Peter Beinart’s Open Zion feels the pain of pre-Oslo murderers and their loved ones

An Aug. 20 essay by Maysoon Zayid at Peter Beinart’s blog Open Zion, titled ‘Palestinian Prisoners Are Released and No One Cares‘, mostly stands out in the way in which Arab murderers are characterized sympathetically while the victims of their brutal crimes are all but ignored.


Indeed, we’ve been posting frequently on the sympathetic portrayal, by some in the media, of the the 104 pre-Oslo prisoners who Israel has agreed to release – all of whom were convicted of murder, attempted murder, or being an accessory to murder, and the dearth of information about the victims and their families.  And, in fact, Zayid spends most of the space allotted to her commenting on the pain felt by the recently released murderers – in “the middle of the night”!, we are reminded – and the ‘feelings’ of their families.

In addition to the moral inversion typical in the far-left’s coverage of the prisoner release story, here are a few of the smears and falsehoods in Zayid’s Open Zion essay. 

Israelis simply don’t care about the release of prisoners who murdered their fellow citizens:

Zayid writes:

“The Israeli families who claimed to be directly affected by the freed prisoners’ actions seemed to be the only folks who really cared about the move to send these notorious men home.” 

It’s unclear how Zayid gauged the pulse of the Israeli public in a manner sufficient to make such a claim about their attitudes towards the prisoners’ release, but polls certainly indicate she’s flat-out wrong.  In fact, 77.5 percent of Israelis polled recently opposed the release – results which are quite intuitive to most Israelis, an extremely large number of whom have been personally affected by Palestinian terrorism.   

Palestinian “Political Prisoners” in Israel:

Zayid writes:

It is also important to remember whom Israel chose to free. These are not women, children, or prisoners of conscience. They are not your average Palestinians serving time for rock throwing or because an acquaintance who could no longer handle the torture volunteered their name as a scapegoat. These are not the Palestinians being held without charges or as political prisoners for nonviolent resistance.

It’s a small comfort that Zayid doesn’t at least parrot the Palestinian narrative of the pre-Oslo prisoners as “political prisoners“, but she still legitimizes the absurd notion that there are such prisoners in Israeli jails – those whose incarceration are, per the accepted definition of the term, based purely on their political or religious beliefs.

Imputing the most sinister motives to Israelis, even in response to the most painful concessions for peace:

Zayid writes:

Israel chose these prisoners specifically knowing that after over two decades of rotting in jail, these men no longer pose a threat, and that the move to free them could be used to Israel’s advantage. As the families cheer the homecoming of their loved ones, Israel can use those images to reinforce the myth that Palestinians are terrorist-loving savages. 

Of course it was Mahmoud Abbas who demanded the release of the ‘pre-Oslo’ prisoners, and so to imply that releasing them was a strategic, calculated, cynical Israeli decision continues in the illiberal tradition of those who deny Palestinian moral agency, and see in all political events a sinister Israeli motive. Further, to impute Israeli racism in the ‘belief’ that Palestinians routinely engage in incitement and glorify terrorists is to deny evidence documented daily on sites which monitor such incitement.  

It is an indisputable fact that Palestinians routinely celebrate even those citizens who’ve committed the most barbaric crimes, such as the honors bestowed upon Dalal Mughrabi, the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, when she and other terrorists hijacked a bus in 1978 and killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children.

Moral equivalence between terrorists and the IDF

Zayid writes:

“Others who come to cheer see little difference between Palestinian armed resistance and an Israeli sniper shooting an unarmed 13-year-old through the heart. Both are murderers and both will find a couple hundred people to give them a hero’s welcome, regardless.”

Such a moral equivalency between Palestinian terrorists who intentionally kill Israelis and IDF soldiers who, during the course of engaging Palestinian terrorists, accidentally kill Palestinians is a common theme in anti-Zionist propaganda, and since Zayid doesn’t provide a link it’s impossible to know for sure what incident she’s even referring to.  

However, while Palestinians who murder Israelis (such as the 26 recently released prisoners) have received heroes’ welcomes when they return home, it strains credulity to even imagine a situation where an IDF soldier whose actions may have resulted in the death of a Palestinian child is celebrated because of Palestinian deaths.

One of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel is greeted by relatives and friends at the headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Atef Safadi, European Pressphoto Agency / August 14, 2013
One of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel is greeted by relatives and friends at the headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. (Atef Safadi, European Pressphoto Agency / August 14, 2013

Religiously segregated housing:

Zayid writes:

“Freeing 26 prisoners out of 5000 means nothing compared to the Israeli Housing Minister announcing the construction of 1200 new religiously segregated housing units

Here, Zaid is likely talking about the recent announcement of 1187 new homes mostly in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods where, as CAMERA has documented on several occasions in response to false claims, no such segregation exists.  (Indeed, in Dec. 2012, this blog was able to even get the Guardian to acknowledge that it is inaccurate to assert that such racially exclusive housing exists.)

However, in addition to the factual errors and smears, what most stands out in Zaid’s piece is how Arab murderers are humanized, while Israeli victims and their families remain nameless and largely faceless. 

It’s hard to know when Peter Beinart’s Open Zion, supposedly inspired by his love of Israel, devolved into a project which promotes the views of those who are contemptuous of Israelis, and even those who have defended anti-Semites, but, whatever his motivations, this latest piece of agitprop places his blog in an ideological direction closer to Electronic Intifada or Mondoweiss than any site which would proudly identify as Zionist.

UPDATE: There was one additional error in Zayid’s essay which I originally decided not to focus on, but which, based on a Twitter exchange about the issue, is worth at least mentioning. She cited the number of Palestinians as seven million, a number we’ve never seen before and which is greater, by more than two million, than the official Palestinian figures.  Here’s her reply:

Remarkably, she included Arab Israelis in her total count of Palestinians!

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