In an age where narratives shape perceptions as much as facts, the discourse surrounding settler violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demands a critical reassessment. Dr. Michael Wolfowicz and Esther Salama of the Hebrew University are set to publish a seminal piece in the International Annals of Criminology, shedding light on a disturbing trend: the reliance on unsubstantiated stories and a dearth of quantitative research in discussions about settler violence. This revelation is not just an academic footnote; it calls into question the foundation of much of the international outcry over this issue.
Misrepresentation and the UN
The United Nations, theoretically the paragon of neutrality, stands accused of propagating misleading content about settler violence. We should not be surprised. The UN is well known for it’s obsession with criticizing Israel. “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it,“ observed Abba Eban (Israel’s Foreign Minister in the 60s and 70s) “it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”
The issue here is not just about inaccuracies but about the deliberate mischaracterization of self-defense as aggression. This distortion of facts undermines the credibility of international bodies and fuels a biased narrative against Israeli settlers.
The response from the international community has been disproportionately severe, with countries like the US, Canada, and the EU quick to impose sanctions and issue condemnations based on these flawed portrayals. This rush to judgment, often devoid of a factual basis, is not only irresponsible but also harmful, exacerbating tensions and entrenching misunderstandings.
The Distorted Focus
The media’s obsession with settler violence, amplified by uncritical governmental responses, starkly contrasts with the underreporting of Palestinian terrorism. The framing of isolated incidents involving settlers as indicative of a broader trend, while thousands of Palestinian terror attacks are relegated to footnotes, is not just biased—it’s a failure of journalistic integrity. This skewed focus misleads the public and policymakers alike, diverting attention from the more prevalent and deadly issue of terrorism against Israeli civilians.
The Reality of the Settler Community
The narrative fails to acknowledge that the vast majority of the 550,000+ settlers are ordinary people seeking a peaceful life, not ideologues driven by extremism. The demonization of the entire settler community based on the actions of a few is not only misleading but deeply unjust. It paints a false picture of widespread violence and disregards the complex motivations and diverse perspectives within the settler population.
“Settler” is not really an accurate description
Let me digress for a moment to address a general misconception. The common narrative that Israel was artificially established in 1948 and then after the 1967 war, settled in the newly captured West bank – overlooks the millennia-long connection between the Jewish people and their ancestral homeland, which includes all of the present day West bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria. Contrary to perceptions reinforced by figures like President Obama and former President Carter, the Jewish presence in the land of Israel has been continuous, despite foreign rule and attempts at eradication. Historical evidence contradicts the belief in a nearly 2,000-year Jewish absence, showcasing that Jews have maintained a presence through various epochs, including Roman, Muslim, Crusader, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods.
Legal frameworks such as the Balfour Declaration and UN resolutions, while significant, are insufficient alone to counter the misleading narrative of Jewish usurpation of Arab land. This misrepresentation ignores the enduring Jewish connection to Israel, established well before 1948. Historian James Parkes highlights the importance of correcting the misconception that Jews were absent for millennia, a narrative that simplifies the complex history of Jewish endurance and sovereignty in Israel.
This continuous Jewish presence is crucial to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the historical rights of the Jewish people to their homeland. The notion of Israel’s “creation” in 1948 as a sudden event dismisses the deep historical roots of Jewish ties to the land, feeding into anti-Israel bias and misconstruing the conflict’s nature. Acknowledging the uninterrupted Jewish connection to Israel is essential for an accurate portrayal of the region’s history and the legitimate claims of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland. Ok, so now let us return to the main theme of this blog…
Government Reliance on Unverified Narratives
The uncritical acceptance by governments of these unsubstantiated narratives is troubling. It reveals a willingness to act on incomplete or misleading information, potentially shaping foreign policy and international relations on the basis of falsehoods. This reliance on flawed narratives for diplomatic actions calls into question the due diligence and objectivity expected of governmental bodies.
The Need for Rigorous Scrutiny and Balanced Reporting
The role of the media and international organizations in perpetuating biased narratives underscores the urgent need for rigorous scrutiny and balanced reporting. It is imperative that the media strive for accuracy, context, and fairness in their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Governments, too, must exercise greater caution and demand comprehensive evidence before making pronouncements or taking actions that could further inflame an already volatile situation.
The narrative of rampant settler violence, fueled by unsubstantiated stories and uncritically amplified by the media and governments, distorts the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This bias not only misinforms the public but also contributes to a skewed international response that unfairly vilifies Israel and its settler community. It is time for a more balanced and fact-based approach that recognizes the complexity of the conflict and the multiplicity of narratives within it. Only through a commitment to truth and fairness can we hope to foster understanding and work towards a lasting peace.