Jews marauding in a vacuum: Harriet Sherwood’s artful dodge

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind

The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood recently alerted loyal readers to the growing phenomenon of violence perpetrated by Jewish settlers throughout the West Bank (Jewish settler attacks on Palestinians listed as ‘terrorist incidents’ by US, August 20th). In fact, per Sherwood, assaults against Palestinians have become so rampant that “…violence by Jewish settlers has been cited for the first time in a US state department list of terrorist incidents“. 

However, as the blog Mostly Kosher revealed, contrary to Sherwood’s claim, this isn’t “the first time”. In fact, State Department reports from 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010 similarly characterized specific acts of settler violence as “terrorism”.

Moreover, while these ‘price tag’ attacks have indeed grown in recent years, the overwhelming majority of Israelis deplore them.  Additionally, a quick comparison between how the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority have respectively responded to these waves of violence reveals an Israeli resolve to address the issue rubbing up against predictable Palestinian cynicism aimed at exploiting it for political gain.

While the PA is quick to condemn price tag attacks on West Bank mosques, it actively glorifies acts of terror perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis. The Palestinian Authority – a supposed island of moderation in a sea of Islamist-lead governments – simultaneously gives its assent to murder and entices future terrorists with assurances of glory and honor

Sherwood goes beyond just whitewashing official PA compliance in such heinous acts: she doesn’t mention the Palestinian Authority once in her piece.  And this is no mere oversight. By portraying the Palestinians as innocent and helpless, the taint and stink of institutionalized corruption and officially sanctioned terror is kept from contaminating the fairy tale that has been created of jackbooted Jewish thugs running roughshod over the perpetually persecuted Arabs.

Were that it were so. It makes for such delicious drama, doesn’t it? The truth is that while the PA lacks many powers associated with a proper state—such as complete control of its territory—it is responsible for providing such varied government services as education, criminal justice and health care for approximately three million Palestinians.

The US government has long categorized Hamas, Islamic Jihad  and the secular al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as terrorist groups. All these groups and others have at one time or other operated from the Palestinian-ruled territories governed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

And the Palestinian Authority is not content to leave the dastardly deed of killing Israeli Jews to others. The PA does not just glorify or outsource terrorism, it actively funds it by paying monthly salaries to thousands of prisoners in Israeli prisons, including terrorists with blood on their hands. The source for these salaries is the Palestinian Authority’s general budget.

Sadly, the PA’s decades-long campaign to honor terrorists, presenting them as heroes and role models, has borne fruit.  According to a new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey (PSR), nearly half of all Palestinians (47.5 percent) support terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians inside the 1949 armistice lines.

In contrast, eighty-eight percent of the Jewish public has expressed opposition to price tag acts against Palestinians.

And while the Palestinian Authority has fanned the flames of racist incitement among its people, the Israeli government has loudly condemned any and all attacks on Palestinians. From Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Yesha settlers council head Danny Dayan, the response from Jerusalem has been uncompromising and clear: such acts “… of lawlessness and intolerance…” are committed by “criminals” and the government will “…act swiftly to bring the culprits to justice.”

Yet, Sherwood must have run up against a hard deadline since she neglected to include any of this historical and political context in her report.  For while Jewish criminal elements must be held to account and brought to justice, their behavior has not occurred in a vacuum. To focus only on settler misbehavior is to ignore the context in which attacks on Jews in the West Bank is a regular occurrence, including Arab attacks on synagogues and other Jewish holy places.

Sherwood, while seemingly enthralled with the Palestinian narrative, evidently holds the Palestinian people and their government in such low regard that Arab violence is perceived as par for the course while Jews behaving badly illicits cries of condemnation that spill over into a questioning of Israel’s moral legitimacy.

While Sherwood’s talents and value as a reporter of news are questionable, she has a bright future as a romance novelist or fantasy writer. Perhaps she can call her first official work of fiction: “Arabian Knights Versus the Jewish Horde”.

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