Analysis from Israel

Hats off to the British. Aside from all the other reasons to applaud Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (i.e. democracy, national sovereignty), it has voted to secede from an enabler of Palestinian terror and hate education. And if that accusation sounds harsh, consider what transpired in the EU Parliament on the very day of the Brexit referendum.

While the British were voting, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was addressing the EU Parliament in Brussels. By any objective standard, the visit didn’t start off well: Upon arriving, Abbas immediately rejected a personal plea by the parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who happened to be in Brussels at the same time. But things quickly got worse when Abbas started speaking.

Abbas’s speeches are always full of anti-Israel slander, and this one was no exception. He accused Israel of “massacring” Palestinians’ “history, heritage, identity and geopolitical entity.” He termed the Israeli “occupation” the longest in history and deemed it uniquely evil, “unlike anything that has happened to any other people anywhere in the world,” to quote one reporter’s live tweeting of the speech (I haven’t managed to find a transcript); in reality, of course, not only have there been many longer occupations, but few conflicts have ever entailed so little bloodshed. He accused Israel of being “fascist” and “racist,” of committing extrajudicial killings, and of turning “our country into an open-air prison.” All this is pretty standard, as was the conclusion, in which he paid lip service to his willingness to make peace with the monstrously evil country he just described.

But even by Abbas’s standards, this speech was exceptionally vile in two respects. First, he accused Israel of responsibility for all terrorism worldwide, ludicrously asserting that “Once the occupation ends, terrorism will disappear, there will be no more terrorism in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world.” After all, Israel is clearly the reason why Muslims are killing fellow Muslims by bombing mosques, schools, and hospitals in Muslim countries like Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan, right?

Then, he resurrected a medieval blood libel, accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinian wells. Granted, he was speaking in Arabic, and this accusation wasn’t in his prepared English translation; but the simultaneous translator rendered it into English, and Israeli reporters had no trouble hearing it; thus one has to assume it was audible to EU parliamentarians, as well.

So how did those parliamentarians respond? By giving him a standing ovation. In other words, they told him that hurling blood libels at Israel and refusing to meet with its president and would not be penalized, but rewarded.

This, of course, is not particularly surprising. As I wrote yesterday, the PA has been promulgating hatred of Israel through its schools and media for over 20 years now, and throughout this time, the EU and its member states have been the PA’s largest donors; thus the EU has been directly subsidizing Palestinian hate education for over two decades. The EU and its member states are also the main financiers of anti-Israel NGOs, so in that way, too, they’ve been funding anti-Israel propaganda for decades. And it’s no accident that the EU has devoted so much money to this purpose; it’s obsessed with Israel to the virtual exclusion of other foreign policy concerns, as evidenced by a 2010 study of what EU foreign ministers spend their time discussing. That study found the ministers had held exactly one meeting on China, a rising power, over the previous four years – but they discussed “the Middle East peace process” 12 separate times in 2009 and the first part of 2010 alone.

After Abbas refused to meet with him, Rivlin naively said he found this refusal “surprising.”  But it’s not surprising at all when Abbas can be rewarded for it with a standing ovation from the very body whose president personally requested him to hold the meeting. Just as it’s not surprising that Abbas similarly rejected a personal request by France’s then-foreign minister Laurent Fabius to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris in October 2015. Why should he agree when Fabius promptly rewarded his refusal by announcing plans to convene an international conference to force Israel to accede to Palestinian demands and pledged that France would unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state if Israel declined to capitulate? Nor is it surprising that the PA continues to spew anti-Israel hatred, given that doing so earns it lavish EU funding and standing ovations from the EU parliament.

By granting financial and diplomatic rewards to Palestinian rejectionism and hate education, the EU has encouraged Palestinian terror and distanced peace. No self-respecting country should want to be associated with such sorry behavior. Britain is well out of it.

Originally published in Commentary on June 24, 2016

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ISIS Borrows a Tactic from Hamas

The U.S. Army recently announced that it has horrifying video footage of Islamic State fighters herding Iraqi civilians into buildings in Mosul. The plan was not to use them as human shields–that is, to announce their presence in the hope of deterring American airstrikes. Rather, ISIS was deliberately trying to ensure that American troops killed them, by “smuggling civilians into buildings, so we won’t see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack,” an army spokesman said at a briefing for Pentagon reporters. The motive, he explained, was hope that massive civilian casualties would produce such an outcry that the U.S. would halt airstrikes altogether.

There’s an important point to this story which the spokesman neglected to mention: This tactic is borrowed directly from Hamas. And it was borrowed because the world’s response to successive Hamas-Israel wars convinced ISIS that creating massive civilian casualties among residents of its own territory is an effective strategy. Admittedly, Hamas hasn’t yet been caught on video actually herding civilians into buildings before launching attacks from them. But there’s plenty of evidence that Hamas prevented civilians from leaving areas whence it was launching rockets or other attacks at Israel, thereby deliberately exposing them to retaliatory strikes.

During the 2014 Gaza war, for instance, the Israel Defense Forces warned civilians to evacuate the town of Beit Lahiya before launching air strikes at Hamas positions. But according to Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid, who based himself on interviews with Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas gunmen showed up and warned that anyone who left the town would be treated as a collaborator. Since Hamas executes collaborators, that was equivalent to saying that anyone who tried to leave would be killed on the spot. Thus, faced with the alternative of certain death at Hamas’s hands, most Beit Lahiya residents understandably opted to stay and take their chances with the IDF.

There’s also plenty of evidence that Hamas deliberately launched attacks from buildings where it knew civilians were present. Just last month, for instance, I wrote about a case during the 2009 Gaza war in which Hamas directed sniper fire at Israeli troops from the third floor of a well-known doctor’s home, thereby forcing the soldiers to choose between becoming sitting ducks or shooting back and risking civilian casualties. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Hamas was also storing explosives in the house (using civilian buildings as arms caches or wiring them with explosives is standard practice for Hamas). Consequently, when the soldiers fired at the Hamas position, an unexpectedly large explosion ensued, killing three of the doctor’s daughters and one of his nieces.

In short, Hamas repeatedly used tactics aimed at maximizing the number of civilian casualties on its own side. Yet instead of blaming Hamas for this, the world largely blamed Israel. Mass demonstrations were held throughout the West condemning Israel; there were no mass demonstrations condemning Hamas. Journalists and “human rights” organizations issued endless reports blaming Israel for the civilian casualties while ignoring or downplaying Hamas’s role in them. Western leaders repeatedly demanded that Israel show “restraint” and accused it of using disproportionate force. Israel, not Hamas, became the subject of a complaint to the International Criminal Court.

Hamas thereby succeeded in putting Israel in a lose-lose situation. Either it could let Hamas launch thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians with impunity, or it could strike back at the price of global opprobrium.

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