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Unreasonable Expectations: Western Attitudes towards Terrorism in Israel

Viewpoints, May 2016
Eytan Gilboa

In a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry recently, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ten other Members of Congress requested to investigate the alleged involvement of the Israeli military and security forces in what was claimed to be “gross violations of human rights”. A primary focus of the investigation would be Israel’s actions to quell the rising wave of stabbings and other homegrown terror attacks by Palestinian terrorists in recent months, actions that Leahy referenced as ‘extrajudicial killing’. For Israel, the implications of such accusations are potentially devastating: suspension of American aid to Israel and the labeling of the Jewish state as systematic violator of human rights.

 

Abbas' Fatah movement glorifying stabbing attacks. The image above, showing a masked man brandishing a knife and holding up two fingers in a V for "Victory" was posted on the official Facebook page of the Fatah Movement with the text: "We'll be victorious or die." [Oct. 23, 2015]. Credit: Palestinian Media Watch
Abbas’ Fatah movement glorifying stabbing attacks. The image above, showing a masked man brandishing a knife and holding up two fingers in a V for “Victory” was posted on the official Facebook page of the Fatah Movement with the text: “We’ll be victorious or die.” [Oct. 23, 2015]. Credit: Palestinian Media Watch

Even taken at face value, the finger pointing by Leahy and his fellow Congressman easily falls within the scope of actions performed by American law enforcement officers in the line of duty. In several notable instances, American agents have killed terrorists without hesitation or due legal process, and in each of these cases no protest nor any subsequent calls for investigation by lawmakers or the press were ever made. These include the terror attacks in San Bernardino (2015), Chattanooga (2015) and Boston (2013). In another 2014 attack, almost identical to those witnessed in Israel in recent months, a Muslim convert, Zale Thompson, charged two New York City police officers, attempting to assault them with a hatchet. The officers shot him dead at the scene. Yet in none of these incidents was an American law enforcement official ever accused of “extrajudicial killing”.

“Operating in a gray area wherein the transition from civilian to combatant can be instant, Israeli security Forces have responded with professionalism and discretion other nations would be hard-pressed to imitate.”

Faced with constant threats to the lives of its citizens and its sovereignty, unparalleled by any other Western nation, Israel’s security forces have reacted with professionalism, transparency and the highest regard for human life. These standards should serve as a model for other countries, rather than be cheaply criticized by outside observers. As the threat of radical Islamic terror in Western nations is expected to escalate, the leaders of the free world should rethink their attitude towards the potential consequences of terror: the stabbers of grandmothers and children are not victims, nor does the tragic, accidental killing of civilians constitute a state policy of indiscriminate murder. In the single and highly controversial case in which an Israeli soldier shot a terrorist who had already been overpowered and was lying on the ground, the serviceman was held accountable by Israeli authorities and is now facing charges of manslaughter.

The simple truth is that the vast majority of Palestinians that were killed by Israeli security forces in recent months, were in the midst of carrying out lethal attacks against innocent civilians when they were brought down. Many of the perpetrators of these attacks had publicly and unambiguously stated their intention to murder Jews on social media, before setting out on their murderous rampage, incited by a supportive Palestinian leadership and media and a community which celebrates them as martyrs after their death. The fact that these terror attacks have on many occasions failed to claim the lives of Israelis, far from an absolution of malicious intent, is a testament to the professionalism and efficiency of the very forces many in the West hypocritically and shortsightedly criticize.

 

Prof. Gilboa has held several senior academic positions at Bar-Ilan University and is currently Chair and Academic Director of the Israel Public Diplomacy Forum.