Avi Shamir

An Exercise in Evenhandedness

Without prejudice, and bearing in mind that any attempt at “evenhandedness” should exclude political ideologies, let’s take an objective look at Operation Protective Edge within the broader context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and set the record straight on a number of points:

– The pre-state Zionist leadership accepted the partition plans of the Peel Commission in 1936 and the United Nations in 1947. In those times the Palestinian leadership rejected all calls for a Jewish state and claimed every inch of territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Though this has been well documented, to this day many Palestinians won’t admit that long ago they could have achieved independent statehood by peaceful means, and extremist elements among them still refuse to recognize the State of Israel.

– Since the Six Day War, various Israeli Governments have advocated the “land for peace” principle. On this basis, Israel signed viable political agreements with Egypt and Jordan. But the current Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority are still not convinced that this formula can work in an Israeli-Palestinian context. While they vacillate, radical Islamic groups and the Israeli extreme right obstinately reject the two-state solution, and will do anything to ensure that it is never put into effect.

– The Oslo Accords were derailed, deliberately or inadvertently, by Yasser Arafat, the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad as well as Israeli governments led by Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Arik Sharon – the rationale of evenhandedness extends liability to all those who deserve a share of the blame. The aphorism “Oslo was a failure” was popularized by those who never wanted it to succeed. More to the point, the failure to implement Oslo has brought nothing but misfortune for both sides of the conflict.

– Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip without negotiating an interim settlement with the Palestinian Authority left a power vacuum which resulted in an ominous tradeoff: Mahmoud Abbas for Hamas, with long-lasting implications that Israelis and Palestinians are now paying for in blood.

– Palestinian schools teach hatred of “the Zionist enemy.” Israeli schools promote tolerance, but Israeli educators don’t do enough to enlighten youth who openly express extremist views. When dark moods call the tune, some hotheaded Israelis shout “Death to the Arabs” with the same vile as like-minded Palestinians who scream “Slaughter the Jews.” The results have been tragic for both sides, as shown by the recent murder of three Israeli yeshiva students and a Palestinian teenager. The widely expressed and evenhanded view of those atrocities is indisputable: There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder.

– Israel deploys the Iron Dome defense system to protect its citizens from Hamas rockets, which are fired at Israeli population centers with the express aim to kill civilians. In response, Israel fires precision guided missiles to take out the rocket launchers and other terrorist assets. Not to be outdone, the Hamas rounds up Palestinian women and children and uses them as human shields, placing them in harm’s way on the rooftops of likely targets. This evokes a silent response from the global media, which espouses “evenhanded” reporting but in practice applies a double standard.

– In the course of recent events it has also come to light that the Hamas built an extensive tunnel system with the intent to infiltrate into the western Negev and launch a mega terror attack. These tunnels were built under homes, schools, playgrounds, hospitals and mosques with the cynical aim to draw Israeli fire and showcase the bodies of blameless Palestinian children who get caught on the battlegrounds. While biased journalists fail to report the terrorists’ violations of the Geneva Convention and the UN holds Israel responsible for civilian casualties, the European Union has reached the objective and, for them, unprecedented conclusion that the Hamas must be disarmed.

– When Palestinian innocents are mistakenly hit by IDF gunfire, Israeli officials express regrets and make apologies while other sympathetic Israelis reach out to Palestinians via social media. In recent days the IDF became the first Army in the world to set up medical facilities for treating enemy wounded during wartime. These “factoids” have gone virtually unnoticed by the sensationalist world media.

– Looking forward, ongoing cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israeli security forces may presage a political settlement that will relegate Hamas influence, draw permanent borders and form a basis for normal relations. Voices of reason will have to prevail over the intransigent leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah who, rather than do something statesmanlike, routinely blame each other for the stalled negotiations and political stalemate.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.
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