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Myths & Facts: Online Exclusives

by Mitchell G. Bard
(2021 - )

INDEX OF MYTHS:
(2005-2016 | 2017-2020 Archives)

2021

Hamas does not store weapons in civilian areas.
The PA is punished for its human rights violations.
The United States should reopen a consulate in Jerusalem.
Most of the Palestinian casualties in Operation Guardian of the Walls were civilians.
Israel is trying to kill Palestinians with expired COVID vaccines.
Israel is engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.
Israel tried to silence journalists by bombing their headquarters in Gaza.
Israel intentionally killed 248 innocent Palestinians during Operation Guardian of the Wall.
The Palestinian Authority should get U.S. aid for Gaza because it promotes peace with Israel.
Israel used disproportionate force in Operation Guardian of the Wall.
Israel is illegally evicting Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
EU funding for Palestinians doesn’t support terrorists.
Human Rights Watch has proven Israel is an “apartheid” state.
Israel is preventing Palestinians from praying on the Temple Mount during Ramadan.
The Palestinian Authority doesn’t threaten Palestinian Americans.
The Palestinians need U.S. aid, which contributes to peace.
Israel’s chaotic elections prove it is not a democracy.
Upcoming elections will produce new pro-peace Palestinian leadership.
Women’s rights are protected by the Palestinian Authority.
Support for the Palestinians is growing as reflected by aid to the PA.
Palestinians are fairly distributing COVID vaccines.
Palestinians have the right to sell land to Jews.
Rejoining the Human Rights Council will allow the U.S. to reform the organization.
Israelis should be prosecuted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Israeli settler population surged during Trump era.
An Israeli human rights organization accurately compared Israel to South Africa.
Palestinian authorities do not demolish Palestinian homes.
Israel is denying COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians.
The Trump peace plan does not offer the Palestinians a capital in Jerusalem.
America’s Arab allies support U.S. positions at the UN.

MYTH

Hamas does not store weapons in civilian areas.

FACT

On July 22, 2021, during the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday, an explosion rocked the Al-Zawiya market in Gaza City killing a 69-year-old Palestinian man and injuring 14 others, including six children. Palestinians in Gaza said the explosion occurred in a house where Hamas stored weapons. The home was partially destroyed and neighboring ones damaged.


Screen shot of destruction from explosion in Al-Zawiya YouTube

Israel has repeatedly provided evidence that Hamas stores weapons in civilian areas. This time, it was not Israel who accused the Palestinians of using civilians as a shield, however, it was people living in Gaza who demanded an investigation.

In a statement, the Palestinian Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said it “views the explosion incident with grave seriousness, as there have been repeated incidents of internal explosions in houses in overcrowded residential neighborhoods for various reasons in the past, which resulted in the killing of a number of civilians and the destruction of homes and public and private properties.” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinians accuse Hamas of storing weapons in residential areas,” Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2021).

Note the “human rights” group would not say Palestinians have been killed because terrorists are using them as shields. Palestinian writer Fadel Al-Manasfeh was less circumspect, however, and told Abu Toameh that Hamas chooses markets for ammunition warehouses because it is confident Israel will not target them.

As we saw during Operation Guardian of the Walls, the media usually downplays or ignores the fact that civilians are used as shields and are often the victims of “accidents.” Instead, the press parroted Hamas Health officials’ casualty figures without investigating how many were caused by the terrorists.

This is especially inexcusable given the many stories that have been published about Palestinians being killed by their own people in the past. For example:

  • In 2020 an explosion in a market in the Nussirat refugee camp killed more than 10 Palestinians and injured dozens more (Toameh, Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2021).
  • In 2014, five Hamas terrorists were killed “in what appeared to be an accident when an explosion ripped through a tunnel they had dug on the east side of Gaza City” (Fares Akram, “Gaza: Tunnel Blast Kills 5 Militants,” New York Times, June 19, 2014).
  • The following week, a 3-year-old Palestinian girl was killed, and three of her relatives were wounded when a rocket aimed at Israel fell short and instead hit the family’s home in the northern Gaza Strip (Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren, “Errant Rocket in Gaza Is Said to Kill Girl, 3,” New York Times, June 24, 2014).
  • In 2008, a senior Islamic Jihad military commander was killed along with at least five others when an explosion destroyed his house. Six nearby homes were damaged in the Al Bureij refugee camp and as many as 40 people were wounded (Steven Erlanger, “Blast kills Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza,” New York Times, February 15, 2008).
  • In 2005, four Palestinians were killed and more than a dozen wounded when explosives detonated accidentally inside the home of a family linked to Hamas (Greg Myre, “Blast Kills Four and Riots Continue in Gaza,” New York Times, September 5, 2005).
  • A few weeks later, a pickup truck carrying rockets exploded at a Hamas rally in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. At least 10 Palestinians were killed and dozens were hurt (Greg Myre, “Explosion at rally kills 10 in Gaza Strip,” New York Times, September 24, 2005).
  • At least eight people were killed and more than 30 wounded when a bomb blew up in a Gaza City neighborhood where a group from Izzedine al-Qassam brigades were reportedly preparing explosives (Youssef M. Ibrahim, “8 Are Killed in Gaza Explosion Seen as Hamas Bomb Accident,” New York Times, April 3, 1995).

Imagine the New York Times headline and story if this explosion could have been blamed on Israel. In this case, the Times did not even report on the incident. The Washington Post printed an Associated Press story that said nothing about the weapons depot in the heart of a civilian neighborhood. “It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion,” according to the report.

