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May 20, 2021 12:17 pm
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More False Narratives Promoted About Israel in the Media

avatar by Sean Durns

Opinion

The former Washington Post building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Washington Post can’t seem to find the true culprit for the lack of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

It’s not Hamas, the US-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip and is currently launching thousands of rockets at the Jewish state — each rocket a war crime. It’s not Fatah, the movement that rules over the majority of Palestinians, and  insists on paying salaries to those who murder and maim Jews. Nor is it the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas’ chief benefactor, which — like the Gaza-based terror group — calls for another Jewish genocide.

But one contributing factor for the lack of peace, a May 14, Post blog asserts, is Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

The blog’s headline is “Israel’s Iron Dome defense system protects Israeli lives. It also perpetuates the Israel-Gaza conflict.” Writers don’t always choose their headlines, however. And the article itself, by Yagil Levy, a professor of public policy at the Open University of Israel, is more nuanced than its title would suggest.

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Levy notes that the Iron Dome system saves Israeli lives and gives “freedom of action against Hamas.” The system, he correctly observes, provides Israeli leaders with a tool that not only saves lives — Gazan and Israeli alike — but gives them greater options in mounting a response. Iron Dome, he notes, “protects Gazan civilians from the potentially devastating outcomes of an Israeli ground offensive,” which would be more likely if Israel were to sustain high civilian casualties from rockets.

Some astute analysts, notably the late Moshe Arens, Israel’s former defense minister, have highlighted that Iron Dome “saves lives” and “provides the government with the time needed” to contemplate a response, but also “does not solve the basic problem: protection of the civilian population” in Israel.

Put simply: it is not problematic to suggest that Israel’s Iron Dome system affects Israeli strategic thinking. Where Levy’s argument falls flat is the implication that the Iron Dome is responsible for the “lack of a political solution” to the situation in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The responsibility for that lies with the Palestinian leadership.

As Levy is no doubt aware, Palestinian leaders have been rejecting peace for nearly a century. They have consistently refused to accept a Jewish state within any borders, and have declined the opportunity to have something that has never existed — a Palestinian Arab state — if it meant recognizing the right of Jewish self-determination in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland. In 1937, 1947, 2000, 2001, and 2008, among other instances, Palestinian Arab leaders rejected peace and statehood.

Both the 2000 and 2001 offers were made by Israel as the five-year-long terror campaign, known as the Second Intifada, was launched.

In 2005, with Palestinian leaders refusing to come to the negotiating table, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. This withdrawal, however, only emboldened the worst elements of Palestinian society, leading to the election of Hamas, whose charter favorably cites Adolf Hitler. Hamas has been starting wars, firing rockets, and digging “terror tunnels” to kidnap and murder Israelis ever since its 2006 rise to and usurpation of power. Land surrendered to achieve peace has only brought the opposite, with no fewer than four wars having occurred between Israel and Hamas in the last 15 years alone.

Put simply: it is ahistorical to claim, in any way, that the Iron Dome system, which went operational in 2011, is responsible for holding back a “political solution.”

Levy, however, was far from alone in misattributing blame.

In a May 12, 2021, articleWashington Post columnist Max Boot asserted that “even those of us who are supporters of Israel must admit that the proximate cause of the current flare-up is Israel’s continuing land grab in East Jerusalem and the West Bank– something that Trump did much to encourage with his uncritical and unwavering support for his fellow right-wing populist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

“More than 9,200 Israeli homes were built in the West Bank during the Trump years,” Boot writes, “with nary a peep of protest from Washington. Far from trying to curb Israeli expansion, as previous presidents did, Trump unwisely recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and cut off aid to the Palestinians.”

Elsewhere, Boot claims that “Right-wing Israeli settlers have been trying to evict six more Palestinian from their homes in East Jerusalem by arguing that the houses belong to Jewish owners who were dispossessed during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.” This, Boot claims, is the source of a multi-front war with multiple well-armed terrorist groups.

Boot’s assertion — that expelling six families from an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood prompted a war — is not the sort of claim made by a serious geopolitical analyst. It has been established through court proceedings in the 1980s that this land is legally owned by Jews. And Jewish homes in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland are not the reason for an attempted genocide of Jews.

Furthermore, Boot’s fixation on Trump and Netanyahu enables him to ignore both the bigger picture and Palestinian independent agency.

As CAMERA recently noted in the Washington Examiner, Palestinian politics are a chief reason for the latest conflagration. In January 2021, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas promised to hold elections for the first time in 15 years. It became increasingly clear, however, that Abbas’ Fatah movement would lose to Hamas.

On April 28, 2021, after several months of imprisoning and torturing critics and rivals, Abbas decided to “postpone” the elections, despite threats from Hamas not to do so. Hamas activists have helped incite violence against Israelis, hoping to create another Intifada that would give them a greater foothold in the PA-ruled West Bank. In a bid to compete with Hamas, Abbas responded by also inciting anti-Jewish violence, employing the “Al-Aqsa Libel.”

