By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Last week the readers of an Israeli newspaper were once again treated to the “resistance” narrative. Gideon Levy claimed “The dozens of Palestinian male and female youths who set out over the last few months to kill Israelis did not do so ‘because they’re Jews,’ as Israel’s propaganda likes to portray it, with a (routinely) broad hint about the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews. They set out to stab or run people over by car because they’re conquerors.” We’ve seen this theory presented in various forms.
In 2001 Israel Prize winner and professor Zeev Sternhell wrote, “Many in Israel, perhaps even the majority of the voters, do not doubt the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves. The Palestinians would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements, avoid harming women and children and strictly refrain from firing on Gilo, Nahal Oz or Sderot; it would also be smart to stop planting bombs to the west of the Green Line.” We’ve also heard theories about how throwing stones is only an act of resistance.
The Levy view is more interesting because it doesn’t even put a line around where the “resistance” is acceptable and not. It’s a blanket acceptance, even though he claims it is not an excuse.
The use of terms like “resistance” or “armed struggle” to gloss over the brutal reality of many of the deeds in the name of “resistance” is purposeful. Israelis are turned into “settlers” no matter where they live, and any targeting of them is considered legitimate because some of their brethren are involved in “occupation” or what Levy terms “conquest.”
A Hebrew University academic wrote on February 1 basically the same conceptualization: “Who in this racist and violet [Israeli] government even thinks about these [Palestinian] kids? The Israelis’ hardened hearts don’t let them understand that they are responding to the despair and purposelessness that characterizes their lives. Perhaps they cannot explain it as such, but they are making a pretty hopeless attempt to prevent Israel from reaching the last stage of implementing its policy of colonialism, dispossession and apartheid in the territories.”
As Levy terms it: “They wanted to hurt Israelis, especially soldiers and settlers, because of the occupation, not because they’re Jewish. Their Jewishness has nothing to do with it.” His evidence is that he, a Jew, is received well on reporting trips to grieving Palestinian families who relatives attacked “conquerers.” Thus, they tell him: “We don’t hate Jews, we hate the occupation.”
The fantasy of resistance and reality of murder
The fantasy of resistance put forth primarily by Jewish Israeli voices, presents every Palestinians who stabs, shoots, throws stones or commits any act designed often to kill, against anyone they have deemed Israeli, as some sort of well thought out, sanitized act of fighting oppression. Stabbing a pregnant woman, or running over a 2 month old baby, becomes an understandable sanitized deed hiding behind “resisting.” It is part of the Western colonial mindset that cannot judge the other by the same standards as the self and thus presents any act by the other as naturally good and without judgement, because the other is seen as incapable of choice and through, and moves with robotic perfection to “resist.” If the “resistance” was being done by people in America against British rule, or Spain against Napoleonic rule, and someone hacked to death some three month old baby, the same writers would be able to separate out the “resistance” against British soldiers, and murdering innocent civilians. There is a need by those who excuse the nature of terror and murder to dehumanize the actions of the perpetrators, so that any act by any Palestinian against anyone they have deemed “Israeli” is excusable.
The argument that those carrying out stabbing or other attacks are just trying to fight the occupation allows those carrying out the attacks to be the judge, jury and executioner. It allows the perpetrator of the Beit Horon attack where two men stabbed a 23 year old woman, to commit an extra-judicial assassination, simply because the men are assumed to be “resisting conquest.” When two men stab a defenseless woman, are they “resisting” conquest or perpetrating murder? If Corsican nationalists stabbed some random French woman in Corsica, or Basques did it in Spain, one knows exactly what the reaction would be. Stabbing an innocent Spanish or French woman, by two Spanish and Frenchmen is not a form of resistance, it isn’t bringing Basque or Corsican independence any closer. It’s just a brutal murder.
