6 Biggest Myths About Israeli Assault on Gaza, Debunked
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Palestinians just endured an exceptionally brutal week: In Gaza, the death toll crossed the appalling benchmark of 1,400, overwhelmingly civilians. In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers and settlers also killed at least nine Palestinians this weekend amid protests against the devastation of Gaza.
I recently debunked Israel’s misleading “human shields” argument attempting to deflect responsibility for the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians; but more important to expose is the false narrative of how we found ourselves in this crisis and who is responsible for its perpetuation.
1. Invisible Bias
For most media outlets, the current crisis began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. This is, of course, an arbitrary starting point. Just one day before the kidnappings, a Palestinian man and a 10-year-old child were killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike. Why wasn’t that the starting point of the violence? Has the media internalized Israel’s narrative to such an extent that they only see Israel as “responding” to violence rather than initiating it?
Israel initially blamed Hamas for the teens’ kidnapping, and “responded” by going on a violent rampage in the West Bank, invading homes, killing demonstrators, and arresting hundreds of Palestinians, including 60 Hamas members who had been freed in an earlier prisoner swap. Imagine the opposite scenario for a moment: When Israeli troops were caught on tape killing unarmed Palestinian teens just a few weeks before the kidnapping of the Israeli teens, imagine if Hamas responded by invading Israeli homes, shooting Israeli demonstrators and kidnapping hundreds of Israeli troops. Would media outlets cover such actions with the same sympathy and understanding afforded to Israel’s actions?
2. Hamas, Rockets and Kidnappings
We hear a lot about how many rockets Hamas fired, but rarely in a proper timeline. Hamas had been strictly observing a cease-fire agreement since it was brokered in 2012, and was even arresting Palestinian militants from rival factions who fired rockets at Israel as recently as last month. Hamas ultimately did resume firing rockets into Israel, but only after the massive crackdown Israel initiated against Hamas in the West Bank (and by some accounts, even after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza).
And it turns out the initial crackdown against Hamas was also without basis. Israeli officials now acknowledge, in direct contradiction to statements by Israel’s prime minister, that Hamas was actually not responsible for the kidnappings of the three Israeli teens after all. And this is not just a realization Israel made over the weekend: Israeli intelligence officers reportedly noted as early as June 30 that there was no evidence implicating Hamas as an organization.
3. Why Now?
Since Hamas did not initiate this confrontation, the question remains: Why did Israel pick this fight with them now? The answer requires a bit of context: For more than two decades, Palestinians and Israelis have been engaged in a so-called peace process, which aims to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied territories, the small areas from which Israel is legally required to withdraw. But that peace process failed time and again because Israel was never serious about allowing a viable Palestinian state to exist, and insisted on swallowing up more and more Palestinian land through relentless settlement expansion, in direct violation of international law. More recently, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu candidly (though only in Hebrew) ruled out the possibility of allowing a sovereign Palestinian state to exist.
But because global perceptions are important, Israel is always looking for a way to deflect responsibility for the failure of the peace process onto the Palestinians. One of the talking points used to that end is the claim that there is “no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side because the leadership was divided. So when Hamas and the Palestinian Authority agreed to end their division in recent months, Netanyahu’s government freaked out and demanded Western governments boycott the new united Palestinian leadership. When, to Netanyahu’s bitter disappointment, the U.S. insisted on dealing with the new Palestinian government anyway, Israel seems to have opted for a direct confrontation with Hamas to break up the unity government. One can see the cynical exploitation of the teens’ kidnapping to this end simply by looking at the Jerusalem Post headline, which reads: “Netanyahu to Kerry: PA’s Hamas-backed unity government to blame for missing teens.” Evidence for this sort of nonsense, of course, is nowhere to be seen.