After weeks of murderous Palestinian stabbing attacks upon innocent Israelis, how has the Obama administration responded?
Although Israel has been killing or apprehending knife-wielding terrorists, while Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) has been inciting and glorifying their acts of murder, the Administration presents both sides as morally equivalent, while insinuating or even asserting Israeli responsibility.
Obama officials have been doing this in five ways:
1. Condemning violence and incitement on both sides: Specifically condemning attacks on innocent Israelis, Secretary of State John Kerry nonetheless also called upon “all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm” and called for “leadership that condemns the tit-for-tat.” And State Department spokesman John Kirby explicitly stated, “we recognize that incitement can go both ways here.”
2. Refusing to identify or condemn PA incitement to violence: Despite disseminating falsehoods about Palestinian terrorists being innocents murdered in cold blood by Israel and Muslim supremacist calls by Abbas for Muslims to block imaginary Israeli take-over and “desecration” of Muslim shrines with “their filthy feet,” Administration officials don’t allude to this, much less condemn it. Quite the contrary: State Department spokesman Mark Toner implied Israel isn’t upholding the status quo on Temple Mount, while Mr. Kirby explicitly endorsed this false Palestinian claim, saying , “certainly, the status quo has not been observed, which has led to a lot of the violence.”
3. Refusing to identify which side is using terrorism: Secretary Kerry has spoken of “a revolving cycle,” while Mr. Toner has referred to the “recent wave of violence,” not Palestinian terrorism, and refused to “assign blame” for the attacks. So did Mr. Kirby (“this isn’t about affixing … blame on either side”).
4. Accusing Israel of using excessive force in dealing with the knife-wielding terrorists: Mr. Kirby baldy stated that “we’ve certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force.”
5. Rationalizing the Arab violence as partly the product of Jews moving into or living in the West Bank: Secretary Kerry spoke of a “massive increase in [Jewish] settlements over the course of the last years,” which is neither a warrant for murder nor even true: construction within Jewish communities in the West Bank has dropped during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s six-year tenure to its lowest point since the Rabin government.
When the Obama Administration nullifies and voids the meaning and worth of its original condemnation of attacks on Israelis with defamatory charges and moral equivalence, it exposes its hostility and bias against Israel.
It is also inflammatory — if Kerry can assign blame for Arab terrorism on Jews building houses in the West Bank, why can’t Arabs?
It is also untenable: one cannot credibly condemn terrorist acts and then include under the rubric of restoring calm forbearing from lawful actions of self-defense taken in response to them.
Under consequent pressure to to clarify the U.S. position, White House spokesman Josh Earnest denied that Secretary Kerry assigned any specific blame for the recent tensions — which, of course, he had. Mr. Kirby avowed that “we have never accused Israeli security forces with excessive force with respect to these terrorist attacks” — which, of course, he had — and recanted his false statement, saying, “I did not intend to suggest that status quo at Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif has been broken” — which, of course, he did.
These disavowals and retractions are correct and necessary — but do not dispose of the root problem of hostility and bias.
Recall, for example, Secretary Kerry last year publicly bolstered the Palestinian delegitimization campaign by suggesting that Israel could become an apartheid state and would be understandably the target of boycotts if negotiations then on foot failed. Kerry later retracted his words — but the damage was done.
The Administration seems to be seeking the damaging effects of these subsequently triangulated statements. The clarifications are just sufficiently retractive to mollify critics, while nonetheless preserving the original, damaging impact.
In this instance, President Obama seems to think they retracted too much.
Accordingly, on October 16, he himself doubled down on the original misrepresentations uttered by his officials on October 13 and 14, but retracted on October 14 and 15, saying, “We must try to get all people in Israel, and the West Bank” to oppose “random violence.” President Obama also urged both Messrs. Netanyahu and Abbas to tamp down rhetoric, and again called into question Israel’s maintenance of Jerusalem’s status quo.
As for Abbas’ incitement — still not a word from him, nor from UN Ambassador Samantha Power, who has also doubled down on some of the earlier false charges in the UN Security Council.
The Obama Administration is telling falsehoods about Israel, retracting them and then restating them. When someone persists with falsehoods, even after admitting them to be untrue, he intends them to stick.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Creation of Israel(Routledge, London, 2004).