The Palestinian perpetrators of attacks have a variety of motives and targets. Comparing the 13 year old girl who ran at an Israeli guard at Anatot to the Palestinian security officer who shot three Israeli soldiers on January 31 at the DCO checkpoint and presenting them both as part of the same “resistance” conflates and confuses. What does a 13 year old girl throwing her life away in an act of young anger have to do with an adult male trained to use a handgun and who employed it after careful consideration, which he explained on Facebook, and employed it purposely against an Israeli military target. To glorify and excuse it all as just some kind of “resistance” to oppression misses the human element in each case. It dehumanizes the Palestinians by not allowing them to have the same life choices as others, by pretending their society doesn’t have diverse elements, some of whom are psychopaths and murderers, some of whome are just angry kids committing a form of suicide-by-cop, some of whome are well-trained fighters. The presence of Israeli troops allows for acts that otherwise might be carried out against others, to be carried out against them, such that the young girl seeking approval or due to anger, might seem an attack with no chance of success on an armed security checkpoint as a way out, rather than the American kid who conducts a school shooting. Presenting it as all “resistance” removes the human element.
The non-Jewish “Jewish” victims
Remember the two Palestinian girls from Qalandiah who tried to go on scissors-stabbing-spree on Jaffa street? Who did they stab? An elderly Palestinian man. Was that part of the “resistance” to “conquest”? As they stabbed him, did they think they were stabbing a Palestinian man? Of course not.
And here is where the scam of “they don’t target Jews” begins to break down. In numerous attacks non-Jews have been harmed in terrorism. Excusers want to present them as being targeted just for being “Israeli settlers.” On November 19 the Palestinian who opened fire at Alon Shavut killed three Jews and one Arab. Who was his target? He thought those driving by were Jewish. Did he think they were all “settlers”? If it just about targeting those the perpetrator thinks are “settlers”, then why the numerous attacks in Rishon LeTzion, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Gat and elsewhere? The 71 year old man wounded in Netanya in a stabbing was not a “settler”. Did the perpetrator think he was a settler who had just come to Netanya? No. The perpetrator thought his victim was Jewish. Period.
The concept of “settlers” employed by those who seek to sanitize terrorism, allows the Palestinian to be all knowing in his targeting and disregards every single statement by almost every perpetrator where they say “I sought to kill Jews.” They don’t say “settlers”, they say “Jews.” The Palestinian media further complicates this by often referring to any stabbing attack in places like Tel Aviv as “the process of attacking settlers” or “the martyr so-and-so stabbed settlers in Beit Shemesh.” This isn’t because Palestinian media is confused about the fact that Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh are not in the West Bank, it is because every Jewish person is seen as a potential and acceptable target as a “settler.”
There is a willful blindness among the commentators who excuse this. They know full well that in Arabic people speak of “killing Jews” and that those same voices will see a photo of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv and say “three settlers were killed.” The two are interchangeable and malleable.
The images Palestinian popular media, particularly cartoonists, use to depict the victims of terror attacks, often depicts Jews as religious Orthodox men. How can anyone pretend that the cartoons don’t incite against killing “Jews”, but only mean “settlers”? How can the average Palestinian tell the difference. When you fill people’s heads daily with photos of Orthodox Jews being run over by cars, you can’t then pretend afterword that they are not conditioned to hate Jews, but rather just “settlers.”
Consider the message this cartoon conveys
Or this one
It is obvious that the stereotypical depiction of Israelis is as Orthodox Jews. Many Palestinians who seek to target Israelis therefore will try to choose targets that they think symbolize Jews or Israel the most. Sometimes that is soldiers in the West Bank. If soldiers were the only target, then the commentators who claim it is only “resistance”, might be correct. But the vast majority of Palestinian attacks are not against soldiers, they are against others. Often these attacks have targeted Orthodox Jews.
The same Palestinian media sometimes tries to convey the message that some Orthodox Jews do not support Israel, such as Neturei Karta. But these messages are outweighed by the populist single message: Kill Jews.
It’s true, Palestinian society doesn’t hate all Jews
Where Gideon Levy is correct is that Jews are often welcomed in Palestinian society as individuals. A Jewish reporter or a Jewish human rights activist, or a Jewish tourist, often finds individual societies have no gripe against them as Jews. That is because 99.9 percent of Palestinian society is not involved in stabbing or other attacks. The fact that those attacks may receive widespread support, doesn’t mean everyone is out to stab everyday.
