Violence is the only language Israel understands (in public)
This posting has these items on the responses to the disappearance of the three Israeli boys – and Israel’s aim in the operation:
1) Tikun Olam: Expect IDF Operation Gaza Punching-Bag Imminently, Richard Silverstein (and see photo of Israeli missile strike on Gaza city in item 5);
2) AFP: Israel aims to break Hamas as hunt for missing youths intensifies;
3) Ma’an news: Israeli forces kill Palestinian during Ramallah arrest raid;
4) +972: Analysis: How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective, Michael Omer-Man;
5) +972: The kidnapping is indefensible – but Israel helped provoke it, Larry Derfner;
Facebook page calls for murder of Palestinian prisoners
Expect IDF Operation Gaza Punching-Bag Imminently
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
June 15, 2014
On social media, some have jokingly anticipated call-up of the IDF reserves and preparations for a new military operation in Gaza. Knowing the precedent in similar past circumstances, I expect the chances of a major incursion into Gaza at better than 50-50. To spare the IDF the trouble, I’ve already named it: Operation Punching Bag.
Yediot’s Alex Fishman alludes to this in today’s column. Here he writes of a potential Gaza connection:
If say, the IDF destroys the building in which the kidnappers are hiding, or if it continues attacking Gaza from the air, Hamas will not be able to continue biting its lip. Then Israel will not shed a tear or resist the option to strike, thus reminding the world of Hamas’s real image as a terrorist entity. And at the precise moment when Hamas returns fire, we’ll then be in the heart of battle. That will help the world to forget the days of the non-violent Palestinian unity government.
It’s no accident that the IDF moved an Iron Dome battery to Ashdod. There is an expectation at a certain point that Hamas will make a mistake. The expectation of such a mistake will prime the IDF for a [military] response. Israel has been following for some time Hamas’ arming itself with hundreds of long-distance missiles which threaten Tel Aviv. From its [Israel’s] perspective, this presents a golden opportunity: both to destroy the image of the Palestinian unity government and deal with Hamas’ rocket arsenal.
This is precisely the sort of grandiose thinking which got Olmert into the Lebanon war mess in 2006 and the Operation Cast Lead mess in 2009. It’s the notion that every few years Israel has to “mow the grass” represented by Hamas, as if this was regular lawn maintenance and not an assault on real human beings. Just as a hammer never sees any problem except as a nail meant to be struck, so Israel never sees Palestine as anything but a military problem whose solution is more force. This bankruptcy of strategic thinking leads to nothing but misery for the victims and Israel itself. Because Israel has reached a certain phase in which it cannot use its military power without losing. The more power it uses the worse Israel’s image becomes. So while Alex Fishman and the IDF think they’re going to tarnish the Palestinian unity government’s image, they’re really going to do the most damage to Israel.
I think that Bibi doesn’t mind this very much. He doesn’t care what the world thinks of Israel, as long as it thinks just as badly of the Palestinians. He has so far succeeded in this. The world may think Israelis are butchers during wartime, but it hasn’t come round to the idea that the victims are worthy of outrage or urgent action. As long as such a gap exists, Bibi is content.
Netanyahu began today’s cabinet meeting with the breathless news that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank:
Israel believes that Hamas, or an Islamist cell linked to it, is responsible for the kidnapping
It doesn’t matter that the army hasn’t publicly breathed a word about any of this. Bibi has his own intelligence which tells him what he needs to know (or wants to believe). Blaming Hamas kills several Palestinian birds with one stone. Note that “an Islamic cell linked to it” covers virtually any militant operating anywhere in Gaza or the West Bank (or anywhere in the world, for that matter). Let Israel not be constrained by reason or moderation.
Not a single piece of evidence has been offered to support this claim, nor will any ever be. Gullible Israelis believe virtually anything their generals and politicians tell them regarding Palestinians. Normal standards of proof are unnecessary.
Sheera Frenkel quotes Israeli and Palestinian sources with a much different story to tell:
The kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers was likely carried out by a small group of militants with no direct orders from Hamas, ISIS, or any other regional terror group, said senior Israeli and Palestinian officials Sunday.
“What we do know, is that this was likely an opportunistic move. The men behind this may have ties to a larger terror group, but this does not have the markings of a well-planned, complex operation…”
So in weighing who to believe, Bibi’s source or Frenkel’s, I’ll take hers all the time.
