When Will IfNotNow Get Its Facts Right?
IfNotNow, which claims to be a group of peace-loving Jews who want to educate their peers about the “occupation,” shares a number of characteristics with the most militant detractors of Israel, including spreading misinformation; ignoring Palestinian responsibility for the plight of people in the West Bank and Gaza, and the failure to make peace; treating Israel by a double standard; and reducing a complex conflict that predates Israel’s capture of the disputed territories to a single cause.
IfNotNow has begun to harass Birthright Israel trip participants, and seek access to Jewish camps and other institutions. The group distributes a sheet of “Facts & Stats to Think About” that is filled with inaccuracies, misleading information, and a complete lack of context — thanks in part to a reliance for their information on four dubious sources: B’Tselem, the UN, Military Court Watch, and Visualizing Palestine.
The first general “fact” promoted by IfNotNow states that nearly five million Palestinians live in the disputed territories. According to the CIA Factbook, the actual figure is closer to 4.5 million.
While the population statistic is vaguely close to the truth, the claim that Israel has uprooted 800,000 Palestinian olive trees since 1967 is one of those numbers invented by the Palestinians for propaganda purposes — reminiscent of Saeb Erekat’s false claim that 500 Palestinians were “massacred” in Jenin in 2002. The most recent Palestinian statistics (2011) found nearly eight million olive trees in the territories.
Three of the group’s “facts” relate to Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children and lack any context. It is true that Israel detains Palestinians who are under the age of 18. But it is also true that these children are often involved in violent crimes and are recruited to engage in terrorism by their elders. Israeli MK Anat Berko noted that there have been cases of suicide bombers younger than 12 and “to those who are murdered with a knife in the heart it does not matter if the child is 12 or 15.”
Palestinian minors are most often arrested for stone throwing, which is sometimes treated by Israel’s detractors as inconsequential. In many instances, however, stone throwing has resulted in serious injuries and some fatalities.
And Palestinians do more than just throw stones. In July 2017, a 19-year-old Palestinian stabbed an Israeli father and two of his children to death and seriously injured his wife while they were eating Shabbat dinner. In March 2011, two Palestinian cousins, ages 18 and 17, murdered five Israelis from the Fogel family in their beds, including children aged 11, four, and three months.
IfNotNow has nothing to say about the Palestinian Authority’s jailing of children or its glorification of such killers, as occurred on Palestinian television, when the relatives of the Fogel family murderers praised the two cousins as “heroes.”
IfNotNow says that 800-1,000 Palestinian children are detained each year, but NGO Monitor notes that only 450-500 are prosecuted. By comparison, “nearly 90,000 minors aged 10-17 were arrested in England and Wales between April 2015-March 2016, an average of approximately 7,500 each month.” IfNotNow also condemns Israel for arresting some minors at night, but there is no prohibition on such actions, which are usually taken to minimize the possibility of violence.
The United States does not ban the imprisonment of minors for crimes, so why should Israel?
IfNotNow also regurgitates the claim that 99% of all trials in military courts end in conviction, which a CAMERA report says came from a 2011 Haaretz article that lacks a source and has not been updated. Typically, prosecutors only bring cases to trial they expect to win, so a high rate of conviction should not be surprising. This statistic also does not indicate how many of the accused pled guilty. The year after the Haaretz article, for example, 93% of criminal defendants either pled guilty or were found guilty in the United States.
The group also expresses concern about Gaza, saying that Israel imposed a blockade and created a humanitarian crisis. They leave out that Egypt is also maintaining a blockade, otherwise it would not be possible for Israel to isolate the Strip. They also leave out any mention of Hamas and its objective of destroying Israel, or the conditions set by the international community for ending the group’s isolation. They neglect to mention that the Palestinian Authority has called for a cutoff of Gaza’s electricity and stopped paying thousands of Palestinians. The lack of drinking water is largely a result of the Palestinians’ failure to treat waste, and polluting the underground aquifer and other water resources. IfNotNow also has nothing to say about Hamas siphoning off aid for its members to the detriment of its people or the thousands of tons of supplies sent into Gaza from Israel.
They correctly say the Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three areas and that A and B are non-contiguous and made up of small “islands.” Many Jewish communities in Area C are also islands and the land is not contiguous because Area A is under Palestinian control. IfNotNow says Israel has “direct or indirect control over the entirety of the West Bank,” but leaves out that 98% of the Palestinian population is under the control of the Palestinian Authority. The group has nothing to say about the Authority’s denial of most civil and human rights to that population.
The group also claims there are 611,000 settlers in 250 settlements. The correct figures are 130 settlements, with a population of 435,000. The group also incorrectly includes eastern Jerusalem as part of the “occupied” territory. Deceased US ambassador Arthur Goldberg, who drafted UN Security Council Resolution 242, said that it does not apply to Jerusalem and that he never referred to eastern Jerusalem as occupied territory.
IfNotNow complains that checkpoints restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement, but leaves out the reason for needing checkpoints — namely the efforts of Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate Israel. They also omit that Israel has drastically reduced the number of checkpoints and streamlined the entry process.
IfNotNow also ignores all the relevant history that led up to the situation we have today. For example, they don’t acknowledge that Israel withdrew from Gaza, the consequences that followed, or the implications for the evacuation of parts of the West Bank. They also blame Israel for the conditions in Gaza without acknowledging that many of the problems are a result of Hamas policies and sanctions imposed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Most importantly, IfNotNow leaves out the principal reason that Israel is still administering any part of the West Bank — namely, the Palestinian refusal to negotiate a peace agreement.
Mitchell Bard, Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library, has written 24 books including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews, and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.