This is where the failure of the “resistance” narrative breaks down most. The relatively minor acts of “resistance” target Jews, not Israelis, but those perpetrators are a tiny percent of Palestinian society. The reality is that all Palestinian terrorists target Jews, but not all Jews are targeted by Palestinian terrorists. This is a difficult concept to understand. A few examples should help.
For years many of my friends were Palestinians. I taught for years at Al-Quds University, a Palestinian university. I was always aware that living in Jerusalem one could be a target of terrorism. It doesn’t matter if one is Jewish or not. When a person comes to stab or blow himself up, he doesn’t stop all those he is about to kill and check their I.D cards and ask them about their life. “Do you live in a settlement” is not the question before plunging the dagger in.
I used to ask my Palestinian friends about driving in the West Bank. We would drive back and forth to Ramallah in a car with Israeli plates. I said “how do those who throw stones know not to stone us?” For them it seemed an unclear question. Of course no one would throw stones at them. But for me it was confusing. How does the stone thrower or the sniper know which car has Jews and which doesn’t. And I realized, they don’t. They try to look closely, for a bumper sticker, or sometimes they have warning from a colleague stationed elsewhere that a “settler car” is approaching. But in general they just try their best to target Jewish cars. Those Jews might be left wing activists, even pro-Palestinian, or just a family on vacation. Not “settlers”. When Daniel Seidemmann of Ir Amim was attacked, he was attacked for being Jewish, even though his NGO works to support Palestinians.
Remember when George Khoury was “shot in error”? In 2004 Arafat “apologised to the father of a young Arab man who was shot dead in Jerusalem in a botched attempt by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to murder a Jewish settler.” Why was Khoury a “settler”? He was a student at Hebrew University, where many Arabs study, out for a jog. He was not targeted because he was a settler. The perpetrators wanted a soft target, a Jew, and they went to a Jewish area near the university and shot him. For them any Jew there was a “settler”. It didn’t matter to them to stop and check. He could have been a European in Jerusalem who works for the UN and he would be killed “in error.”
In error is always the excuse for killing. How many non-“settlers” have to be killed in error before one admits that the killers acting as judge and jury are wrong, they are just killing innocent people, not “resisting” and they are targeting Jews who they have re-defined as “settlers” in order to dehumanize them and excuse their execution.
Mya Guarani, who also taught at a Palestinian university, and has spent years with Palestinians, also discusses this issue in a recent article. She recalls a friend saying: “‘I’m scared for you,’…He emphasized that he, personally, had no problem with me living in Bethlehem. He knows me, he knows my politics, he loves me and he loves me and Mohammad together. ‘But there are people who don’t think like me,’ he continued. “And if they find out that you’re here, alone—I’m scared for you.’ Six months later, as something stirs in the garden, I remember his words. I think of the family of settlers who were killed in Itamar in 2011. I recall the student who waited for me after class one day. ‘So, I heard you’re Jewish,’ she began. ‘I really admire you for teaching here. You’re so brave. Anyone could bring a gun to campus and shoot you.'”
Notice, the word is “Jewish.” Not “I heard you are a settler and someone might shoot you.” You’re Jewish. And for that you could be conflated with being a “Zionist” and a “settler” and killed. Once again we see the bait-and-switch that is inherent in the “they don’t target Jews, they just resist” narrative. The fact that the vast majority of Palestinians do not harm Jews and do not even want to harm Jews, does not change the fact that those who do set out to “resist” target Jews, and they usually target the most soft-target they can find, running over children, stabbing pregnant women, or elderly men. This isn’t the Yugoslav partisans targeting a German army patrol, this is people with knives, trying to stab the closest and easiest target. Sometimes that is soldiers at a checkpoint or a security guard, sometimes it is an elderly Palestinian man that they think is Jewish, not a “settler”, he’s not settling anything sitting on Jaffa street, he’s just the easiest person to stab.
And that’s the real story. By excusing Palestinian attacks as not targeting Jews the commentators refuse to hold them responsible for wide-spread incitement against Jews, the frequent use of Jewish, not Israeli, not settler, symbols.
How often in Palestinian areas does one see graffiti of swastikas? Relatively often. And why is that. Is that because the graffiti opposes “settlers”? Is that why? Or because of Jews?