MYTH

The PA is punished for its human rights violations.

FACT

Supporters of the Palestinians typically claim to do so on human rights grounds, speciously accusing Israel of all manner of crimes. When it comes to the mistreatment of Palestinians by Palestinians, however, their interest in human rights proves to be a mirage. We hear nothing from Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and others who routinely lambaste Israel while Palestinian authorities jail, torture, and murder their fellow Palestinians, often for the “crime” of speaking out against the corruption and autocratic behavior of their leaders.

Likewise, the UN’s Human Rights Council is fixated on the Palestinians – if Israel can be blamed – and pays little or no attention to human rights abuses around the world, especially those committed by its members such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea. The Council’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk, has issued 75 press releases condemning Israel and not one addressing the abuses in the Palestinian Authority (Hillel Neuer, “Would Nizar Banat still be alive if the UN held the PA to account?” UN Watch, July 7, 2021).

A textbook example is the silence following the arrest and murder of Nizar Banat, a Palestinian whose home was raided on June 24, 2021, because of his criticism of President Mahmoud Abbas. Banat had called for Western countries to cut off aid to the PA – just as President Biden was restoring U.S. assistance – because of its authoritarianism and human rights violations.

Abbas, the man two-state advocates see as a peace partner and future leader of a Palestinian state, tolerates no dissent, however, and dispatched his thugs to silence Banat. Men broke into Banat’s home without identifying themselves. They beat Banat with batons in front of his family who was squirted with pepper spray. He was taken away and later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Palestinians, the majority of whom already wanted Abbas to resign, protested the murder and were attacked by PA security forces trained and equipped by the EU and the United States. Demonstrators were beaten and dispersed with tear gas and stun grenades. Journalists were targeted (Aaron Boxerman, Hundreds of protesters call for Abbas to resign over death of PA critic,” Times of Israel, July 4, 2021; Imad Isseid, “Palestinian forces disperse protest over activist’s death,” AP, June 26, 2021).

The Biden administration, which has made human rights a centerpiece of its foreign policy, issued a three-line statement:

We are deeply disturbed by the death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat and the information that has been reported regarding the circumstances of his death. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and community. We urge the Palestinian Authority to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure full accountability in this case. We have serious concerns about Palestinian Authority restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression by Palestinians and harassment of civil society activists and organizations (Ned Price, “Death of Palestinian Activist Nizar Banat,” Press Statement, U.S. Department of State, June 24, 2021).

A few weeks earlier, however, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Abbas and has been working to support the autocrat in the interest of improving U.S. relations with the PA.

Before he was killed, Banat said, “The Europeans need to know that they are indirectly funding this organization….They fire their guns into the air at Fatah celebrations, they fire their guns in the air when Fatah leaders fight each other and they fire their guns at people who oppose Fatah” (Joseph Krauss, “Critic of Palestinian Authority dies after violent arrest,” AP, June 24, 2021). His comments also applied to U.S. support prior to being cut off by President Trump.

Some UN officials did break with precedent to express dismay over the events in the West Bank, but no resolutions or condemnation were introduced at the General Assembly or Security Council as would undoubtedly have occurred if Israel was somehow involved (Boxerman, Times of Israel, July 4, 2021).

This is just one example of the abuses committed by not only Abbas but leaders of Hamas. They have acted with impunity for decades because supporters of the Palestinians only take an interest in their human rights if they see an opportunity to accuse Israel of abuse.

MYTH

The United States should reopen a consulate in Jerusalem.

FACT

In 1950, Israel moved its seat of government to the capital in Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department, which had opposed the establishment and recognition of Israel, refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Hence, the United States established its embassy in Tel Aviv. The consulate in Jerusalem, which had been established in 1844, remained open, but only to deal with the Arabs in Jerusalem.

A whole set of rules (e.g., not allowing official cars to fly the U.S. flag in the city and marking the birthplace of Americans born in Jerusalem as Jerusalem rather than Israel) were established by the State Department to do everything possible to avoid the appearance of U.S. legitimation of Israel’s capital. The United States not only refused to locate its embassy in Jerusalem, but also pressured others not to do so.

The Jerusalem consulate was a longtime bastion of anti-Semites and, later, critics of Israel. The ambassador to Israel was considered a spy when the chiefs of mission in the Middle East got together. Ambassador Alfred Atherton recalled, “Very often you wondered whether the war between the Arabs and the Israelis was any more intense than the war between embassies in Tel Aviv and Damascus, or Tel Aviv and Baghdad, or Tel Aviv and Amman” (Mitchell Bard, The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East, HarperCollins: 2010).

After 1967, the consulate expanded its mission to include the Palestinians in the West Bank. In 1980, Ambassador Samuel Lewis got into a confrontation with a consular official regarding U.S. policy toward settlements and a member of Congress present at the incident subsequently threatened to cut off funding to the consulate. This prompted the State Department to agree to a series of steps to ensure the embassy and consulate articulated the same policy (Yael Guiladi, One Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1983, p. 63). 

After the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the Oslo Accords, the consulate became the address for diplomatic activities between the U.S. and PA, acting much like an embassy.

On May 14, 2018, the new Embassy of the United States opened in Jerusalem following the Trump administration’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. The consulate continued to operate as an independent mission from its historic Agron Road site.

On October 18, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the consulate would merge with the embassy. Pompeo said the U.S. would continue to conduct its reporting, outreach, and programs in the PA through a new Palestinian Affairs Unit. The consulate ceased operating on March 4, 2019.

