The June 8 terrorist massacre in Tel Aviv exposed all five of the major myths that cloud discussions of Israel and the Palestinians.
Myth #1: “The problem is the settlements”
This was not a massacre of “settlers.” The attack did not take place in some disputed territory. Nobody can claim that the victims “provoked” the violence by living in some predominantly Arab area. These were people drinking coffee in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Myth #2: “It was a reaction to the occupation”
The attackers are residents of the village of Yatta. The Israeli occupation of Yatta ended when Israeli troops withdrew from the territories where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside in late 1995. Yatta has been under the rule of the Palestinian Authority for nearly 21 years.
Although Israel’s critics continue to falsely claim that the Palestinians live under “Israeli occupation,” the Israeli public knows better. The Israel Democracy Institute/Tel Aviv University monthly Peace Index survey for May 2016 found 71.7 percent of Israeli Jews say it is wrong to categorize Israel’s status in the territories (it rules the areas where Jews reside) as “occupation.”
Myth #3: “The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) never calls such attacks “terrorism,” and always brackets the attacks on Israelis together with Israeli actions against terrorists, thereby justifying the attacks on Israelis. Its response to the Tel Aviv massacre was no different. It declared: “We condemn violence and attacks against civilians on both sides, whatever the justification.” The PA “not only condemned the attack in south Tel Aviv early on Monday morning, but also the recent Israel Defense Forces strikes on Gaza, and attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and in Jerusalem,” according to Israel’s Channel 10 television network.
Fatah, which is chaired by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, explicitly defended the massacre. According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Fatah issued a statement calling the attack “a natural response” to Israeli actions.
Fatah media committee head Munir al-Jaghoub explained, “Israel must realize the consequences of its persistence to push violence, house demolition policies, forced displacement of Palestinians, raids by Israeli settlers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and the cold-blooded killing of Palestinians at checkpoints.”
That’s the equivalent of the Democratic Party defending the San Bernardino massacre of 2015. Imagine U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), head of the Democratic National Committee, saying the killings in southern California were the “consequences” of President Barack Obama sending drones to carry out the “cold-blooded killing” of al-Qaeda members.
Myth #4: “Ordinary Palestinians are against terrorism”
Israel Hayom reports that, “In Ramallah, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Jenin, and other cities, people danced in the streets, set off fireworks, and handed out treats while praising the attacks.” When the PA’s schools, newspapers, television stations constantly praise terrorists as “heroes” and “martyrs,” it is no wonder ordinary Palestinians have come to feel the same way.
The cities where the celebrations took place would be the heart of a future Palestinian state. They are just a few miles down the road from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Can those who celebrate massacres be trusted with a sovereign, independent state next door to Israel?
Myth #5: “The major American news outlets are staffed by objective, professionally trained journalists; if their coverage of Israel is unflattering, that’s because of Israel’s own policies, not because of media bias”
CNN’s Twitter announcement of the attack put the word “terrorists” in quotation marks, stating, “Two ‘terrorists’ captured after Tel Aviv attack, Israeli police spokesman tweets.” The Washington Post’s correspondents in Israel, William Booth and Ruth Eglash, exhibited the same bias. They described the terrorists as “gunmen,” “assailants,” and “attackers”—but never as terrorists, and only indirectly as Palestinians. And the headline-writers at Washington Post headquarters came up with this gem: “4 Killed in Tel Aviv Market Shooting that Officials Labeled Terrorist Attack.”
Perhaps copies of the Washington Post should bear labels of their own: “Warning: The reporting in this newspaper may be hazardous to the truth. It is often slanted for the purpose of protecting the Palestinian cause against criticism.”
Stephen M. Flatow