conservation is one of the most dramatic), and keeps upgrading its ties with important countries (lately, particularly, India), it remains a country that is subjected to special, malign treatment.
1. Israel cannot establish that it is a democracy practicing democratic norms. Last October 3 U.S. planes bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan, killing 22 people. Although Doctors Without Borders, the organization that runs the hospital, is demanding an investigation, nothing much will come of this and the U.S., of course, has nothing to fear.
It is not only that the U.S. is vastly larger and more powerful than Israel, but that it is generally understood to be a democracy that practices human-rights-respecting norms, and would not have deliberately targeted a hospital with the aim of killing civilians.
Israel, however, gets no such leniency. HonestReporting offers these typical headlines on the current terror wave from, respectively, CNN, NPR, The Daily Telegraph, The Irish Independent, USA Today, and Sky News:
More die as violence and finger-pointing plague Israel, Palestinians
More Attacks, Death In Conflict Between Israel And Palestinians
Israel security forces kill four more Palestinians as knife attacks continue
Four more Palestinians shot dead on the streets
Israelis kill 4 Palestinians as violence surges
Palestinians Shot Dead In Alleged Knife Attacks
Israel, a member of the exclusively democratic Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, given high rankings by Freedom House, only “alleges” knife attacks, engages in “finger-pointing,” and shoots people dead on the streets.
President Obama, even when he managed to eke out the words “Israel has a right to prevent its citizens from being subjected to random violence,” made sure to say as well: “We also believe that it’s important for both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli elected officials and President Abbas and other people in positions of power to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence or anger or misunderstanding.”
A recent example of Palestinian Authority chairman Abbas’s rhetoric:
We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.
The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.
Perhaps President Obama can direct his staff to Google-up similar statements by Netanyahu and other “Israeli elected officials.” Obviously there are none; but alleging that Israeli “rhetoric” and Palestinian rhetoric are the same is a very serious libel and a slap to Israel’s democratic credentials.
2. Israel keeps being subjected to the body-count method. Media reports keep repeating ritualistically that “8 Israelis and 40 Palestinians” have been killed so far. Combined with the other distortions, the impression conveyed is of two sides fighting it out, with one of them considerably more brutal. The same method was used, of course, for the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, with real consequences for Israel as the Obama administration, objecting to Palestinian casualties, cut off Israel’s arms supply for days.
Applying the body-count method to World War II, one finds totals of 450,900 UK casualties, 420,000 American ones, and 9,000,000 German ones. By this standard, then, Germany must have been the much more moral side in the war. Respective totals for the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts between the forces of democratic countries and those of their enemies are, of course, similarly lopsided, and—by this method—would justify similar conclusions.
Meanwhile, some examples from the Palestinian terror wave this month:
Jerusalem: Moshe Malka (15) was stabbed and wounded on his way to prayers at the Western Wall. Terrorist was shot dead by security forces.
Kiryat Gat (southeast of Tel Aviv): A terrorist stabbed an IDF soldier and snatched his gun, then ran into a nearby apartment, where a woman was just returning home. She fought with him and managed to flee. The terrorist was killed by police.
Tel Aviv: Female soldier and three others stabbed. Terrorist was shot and killed.
Jerusalem (Sabbath morning): Arab (16) stabbed two Jewish men in their 60s near Damascus Gate, leaving them moderately and lightly wounded, respectively. The terrorist then attacked Border Police officers, who shot and killed him.
Jerusalem: Woman (72) stabbed and injured while waiting for a bus at the Central Bus Station. Terrorist shot and killed.
All of these cases add to the toll of Palestinian fatalities, and do not add to the toll of Jewish fatalities—meaning that, for the media and others, they redound to the Palestinians’ moral advantage.
3. Certain “ethical” issues are explored only with regard to Israel. For instance: if someone attacks you or someone else with a lethal weapon, can you defend yourself or the other person? This “question” arose when Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was asked on MSNBC if there is “a middle ground beyond shooting these individuals.” As Dermer explained:
When somebody is coming at you with a knife, there is no middle ground. You have to actually take action in order to thwart that attack. Not everybody who has come at different people with knives have been killed, but there have been instances where a guy’s taking a knife and he is going to kill somebody. They say guns kill people. Knives kill people. That’s why you have to take action.
It seems obvious enough—but not in the case of Israel.
Or: is the deliberate murder of civilians ever justified? Usually, the Western world’s answer is no. For instance, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and editors deliberately produced cartoons that ridicule the deepest pieties of Muslims. A couple of offended Muslims reacted by murdering members of the Charlie Hebdo staff and others. Even if publicly ridiculing people’s pieties is pointlessly cruel, it’s widely understood that murder is not an acceptable response.
With Israel, though, it gets more “complicated.” Murderous Palestinian attacks on Israelis are seen as acts by desperate people that are at least understandable, or even condonable. Secretary of State John Kerry, asked last week about the latest Palestinian terror wave, replied that “there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing.”
In other words, offending Palestinians leads them to murder people, and one doesn’t have a right to expect any other result. Here it is actually beside the point that there has not been an increase in Israeli settlements in recent years. The words of Kerry—the secretary of state—are very close to a justification for murder; and his instinctual reaction jibed with the way in which many millions of people the world over view murderous attacks on Israelis.
To sum up, despite Israel’s more and more impressive contributions to the world and expanding ties with many countries, when the chips are down—when Israel is under violent attack—it still cannot count on support from any quarter, and can count on unique forms of criticism that can lead to penalization. All this intensifies Israelis’ sense of besiegement, further strengthens the right wing in Israeli elections, and further inclines Israel to view its own military actions as the only solution to murderous threats.