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Middle East Issues





Politico Op-Ed Tars Israel with Causing Palestinian Crimes


Less than a week after the murder of four Israelis by two Palestinian terrorists in a Tel Aviv shopping center, Politico—a newspaper and Web site covering Congress, the White House and politics—published an Op-Ed claiming the Jewish state “provokes such attacks” (“How Israel is Inciting Palestinian Violence,” Politico, June 14, 2016). The 2,184-word online commentary (the length of some magazine articles) by Ben Ehrenreich, perversely—not to mention counter-factually—cited Israeli “settlements” and “despair” over the lack of a Palestinian state as the motive for anti-Jewish violence.

Ehrenreich repeated “occupation,” “occupation,” “occupation” parrot-like to explain “frustration” and “humiliation” allegedly underlying the “stabbing intifada.” Not a word about incessant Palestinian incitement—via official news media, in mosques and school curricula, then spread on social media—and praise of “martyrdom” attacks against Jews.

He blamed Israel for the lack of a Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip state and asserted this fueled Palestinian frustration leading to stabbing, shooting, stoning, axing and vehicular assaults against Israelis. But Erhenreich omitted a fundamental fact: Palestinian leaders repeatedly have rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for a Palestinian state in exchange for peace with and recognition of the Jewish state. Such proposals were made (among other instances) in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis conference. Palestinian leaders also rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's 2014 “framework” to restart negotiations as well U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's initiative in March 2016. (See, for example, “Stop Giving Palestinians a Pass,” by Amb. Dennis Ross, The New York Times, Jan. 4, 2015.)

Contrary to Ehrenreich's “occupation-violence” fixation, history suggests something more at work. Israel repeatedly was threatened and attacked by terrorists and Arab armies before it gained the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in successful defense during the 1967 Six-Day War. Ehrenreich similarly failed to inform readers that Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 led to more, not less Palestinian terrorism. He also neglected to mention that Israeli forces largely withdrew from West Bank population centers after the 1993 Oslo diplomatic process began, only to be forced to return in 2002 following the first year and a-half of deadly violence in the second intifada.

Ehrenreich argued that the “occupation” was responsible for anti-Jewish violence. However, attacks against Jews long predate the 1967 war and include, among many examples, the 1948 War in which five Arab states rejected a United Nations partition plan that would have offered a “two-state solution,” choosing instead to go to war to destroy the fledgling Jewish state. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was created in 1964, three years before the 1967 war, and Fatah, the PLO's major faction, in 1959. What “Palestine” were they seeking to “liberate”?

Like a phonograph needle stuck on an old vinyl record, Ehrenreich claimed Israeli policy, including the West Bank security barrier and checkpoints are designed to suppress and impoverish Palestinian Arabs. He never mentioned the high hopes and mini-boomlet that occurred immediately after the 1993 Oslo accords or the billions of dollars in foreign assistance provided to the West Bank and Gaza, prospects destroyed by terrorist bombings of Israeli buses and pizza parlors, not to mention Palestinian governmental corruption, inefficiency and repression.


Facts? We don't need no stinkin' facts

Recent history suggests that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would be met with nothing but more terrorist attacks. Lacking a committed peace partner, Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005. In both instances, U.S. designated terrorist groups, Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively, turned those areas into launching pads for future wars and terrorist attacks.

Erhenreich inveighed against the “occupation” but never acknowledged that Israel remains the legitimate, obligatory military occupational authority as a result of successful self-defense and pending a settlement negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and subsequent agreements referring to them. His “analysis” was oblivious to the conclusion of many specialists that without Israel's West Bank security presence, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah-based administration would be overthrown by Hamas the way they were in Gaza after Israel's departure.

Even Palestinian leaders have disagreed with Ehrenreich's pronouncement that “despair bred by Israel's occupation” is to blame for terrorist attacks. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, said in a speech at a rally on Jan. 19, 2016, “This intifada is not the result of despair. This intifada is a jihad…” Explaining protests and riots against court-ordered busing to promote public school desegregation in the 1970s, U.S. civil rights leaders asserted, “It ain't the bus, it's us.” Ehrenreich might want to consider: So too with anti-Israeli terrorism—“It ain't the occupation, it's the Jews.”

Ehrenreich similarly misled readers by claiming that the so-called “stabbing intifada” attacks occurring since September “were uncoordinated and outside the control of the Palestinian leadership or the traditional armed factions.” In fact, Palestinian leaders—including the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas—repeatedly have incited and rewarded anti-Jewish violence. In a Sept. 16, 2015 speech on official PA TV, Abbas exhorted, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah.”