On May 25, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and announced the intention to reopen the consulate in Jerusalem (Jacob Magid And Aaron Boxerman, “In Ramallah, Blinken announces plans to reopen US consulate in Jerusalem,” Times of Israel, May 25, 2021).

The decision is in part meant to separate the Biden administration’s policies from its predecessor’s, and to signal, along with providing financial aid, a renewal of U.S.-Palestinian cooperation. Critics see the decision as unnecessary since the embassy can handle the responsibilities of a consulate. Furthermore, it can be viewed as a reward for continuing Palestinian intransigence.

To avoid any conflicts with the United States, Israel did not object to the existence of the consulate in the past; however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Blinken Israel opposed reopening the consulate in “sovereign Israel” despite the fact that other countries have consulates or embassies to the Palestinians in east Jerusalem (Lahav Harkov, “Netanyahu to Blinken: We oppose consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2021).

After Israel formed a new government in June 2021, the Foreign Ministry requested that the U.S. delay reopening the consulate to avoid potentially destabilizing the fragile coalition (Jacob Magid, “Israel urging US to delay plans to reopen consulate until new gov’t stabilizes,” Times of Israel, June 30, 2021).

According to the 1963 Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, the United States must have Israel’s consent to establish a consular post on its territory (Alan Baker, “A U.S. Consulate for the Palestinians Should Be on Palestinian Territory – Not in Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, July 15, 2021). Legal issues aside, it is not likely the Israeli government would risk angering President Biden by placing obstacles in the way of reopening the consulate.

A better option, legally, diplomatically, and rationally would be to establish the consulate in the Palestinian Authority, specifically in Ramallah, where the Palestinian leadership and institutions are located. This would also send an important message to the Palestinians that, like President Trump, President Biden will not support the Palestinian demand to make Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state. A member of the Biden team proposed this alternative in 2017. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Hady Amr suggested reopening a U.S. mission in the Palestinian territories to signal a commitment to the two-state solution (Joyce Karam, “‘The National’ obtains US official document for Palestinian ‘reset,’” The National, March 18, 2021).

MYTH

Most of the Palestinian casualties in Operation Guardian of the Walls were civilians.

FACT

Every death in war is a tragedy. It is particularly sad that innocent Palestinians die because their leaders treat them as expendable. Hamas and  Palestinian Islamic Jihad knew when they launched rockets at Jerusalem and thousands more at other civilian areas in Israel, the IDF would respond. The terrorists also knew they could maximize the number of civilian casualties for propaganda purposes by using them as shields.

When you consider the firepower Israel employed in Operation Guardian of the Walls, the number of airstrikes (roughly 1,500), the density of population in the Gaza Strip, and the civilians put in harm’s way by their leaders, it would have been reasonable to expect thousands of casualties. It is a testament to the IDF’s efforts to warn civilians before attacking, decisions to abort missions when civilians were in a target area, and the precision with which operations were conducted that the number of innocents who were killed was remarkably low.

How many civilians were killed by Israeli operations?

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, 248 Palestinians died in Gaza (Nidal Al-mughrabi, Jonathan Saul, and Rami Ayyub, “Israel and Hamas both claim victory as ceasefire holds,” Reuters, May 20, 2021). It does not distinguish, however, between those who were terrorists and those who were killed by the nearly 700 rockets that misfired and landed inside Gaza. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 256 Palestinians were killed, 128 civilians, but that figure also seems to include those killed when Hamas rockets misfired (“Response to the escalation in the oPt,” Situation Report No. 1, OCHA, May 21-27, 2021).

A few days after the ceasefire, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar admitted 80 of the dead were terrorists (Fares Akram, “Hamas leader says 80 fighters killed in war with Israel,” AP, May 26, 2021). Since Hamas has an interest in minimizing the number of casualties of its men, this is undoubtedly an underestimate; nevertheless, if we accept this figure, the number of civilians killed would be (using OHCHR figures) 176.

An analysis by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center of the names of 234 Palestinians who died found that at least 112 belonged to terrorist organizations (“An analysis of the names of Gazans killed during Operation Guardian of the Walls indicates that about half of them were terrorist operatives,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, June 29, 2021). That would bring the number of civilian casualties to 144.

According to one postwar estimate, as many as 91 Palestinians were killed by Hamas rockets (Alex Safian, “Palestinians Were Killed by Hamas Rockets in May? An Estimate,” BESA, June 27, 2021). This would mean the number of civilians who were killed by Israel could be as low as 45. That figure might also be an underestimate given that 42 civilians were reported dead in the unexpected collapse of a building near a terror tunnel bombed by Israel.

Doing the math and using the OHCHR casualty total, the number of civilians who were killed is between 176 (Hamas figures) and 144 (Meir Amit). If we subtract the 91 who were estimated to have died because of rocket misfires, the number of civilian casualties would be between 85 and 53. Given that 42 died in one strike, that means no more than 43 were killed in the other (roughly) 1,499. Still tragic, but the account of the fighting would have been very different if the media reported that most of the casualties were either terrorists or killed by terrorists.

Could Israel have done more to avoid civilian casualties?

Perhaps, but their efforts to avoid them by issuing warnings, aborting missions, and precision targeting are extraordinary. It is not difficult to demonstrate that other armies have been far less concerned about civilian casualties and that their operations have been far more lethal.

