Hypocrisy over Israeli terrorism is fueling violence
All violence is terrible and should be condemned, whether it is by a Palestinian Muslim or Christian or an Israeli Jew.
But that is not the case at all. In fact, violence by Israelis often gets brushed aside and marginalized, while violence by Palestinians is described as a “terrorist act.”
On Sunday, a Palestinian gunman shot and killed one Israeli and wounded four others at an entrance to the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem. The attacker, 42-year-old Fadi Abu Shkhaidem, a teacher at a nearby high school, was immediately denounced not only as a terrorist but also as a member of Hamas.
While there is uncertainty over whether the suspect was a member of Hamas, the shooting was labeled a terrorist act by almost everyone, including the US government, US news media and pro-Israel activists.
The US State Department issued a short statement on Monday, with spokesperson Ned Price declaring: “We strongly condemn the terrorist attack today by a Hamas gunman in Jerusalem’s Old City, which killed one person and injured others. We offer our condolences to the victims and their families.”
I did a quick search of the US State Department website using the word “terrorist” to see how many times the US, under President Joe Biden or former leader Donald Trump, denounced Israeli violence against Palestinians as “terror.” Of course, I could not find one instance.
I searched Google News to see how many news outlets used the term “terrorist” to describe any Israelis who attacked and killed a Palestinian and was unable to find any. There are many reports about Israeli settlers violently attacking Palestinian farmers, mostly reported by human rights organizations such as B’Tselem. But few incidents involving Israeli settler violence against Palestinians are reported by the Israeli or mainstream US news media.
Certainly, whenever the State Department condemns an Israeli act of violence, it is always couched in the broader context of denouncing violence “by all sides.”
B’Tselem, one of a half-dozen human rights groups that Israel is trying to silence and close down, said in 2017: “Violence by settlers (and sometimes by other Israeli civilians) toward Palestinians has long since become part of daily life under occupation in the West Bank. These actions range from blocking roads, throwing stones at cars and houses, raiding villages and farmland, torching fields and olive groves, and damaging crops and property to physical assault, sometimes to the point of hurling Molotov cocktails or using live fire. Over the years, this widespread violence toward Palestinians has resulted in injuries to life and limb, as well as damage to property and land.”
The point is that violence between Israel and the Palestinians is defined by politics. Denouncing Palestinians who attack or kill Israeli Jews is “good politics.” But denouncing Israelis who attack or kill Palestinians is not.
Armed Israeli settlers, with the protection of the Israel Defense Forces, attack Palestinian farmers and families frequently, but the incidents are mostly unreported and rarely, if ever, condemned by the US government. Likewise, reports of settler violence are rare in the mainstream US news media and, if the incidents are mentioned, the significance of the attacks is minimized.
When the attackers are Palestinian, the suspects are shot and killed by IDF soldiers or Israeli police in almost every case, as was the case with Abu Shkhaidem on Sunday. When the attackers are Israeli, none are ever labeled a terrorist. Worse, more than 85 percent of the Israelis accused in the reported attacks are never charged or brought to justice, according to B’Tselem.
More than 85 percent of the Israelis accused in the reported attacks were never charged or brought to justice, according to B’Tselem.
So, like my Israeli Jewish “cousins,” I denounce the shooting that took place in East Jerusalem on Sunday and the tragic loss of life. Violence is not justified and individuals convicted of violence should be punished. But, unlike those Israelis and unlike most US public officials, I also denounce just as strongly the violence by Israelis and the complicit role that the IDF and police play in permitting that violence.
One day, I hope to read a strong statement issued by the US State Department condemning Israeli settler violence, which is taking place every day in the occupied West Bank, or read a news story in one of America’s most influential newspapers condemning this infrequently reported settler violence, or even an editorial condemning it.
Until then, the American public, US officials and members of the mainstream American news media should strip the politics from the violence that takes place every day between Palestinians and Israelis, and start treating both sides equally, with the same measure of justice and respect for human life.
By fueling one-sided condemnations and one-sided news media reporting, the failure to condemn both sides is encouraging the violence.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania