Israeli Palestinian MK Haneen Zoabi told Tel Avi Radio today that she understood the motivation of those who kidnapped three Israeli teenagers. What she didn’t say is anything like what is being claimed across Israel and in the U.S. Jewish media. First, the transcript of her full statement as quoted in Hebrew by Roy Peled here:
“Why is it considered strange that people living under Occupation, and living lives so insane amidst a reality in which Israel kidnaps [Palestinians] daily, is it so strange that they act this way? They aren’t terrorists. Even though I do not agree with them, they are people who see no possibility of changing their own reality. So they are forced to use these means until Israel wises up and sees the suffering and feels the suffering of the other.”
My translation (above) is somewhat different than the one you’ll read linked at Facebook.
This is JTA’s completely mangled version which has made the rounds of every Israeli media outlet:
“They are people that cannot see any way to change their reality, and they are forced to use these means until Israeli society wises up a bit and sees and feels the suffering of the other.”
That’s it. No “though I disagree with them.” No context. No nuance. That is what the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation has become for Israelis. The enemy is a cardboard cutout, a Jack in the Box clown who pops out saying the most disgusting things possible. Israelis have no patience. They don’t want to listen. They prefer bowdlerizing reality as they bowdlerize what Palestinian leaders like Zoabi say.
Here is a Twitter dialogue of the deaf between Max Blumenthal and the Jerusalem Post reporter who published the false version, in which she claims she never heard Zoabi say “even though I don’t agree with them,” as she listened to the radio show in her native language.
Israeli journalism is as yellow as it gets when Palestinians are involved. It stoops to the lowest, basest of human instincts. If the world permitted lynching, Israeli media would cheer at the prospect. Except unlike the Ramallah lynching which so rightly traumatized Israelis, this would be officially sanctioned, legal lynching. There is little difference between the National Enquirer and Israeli media when it comes to this sort of reporting about Palestinians.
As a result of this scandalous, deliberate bit of character assassination, Zoabi is being skewered on TV and in print media. They call her terrorist. They call her traitor. They call not only for her to be expelled from the Knesset, but to be killed. No less a figure than Avigdor Lieberman, always one who may be counted on to make colorfully provocative statements about Arabs, called for a virtual death sentence for Zoabi:
“Not only the kidnappers are terrorists, but Haneen Zoabi is one as well. The judgment against the kidnappers is the same as the judgment against the inciter Zoabi, who encourages kidnapping, must be identical.”
Yes, there will be pro-Israel apologists who will remind us there is no death sentence in Israel, so Lieberman couldn’t possibly have meant she should be killed. But we all know that Lieberman doesn’t give a fig for judicial sentences. He’s referring to the death sentence the IDF will mete out to the kidnappers when it catches them. Just as Obama ordered the summary execution of Osama bin Laden, Netanyahu has told the IDF that they should kill the kidnappers if they find them. Perhaps he doesn’t even have to tell the IDF. It is understood between them with a wink and a nod that this will be the outcome.
Every Israel remembers what happened to the Bus 300 kidnappers captured alive and then executed by having their skulls crushed by rocks like bugs by Shabak executioners. This was wasn’t even the first such summary execution. But it grabbed the attention of the entire nation. Now such an execution wouldn’t cause the scandal it did back then. Now the executioner would be praised to the heavens and made a Shabak chief.
Of course, the IDF will say the kidnappers were armed and fired at them when apprehended. There will be a firefight, the terrorists will throw bombs. The army had no choice but to liquidate them. And it’s a good thing they did. Bringing honor to the army and restoring the dignity of the nation. And some of this may even turn out to be true. The perpetrators of the kidnapping may indeed resist. But the reason they will is that they know their fate is to be executed when captured.
Similarly, this is the fate Lieberman is wishing for Zoabi. He’d love for the IDF to put a bullet through her skull. Of course, he can’t say this. So he cleans it up a bit and says she deserves to share the kidnappers fate. But every Israeli knows what he really means.
Returning to Zoabi’s interview, what she said is indeed precisely what all Palestinians feel about the abduction. They wish it didn’t have to happen. But given their misery at the hands of Israel, and the seeming permanence of their suffering, one could anticipate such feelings. But her omitted demurrer conveys the sense: just because one understands them doesn’t mean that one shares them.
Of course Zoabi’s statement was provocative. It was meant to be. What does she care what Israeli Jews think about her? They don’t vote for her anyway. That, in a nutshell is the problem with the Israeli political system. It rewards politicians and parties for carving out their ethnic niches and protecting them fiercely, even if it means stoking the hatred of other groups. There is, of course, a way to stop this dysfunction and fragmentation. But it’s a solution most Israelis treat just as Count Dracula views garlic or the rising sun: the one-state solution. A single state would force all Israeli parties to cobble together inter-ethnic coalitions. It would force Israeli Jews and Palestinians to find common ground at least to a greater extent than they do now.
On a related matter, I’ve accused Bibi Netanyahu of lying in blaming Hamas for the kidnapping. Now, a former Mossad unit chief, Rami Igra, tells the Jerusalem Post that he too believes Bibi is wrong. The reason that the former is blaming Hamas, Igra says, is purely political:
“The facts are very simple,” he said by phone. These kids have gone missing…but no one has claimed responsibility, and their bodies have not been found. There have been no facts presented to the public that they have been abducted by Hamas, so we need the correct information.”
…“The fact that he is naming who abducted these kids is more political than based on fact,” he said. “Netanyahu says that the people who did this are part of a terrorist organization, and we all agree. But at this point, while it could be true, it is premature.”
Igra continued: “At this stage, there are only indications that they have been abducted but no evidence. They could have been killed. We hope this is not the case and that they were abducted, but we don’t know yet.”
Make no mistake. I am not claiming Igra is an angel sent from on high to tell us all the truth. He is after all a former Mossad officer and willing to lie for his country when it suits. But in this case, he is telling us the truth because that is what suits. We have a grizzled veteran of Israel’s intelligence wars telling us that his Mossad contacts tell him that the prime minister is the emperor with no clothes. We should take notice.