Since Benjamin Netanyahu re-entered office as Israeli Prime Minister in late December, he has faced criticism for his promised policies, including an overhaul of the judiciary.
But sometimes, criticism of Netanyahu’s policies has morphed into hyperbolic and misleading claims about Israel as a whole.
It is in this latter category that a recent opinion column by Gwynne Dyer falls. Appearing in the March 3 edition of The Telegram in a commentary entitled: “Israeli pogrom rearing its ugly head again,” (also published by the Hill Times on March 1) Dyer made a number of broad and sweeping statements that do not stand up to scrutiny.
In one statement, Dyer wrote that “the ‘cycle of violence’ between the Arab population and Jewish settlers stretches back to the Israeli conquest of the West Bank in 1967.” This is a misleading statement for two reasons.
Firstly, the concept of a “cycle of violence,” while frequently used as a journalistic trope to create a moral equivocation between Israel and Palestinian terrorists, is without basis in fact.
There is no systemic history of Israel attacking Palestinian armed targets without cause. Conversely, Palestinian terrorists, whether lone wolves or those acting under the direction of terror groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), attack Israeli civilian targets unprovoked, and with no goal other than to achieve maximum death and injury. When Israel responds to such terrorist incidents, which is its right and responsibility, Israel is accused of perpetuating the “cycle of violence.”
Secondly, the term “Israeli conquest of the West Bank in 1967” is a strange choice of words which could lead readers to believe Israel invaded Judea & Samaria (the ancient name for the West Bank), when in actuality, while Israel officially fired the first shot in the Six Day War in 1967, it did so only to pre-empt an imminent attack from pan-Arab adversaries seeking the Jewish state’s destruction. Thus, when Israel “conquered” Judea & Samaria in 1967, it did so in a defensive war, not a war of conquest.
In his column, Dyer referred to a recent flare-up of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, stating that “the current sequence of atrocities and counter-atrocities began with a big Israeli raid in the Palestinian city of Nablus last week,” clearly attempting to demonstrate a “cycle of violence.”
However, the truth is more complex than Dyer portrays.
On February 22, 11 Palestinians were killed during armed clashes with Israeli troops in the Palestinian town of Nablus, who were searching for members of the Lion’s Den terrorist group. While most of those killed were members of Palestinian terrorist groups, a number of civilians were also tragically killed during the fighting.
Dyer referred to the Lion’s Den as a “resistance movement,” when it is an offshoot of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has a long history of committing terrorist attacks and is listed as a terror entity by Public Safety Canada.
On February 26, two Israeli brothers, aged 19 and 21, were murdered by Palestinian terrorists as they drove down a highway near their home in Judea & Samaria (West Bank).
Later that same day, a group of Israeli settlers took the law in their own hands and using vigilante violence, abhorrently attacked the Palestinian town of Huwara, wherein a Palestinian was killed, scores were injured and dozens of Palestinian homes and cars were set on fire.
But despite the superficial similarities, the differences are enormous.
Israel, unlike the Lion’s Den terrorist group, entered Nablus on February 22 not to murder innocent civilians, but to arrest members of the group and to prevent future attacks. Because Palestinian terrorist groups have long made a habit out of hiding within densely-populated civilian areas, tragically Palestinian civilians were killed.
Thus, to claim that the senseless and premeditated murder of the two Israeli brothers was somehow a consequence of the Israeli arrest raid of Palestinian terrorists is to utterly misrepresent the reality on the ground.
As for the attacks carried out by Israeli settlers on the Palestinian village, Dyer fails to mention that Israel arrested five Israeli suspects in connection with the violence and that Israel’s prime minister and president condemned the riots in Huwara. Meanwhile, Israelis have donated NIS 1 million to the Palestinian victims of the revenge riots carried out by settlers. In sharp contrast, the Palestinian Authority would financially reward the terrorists who murdered Israeli brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv through its pay-for-slay program.
While on a superficial level, violence seems to be tit-for-tat between the Israeli military and Palestinian terrorist groups, but while the former targets armed groups, the latter intentionally attempts to murder innocent civilians, and drawing a comparison between the two is both intellectually lazy and morally dishonest.
Neither Israel nor its politicians are blemish-free, but that does not give Dyer the right to equivocate between the horrific actions of Palestinian terrorist groups and the attempts by Israel to defend itself against said attacks.