As in past conflicts, Hamas has learned that by putting out phony casualty figures quickly, it can shape the narrative of the fighting because the media immediately reports what they are told as fact and Israel is cast as an aggressor using disproportionate force. The provocation and rationale for the Israeli response is sublimated to the casualty scoreboard created by the press to determine a winner of the conflict. In this Alice in Wonderland game Israel loses by not allowing more of its civilians to be killed.

It is only after the fighting is over that we learn the truth, but the damage is already done. Israel’s image was tarnished, it was pressured to stop fighting before its mission was completed, and it will now be subjected to investigations by those disinterested in the terrorists’ objective of destroying Israel.

MYTH

Israel is trying to kill Palestinians with expired COVID vaccines.

FACT

The leaders of the Democratic Reform Movement of Fatah led by Mohammed Dahlan accused Israel of the “largest attempted murder in Palestinian history.” They claimed that half a million Palestinian lives were endangered by the Palestinian Authority (PA) agreeing to accept vaccines from Israel that were going to expire in June. The group’s ire was directed at Mahmoud Abbas (who forced Dahlan into exile in the UAE), accusing the Palestinian president of committing a crime. The story was accompanied by the cartoon below showing a syringe with a bullet inside (“Fatah leaders demand the formation of an independent committee in the issue of vaccines, whose validity is nearing expiry,” Fatah Media – Palestine [Arabic], June 20, 2021).

After months of being condemned for not doing more to help Palestinians cope with the COVID pandemic, Israel agreed in June 2021 to send 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for receiving a similar number of doses from the PA in October. Shortly after the deal was announced, however, the PA cancelled it because the health minister said the vaccines were going to expire too soon for them to be administered (Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub, “Palestinians cancel deal for near-expired COVID vaccines from Israel,” Reuters, June 18, 2021). The PA had already received 100,000 doses but returned 90,000 to Israel (it was unclear what was being done with the other 10,000). PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila blamed Israel for delaying the shipment of the vaccines (Aaron Boxerman, “PA says it wants to renegotiate terms of vaccine deal with Israel, Pfizer,” Times of Israel, (June 20, 2021).

Fewer than one-fifth of West Bank Palestinians have been vaccinated. The expiration date of the vaccine gave the PA time to administer the doses but rather than act to save the lives of its people, the Health Ministry chose to scuttle the deal.

According to journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, the deal was hastily canceled soon after it was announced because of an uproar among Palestinians who suspected “that corrupt senior PA officials were in collusion with the Israeli authorities to provide out-of-date vaccines to the Palestinian public.” Abu Toameh noted that in March 2020, “a similar public outcry erupted after Palestinians learned that the PA had diverted some COVID-19 vaccines to senior Palestinian officials, journalists and personalities affiliated with the PA.”

Abu Toameh said the deal was supposed to help the PA leadership by helping Palestinians return to normal life, and improve “the standing of Abbas and the PA leadership in the eyes of the public.” Instead, it turned into “one of the worst PR disasters for the PA” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Why the PA scrapped the initial vaccine deal with Israel - analysis,” Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2021).

Meanwhile, three other countries expressed interest in obtaining the vaccines the Palestinians turned down (Aaron Boxerman, “Three countries said to ask Israel for vaccine doses Palestinians don’t want,” Times of Israel, June 20, 2021).

MYTH

Israel is engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

FACT

One of the most popular canards and anti-Semitic libels hurled at Israel is that it is guilty of “ethnic cleansing.” In 2001, the UN conference of non-governmental organizations meeting in Durban, South Africa declared that Israel was guilty of “ethnic cleansing.” More recently, Rep. Ilhan Omar accused Israel of this atrocity in 2020 when Israel demolished the homes of Bedouins in the West Bank that were illegally constructed in an IDF live-fire range (@IlhanMN, November 5, 2020; Sarah Chemla, “Ilhan Omar: Defund Israel over illegal Bedouin homes that were demolished,” Jerusalem Post, November 11, 2020). She repeated the charge in 2021 when Israel’s Supreme Court was set to decide whether residents in Sheikh Jarrah should be evicted from their homes (@IlhanMN. May 9, 2021).

The definition of “ethnic cleansing” is “the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity” (“ethnic cleansing,” Merriam Webster). The Holocaust was an example of ethnic cleansing, as was the Turkish massacre of Armenians and the forced displacement and mass killings in Rwanda.

Let’s look at some facts and do some simple math to determine whether Israel has engaged in similar behavior.

Following the 1948 War, roughly 150,000 Arabs were living in Israel. Rather than expel, imprison, or kill them, Israel granted them citizenship. Today, there are nearly two million Arab citizens of Israel, one-fifth of the total population. So, in the course of “ethnic cleansing” Palestinians inside Israel, the Arab population has increased by more than 1.8 million.

What about the West Bank and Gaza?

According to the Israeli 1967 census, the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was 661,700 and 354,000 respectively (Wael R. Ennab, “Population and Demographic Developments In The West Bank And Gaza Strip Until 1990,” United Nations Conference On Trade And Development, June 28, 1994). Today, the population for the West Bank and Gaza is 2,949,246 and 1,957,062 (“The World Factbook,” CIA, June 17, 2021)

Again, let’s do the math. The population of the West Bank under Israel’s alleged policy of ethnic cleansing has increased by nearly 2.3 million and by 1.6 million in Gaza.