Blaming Hamas serves many useful political purposes. First, Bibi needs to throw the U.S. and international community off its “blame Israel” narrative regarding the failure of the Kerry peace talks. If he can associate the Palestinians with terrorism then they won’t associate Israel with rejectionism. Second, the Palestinian unity government, which has been gaining favorable reviews from foreign governments, will look like terror-lovers. Third, Netanyahu, who just suffered an ignominious political defeat when Reuven Rivlin, won the Israeli presidency despite Bibi’s machinations, will be politically relevant once again.
There is clear evidence of police ineptitude in managing the case. The victims called 911 and were able to say that they’d been kidnapped before they went silent. Then one of the parents called an emergency police hotline. A patrol car responded to the scene of the kidnapping an hour after the call. But by then, the kidnappers and victims were gone. Neither one of these calls elicited the proper response and authorities lost four hours in beginning their search.
Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by police malfeasance. They don’t seem able to prevent or resolve many cases involving Israeli perpetrators (though they have a better record in resolving Palestinian crimes since they’re more motivated to do so). Remember the Bar Noar gay massacre? Not to mention hundreds of price tag attacks, almost none of which have been investigated, let alone prosecuted. The murders of two Israeli policemen, for which Jack Teitel was once suspected, also have not been solved.
In response to the kidnapping and Israel’s inability to quickly solve it, I expect a broad military adventure in Gaza. It is Bibi’s punching bag whenever he needs someone to blame. After the Eilat terror attack, Israel murdered the head of the Gaza militant group which Israel falsely blamed for the attack. 30 innocent Gazans died on the altar of Bibi’s expedience.
Perhaps the most troubling official statement was this one by senior minister Naftali Bennett:
“…From the dawn of Zionism, the Arabs and Islam are out to kill Jews. We shouldn’t be confused or beat ourselves up.”
This is nothing less than the Protocols of the Elders of Arabia. Disgusting Islamophobia. Israel can be proud to have leaders spewing such malevolent hatred all over the Israel and international airwaves.
Along the same lines, Israelis have created a Facebook page dedicated to the proposition that Israel should kill a Palestinian terrorist every hour until the Israeli kidnap victims are returned.
An Israeli soldier aims his gun during clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank town of Hebron on June 16, 2014. Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP
June 17, 2014
Israel stepped up efforts to crush Hamas in the West Bank on Tuesday as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers believed kidnapped by the Islamist movement entered its fifth day.
Thousands of Israel troops engaged in the search for the youths turned their attention during the night to the northern West Bank city of Nablus and surrounding area, arresting 41 Palestinians, the army said.
So far, Israel has arrested around 200 Palestinians, most of them Hamas members, as it conducts a vast search operation for the students, two of them minors.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused militants from the Islamist movement of kidnapping the youths last week.
“We are here in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it may take time. This is a serious event and there will be serious consequences,” Netanyahu said on Monday evening.
Israel has said it holds Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas responsible for the safe return of the three, with Netanyahu phoning him to demand his help in the search efforts in what was their first direct political contact since 2012.
So far, there has been no formal claim of responsibility, and Hamas has dismissed Israel’s accusations as “stupid”.
– Smashing Hamas –
At a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet on Monday, ministers decided to expand moves against Hamas in order to smash its political and social infrastructure in the West Bank, officials said.
“As long as our boys remain abducted, Hamas will feel pursued, paralysed and threatened,” said Lieutenant Peter Lerner, the military’s official spokesman.
“We are committed to resolving the kidnapping and debilitating Hamas terrorist capacities, its infrastructure and its recruiting institutions,” he said in a statement.
A series of punitive steps aimed at decapitating Hamas in the West Bank were discussed on Monday by ministers, who examined the possibility of banishing its senior members to Gaza and demolishing their West Bank homes, Israeli media reports said.
Ministers were reportedly meeting again on Tuesday.
“Israel has decided to perform a root canal to uproot everything green in the West Bank,” said army radio, referring to the colour representing Hamas.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who was at the meeting, told the radio Israel had decided to “dramatically” change its approach to the Islamist movement.
“We will bring about a situation in which Hamas people will become a nuisance for the Palestinian population, and that their presence in Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank) will cause harm everywhere,” he said.
‘Entry ticket to hell’
“In other words we will turn membership in Hamas into an entry ticket to hell.”
Writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot, Alex Fishman said the kidnapping had created a “one-time operational opportunity” which Israel would use “to castrate” Hamas and suppress its “strongholds in Palestinian Authority territory to the greatest extent possible.”
Pundits said Israel was also seeking to bring about the collapse of a newly-formed Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas, the firstfruits of a reconciliation deal between rival leaders in the West Bank and Gaza which has been furiously denounced by the Netanyahu government.
“The purpose of the Israeli actions … is to drive a wedge between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and stop the reconciliation process that began some two months ago,” wrote Amos Harel in Haaretz newspaper.
By crushing Hamas’s infrastructure, it would weaken the movement ahead of Palestinian elections which under the unity deal are supposed to take place before the end of the year, Fishman said.
“Removing the political leadership from the West Bank is supposed to weaken Hamas in advance of the Palestinian presidential elections,” he said.
But as the manhunt entered its fifth day, commentators voiced concern about growing reports of clashes around the West Bank, sparking fears that an already tense situation could rapidly escalate.
On Monday, a 19-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by troops during clashes in Jalazoun camp north of Ramallah. And during the night, troops shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian who was trying to infiltrate a Jewish settlement in the same area, military radio said.
In Gaza, the Israeli air force carried out a fourth straight night of air strikes after militants fired more rockets over the border.
Members of the Palestinian national security forces carry the bodies of Nadim Seeam Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har during their funeral procession in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 16, 2014. Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes the previous day outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison following a protest commemorating the Nakba. Foreign press published that the two died in a Ramallah hospital after being shot in the chest during a protest to demand the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel. Photo by Activestills.org.
Israeli forces kill Palestinian during Ramallah arrest raid
By Ma’an news
June 16, 2014
RAMALLAH — Israeli troops shot dead a young Palestinian man in al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah during overnight clashes with locals, medics said.
Palestinian Red Crescent officials said the victim, 20-year-old Ahmad Sabarin, was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest.
Local residents told Ma’an that clashes broke out after midnight as a large group of Israeli forces raided the camp. Sabarin and two others were injured and taken to hospital for treatment, where he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
Palestinian security sources could not immediately say whether the army had intended on arresting Sabarin. They noted he had been released from Israeli prison one week ago.
Earlier, Israeli forces raided al-Bireh and Beitunia, clashing with local youths.
Young men hurled stones and empty bottles at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas canisters at rubber-coated steel bullets.
The raids took place as part of efforts to locate three settlers who are suspected of being kidnapped near Gush Etzion settlement on Thursday.
The Israeli army could not immediately comment on the al-Jalazun shooting, but said it was continuing its campaign of detaining dozens of Palestinians throughout the West Bank as part of its efforts to locate the missing settlers.
The youths, one of whom also holds a US passport, are students at Jewish seminaries in the West Bank, believed to have been kidnapped late Thursday from an area between Bethlehem and Hebron while hitchhiking.
They have been identified as Gilad Shaer, 16, from Talmon settlement near Ramallah, Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, from Elad, both in central Israel.
Israeli search efforts were focused on the southern West Bank Hebron area but increased military presence was felt throughout the entire territory, with dozens of Palestinians being detained for questioning.
Late Sunday night Israeli forces had blasted through the door of a Hebron house and arrested two of its inhabitants, wounding one person, Palestinian eyewitnesses said.
The Islamic group has good reason to believe that violence will work for it, and maybe even set the stage for diplomatic engagement with Israel: it has in the past, both for itself and the PLO.
By Michael Omer-Man. +972
June 15, 2014
It is ironic that Israel rushed to point to the kidnapping of three Israeli teens as the reason it cannot negotiate with a Palestinian leadership affiliated with Hamas.
Indeed, in the wake of the kidnapping — regardless of the outcome — Israel will very likely use the event as an excuse to stay away from the already comatose peace talks with the Mahmoud Abbas’s moderate, Fatah-dominated PA and PLO.
However, if Hamas is indeed behind the kidnapping, and it carries it out with the professionalism, patience and successful strategy that it used with Gilad Schalit, it will in all likelihood lead to direct talks between Hamas and Israel. (Hamas has not explicitly denied being behind the kidnapping, but it did describe accusations that it is responsible as “stupid.”)
