The implicit narrative advanced by Gregg Carlstrom in a Times of London article about Israel’s recent demolition of a terrorist’s home is one often embraced in the UK media: that the manner in which Israel responds to terror leads Palestinians to carry out additional deadly attacks against Jews.
Here’s the headline of his article (Israeli punishment to end violence backfires, Nov. 2):
Carlstrom suggests that the decision by a Palestinian named Alaa Abu Jamal to engage in the car ramming and hacking to death last month of a religious Jew in Jerusalem was triggered by the demolition, by Israeli authorities, of his cousin’s home for his part in a deadly attack on Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Har Nof last year.
Here are the relevant passages from Carlstrom’s report:
Alaa Abu Jamal’s relatives busied themselves with screwdrivers, removing furniture and pulling clocks off the wall in a home in east Jerusalem that will soon be blown to rubble.
Three weeks earlier, Alaa had rammed his car into a group of people waiting at a nearby bus stop and then leapt out and attacked them with a meat cleaver, killing one, a rabbi, and wounding another before his rampage was ended by a security guard who shot and wounded him.
The Israeli army decided nine days later to demolish his house, a controversial collective punishment intended as a deterrent….
This is not an unfamiliar event in Jebel al-Mukaber, an impoverished warren of grim concrete homes. Last year Alaa’s cousin, Ghassan, and another relative attacked a synagogue, killing four worshippers [sic] and a policeman with guns and knives. Both were shot dead when police reinforcements arrived.
The government decided soon after to demolish Ghassan’s home, but the order was not carried out until October 6, part of Israel’s initial response to a growing number of attacks in recent weeks.
Israel halted home demolitions in 2005, after an army study found that they had little deterrent value, but the practice was reintroduced last winter in response to a spate of hit-and-run attacks by Palestinians.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, defends the practice, calling it one of the only tools available to stop “someone who is willing to kill themselves in order to get others”.
The case of the Abu Jamal family, however, offers a striking counterpoint. Freshly hung banners inside Ghassan’s ruined home extol the synagogue attackers as martyrs. Alaa himself lived a little way up the hill, and stood together with the family during the early morning demolition of Ghassan’s home.
“His cousin saw the demolition, and a week later he carried out his own attack,” said Dalia Kerstein, the director of HaMoked, a local charity that provides legal representation to Palestinians facing demolitions. “It’s not even a theoretical situation. I don’t see any deterrence here.”
Carlstrom’s theory – that Israel’s home demolition to punish Alaa Abu Jamal’s cousin backfired, and indeed incited Abu Jamal to engage in antisemitic violence of his own – seems, however, to be undermined by evidence that he clearly held radical pro-terror views before the demolition
In an interview with Ynet in November 2014, Abu Jamal praised the deadly attack on synagogue worshippers by his cousin as “something normal which could be expected from anyone who is brave and has a feeling of belonging to his people and Islam.” Abu Jamal added: “People reacted with cries of joy when we received word of their death. People here handed out sweets to guests who came to visit us, and it was a great celebration for our martyrs.”
So, according to Abu Jamal, the murder, by Palestinians, of innocent Jewish civilians is “something normal” and indeed worthy of celebration.
Of course, Carlstrom is far from alone in ignoring the ideological and moral components of Palestinian terrorism. As Matti Friedman, former AP Jerusalem correspondent, argued in his expose on the media’s failure to fairly cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “if you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, [or] profiles of armed Palestinian groups”.
The reason why such journalists always look for an Israeli root cause when explaining such acts of terror – whether it’s the settlements, “threats” to al-Aqsa, hopelessness, etc. – is that they immediately discount any explanation (no matter how grounded in empirical data) suggesting that attacks have a racist (antisemitic) motive – an ideological orientation which has fed anti-Jewish violence in the region for well over a century.
As blogger David Collier argued in his viral post published on these pages on the history of Arab terrorism:
Before the partition, before Israel, before the settlements, before the ‘occupation’, before the refugees, before Sharon walked onto Temple Mount, before the ‘wall’, before immigration, before Balfour and before even Zionism itself. In the beginning there was an Arab with a knife and he murdered a Jew, simply because he was a Jew.
It is an absurd logic that attempts to blame [the Zionist state] for creating violence against Jews when Modern Zionism *only came about* because of relentless violence against Jews; both in Europe and the Middle East
Sadly, this absurd logic – in one form or the other – continues to be embraced by the opinion elite and foreign journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.