Consider a few other statistics about the disputed territories that demonstrate the impact of Israel’s malevolent intentions (CIA and “World Population Prospects 2019,” UN):

  • In 1967, the life expectancy of Palestinians was 48.7 years; today it is 76 years. The average for 18 other Middle Eastern and North African countries (excluding Israel) is also 76 (CIA).
  • The death rate (per 1,000 population) in 1960-1965, before Israel caputred the terrritories, was 16.7; today it is 3. For the 18 countries, it is 4 (CIA).
  • The infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) in 1960-1965 was 117; today it is 16 compared to 15 for the 18 countries (CIA).

The health of Palestinians has improved by every measure and is comparable if not better than in other Middle Eastern and North African countries. One reason is that Israel provides medical care to thousands of Palestinians each year, including the daughter and niece of Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas (Ido Efrati, “Hamas Leader's Daughter Received Medical Treatment in Israel,” Haaretz, October 19, 2014). In fact, his 17-year-old niece was being treated at Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv after a bone marrow transplant even as his organization was firing rockets at the city (“Hamas chief’s niece has been hospitalized in Israel for over a month — report,” Times of Israel, May 27, 2021).

Is this what you would expect from a country engaged in “ethnic cleansing”?

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism does not explicitly say that accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” is anti-Semitic, but it should. The charge does, however, fall under the definition’s example of comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

The real proponents of ethnic cleansing are the Palestinians and advocates of a two-state solution who call for the expulsion of more than 800,000 Jews so Palestinians can achieve ethnic homogeneity in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

MYTH

Israel tried to silence journalists by bombing their headquarters in Gaza.

FACT

During Operation Guardian of the Walls the IDF struck the al-Jalaa high-rise building in Gaza City on May 15, 2021, causing it to collapse. The attack provoked outrage among the media because the building housed offices of the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera, and other news organizations. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt hyperbolically claimed the association “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life.” In fact, no harm came to any journalists because Israel warned them in advance of the attack and they were all safely evacuated.

Pruitt, nevertheless, was enraged. “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” he said. “They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there” (“Statement: AP ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack on its office,” AP, May 15, 2021).

Pruitt added, “AP’s bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

Israel said at the time the building contained Hamas intelligence assets, but Pruitt said he saw no evidence from Israeli officials, who had shared their information with U.S. intelligence. Strikingly, President Joe Biden did not condemn the attack, which he surely would have done if he did not believe the Israelis.

Israel later disclosed the site was used “for intelligence R&D and to carry out SIGINT (signals intelligence), ELINT (electronic signals intelligence), and EW (electronic warfare) operations, targeting both IDF operational activity and civilian systems in Israel. One of the main goals of these efforts was to develop a system that would disrupt the Iron Dome aerial defense system” (“Information Regarding the IDF Strike on the al-Jalaa Building,” IDF, May 15 2021).

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and UN, Gilad Erdan met with Pruitt and presented him with this information, which clearly indicated the building was a legitimate military target (Ron Kampeas, “Hamas was developing technology to jam Iron Dome system in bombed AP building, Israel says,” JTA, June 8, 2021).

This was just one of many examples where Hamas deliberately placed civilians in danger in hopes of shielding their activities. After the ceasefire, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, Yahya Sinwar, openly admitted that Hamas locates its military headquarters in high-rise and residential buildings.

It is also worth noting the hypocrisy of the AP. First, it is a lie that the news service doesn’t put its reporters at risk or they wouldn’t be in Gaza or any other war zone. Second, reporters know they are not targeted by Israel and, unlike in Israel, there is no freedom of the press in the Palestinian Authority. Journalists know they can only report what the terrorists want them to say, and go only where they allow them to go. Former AP correspondent Matti Friedman wrote that in 2014, “I was informed by the bureau’s senior editors that our Palestinian reporter in Gaza couldn’t possibly provide critical coverage of Hamas because doing so would put him in danger” (Matti Friedman, “What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel,” The Atlantic, November 30, 2014).

You don’t even have to be a journalist to understand what is required to operate in a terrorist entity. Consider the case of the director of UNRWA’s operations in Gaza who acknowledged that Israel’s attacks were precise and directed at military targets. “They did not hit,” he said, “with some exceptions, civilian targets.” Even after an uproar forced him to revise his comments to fit the terrorists’ narrative, he was banished from Gaza (Amira Hass, “Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians,” Haaretz, May 26, 2021; “UNRWA Director Banned from Gaza Over Comments,” Hamodia, June 3, 2021).

Pruitt also overstated his case when he claimed, “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.” Not only did AP immediately report on the bombing of their building; the service did not miss a beat in filing stories on the fighting. The following day for example, AP reported on Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City (“The Latest: Israeli jets stage heavy airstrikes in Gaza City,” AP; Fares Akram And Ravi Nessman, “Israeli warplanes stage more heavy strikes across Gaza City,” AP, May 16, 2021). On May 17, AP again reported airstrikes from Gaza City (Fares Akram And Ravi Nessman, “Israel strikes Gaza tunnels as truce efforts remain elusive,” AP, May 16, 2021). Reports continue to be filed from Gaza City despite the loss of their headquarters.

The AP may have also lied about being unaware Hamas worked out of the building. Tommy Vietor, former spokesperson for the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, tweeted, “I talked to someone who *used* to work out of that building periodically who said he believed there may have been Hamas offices there” (@TVietor08, May 16, 2021).

The more salient question is: How is it possible that journalists who are trained to observe and interview relevant subjects could not be aware Hamas was operating out of the building?

