New York Times columnist and veteran Israel-basher Anthony Lewis has weighed in on the December bombing murders by Palestinians of twenty-seven Jews in Jerusalem and Haifa. He concedes in his December 8 piece, “Hope Against Hope,” that this is “terrorism at its bloody worst.” Then he blames Israel entirely, lecturing the nation about its use of force while offering solicitude to the Palestinians.
Like other commentaries on Israel by the writer, this one diverges so far from fact, context and common sense that it appears to reflect simply Lewis's deep personal discomfiture with the Jewish state. Thus he laments: “A military response by Israel was inevitable, and it came: air attacks on Palestinian police stations and on the headquarters of Yasir Arafat, pressuring him to arrest terrorists.”
But, he declares, “there is just one problem with that response: Force alone will not stop terrorist attacks.” Lewis lists as examples of futile “force” Israel’s encirclement of Palestinian towns in the West Bank after the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet Minister and its killing of arch-terrorist Mahmoud Abu Hanoud. Each of these actions, he claims, not only failed to halt terror attacks but inevitably intensified them.
There are layers of deception in his claims. First, contrary to Lewis’s insinuation of a blistering Israeli military response to the bombings, the retaliations have been conspicuously measured. Israel hit two empty PA helicopters and deserted PA security buildings, killing two policemen. (After the horrific June 1 Dolphinarium discotheque bombing that killed 21, Israel took no military action, seeking to induce Arafat himself to prosecute the war on PA-based terror. The PA leader did nothing and on August 9 a Palestinian suicide bomber struck the Sbarro pizzeria, killing more than a dozen.)
Second, Lewis’s reference to Israel’s surrounding Palestinian population centers is devoid of any reference to the fact that towns such as Jenin have become centers of bomb manufacturing and bomber recruitment, training and dispatching. Nor does he report that Israel has effectively prevented many attacks by intercepting the bombers and disrupting their plans. That the prevention is imperfect does not mean it has not saved many lives.
Likewise, faulting Israel’s killing of Hanoud, Lewis claims “every knowledgeable person understood” that Hamas would retaliate. That is to say, Israeli measures against Hanoud caused the bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa. But Hanoud was responsible for the Dophinarium and Sbarro bombings that came before – and much more. By what bizarre logic was Israel safer permitting him to continue?
Finally, of course, Israel has avidly pursued efforts other than “force” to end the violence and war to which it has been subjected for so long. In the political realm, only a year ago, an Israeli government offered the Palestinians a state on nearly 100% of the West Bank and Gaza with territorial compensation for the remainder, but received in reply a peremptory rejection and ferocious violence.
Lewis obscures Arafat’s refusal to seize the unprecedented Israeli concessions, writing, “No matter where the fault for past negotiating failures lies, there is no other path.” Notably, the hinted-at, possible “fault” on the part of the Palestinians is unspecified and blurred into a generalized reference to both parties.
Such quick dismissal of the subject of Palestinian refusal to accept a state next to Israel is understandable. Lewis has long demanded that Israel proffer land to assuage the Arabs and has, in one furious column after another, recounted the supposed iniquities of Israel’s “occupation” – as well as its other countless alleged social and political transgressions.
Here, once again, entirely ignoring the Israeli offers of withdrawal, he repeats old themes, lamenting that: “The Palestinians see no hope now for a meaningful political process. The promise of Oslo turned to dust with the unending Israeli colonization.”
All the while, Lewis has been silent on Arafat’s having consistently – since his arrival in the territories in 1994 – used Palestinian schools, Palestinian media, and Palestinian mosques to promote the message of Israel’s illegitimacy and the objective of Israel’s ultimate destruction. That Arafat’s incessant incitement might have soured the “promise of Oslo” for Israelis is apparently beyond Lewis’s powers of comprehension. Instead, impervious to the actual course of events and their impact, Lewis clings to his mindless mantra of blameless Palestinians victimized by ruthless Israelis.
Appeared in the Jerusalem Post on December 21, 2001