Mute on official Palestinian incitement—examples highlighted by Palestinian Media Watch  and MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) are endless—Ehrenreich devoted more than half his article to quoting uncritically one tendentious source: Eran Efrati. Ehrenreich evasively identified Efrati as a “former Israeli soldier” who has “become an anti-occupation activist.” However, the “occupation” Efrati opposes is Israel itself. He has, as CAMERA has noted, has embarked on tours of college campuses demonizing Israel. Efrati has been accompanied on these tours by supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). The BDS movement seeks to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state, and the movement itself has ties to terror groups as has been highlighted in U.S. Congressional testimony.

‘Palestinianism' 101—Blame the Israelis

Ehrenreich—and Politico's headline writers—claim that Israel incites Palestinian Arab violence against itself. This deprives Palestinian Arabs of independent agency and overlooks incessant encouragement by Palestinian officials to attack Jews. Palestinian leaders constantly demonize and dehumanize Jews. In a May 23, 2016 speech at a U.N. World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, Abbas called for Israel's destruction.

In a speech on Sept. 16, 2015 Abbas claimed that Jews held designs to “rid” Jerusalem of al-Aqsa mosque, located on Judaism's holiest site, Temple Mount. Palestinian leaders have used this claim to incite anti-Jewish violence on a number of occasions, such as 1929, 1996 and 2000 among other instances.
 
Ehrenreich's superficial description of “the stabbing intifada” as leaderless does not stand scrutiny, though he writes as if he expects readers to take his assertions as beyond question. But see, for example, Yossi Kuperwasser's “The Palestinian Knife Campaign: A Policy of Limited Liability,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2016) for actual analysis.

Other Palestinian leaders have encouraged anti-Jewish violence. Among many examples, Fayez Abu Aita, a spokesman for the Fatah movement that controls the PA, called on Arabs to “intensify and develop” attacks against Israelis.

Unjournalistically, Ehrenreich relied on one source for the majority of his article. That source, Eran Efrati, has engaged in speaking tours on college campuses with BDS supporter Maya Wind. By his own admission, he's pledged to work for Israel's destruction  (See “The Soldier and the Refusenik: A case study in psychopathic self-abhorrence,” by Chloe Valdary, Times of Israel, Jan. 20, 2014).

Efrati has also participated in the United Nation's biased Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which sought to unfairly blame Israel for its 2014 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In addition to testimony from Efrati, other participants included “genocide scholar” Paul Behrens who believes that Jews are the major perpetrators of genocide and Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert who said that Hamas is “fighting for us.”

Whitewashing a tainted source
 
BDS founding organizations included Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade of Fatah, both U.S.-government designated terrorist organizations, and Syrian extremists and others masquerading as “Palestinian civil society” groups. They remain intent on the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel, not concerns about “Israeli treatment of Palestinians.” BDS leader Omar Barghouti, a graduate of Tel Aviv University, which he demands others boycott, calls for displacement of the one Jewish-majority state with a 23rd Arab majority country.

In testimony before the U.S. House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee, Jonathan Schanzer, a former U.S. Treasury Department terror analyst, noted that the BDS movement has ties to Hamas-linked charities.

But Ehrenreich did not dig into such background. He instead quoted Efrati's uncorroborated allegations of Israelis mistreating Palestinians at length. Yet, how does Israel treat Palestinian Arabs? As CAMERA has noted, better than many Arab states treat their own citizens, as even the United Nations has acknowledged (“Missing U.N. Report on Palestinian Living Standards,” CAMERA, Sept. 19, 2005)
 
Ehrenreich focused microscopically on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and avoided the Middle East macro-context in which it occurs. But as Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist and commentator has observed, looking at the mass upheavals in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, “for me and my family, as an Arab and a Muslim, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the safest place to be.”

Abuses by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas—both of whom have imprisoned Palestinian Arabs over social media posts—were not mentioned by Ehrenreich. PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdullah has even admitted “torture happens” in the authority's prisons

For Ehrenreich, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all effect, no cause. It's all Israel's fault, there's no Palestinian culpability. His anti-Israel jeremiad is an inverted pyramid, teetering largely on the allegations of one partisan's unsubstantiated charges. There's bias by omission, and then, as in the case of “How Israel is Inciting Palestinian Violence” there's tirade-by-omission (Next: “How The Jews Promote Antisemitism”?) This Ehrenreich effusion had no business appearing in Politico.

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