This is not the only question:

Why didn’t AP report about the elaborate tunnel system in Gaza before Operation Guardian of the Walls?
Why didn’t AP report that tunnels were being built under residential areas, including a UNRWA school (“The Neutrality and Inviolability of UNRWA Installations Must be Respected at All Times,” UNRWA, June 4, 2021)?
Why didn’t AP report on where arsenals were located?
Why didn’t AP report on where Hamas and PIJ headquarters were located?
Why didn’t AP have photographs of rockets being launched from civilian areas?
Why didn’t AP verify casualty claims coming from the Hamas-run Health Ministry before printing them and why didn’t they document the number of “civilians” who were actually terrorists and the number of civilians killed by the hundreds of rockets that fell inside the densely populated areas of Gaza? It did have to acknowledge 80 “militants” (AP is unwilling to call people who fire rockets indiscriminately to kill civilians “terrorists”) were killed after Hamas admitted the fact, but that was included in a story focused on “Gaza’s bereaved citizens” (Karin Laub And Fares Akram, “Gaza’s bereaved civilians fear justice will never come,” AP, June 2, 2021).

How can AP call itself a serious news gathering organization with all that it missed?

Friedman has exposed AP’s perfidy in the past and explained why journalists allow themselves to be used to disseminate propaganda for terrorists. After Operation Protective Edge, he wrote in The Atlantic: “Hamas understood that reporters could be intimidated when necessary and that they would not report the intimidation... The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby – and the AP wouldn’t report it, not even in AP articles about Israeli claims that Hamas was launching rockets from residential areas” (Friedman, The Atlantic, November 30, 2014).

This intimidation, Friedman explained, was why “Hamas understood that journalists would not only accept as fact the Hamas-reported civilian death toll—relayed through the UN or through something called the ‘Gaza Health Ministry,’ an office controlled by Hamas—but would make those numbers the center of coverage.” Combined with the use of civilians as shields, this is part of a deliberate strategy to tar Israel’s image of fighting a necessary and moral war, and feeding a narrative willingly spread by advocates of the Palestinians, critics of Israel, and anti-Semites that Israel committed war crimes.

Now you know why media coverage originating from Gaza and the West Bank is typically biased against Israel and parrots Palestinian propaganda.

MYTH

Israel intentionally killed 248 innocent Palestinians during Operation Guardian of the Wall.

FACT

Palestinian propagandists learned a long time ago that they need only throw a casualty figure out to the media and it will be published around the world as fact. One of the first examples was during the first Lebanon War when the press repeated the lies disseminated by Yasser Arafat’s brother. It happened in the previous Gaza operations as well so it was not surprising that when the Hamas-run Health Ministry fabricated the number of civilian casualties during Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel’s alleged murder of innocents made global headlines.

Before we get to the dissection of the casualty figures, it is important to remember that not a single Gazan would have been hurt if Hamas had not fired rockets at Jerusalem. In addition, few would be in danger if they were not being used as shields by terrorists.

According to Hamas, 248 civilians, including 66 children were killed by Israel. Casualties of war are unfortunate but inevitable. Israel does not intentionally target civilians and goes to extreme lengths to avoid harming innocent bystanders. Even the director of UNRWA’s operations in Gaza, no shill for Israel, acknowledged that Israel’s attacks were precise and directed at military targets. “They did not hit,” he said, “with some exceptions, civilian targets” (Amira Hass, “Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians,” Haaretz, May 26, 2021). He was subsequently pilloried by Hamas, forced to recant, and withdrawn from Gaza in a case study of the consequences of telling the truth. Fear of similar treatment is one explanation for the bias of journalists reporting from Gaza.

Hamas has an incentive to falsify the casualty figures because it knows this will provoke outrage around the world and prompt accusations that Israel committed “war crimes.” This is precisely what happened. The numbers, however, are misleading because the Health Ministry does not identify any victims as terrorists and does not distinguish between civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes and those who died from rockets that misfired or landed inside Gaza.

Consider that Gaza is often said to be one of the most densely populated places in the world and it was hit by approximately 680 rockets fired by Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ). How likely is it that a much higher number of casualties were self-inflicted (Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Saul, John Irish, and Parisa Hafezi, “Israel’s Gaza challenge: stopping metal tubes turning into rockets,” Reuters, May 23, 2021)?

Two sources unsympathetic to Israel presented evidence that undermines the Hamas figures. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said 128, not 248, civilians were killed (“Response to the escalation in the oPt,” Situation Report No. 1, OCHA, May 21-27, 2021) and Defense for Children International – Palestine reported one case where “a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children” (“Nine children killed in Gaza Strip as violence escalates,” Defense for Children International – Palestine – Palestine, May 11, 2021).

Hamas also counts adolescents as children, some of whom are terrorists. For example, after the New York Times published a page of photos of children supposedly killed by Israel, the Mujahideen Brigades, another terror group in Gaza, said one of those pictured, a 17-year-old, was a member of the group (Adam Rasgon and Iyad Abuheweila, “Gaza Militant Group Says 17-Year-Old Killed by Airstrike Was a Member,” New York Times, May 30, 2021).

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which meticulously examines the identities of the dead, checked 74 names of fatalities and found that 16 were killed by misfired rockets, and at least 42 were terrorist operatives. Instead of 74 dead civilians, the number was actually 16 (“An examination of the names of the fatalities in the IDF airstrikes during the first two days of Operation Guardian of the Walls reveals that most of them were terrorist operatives,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, June 1, 2021).