Israeli soldiers arrest Abdel Aziz Dweik (left) – speaker of the Palestinian parliament and a senior Hamas figure – at his home during a huge military operation to search for three missing Israeli teenagers. Photo by AP.
Israel actually has a long track record of contact and negotiations with Hamas, a group whom it lobbies the entire world to boycott. Those negotiations and contacts have taken place in the context of a prisoner swap, but are far more regular regarding cease fires and understandings about security protocols.
Following nearly every escalation, military operation and round of violence involving Israel and the Gaza Strip since 2007 when Hamas took full control of that territory, Israel has, through Egyptian and other intermediaries, negotiated explicit and implicit agreements with the Islamic political and militant movement. Those agreements have covered ceasefires and general arrangements under which Hamas would prevent other armed groups from attacking Israel, as well as very specific and technical ones regarding the size and depth of Israel’s “buffer zone” along the land border and access to Gaza’s territorial waters.
The fact of the matter is that Israel, like it loves to claim about its neighbors and cohabitants of this land, also understands force when push comes to shove. Israel has a long history of negotiating with terrorist organizations in order to release its own captured soldiers and civilians. Such negotiations take place when its own superior but conventional force is not, or is no longer a viable option.
Whereas Mahmoud Abbas’s commitment to non-violence for the most part allows him and his government to take the higher ground and increase international support and empathy, that very same non-violent engagement in the international diplomatic and political arena has given Israel a domestic excuse to cut off direct ties with him. Hamas’s adherence to armed resistance and terrorism, on the other hand, is a surefire and proven way to guarantee Israel’s attention and to bring it to the negotiating table.
It must be mentioned that Abbas was only given the opportunity and platform for a non-violent approach in large part due to the violent acts of his predecessors, which put the PLO and cause of Palestinian national self-determination on the world agenda and consciousness. The world’s recognition and acceptance of the PLO followed a wave of violent terror attacks and hijackings in Europe. It is easy to forget that the Oslo peace process — and ultimately, the widespread acceptance of the two-state solution — came at the heels of, and as a direct result of the First Intifada.
This is of course not an endorsement of violence in any way, shape or form. It is, however, important to understand how violence has worked for Palestinians in the past. It has not fully achieved their goals, to which the 47-year-old occupation attests, but it has certainly advanced them. As a marginalized movement in Palestinian politics and internationally, it is no wonder that Hamas keeps violent tools in its pocket. They give it legitimacy — vis-a-vis official Israel.
Let there be no mistake. Palestinians will suffer as a result of the kidnapping of these three Israeli teenagers, who have done nothing to deserve the suffering they are enduring. And if whatever violent group is responsible ever wants to fully participate in a diplomatic process with international acceptance it will need to eventually abandon those violent tools. However, from Hamas’s strategic standpoint, there is no reason to believe that time is now.
Israel’s disengagement from the peace process with a non-violent partner certainly doesn’t help.
Post script from the author:
If Hamas is behind this kidnapping and if it achieves tangible results, it will almost certainly strengthen its position in yet-to-be-scheduled Palestinian elections. Like its violence that played a huge part in pushing Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and like the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap, violent or armed actions that bring about tangible results are easily transferable to political capital, which Hamas desperately needs at the moment.
By Larry Derfner, +972
June 15, 2014
The pain Israelis feel over the three missing boys must be respected, but the fight to end the occupation – including a major BDS effort in America this week – must not stop.
The three boys kidnapped in the West Bank Thursday night are innocent victims. And given their youth (Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer are both 16, Eyal Yifrah is 19), there’s absolutely no justifying this attack. Youngsters should never be targeted, no matter the political cause.
But while the three boys are innocent and their kidnapping wrong, that doesn’t mean Israel is innocent or right in what it does to the Palestinians; the opposite is the case. Israel is running a military dictatorship in the West Bank, which means Israel shares in the blame for the kidnapping because Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was at least one of the things, probably the main thing, that provoked it. So ultimately the answer to kidnappings and other acts of terror against Israelis is to end the occupation, let the Palestinians have their state, put up a border between Israel and Palestine like there’s a border between Israel and the other neighboring states, and such attacks will end – especially if Israel has a peace treaty with Palestine like it does with Egypt and Jordan.
