A Guardian article by Bethan McKernan, (“‘It’s going to explode’: young Palestinians look to the gun amid Israeli offensive“, Sept. 21), includes a strap line which reflects the journalist’s hot take on the IDF’s recent West Bank anti-terror activities:
“Israel’s Operation Breakwater aims to reduce the enemy’s ability to attack, but seems to be galvanising a new generation of fighters“.
Before turning to how Israel’s counter-terror operations in the West Bank are “galvanising a new generation of fighters”, McKernan describes the IDF’ campaign:
Operation Breakwater [is] a six-month-old campaign of near-nightly IDF sorties, arrests, targeted killings and house demolitions across the occupied West Bank. Designed to flush out militants from al-Aqsa, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the offensive has evolved into one of the biggest Israeli military operations outside wartime for decades.
Operation Breakwater was launched this spring in response to one of the deadliest waves of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel in years. According to the Palestinian health ministry, this year so far 98 Palestinians – mostly armed men, but also many civilians – have been killed across the West Bank…
However, the major element of the IDF offensive omitted by the Guardian correspondent is the increasing concern that Hamas is plotting a take-over of the West Bank – an outcome that Israel, an increasingly weakened PA and the overwhelming majority of West Bank Palestinians have in interest in preventing.
Then, the spin begins:
In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a surprise three-day Israeli bombing campaign in August led to the deaths of another 51 Palestinians, including 17 children.
The “bombing campaign” was, in fact, a military operation that targeted terrorist leaders from, and military targets associated with, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the proscribed terror group that had been threatening an attack on Israeli civilians in retaliation for the arrest of one of their West Bank leaders. Further, McKernan fails to mention that more than a dozen of those 51 Palestinian deaths were the result of errant Palestinian rockets, and that roughly half of those killed were terrorists.
Guardian readers are later provided with the desired narrative-affirming quote:
Ali Rafik Sabah, 56, a restaurant owner in the Balata refugee camp on the city’s outskirts…lifted up his shirt to show two glassy scars on his torso during the Guardian’s visit last week.
“This is a desperate place. Every young man here has a gun, and these attacks just make them more determined to fight back.”
McKernan, in her own voice, echoes the quote:
…rather than quashing Palestinian armed resistance, Operation Breakwater appears to be fuelling more violence in the West Bank – and galvanising a new generation of fighters.
Later in the piece, McKernan quotes the manager of the Yafa youth centre in Balata, near Nablus, thusly:
“My son is 33 and he decided just a few months ago to join Islamic Jihad. Why is that? It’s a result of the terrible things he has experienced living here. He felt there was no other option.”
Among other problems with McKernan’s narrative, suggesting that Israeli anti-terror operations incite more Palestinian terror, is the timeline. As she acknowledged elsewhere in her piece, Israel’s current West Bank operation was launched in response to a surge in deadly terror attacks, most of which emanated from cities such as Jenin and Nablus.
The terror surge included seven attacks in a six weeks period that left 19 Israelis dead. Further, more than 240 planned major Palestinian attacks – shootings, suicide attacks, explosive attacks, and kidnappings – were thwarted by Israel’s security forces since the beginning of the year.
But, it’s not merely that the current terror/anti-terror timeline doesn’t align with her narrative. The decades since the early 90s undermine the suggested correlation between Israeli policies and terror.
Otherwise, how can McKernan explain the surge in terror in the years following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993; the fact that the savagery of the 2nd Intifada followed Israel’s peace offer at Camp David, which, if Arafat hadn’t rejected it, would have created a Palestinian state; or the fact that a plurality of Palestinians in Gaza voted for the terror group Hamas after Israel withdrew ever soldier and civilian from the territory?
In all these situations, Palestinians chose war and terror when they had every incentive to choose peace.
If McKernan accepts that Palestinians are more than just victims, a fact that former NY Times editor Margaret Sullivan urged reporters to remember, then she should offer more to Guardian readers than merely cliches about terrorism’s ‘root causes’ which obfuscate the role that the decisions of Palestinians and their leaders play in perpetuating the conflict.