The IDF said it killed at least 160 terrorists (Anna Ahronheim, “Israel says 160 terrorists killed in Gaza since beginning of operation,” Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2021). The Meir Amit Center said, “An estimated 50 senior Hamas and PIJ terrorist operatives were killed including brigade commanders, and about 20 lower-ranking commanders and about 200 terrorist operatives” (“Escalation from the Gaza Strip – Operation Guardian of the Walls – Summary,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 24, 2021).

No one disputes that some civilians were killed. The highest death toll occurred when Israel bombed the tunnels in one neighborhood and surrounding buildings unexpectedly collapsed (Bill Bostock, “Israel said it didn't mean to kill 42 civilians in Gaza on Sunday, saying it attacked a series of militant tunnels that caused people's homes to collapse,” Business Insider, May 17, 2021; Paul Adams, “Gaza-Israel conflict: Israel defends strategy as death toll mounts,” BBC, May 18, 2021).

Based on the current evidence, it appears even the OSHA figure of 128 civilian casualties is high. Again, while tragic, the number of deaths is remarkably low considering that Israel struck more than 1,500 targets. By comparison, President Obama authorized 542 drone strikes that killed 324 civilians (Micah Zenko, “Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 20, 2017).

Before rushing to publish casualty figures they know come from a biased and unreliable source, reporters have an obligation to investigate the claims made by Hamas, and editors should not allow unverified information to be published. Israel may deserve criticism for the death of innocents, but it should not be blamed for killing terrorists firing rockets at its civilians, or for Palestinians killed by their own rockets.

MYTH

The Palestinian Authority should get U.S. aid for Gaza because it promotes peace with Israel.

FACT

The Biden administration has said it will provide aid for Palestinians in Gaza through the Palestinian Authority (PA) rather than Hamas because the latter is a terrorist organization. The PA, however, was cheering on Hamas as it bombarded Israeli civilians with 4,350 rockets. This was just the latest example of the incessant incitement to violence that comes from the PA.

One justification for Hamas starting a war by rocketing Jerusalem was said to be violence provoked by Israel on the Temple Mount. Weeks before confrontations with the police began, however, the PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (February 1, 2021) was inciting the public with the claim, “The occupation authorities are striving to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque and establish the so-called ‘Temple’ in its place” (Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “PA libel: ‘Al-Aqsa in danger of being bombed,’” PMW, (February 23, 2021).

PA TV broadcast a video a few weeks later that said, “The occupation’s forces and its settlers invade the al-Aqsa Mosque,” defiling Jerusalem by their mere presence (Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “PA: Jews are ‘defiling Jerusalem,’ ‘invading the Al-Aqsa Mosque’ when they visit the Temple Mount,” PMW, (March 8, 2021).

These are just two examples of what journalist Nadav Shragai calls the “al-Aqsa is in danger libel,” first used by the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s. He used the lie that Jews were threatening Muslim holy places to inflame the masses (Nadav Shragai, “The ‘Al-Aksa Is in Danger’ Libel: The History of a Lie,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2012). This has been a recurrent theme of incitment by Palestinian officials that is indicative of the oft-neglected religious component of the conflict. 

Voice of Palestine, (December 19, 2018)

Just before Ramadan began, PA TV repeatedly broadcast a video with the following message:

I fired my shots, I threw my bomb. I detonated, detonated, detonated my [explosive] belts…   My brother, throw my blood on the enemy like bullets” (Maurice Hirsch and Itamar Marcus, “The real source of the violence in Jerusalem PMW, April 27, 2021).

PA TV (April 2, 2021)

Once fighting began, the PA did not want to look weak and urged Palestinians to “stone your enemy with fire” (“‘Be sharp as a sword…stone your enemy with fire,’ PA TV calls for more terror” (PMW, May 18, 2021).

Official Palestinian Authority TV (May 18, 2021)

One of the objectives of Hamas was to convince Palestinians that it is the defender of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa. Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub, however, wanted to assure his public that they too were prepared to take up arms. “We own the armed struggle,” he told an interviewer. Accusing Israel of being a “fascist and Nazi state,” Rajoub said, “We are convinced that the conflict [with Israel] has reached the stage that either the world will give us a solution or we will continue the cycle of blood and killing” (“‘We will continue the cycle of blood and killing,’ threatens Fatah leader Rajoub – ‘We are not the only ones who will die,’” PMW, May 20, 2021). He was speaking as efforts to reach a ceasefire were about to succeed.

Fatah’s Information and Culture Commission‎, Facebook, (May 20, 2021)

After the ceasefire, Abbas’ Advisor on Religious Affairs and Islamic Relations, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, appeared on PA TV to tell his audience they would go to Paradise if they fight. “Everyone who fights you – you are required to fight him … You must respond to the aggression and be brave. This is what Islam wants of us” (“Islam wants you to ‘defend your homeland, your holy sites,’ if you die fighting, you go to ‘Paradise,’ your enemies go to ‘hell’ - top PA religious leader, PMW, May 26, 2021).

Official PA TV (May 26, 2021)

These are the people to whom the administration (and other nations) wants to give tens of millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money.

For decades, only people who spoke Arabic and had access to Arab media knew what was being said about the Jews and Israel. Spokespeople would routinely use moderate language when speaking to English audiences that often contradicted what they told their own people. Now, thanks to organizations like Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) and MEMRI, we know what the Palestinians are saying to their own people and it behooves policymakers to pay attention.

MYTH

Israel used disproportionate force in Operation Guardian of the Walls.