A long time ago there were influential Israelis making this argument, even in the wake of terror attacks. But you don’t hear them today, because anybody who says such a thing in 21st century Israel is by definition a person without influence. Outside of Arabs and Jews on the left-wing margin, who weigh nothing in the Israeli body politic, nobody is going to be influenced by such an appeal; nobody wants to hear it. Israelis are convinced they offered the Palestinians everything they could ask for – first with Oslo, then with disengagement from Gaza and the prospect of more withdrawals from the West Bank – but the Palestinians turned it down both times, so Israel is off the hook. That’s not true – Israel never offered the Palestinians anything anywhere that could be called independence, sovereignty or statehood – but that’s what Israelis believe.
So the virtually unchallenged view today is that Palestinian terror comes out of the blue – it has nothing to do with the occupation, or Israel’s stance in the just-ended peace process, or its policy toward Palestinian prisoners, or anything at all. It follows, then, that there’s nothing really wrong with the occupation, or our stance in the peace process, or our policy toward prisoners or whatever else we do. What we do to them is irrelevant, it’s not worth any attention. The Palestinians act out of “motiveless malignity,” like Shakespeare’s evil character Iago.
Damage: Palestinians inspect the rubble of a home after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City early Tuesday morning. Photo from AP.
This belief that Israel is a passive innocent and the Palestinians relentless evildoers leads the public, led perfectly by Netanyahu, to make endless demands on the other side while ignoring theirs. And when the Palestinian Authority keeps the peace year after year in West Bank cities, villages and refugee camps in the face of the most contemptuous, unyielding Israeli government in 30 years, Israelis don’t find anything remarkable there – that’s the way it should be. So when a terror attack does occur, Israelis are stunned: why are they doing this to us? Where does such evil come from?
I imagine that in the rest of the world (except America), the reaction to the kidnapping, to the extent that there is a reaction, is: “What does Israel expect?” Because the world (outside America) sees what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, which Israelis don’t.
An example of this one-eyed view is the resentment here being directed at PA leader Mahmoud Abbas because he hasn’t publicly denounced the kidnapping. What escapes Israelis’ notice, though, is that on Wednesday night, a day and a half before the news of the kidnapping, it was reported that a highly credible autopsy found that 17-year-old Nadim Nawarah, one of the two Palestinian boys killed in a Nakba Day protest, was shot with live bullets, despite the IDF’s claim that its troops shot only rubber-coated ones – yet not a word was heard from the Israeli army or government. First a video shows that Israeli troops shot and killed Nawarah and Muhammad Salameh, 16, while they were doing nothing but walking down a road, and the IDF denies responsibility. Then an autopsy proves the IDF wrong, and Israel reacts with a blank stare. Yet in Israel people are offended that Abbas, whose forces are reportedly combing the West Bank for the kidnappers, hasn’t spoken out publicly against the attack.
Members of the Palestinian national security forces carry the bodies of Nadim Seeam Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har during their funeral procession in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 16, 2014. Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes the previous day outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison following a protest commemorating the Nakba. Foreign press published that the two died in a Ramallah hospital after being shot in the chest during a protest to demand the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel. (Activestills.org)
Members of the Palestinian national security forces carry the bodies of Nadim Seeam Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har during their funeral procession in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 16, 2014. Abu Kara and Muhammad Abu Da’har were shot dead by Israeli forces during clashes the previous day outside the Israeli-run Ofer prison following a protest commemorating the Nakba. Foreign press published that the two died in a Ramallah hospital after being shot in the chest during a protest to demand the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel.
This selective blindness only gets worse – every Palestinian act that’s not to Israel’s liking, from terrorism, to forming a unity government with Hamas, to going to the UN, to refusing to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, just makes the Palestinians more evil, and Israel the more injured party, which in turn makes Israel more rigid, and the Palestinians more frustrated and desperate. This is what’s been going on for many years, and the kidnapping is another low point in the process, one that will almost certainly have bad consequences for both sides.
The pain that Israelis feel over the three missing boys is something that must be respected; this was a horrible act. But it does not mean that Israelis’ political outlook must be deferred to, even now when sensitivities are very raw. The fight to end the occupation is a fight for Palestinians and Israelis both, so this is no time to stop. And since Israelis remain unwilling to end it, they must, unfortunately, be coerced into doing so.
The Presbyterian Church USA is voting this week on divesting from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard because these companies equip the Israeli occupation, and I hope the church votes “yes.” The kidnapping of the three Israeli boys doesn’t discredit the BDS movement; it’s another harsh reminder of why it must succeed.