Midway through a report on recent Arab attacks that killed seven Israeli civilians, The New York Times quoted a Palestinian spokesman warning that Israel’s response was the real problem.
“If the Israeli government continues with this escalation of this dangerous method of executions, the region will be in a position that cannot be controlled,” the spokesman said.
Before I finished the blame-the-victim screed, I was suffering a flashback. Suddenly, it was September of 2000, and I was conducting an interview with another Palestinian spokesman in the West Bank.
Those were heady days, with much hope that Israelis and Palestinians were on the cusp of a historic settlement. President Clinton had convened a summit at Camp David in July, and Yasser Arafat was coming again to the White House for further talks. My conversations with Israeli and Palestinian civilians showed widespread eagerness for peace.
But peace was not on the mind of the Palestinian official I interviewed. The meeting was arranged by American diplomats, who assured me that the official was trustworthy and, most important, very close to Arafat.
His name was Nabil Amr, and he was a gracious host as we sat in his spacious office in the dusty government center in Ramallah, the de facto Arab capital of the West Bank.
Yet as I wrote later, “Amr repeated a version of what was a mantra in the 75-minute interview: There are these groups that we cannot control. The message was clear: Don’t blame the Palestinians if terrorists return to their deadly business. Blame only the Israelis for refusing to surrender themselves and their country.”
Nothing has changed in 15 years. As the Times story showed, the Palestinians are still threatening violence, even as they wash their hands of responsibility by saying it cannot be “controlled.”
Despite Mahmoud Abbas replacing Arafat, despite new American and Israeli leaders, and despite a vastly different region and world, the Palestinians are stuck in exactly the same mind-set.
Don’t blame us for anything. Everything is Israel’s fault. If Arabs kill Jews, the Jews had it coming.
More incredibly, the Palestinians have been rewarded for their treachery. Although Bill Clinton later blamed Arafat for the collapse of the 2000 talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he later softened his criticism. And the murderous intifada that followed earned Israel more international condemnation and Palestinians more sympathy.
Even in the current wave of violence, as Palestinians stab, shoot and kill random Israelis with car attacks, the world is obsessed with whether Israel’s response is too harsh. And the Times, a barometer of anti-Israel sentiment, confirmed its reputation by declaring that the recent attacks are “spurred by Palestinian fears that Israel wants to divide the Old City holy site revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.”
Never mind that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has debunked those “fears” by declaring that no such action will happen. The Times, like the Palestinians, finds it ideologically convenient to excuse murder and blame the Jewish victims.
The idea that Israelis have a mighty military and therefore must show unending tolerance for Arab violence is actually a big part of the problem. In fact, the Israeli military is more careful about civilian casualties than even our own military, yet it is never sufficient for the critics. When Hamas and other terror groups hide their weapons in schools and hospitals and fire rockets from mosques, the demand for restraint falls on Israel alone.
A similar bias involves the refusal to hold Arab leaders accountable for violence committed by their citizens. The explanation is always hazy, but seems to revolve around a kind of affirmative action for Palestinians: Arab hatred of Jews amounts to a crippling disability that means they can’t be held to common standards of leadership.
Not surprisingly, President Obama subscribes to that warped thinking. According to a new book by former Obama aide Dennis Ross, Obama’s “instinct [is] to see the Palestinians as the victims in the conflict.” Ross also reportedly says Obama wouldn’t hold Abbas accountable because the president found Abbas “too weak to criticize.”
Yes, too weak to criticize, but not too weak to incite murder.
Double standards always have consequences, and as unending Arab violence and rejectionism prove, peace is not among them.