Dan Shapiro’s Undiplomatic Blast at Israel

Why bother with truth when you can libel an ally?

This week the U.S. ambassador gave a speech to a conference at Germany’s most prestigious think tank on security issues. In it he harshly criticized German government policy. He said German vigilantes were being allowed to attack migrants while the law looked the other way, and that different legal standards were being applied to indigenous German citizens and migrants.

Not really. Those would be quite serious charges. If such accusations  were to be directed at a democratic ally like Germany, one would expect the ambassador to do so behind closed doors with a top official—or at least, if he took the irregular step of making them publicly, to offer some substantiation for them.

A roughly analogous event did take place this week, however, in Israel.

U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro, in a speech to a conference at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said Israel was ignoring violence by settlers against Palestinians and that: “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities; too much vigilantism goes unchecked; and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

No report I’ve seen says that Shapiro provided any sort of evidence for his words.

Also peculiar was the professional diplomat’s timing. That same day, Dafna Meir, a 38-year-old mother of six stabbed to death in her home earlier in the week by a Palestinian teenage terrorist, was buried. Also on the same day of Shapiro’s speech, Michal Froman, a 30-year-old pregnant woman, was stabbed and injured by another Palestinian teenage terrorist.

Shapiro’s words have ruffled the waters here in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shot back almost immediately: “The ambassador’s comments, on a day when a mother of six is being buried and a pregnant woman is stabbed, are unacceptable and untrue. Israel enforces the law on Israelis and Palestinians. The one responsible for the diplomatic stalemate is the Palestinian Authority, which continues to incite and refuses to negotiate.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, for her part, said “It would be appropriate if [Shapiro] corrected himself, and I hope he does that.” She is likely, of course, to go on hoping.

Along with being egregiously timed, undiplomatic, and uncorroborated, Shapiro’s statements indeed clash frontally with the truth:

 “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities….”

The last year and a half have seen, lamentably, two horrific attacks by Israelis on Palestinians. On July 2, 2014, the teenage boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and brutally murdered. Four days later, Israeli police arrested six Israeli suspects. Three confessed. Two have now been convicted of murder while the third is attempting an insanity plea.

On July 31, 2015, a firebomb was thrown into a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Duma, killing parents and a baby and severely injuring a child. Since then Israeli security forces have used stepped-up measures, including detention without trial and harsh interrogations, to apprehend suspects. Earlier this month two Israeli suspects were indicted for the crime.  

Was Shapiro referring to these cases? Does he know of others where suspected culprits are being allowed to walk free? If these cases don’t qualify for “vigorous investigation and response,” what would? What “vigilantism” is “going unchecked”?

 “…at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

What “times” was Shapiro referring to? Indeed, there is a difference: Israelis are citizens of Israel, while Palestinians in Gaza are completely under Hamas jurisdiction, and Palestinians in the West Bank are almost completely under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. One result is that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are subjected to severe human rights violations by their Palestinian governments. Is this what troubles Shapiro? Apparently not, since his criticism was directed at Israel.

“…two standards of adherence” is, of course, a grave allegation evoking the “apartheid” charges of the BDS movement and others who want to see Israel dissolved. Shapiro appears unconcerned that his careless words give yet another fillip to that mounting tide of hatred.

Shapiro—who also denounced Palestinian terror as “barbaric” while balancing this with ritual denunciations of Israeli settlement activity—is, of course, an emissary of his administration, which has a long history of subjecting Israel to harsh accusations and demands while, undeterred by the Gaza precedent or the general state of the Middle East, doggedly pursuing the vision of sovereign Palestine overlooking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

One can only hope that 2017 will usher in a U.S. administration capable of reassessing that vision and treating Israel decently.

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