When all else fails, blame Facebook

Suddenly we seem to have found the culprit to all the violence: Facebook! Eureka! Shut Facebook down in the Hebron sector and there will be no more terror attacks
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, April 4, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, April 4, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

For nearly two years before the outbreak of the “lone-wolf intifada,” Israeli defense officials warned repeatedly that absent a political horizon for the Palestinians and a significant change in policy toward Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, we were headed for an explosion.

No one could offer specifics about the nature of the upcoming conflict or how violent it would be. But between 2013 and 2015, there was a consensus among the Shin Bet, the military Intelligence brass, the Central Command, the coordinator of government activities in the territories and anyone with anything to do with the Palestinian arena that this was where things were headed. These warnings were issued time and time again — and time and time again the decision-makers ignored them. We Arab affairs reporters who were in the territories and encountered the Palestinians daily saw the black cloud looming over the West Bank. The writing was on the wall, whether the wall was inside a refugee camp, a village, city, or on Facebook.

And then it began: the “outbreak” (or hiba in Arabic), the “Al-Quds Intifada,” the “wave of terrorism,” the “lone-wolf intifada” — all these terms that attempted to describe the unfathomable phenomenon of hundreds of young men and women trying to kill Jews with knives, cars, and, of course, improvised rifles — even if it meant dying themselves.

The response of Israeli decision-makers was not very surprising, since they had disregarded all the warnings they’d gotten of the approaching explosion. Ignoring the warnings not to play with fire on the Temple Mount, they had outdone themselves by seeing fit to allow a prominent government minister to go up to the Temple Mount on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and allow a deputy minister to marry in the complex.

As far as they were concerned, the blame rested exclusively with Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority. For them, the Palestinians were the inciters and the ones urging violence, and there it began and ended. The Israeli public and many people in the media gladly adopted this narrative, which addressed only the responsibility of the Palestinian side (of which there was plenty), and concluded that there was nothing to be done.

In other words, this was a decree from Heaven that landed upon us because of Islamic extremism. Just as the Palestinians had sought to massacre us in 1929, so too were they seeking to do the same now. And just as the members of Islamic State had set themselves the goal of slaughtering infidels, so the Palestinians sought to slaughter Jews. In other words, it was no longer about the Palestinian Authority or Abu Mazen. Now we had to defend ourselves against Islam, which sought to stamp us out.

Another claim the right wing is making is that the hope of a Palestinian state is what’s causing the terror attacks. The major weakness of this claim becomes clear when you apply it to 2007 and 2013, when the Palestinians had the hope of a state. What exactly happened to those extremists during that period? Why did the violence decline during those particular years?

True, there were terror attacks, but the violence level indicated a steady decline in attempts and in motivation to perpetrate terror attacks. Was it precisely during those years, when there was “political hope,” when former prime minister Ehud Olmert held talks with Abu Mazen, that Israel laced the Palestinians’ drinking water with sedatives that made them stop the terror attacks? Or did the Palestinians themselves start going to Hatha Yoga workshops instead of murdering Jews?

The answer seems too obvious for someone on the right to want to hear. The loss of hope for a state, the despair over Israel, over the Palestinian Authority itself, over the settlements, and yes, the success of Islamic State and others of its ilk, together with religious extremism, caused the madness that we are now dealing with.

But they will do anything to avoid a serious discussion of these issues. Suddenly we found the culprit: Facebook! Eureka! Shut Facebook down in the Hebron sector and there will be no more terror attacks.

Every Israeli citizen ought to be offended by this assertion, which was voiced by at least two government ministers. Were there no intifadas before social networks or Facebook? Was the terrorist who murdered Hallel Yaffa Ariel influenced only by Facebook, or could he have been influenced, more than anything, by a female relative of his who had perpetrated a vehicle-ramming attack in Hebron the week before? He did not need Facebook for inspiration. He could have come by it in a mourning tent, a mosque, a billiards club in Bani Naim or countless other places. But nothing could be simpler than telling the Israeli public: Let’s shut down Facebook so that Arabs can’t use it. Problem solved.

It looks like this intifada (or outbreak, or whatever we want to call it) will not stop completely anytime soon — not even if Facebook is shut down and terrorists’ families are banished to Gaza; certainly, without an in-depth solution to issues such as the future of the territories, a political and economic horizon, and so on. We will probably witness ups and downs in the level of violence, days and perhaps weeks of quiet until the next outbreak — or, as people like to call it in the media, another “wave,” at least until a more dramatic change takes place.

Many young people in the territories long for a dramatic change in the form of Abu Mazen’s departure. So do politicians in Israel. Some members of the Israeli government want to believe that a new king can be crowned there (one prominent minister, for example, would like to see Mohammed Dahlan as the leader, while others fantasize about Salam Fayyad). Other, more right-wing people want to see the Palestinian Authority crumble and Israel take the reins in the territories. The problem is that once Abbas goes, it looks like we will witness an even more violent and blood-drenched situation that will make Israel, at least, long for the days of Abu Mazen.

About the Author
Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
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