Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by presumed Palestinian militants near Hebron yesterday, while hitchhiking through the West Bank. The three, one of whom is a dual U.S. citizen, were students at a West Bank yeshiva. It’s believed they were kidnapped near the Palestinian town, which is a hotbed of hatred and anger at the 500 Israeli settlers living there.
The yeshiva, Makor Chaim, is located in Gush Etzion, and is part of the settlement bloc which Israel is expected to retain should there ever be a peace agreement. Settlers there are known as more moderate than others living in more remote settlements. The yeshiva is affiliated with Hasidism, and not the type of radical extremism represented by Od Yosef Chai in Yitzhar. Though, in truth, these are settlers as well.
A Palestinian militant group which is reputed by Israeli media to be associated with the Sunni-extremist group, ISIS, took credit for the operation. In a related matter, the NY Times even went so far as to associate ISIS with Al Qaeda, though this seems based on outdated information, not taking into account that Al Qaeda renounced any association with ISIS several months ago. Isabel Kershner and the Times’ foreign editor apparently don’t keep up on the Islamist playbook.
Several months ago, the IDF executed three members of the Palestinian Islamist group in a cave in the South Hebron Hills. The kidnapping is supposedly avenging the killings. Though the army later claimed the militants had been found with weapons and bombs and were prepared for a terror attack, I never saw any evidence of this. The IDF regularly uses these sorts of unsupported charges to obscure outright assassinations in cold blood. We know this in cases where there were witnesses or video. In this case, neither were available. So given the IDF’s brazen track record for lying, I’m not prepared to accept its version of the killings.
We know that one of the Israeli victims used his cell phone to call 911 the night of the kidnapping. But he could not speak and, unfortunately, the Israeli police, never known for their competence or diligence, did not start a search until the following morning after the family reported the disappearance.
Israel was quick to inform the U.S. that one of the victims, Naftali Frenkel, is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, thereby implicating us in resolving the crime. To John Kerry, Netanyahu made the absolutely outrageous claim that the crime was the direct result of Fatah bringing a “terror group” into the PA unity government. Lost on the clueless prime minister was the fact that the area in which the boys were kidnapped was under Israeli security control. As Zvi Barel wrote in Haaretz:
The missing teens reside in Area C, which is under full Israeli control, and were most likely kidnapped in that region. How can Abbas be held responsible for what happens in an area under Israeli control?
It would be like, a Palestinian security official complained, blaming him for a Tel Aviv car accident. Nor is this the way to gain Palestinian cooperation in resolving the crime.
It’s the height of cynicism for Israel to blame anyone but itself (and the kidnappers) for this. In fact, every time Bibi needs to deflect criticism from a security failure he exploits Palestinians. This ranges from the Eilat terror attack, for which Sinai Islamists were responsible. Instead, Bibi blamed a Gaza militant group, launching attacks which killed 30 innocent Gazans. Now, the Shin Bet’s failure to foil this attack leads to falsely blaming the PA. Israel can’t send F-16s to bomb the West Bank, as he can Gaza. But there will be severe repercussions for the civilians of the West Bank. Collective punishment, illegal under international law, will be the new normal for the next weeks or even months. This is how Barel sees it:
…There is a creeping suspicion that framing Abbas as responsible for the recent events has another purpose: Justifying a collective punishment against the Palestinian Authority and its citizens. With that goal, Israel will try to construct a legitimate justification for labeling the PA as a terrorist organization…and demand it be boycotted, even by Arab states. It also presents Israel with a good opportunity to “prove” that it was not Israel that derailed the peace process – for how can you negotiate with an authority that has embraced Hamas into its ranks.
This Israeli government’s modus operandi is to bitch and moan to the world and expect that the world will somehow care. If you are the king of the heap and a global superpower as the U.S. was under Lords Cheney and Bush, that might work. But when you’re Israel and only think you’re a superpower, it’s not terribly successful. But that doesn’t stop Bibi from trying. Apparently, he doesn’t know any other way. Moderation and civility are not part of his repertoire.
The Times reporting of the story included the usual clueless characterizations of life under Occupation. Here is how Isabel Kershner portrayed the security situation in the West Bank (for Israelis, not Palestinians):
Occasional violence in the West Bank continues to claim victims on both sides, but kidnappings of Israelis have been rare in recent years. Yet the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, said it had foiled more than 60 plots to abduct Israelis in the West Bank since the start of 2013.
As usual, the report portrays the situation as Israelis see it and has little or no understanding or concern for how Palestinians see it. “Occasional violence” is how an Israeli perceives the security situation, since Palestinians have engaged in a low level of violence over the past few years. But for Palestinians living in the West Bank, life is an endless series of violent incidents by Israeli security forces.
Speaking of kidnapping: what do we call the nightly IDF incursions which invade sleeping villages and roust entire families out of their beds as the army searches for God knows what, and often takes away a boy or father who’ve done nothing wrong. IDF soldiers themselves acknowledge that these actions are often designed not to capture militants, but to keep the population on edge and frightened. This is kidnapping too. But not done on a small scale of ones or twos or threes. This is state-sanctioned kidnapping.
And let’s not forget the hundreds of Palestinian boys who are sitting in Israeli prisons in violation of international law. Some of them are abused in detention with soldiers cocking their weapons, pretending to kill them. Kershner isn’t shedding a tear for any of that on behalf of the Palestinians. She barely has a clue it’s even happening. It’s what allows to keep churning out pap like this.
Don’t get me wrong. Kidnapping young boys, whether Israeli or Palestinian, is a low blow. If anything happens to these boys, the perpetrators should be made to pay the price (though not the summary execution Israeli forces would mete out to them). But while I’m disgusted by kidnapping boys on a hiking trip, what am I to say of an Israeli general who does virtually the same? Let’s save some outrage for him as well, shall we?