The Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2002


By Raphael Israeli

The dynamics of the Palestinian wave of violence have been so manipulated as to turn the victims into aggressors and the perpetrators into victims.

That the Palestinians and other Arabs should subscribe to such a distortion is nothing out of the ordinary, since this has been their wont for the past half-century, in conformity with the Arab proverb: "He beat me and cried, and was quick to complain" (Darabni wa-baka, sabakni was-ishtaka).

Western media, however, ought to be open-minded to logical and factual argument. It is evident to the media, for example, that since Israel did not declare the present war, and in view of the fact that, prior to its eruption, there were no sieges, no roadblocks, no tanks, no casualties, the media were certainly not interested in all those unpleasant corollaries of hostility.

Moreover, after the Dolphinar ium attack, in which 21 teenagers were blown up while making merry, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refrained from any retaliation for a month, "hoping that restraint meant force"; but the Palestinians decided to pursue violent attacks, and even openly declared their commitment to do so regardless of what the Israelis did or refrained from doing.

When casualties increased to unacceptable levels and the citizenry cried out for protection, Sharon's government had to move, and a policy of systematic retaliation set in, diametrically opposed to Yasser Arafat's. Reporters must see for themselves that, first, while the Palestinian terrorist attacks aim at maximizing the killing of innocent civilians with "Islamikaze" bombers, whose bombs are stuffed with bolts and nails for harrowing maximum effect, Israel retaliated against perpetrators of those acts, when they failed, or their operators who were hiding behind mosques, churches, and schools, or within refugee camps for immunity.

In other words, not only were the criminals themselves targeted, but maximum prudence was given to minimize collateral damage to innocent people.

But the press reported on the Israeli "invasion" of refugee camps, where those murderers hide and stockpile their weapons, as if Israel decided to just attack innocent civilians.

Had Israelis been interested in wanton killing, as they are often accused by the media, they did not have to send their boys into enemy territory and endanger their lives; they could sit placidly behind positions in Israel and bombard Palestinian cities with a fraction of their artillery and air power, without running any risk.

And of course, those weapons captured during the operations should not have been there in the first place, but nothing was done by the Palestinian Authority to seize or capture them; quite the contrary, Arafat has been trying to smuggle in more illegal weapons (Karine A and the tunnels from Egypt). But this is not reported as triggering Israeli actions aimed at seizing those arms, which was done with remarkably little or no casualties to the Palestinians.

Israeli artillery, tanks, and air power are used inside Palestinian territory, but not to maximize casualties; rather, air power is used to destroy Palestinian positions and institutions, usually empty, at night. Tanks are sent in to minimize Israeli casualties in enemy territory, not to inflict casualties on the Palestinians. But for the field reporters, real estate appears to be more important than human life; and the sight of Israeli troops running after the perpetrators of terrorism in order to arrest them, interrogate them, and bring them to justice (not to blow them into pieces), appears unbearable to them.

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct. What would any one of those reporters suggest if his countrymen were subjected to the same horrors day in, day out? Restraint was tried and failed; targeting killers was dubbed "assassination" by those same reporters who now criticize Israel's entrance into the camps in order to capture the killers and bring them to justice; responding to incessant attacks is viewed as a "cycle of violence" by them; destroying empty buildings is condemned as "excess of force." What is "adequate force" in their eyes? Sending undercover troops to blow up innocent Palestinians in the plazas and cafes of Nablus and Hebron as they do in Jerusalem and Kfar Saba? Tit for tat? Is that a civilized response in their eyes?

To act in a civilized manner, amid this persistent, barbarous attack on the Israeli population, means either demanding that the perpetrators and their operators are arrested by the Palestinian Authority, or asking for their extradition so that legal measures could be taken against them in Israel. But the Palestinians refuse to do either.

All that is left is either for Israel to move in by itself, in the process causing painful collateral but involuntary harm, or sit and do nothing, which encourages more terrorism, as we have seen.

Proportionately, Israel has suffered more casualties from this violence than the US did on September 11 (350, which in the US would be equivalent to 17,000). Nevertheless, and in spite of the fact that it is a struggle for our existence, something that the Americans have never even remotely experienced, Israel has caused much less damage and casualties than have the Americans in Afghanistan.

But the same European media condemns Israel constantly, while turning a blind eye to the Americans. Unless the European media proclaim that it is not the killing and destruction that are important but who causes them, they better have another look at their unfair treatment of Israel.

(The writer is a professor of Islam and the Middle East at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.)

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