No matter what violence Israel engages in against Palestinians, it always finds a way to minimize it and place the blame on the victims. On Sunday, armed Israeli settlers, who repeatedly enjoy the protection of the Israeli military, went on a large-scale rampage through Huwara, a village just south of Nablus in the West Bank.
Settlers terrorized residents, torched buildings and dozens of civilian cars, and attacked civilians including old men, women and children, all under the eyes of Israeli soldiers, who did not act until the wave of violence had ended. Some commentators described the attack as a mini-Kristallnacht, in reference to the violent targeting of Jewish businesses throughout Nazi Germany in November 1938. Israeli officials – unusually – dubbed the settler violence as “actions of terror,” but asserted the violence was “revenge activity,” meaning that the perpetrators were provoked by Palestinian violence. This is a double standard, as Israeli soldiers and settlers have targeted and killed many Palestinians, including 11 in a military attack in Nablus just days earlier.
The killing of two Jewish settlers touched off Sunday’s violence and incurred the wrath of Israeli politicians and the media, as if their deaths were more important than the five times more Palestinians who were killed the week before. Since Jan. 1, more than 60 Palestinians have been killed, most during sweeping Israel Defense Forces raids into Jenin and Nablus. Those killed have included old men, women and children, although Israel’s one-sided PR machine usually describes the victims as “terrorists.” A database run by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem shows that, since 2000, 10,341 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers, compared to 855 Israelis killed by Palestinians. Another 86 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli civilians. In addition to the killings, Israelis have destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes. And, during the past year, dozens of Jewish-only Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been built or expanded on Palestinian lands.
The lopsided nature of the statistics exposes the hypocrisy of Israel’s PR spin, which puts all the blame on Palestinians and excuses Israeli terrorism as being a reaction to the violence. When you monitor the mainstream news media, it is clear that cases involving Israeli victims receive more detailed coverage, humanizing them, than Palestinian deaths, which are presented as mere statistics. Israel has killed over 10 times more Palestinian Christians and Muslims without having to worry about a public backlash because the public does not get an objective presentation of the violence. It is only when Israeli Jews are killed that the media, along with many elected officials in the US, react with outrage.
Although the problem is the violent nature of Israel’s apartheid government, one factor fueling this imbalance involves the failure of the international community to intervene. Palestinians have support from nations throughout the world, including many of the largest, most-powerful countries, but none of them seem able to weigh in strongly enough to stop Israel’s continued violent abuse of Palestinian human rights. It is not that Palestinians are ungrateful for the support they get from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America and even from the US. It is just that this support is often empty and void of substantial action.
Support for Palestine is significant when you look at the numbers, but it is weak when you look at the substance. At the UN, for example, General Assembly resolutions condemning Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians are adopted by large margins, supported by as many as 143 of the organization’s 193 member states. There are usually fewer than 10 nations, including Israel, voting against such resolutions, with the remainder abstaining, not wanting to offend either side. But the General Assembly has far less power than the UN Security Council, as its resolutions are essentially expressions of attitude, not real action, unless the subjects are uncontroversial. It is almost as if the nations of the world have no power to do anything when it comes to Israel. Huwara is an example of the urgent need for the international community to step up to the plate and take concrete action. It is important that expressions of outrage go beyond simple statements of reprimand.
Israel has a growing interest in the Arab world, which has been its most important international focus in recent years. Arab countries have enormous power to influence Israel’s actions. They can take their outrage and convert it into influence by taking foreign policy actions against Israel. Until the international community puts teeth into their condemnation of Israel’s violence, nothing will change. Israeli military units will continue to bully their way into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and kill more and more Palestinians, with the media and pro-Israel American politicians providing a shield of twisted sympathy.