Barry A. Wadler

Playing the Victim for the Media War

There’s a classic joke that we’ve all heard about a man who kills his parents and then when he goes before the judge, he pleads for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan.

We all chuckle because we see the hypocrisy of someone asking for sympathy because of a situation that he himself caused. Yet that is exactly what the Palestinians are doing and they get away with it. Israelis can recite the history of their dealings with the Palestinians like it was a constant retelling of that old joke.
In 1948, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and give the Arab residents their own country. It would be the first time they were independent after centuries of rule by the Ottoman Turks and then decades of colonial rule by the British. But they rejected the plan and joined the other Arab nations in seeking to destroy the Jewish state. The end result of the war they sought was that many Palestinians were uprooted and the Jewish state was larger than the partition plan. The Palestinian Arabs had no country at all. The territory they would have had was seized by other Arab nations. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan and Gaza was ruled by Egypt. Then, for nineteen years, they complained they had no country. From the time Israel was founded, Palestinians cast themselves as the victims of the war they started.
There was every opportunity for the Palestinians and the Arab nations to set up an independent Palestine in the West Bank or in Gaza. They did not. The refugees were confined in refugee camps – under Arab control – so the Palestinian refugee “problem” could fester and remain an Arab cause celebre.

Finally, in 1967, three Arab nations, (Egypt, Jordan and Syria) went to war against Israel declaring the intent to “push Israel into the sea.” The Arabs lost again and the Palestinians in particular ended up far worse off. Israel militarily humiliated the three Arab nations, ended up in control of land many times larger than its prior size and the Palestinians, who were formerly under Arab rule, now fell under Israeli rule. Now the Palestinians played the victims of the “occupation.” Still, could they have ended the occupation?

Immediately after Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, the Israeli government sent word to the Arab nations that it was prepared to return the newly conquered lands in exchange for peace. The Arab League met in Khartoum, Sudan in late August 1967 and proudly declared the infamous “3 no’s” They declared, “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” They closed the door on a Palestinian state. Playing the victim works well for them. Doing something constructive doesn’t serve their purpose.

After 1967, Palestinian aspirations for statehood did not launch a strategy of diplomacy, negotiation, concession or engagement with Israel. Instead, they embarked on a relentless and bloody war of terror. No effort was spared on what the Palestinians called “resistance” but little was done toward improving the lives of common Palestinians.

Years of airplane hijackings, attacks on Olympic athletes, intifadas and suicide bombings bred an increasingly forceful reaction from the Israelis. Terrorism did not discourage or weaken Israel, rather it hardened the people against the Palestinians and forced a policy of ever greater restrictions on the Palestinian population. A separation wall was built across the open landscape to restrain the numerous suicide bombers from who had been able to freely walk from the West Bank into Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Predictably, the separation wall became their new symbol of Israeli “oppression.”

With every tightening of control over the general Palestinian population, their cries grew louder that they were innocent victims of Israeli cruelty. Overlook that the Israeli actions were provoked by the Palestinian killings of Israelis.
And it continues.

Although Gaza was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, Israel voluntarily withdrew from all of Gaza in 2005 giving self-rule to the Palestinians. When Israel left, it donated to the Palestinians dozens of fully functioning greenhouses that had been built by Israel at a cost of millions of dollars. Within days, Palestinian residents of Gaza looted and effectively destroyed the greenhouses that could have provided substantial income and labor to the Palestinians. No good Israeli deed goes unpunished by the Palestinian hatred of Israel.

In Gaza, under the iron rule of Hamas, herculean efforts have been spent on sustaining mortar and rocket fire and “resistance” against Israel – even though the occupation of Gaza had ended in 2005. Not only has this accomplished nothing for the common people of Gaza, but it has resulted in greater Israeli restrictions on the borders of Gaza and its population. Before Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007, under the Palestinian Authority rule, many thousands of Gaza’s Palestinians were allowed to work in Israel every day and earn decent incomes. But, as a result of many instances in which terrorist took advantage of the freedom to cross into Israel, that border was sealed and the shores blockaded. The people of Gaza suffer. But, of course, they claim to be locked in “the world’s largest open air prison” as they plead for the world’s pity.

In 2005, the year Israel withdrew from Gaza, fewer than 200 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. The year after the withdrawal, almost 1,000 rockets were fired. By 2008 it was over 2,000 and by 2014 the number of rockets fired that year exceeded 4,000.

If there is a consistent theme, it is that the Palestinians’ general strategy is provocation, not conciliation. Getting world sympathy as the victims is a more beneficial payoff than accepting and dealing with Israel or even just building a peaceful Palestinian society.

And we’re not just talking about history. Let’s get to the current crisis. After Hamas perpetrated its well-planned, unprovoked butchering of Israelis on October 7, 2023 the Hamas leadership was very blunt and clear about its intended long-term objectives. Taher El-Nounou, a Hamas media adviser, told The New York Times that Hamas leaders wanted to set off a sustained conflict with Israel and to end any thoughts of co-existence with Israel. He said, “I hope that the state of war with Israel will become permanent on all the borders, and that the Arab world will stand with us.” Another Hamas senior official was quoted saying Hamas would commit other similar attacks against Israel because, “Israel is a country that has no place on our land. We must remove that country.”

Hamas and other groups made certain that Israel got the message that they were not going to stop. Three thousand rockets were fired into Israel on ONE DAY on October 7 and by the end of October there were 8,500 rockets and mortars fired at Israel.
Throughout the world, anti-Israel demonstrations accuse Israel of conducting a brutal war in Gaza. Yet it is a war that Hamas wanted. Israel’s response to the Hamas provocation got Hamas the sympathy and support that it needed. Of course, like every decent human, we see and feel the pain of suffering innocents and children in this Gaza war. Those images now fill every newspaper. But that is all they want the world to see. And when that is all we see, they have won. Instead of acknowledging that butchering civilians was intended to provoke this war, Hamas and the Palestinian population of Gaza have successfully played the victim of Israel’s powerful response. Palestinians know they cannot win a military war so they fight a media war and the best way to win is to make yourself the victim.

It’s all about the optics. Facts don’t matter.

About the Author
Barry Wadler is an attorney in the US. He has had a life-long connection to Israel. The history of Israel has always been his passion. His daughter and grandchildren live in Tel Aviv.
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