The United States Department of State’s annual report on global terrorism included Israel as one of a plethora of terrorist-plagued nations such as Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Shockingly, the Department of State did not include Israel in this notorious collection of dangerous states due to the constant threats to life posed by Hamas, Hezbollah, or radicalized factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Rather, the Obama Administration referenced the sporadic acts of vandalism committed by a certain Israelis in retaliation against activity deemed in opposition to Israeli development in Judea and Samaria. The decision to use these “price tag attacks” as a pretext for adding Israel to this nefarious list is troubling for several reasons.
Of course, vandalism or hate crimes should never be condoned. Good people should speak out against such behavior. But the decision by the Administration to discuss “price tag” activity in a report ostensibly intended by Congress to focus on significant was not done with the intent strongly implying the sporadic occurrence of these uncivil activities somehow equate with suicide bombings, indiscriminate rocket attacks, slaughter, terrorist training facilities. But to imply that occasional acts of vandalism and graffiti warrant the same concern as deadly terrorist activity. Equating lethal terrorist attacks with “price tag attacks” does only serves to obscure the fact that Israel and its enemies are not equally mixed victim and aggressor.
The exact language of the law is highly relevant. One need only take a look at federal law to see how this inclusion of Israel in this nefarious list of nations reflects the anti-Israel bias of the present Administration. The yearly Country Reports on Terrorism are prepared in accordance with federal law. Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f mandates that the Department of State provide to Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries in which “acts of international terrorism” of major significance occurred. “Acts of international terrorism” is a technical term defined by federal law as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents” involving “citizens or the territory of more than 1 country”
“Price tag attacks” have been reported across areas of Judea and Samaria to which Israel gained control following the Six Day War of 1967. The Administration is suggesting that these “price tag” attacks involved citizens or territory of more than one country. Although Israel has agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority (PA) to exercise wide latitude of control over much of this region, the United States has not recognized the PA as a sovereign government or Palestine as a sovereign. However, by suggesting that activity committed by Israeli citizens against residents of this region fits the definition of “international terrorism”, the Administration appears to leave the policy of the United States in regards to Palestinian statehood in doubt.
Furthermore, the federal law mandating this report specifically says that a “terrorist sanctuary” is one “the government of which expressly consents to, or with knowledge, allows, tolerates, or disregards such use of its territory.” The report itself references the fact that, “The Israeli government formed a new unit of the national police designated specifically to investigate these crimes in both Israel and the West Bank.” Is the inclusion of Israel in this report an accusation by the Obama Administration that despite these measures, Israel approves of these “price tag attacks”?
As explained in this article, these “price tag attacks” do not seem to fit the definition of “international” attacks as mandated for inclusion in the report by federal law. Furthermore, even if these attacks were “international”, classifying these attacks as international terrorism “of major significance” would seem quite exaggerated considering the severe bloodshed and violence occurring daily in nations bordering Israel. Also, the report itself references that the Israeli government has taken steps to counter those perpetrating these attacks. As such, the definition of “terrorist sanctuary” is not met.
In short, the Department of State included Israel on this report without the requisite statutory authority to do so. The motivation appears to be a political one—to suggest that both Israelis and the Palestinians are equally at fault for the failure of lasting peace in the region. Whether the Administration willfully or naively has drawn this faulty comparison is secondary to less important than this: blurring the lines of moral culpability advances neither peace nor justice. Rather, it emboldens those intent on seeking the destruction of our closest ally in the Middle East. The Obama Administration must answer to the public for its decision to include Israel in this report. The truth matters.