January 29, 2023
What happened: Over the weekend, Palestinian assailants carried out two terror attacks on Israeli civilians in Jerusalem. On Friday evening, as Jewish Israelis were celebrating Shabbat, a terrorist carried out a murderous rampage near a synagogue, killing seven people, including a 14-year-old boy. This was the deadliest terror attack in Israel since 2011 and took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Just hours later, on Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot and seriously injured an Israeli father and son. There were two additional terror attacks attempted in the West Bank that were, thankfully, unsuccessful.
Even before the victims could be identified, an all too familiar trend developed in the coverage of the attacks: equating the terror attacks carried out against Israelis with Israel’s recent counterterrorism operations in the West Bank. Some in the media portrayed the terror attacks in Jerusalem as retaliation for the Israeli operations, implying that Israel is to blame for the recent terror attacks against its citizens. Others, including the Palestinian Authority (PA), have claimed that the Israeli government is “fully responsible” for this sharp rise in terror.
For context, fearing an imminent terrorist attack, the Israeli Defense Forces launched a large-scale daytime raid against a terrorist cell in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, one of the West Bank’s largest cities, on Thursday, January 26. The operation resulted in the deaths of ten Palestinians, nine of whom were terrorists. Tragically, one civilian was killed. Jenin has become a hotbed of terror activity, with several attacks within Israel originating from the city in April and May 2022.
Over the last decade, the Palestinian Authority has increasingly lost control of the security situation in much of the West Bank amid the Palestinian population’s widespread discontent with the PA and its leader Mahmoud Abbas. As confidence in the PA has declined, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Lion’s Den, and other terror groups have stepped up their efforts to gain control within the West Bank. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency revealed last week that it had uncovered an elaborate terror recruiting operation in the West Bank. The Shin Bet also foiled an attempt by Gaza terror groups in December to carry out a large-scale bombing attack in Israel using West Bank terror operatives.
False comparison: With any outbreak of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Western media often covers operations of the Israeli Defense Forces and terror attacks from Palestinian assailants or terror groups as morally equivalent. While the cycle of bloodshed has devastatingly become commonplace, to equate preventative operations against terrorists with premeditated attacks that target civilians is detestable and irresponsible. This ill-informed practice leads to the misunderstanding of the facts on the ground, and increased hatred of Israel and, in some cases, Jews around the world. There is simply no moral equivalence between Israel’s anti-terrorist operations and terrorists' deadly attacks on civilians.
Here are three key examples as to why this comparison is unequivocally false:
Use of force: Israel’s actions to defend itself are carried out in response to specific acts or threats of terrorism and are conducted to protect Israeli citizens and do not target Palestinian civilians, while terror attacks against Israelis are intended to harm civilians. Israel’s counterterrorism operations are done with precision to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties, while indiscriminate terror attacks targeting Israelis seek to cause as much destruction and loss of life as possible, through wide-scale attacks such as rocket fire at Israeli towns and cities, as well as knifing, suicide bombing, car-ramming, and shooting terror attacks, such as the recent assaults in Jerusalem.
Incentives for terror: The Palestinian Authority – a governing body that exercises partial control over areas of the West Bank – incentivizes terror attacks by Palestinians by providing monthly stipends to Palestinians jailed in Israel for such attacks as well as compensating the families of terrorists. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority paid out an estimated $157 million as part of its “pay for slay” policy. In 2017, AJC advocated for the successful passage and implementation of the Taylor Force Act, which restricts direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority until it ends such payments.
Accountability: Israel’s police and military forces are held accountable by Israeli law. When problematic or questionable incidents occur, they are thoroughly investigated by the Israeli judicial system. Palestinian terror organizations are not accountable to any Palestinian legal system.