Jonathan S. Tobin(JNS)
Throughout the course of the Palestinians’ century-long war on Zionism, the narrative about their terrorist campaigns against the Jews with whom they had no intention of sharing the land has always been framed as a “cycle of violence.”
That was as true for the pogroms launched against Jewish communities in the 1920s and 1930s as it was for the massacre in Jerusalem—on International Holocaust Remembrance Day—of seven people, and the wounding of three others, by a Palestinian Arab.
The violence has always been rooted in the Arab claim that Jewish presence in the ancient Jewish homeland is a crime that must be expunged. But somehow, each instance of bloodshed can always be explained, rationalized or even excused as a response to some specific action, gesture, or even the mere possibility of either on the part of Jews.
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Unsurprisingly, this was what the international media did in relation to the heinous mass killing that took place in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood of Jerusalem on Friday night. Much of the press (i.e. Vox)—as well as apologists for the war on Israel, such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—claimed a moral equivalence between the act of wanton murder at a synagogue and the Israel Defense Forces operation earlier in the week by to capture a cell of Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in Jenin, during which nine were eliminated.
But more than just a fallacious attempt to depict what’s going on as a mere tit-for-tat between two equally intransigent sides in the conflict, the immediate context for the misleading coverage is the ongoing effort by the opposition to Israel’s government and its foreign cheerleaders.
The New York Times’ summary of the week’s events combined the “both sides” cliché with an equally tendentious assertion—in a story headlined “Amid Spasm of Violence, Israel’s Far-Right Government, Raises Risk of Escalation”—that what had happened was a product of a democratic Israeli election. In this telling, and despite disclaimers acknowledging that terrorism didn’t start the moment that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allegedly extremist coalition took office a few weeks ago, the problem is primarily Israel’s fault.
The argument is that by giving a stable majority to the Likud Party and its religious partners, the Israeli electorate set in motion a series of events that fuels the “cycle of violence.” It assumes that the rhetoric of some of the coalition members, in particular Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, is both unacceptable and responsible for provoking Palestinian terrorism.
This is absurd.
That’s not just because Netanyahu and his partners were elected in no small measure because of the Israeli public’s justified perception that the government they replaced had failed to sufficiently address Palestinian terrorism. The problematic nature of most coverage of the conflict is rooted in an unwillingness to concede that the longevity and virulence of anti-Israel violence go beyond bogus comparisons between counter-terror operations and terrorism.
It’s not just that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace offers and compromises that would have satisfied any desire for them to have an independent state, assuming that they were willing to live in peace with Israel. It’s that their war on Zionism is inextricably linked to their national identity.
That’s why they keep saying “no,” and their leaders—whether the “moderates” of Fatah who rule Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) or the Islamists of Hamas—are incapable of accepting the legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of where its borders might be drawn. It also explains one of the most horrifying, yet all-too-familiar aspects of this latest tragedy: the way Palestinians celebrate acts of terrorism.
As bad as it was, the Times article had one virtue. Unlike most Western coverage of the attack, it included a mention and one picture of the disgusting jubilation that spread throughout the Palestinian Authority in response to the murders in Jerusalem.
As the photos and videos posted on social media indicate, the celebratory incidents were not isolated. On the contrary, whole swaths of Palestinian society turned out on Friday night to hand out sweets at impromptu rallies and parades in honor of the Jew-killing. Even the mother of the perpetrator, who was gunned down after murdering every Jew he possibly could, was seen cheering the action of her “martyred” son while handing out candy.
For most media outlets, even noting the above in passing, as the Times does, is often considered in bad taste. Worse, even accurately reporting on active Palestinian support for, let alone indifference to, the immoral nature of such an awful crime is viewed as racist. To admit that Palestinians’ political culture has not just normalized terrorism, but treats it as the highest expression of their national identity, contradicts the basic assumption of all right-thinking liberals about Israel and its foes.
To accept that the even Palestinian “moderates” are cheered by the spilling of Jewish blood—the mother of the killer can, after all, now look forward to receiving a hefty pension from the Palestinian Authority—gives the lie to the concept of a two-state solution’s being the answer to Israel’s problems. It exposes the lies of the Israeli left and American liberals as absurd misreadings of Palestinian intentions and goals, based either in naivete or obfuscation.
Just as important, the focus on the Israeli government’s supposed fault for taking seriously its obligation to root out terrorism demonstrates where the campaign to delegitimize Netanyahu and his partners has inevitably led. The Israeli left has had no compunction making deliberately false claims about the ruling coalition’s plan for judicial reforms. It’s been denouncing the endeavor as a war on democracy, when its actual goal is to preserve the power of an undemocratic, liberal, elite minority to thwart the will of the majority with impunity.
But the hyperbolic portrayal of the government as a proto-authoritarian group of wild extremists has played right into the hands of the Palestinians, as well as those abroad who think their duty is to override the verdict of Israeli democracy and save the country from itself. This is more than a matter of the opposition’s trying to score political points against the coalition. The falsehoods it’s perpetuating are helping to encourage both terrorism and foreign pressure on Israel to tolerate a certain amount of mass murder so as to avoid antagonizing the Palestinians.
Some of the protestors assert that the Palestinian flags at their demonstrations are only being waved by extreme leftists, whose views don’t reflect the sentiment of most participants. But the main beneficiaries of their attempt to nullify the results of the last election—which they and their American supporters would blast as “insurrection” and a coup d’état if it were the right that was seeking to unseat a recently installed leftist government—is the P.A. and those in the Biden administration who would like nothing better than to defeat Netanyahu.
Still, the way that the Israeli left is providing ammunition to Israel’s foes doesn’t get the U.S. media off the hook. There is no “cycle of violence” in which the victims are as blameworthy as the murderers. Those who fault Jewish victims for the efforts of Palestinians to murder them for the crime of being Jews living in Israel aren’t just engaging in routine bias. They are also giving a pass to the fomenters, champions and subsidizers of terrorism.
That’s not just slanted coverage; it’s a moral disgrace.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.