All of this context, however, is omitted in Boot’s article. Indeed, the Washington Post columnist merely expends one sentence to note that Abbas is “unpopular” and “just postponed the first Palestinian elections since 2006 … probably because he didn’t want to see any gains by his rivals — including Hamas.” That the canceled elections occurred shortly before the war is a connection that, like Abbas’ own incitement, escapes Boot’s attention.

One of the chief reasons for the violence, however, is simple: Iran. The Islamic Republic is the chief financier of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the myriad of other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have been launching thousands of rockets at Israel. Other Iranian proxies who are not Palestinian, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, have also been threatening the Jewish state. All of these groups have acknowledged Tehran’s largesse and would be unlikely to start a war without the backing of the chief state sponsor of terrorism.

Indeed, Iran’s strategy is clear. Iranian officials are currently engaged in talks with the US in Vienna over their nuclear weapons program. And Iran hopes to use attacks on Israel to spur American concessions.

The proof? Iran’s own words.

On May 6, 2021 — nearly a week before Boot’s column — the Middle East Media Research Institute translated a speech by Asghar Emami, the head of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, which has trained and equipped operatives from Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups. Summarizing his remarks, MEMRI reported that “General Emami explained that Iran can easily tighten its grip around ‘the throat of the Zionist regime’ in order to extract pressure and extract concessions from America.” Emami, MEMRI said, “continued to say that while Israel has airplanes that can reach Iran, Iran does not require airplanes to target Israel, it can place Israel ‘under siege’ via the artillery and mortar shells of the ‘resistance axis.’”

That Iran is using its proxies — Palestinian and otherwise — to threaten a US ally in order to achieve concessions in Vienna is, of course, a much more realistic explanation than the idea that dozens of terrorist groups are launching a war over an eviction dispute in eastern Jerusalem. Yet, the words “Iran” and “Vienna” don’t appear in Boot’s 800-word column.

A similar inability to connect the dots is on display elsewhere in the article. For example, Boot suggests that the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to implement the bipartisan Jerusalem Embassy Act led to the latest war. But that was nearly four years ago and, as CAMERA and others observed, very little violence erupted at the time.

Elsewhere, Boot omits key facts.

For example, he fails to note the reason why the Trump administration decided to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority. As CAMERA has documented, the PA refused to participate in bilateral negotiations with Israel and refused to stop paying salaries to terrorists — both violations of the Oslo Accords, which created the PA and which remain the basis for its funding and legitimacy. The fact that the supposedly “moderate” PA refuses to quit paying Palestinians to murder and maim Jews should suggest to Boot that perhaps the legal eviction of six families isn’t the root cause that he thinks it is.

Instead Boot asserts that “Palestinians see the looming evictions as part of an Israeli plan to take such firm possession of East Jerusalem that it can never be the capital of a future Palestinian state.” In fact, however, Israel has made several offers for a Palestinian state that included eastern Jerusalem as a capital, most notably in 2008. That offer was also the basis for US proposals to restart negotiations in 2014 and 2016. As the journalist Amir Tibon, among others, documented, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted those proposals, but Abbas rejected them.

Despite this fact, Boot absurdly equates Netanyahu with Abbas and Hamas, writing, “of the three major players — Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Israel — none has a leader willing to make the slightest sacrifice for peace.” This is a lie. In addition to accepting the 2014 proposal, Netanyahu made numerous concessions during the Wye River Accords of the 1990s, including carrying out the withdrawals from Hebron and elsewhere in the West Bank. By contrast, those Israeli withdrawals were met with the anti-Jewish violence that is the raison d’être of Hamas and Fatah alike.

Boot also implies that Israel is at fault for Hamas’ established pattern of using human shields. The Post columnist writes that the conflict is resulting in “civilian casualties on both sides—although, as usual, far more among the Palestinians than the better protected Israelis.”

This, of course, is the result — wholly intentional — of Hamas using human shields, and storing weapons, material, and headquarters in and under schools, hospitals, and civilian population centers. Boot knows this, but he declines to mention it. His decision to do so deprives readers of essential context.

Finally, Boot seeks to portray the latest Israel-Hamas war as evidence of the “failure” of the Abraham Accords. “The Abraham Accords were nice,” he writes, “but they did nothing to resolve underlying conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya — or the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” Yet, in all of those arenas save Libya, it is Iran that is propagating, via its proxies, those conflicts. But as noted, Iran isn’t even mentioned in Boot’s analysis.

Indeed, the list of items that the Abraham Accords failed to solve is rather long and includes, among other things: the US deficit, China’s treatment of the Uyghur population, racism, and, last but certainly not least, superficial commentary in the American media.

Sean Durns is a Senior Research Analyst for the Washington D.C. office of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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