FACT

Not a single Palestinian in Gaza would have been killed or injured if Hamas had not launched rockets at Jerusalem on May 10, 2021. Unsurprisingly, Israel responded to the attack on its capital with airstrikes. The subsequent barrage of rocket fire by terrorists followed by Israel bombing targets in Gaza escalated to an 11-day war during which Israel was accused, as it is in every recent military campaign, of using “disproportionate” force.

Because the journalistic credo is “if it bleeds it leads,” the media emphasizes civilian casualties, which turns war into a kind of sport where a score is kept. In this macabre competition, the “winner” is the party that suffers the most casualties and the competitor that protects its citizens is the “loser.” If there is a large disparity in the score, the loser is judged guilty of using disproportionate force. By the rules of this game, Israel should not defend its citizens so the body count is more even. If it does not, Israel is to be punished because it responds to terror attacks with superior firepower that causes collateral damage.

The issue of proportionality is also skewed by the scorekeepers. The media gets its information from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry which has a history of providing misinformation. Many Palestinian casualties, for example, are a result of the hundreds of rockets that landed inside Gaza but were blamed on Israel. For example, Defense for Children International – Palestine, an organization that is highly critical of Israel, reported that “a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children…. Another 34 Palestinian civilians were injured in the blast, including 10 children” (“Nine children killed in Gaza Strip as violence escalates,” Defense for Children International – Palestine, May 11, 2021).

In addition, the ministry does not admit that any of the dead or injured are terrorists. According to the IDF, at least 160 of the dead were terrorists, 20 of whom were in key leadership or technical positions (Anna Ahronheim, “Israel says 160 terrorists killed in Gaza since beginning of operation,” Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2021). That would account for two-thirds of the casualties.

Some may question the credibility of an Israeli government source, but their record is one of accuracy and they typically have the names of each of the terrorists they kill. In Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Israel said it killed 709 terrorists. Hamas initially claimed only 49 of its men had been killed but Interior Minister Fathi Hamad later said the number was 600-700 and admitted that most of the people killed in the fighting were terrorists, not bystanders, and that Hamas had indeed used civilians as shields (“Hamas Admits 600-700 of Its Men Were Killed in Cast Lead,” Haaretz, November 9, 2010; “Hamas MP Fathi Hammad: We Used Women and Children as Human Shields,” Al-Aqsa TV, cited in Dispatch #1710, MEMRI February 29, 2008).

If Israel was not seeking to avoid civilian casualties or, as some charge, targeting them, the number of casualties would be in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands.

Consider this comparison. During Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel struck more than 1,500 targets. Hamas claimed there were 248 civilian casaualties but, if IDF reports on the number of terrorists killed is accurate, the number is probably closer to 80. President Obama authorized 542 drone strikes that killed 324 civilians (Micah Zenko, “Obama’s Final Drone Strike Data,” Council on Foreign Relations,January 20, 2017).

Meanwhile, Israel’s accusers never answer two fundamental questions:

What would you expect your government to do if your house and those of your neighbors were being bombarded with rockets?
What would you consider a proportionate response to those attacks?

Since the stated objective of these terror groups is the destruction of Israel, isn’t the proportional response their destruction? Wouldn’t random missile strikes on Palestinian neighborhoods be proportionate to indiscriminate Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rocket attacks on Israeli neighborhoods?

Can you imagine any of Israel’s critics accepting those responses? Of course not. No one in Israel believes these would be legitimate uses of force either and, therefore, Israel is left with the need to take measured action against specific targets to protect its citizens and deter future attacks.

It is easy to condemn Israel from afar, but imagine if terrorists fired thousands of rockets at Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, or any other city in the West (or East for that matter). What would the governments do? Would the targets of those rockets demand their governments respond – but only if they can do so without killing any civilians?

It’s not just a hypothetical. In reaction to an attempt to assassinate President Bush in 1993, the U.S. launched 23 cruise missiles at Iraq’s intelligence headquarters and hit a civilian neighborhood in the process. Colin Powell later said this was an “appropriate, proportional” response (John Lancaster and Barton Gellman, “U.S. Calls Baghdad Raid A Qualified Success,” Washington Post, June 28, 1993). After 9/11, the United States used overwhelming force in the war in Iraq and, though civilians were not targeted, thousands were killed (“Iraq War,” Encyclopedia Britannica, March 2, 2021). There was no discussion of the need for proportionality.

The United States uses overwhelming force against its enemies, even though the threats are distant and pose no danger to the existence of the nation or the immediate security of its citizens. By contrast, the threat Israel faces is immediate in time and physical proximity, and poses a direct danger to Israeli citizens.

Between May 10 and the ceasefire on May 21, 2021, Hamas and PIJ fired 4,193 rockets at Israel’s civilian population. The men, women and children who live within range of the rockets go about their lives in a perpetual state of trauma and fear. Ordinary tasks like driving to work, walking to the bank, or taking children to the park cannot be completed without putting their lives at risk.

When the red alert sounds indicating an incoming rocket, Israelis have 15 seconds to find shelter. What if you are not near one? How do you get an elderly parent or disabled child to safety in that amount of time?

Imagine how it must be to live under those conditions. What is a proportional response to being forced to live this way?

The IDF Ethics Code mandates that, whenever possible, soldiers must warn non-combatants that they are in an area where it is dangerous to stay. During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF employed a variety of unprecedented efforts to minimize injury to non-combatants, including warning leaflets, phone calls, and non-lethal warning fire. They used similar methods in Operation Guardian of the Walls. As Asa Kasher noted, no army would endanger its soldiers to avoid hitting neighbors of an enemy who received warnings to leave the area.

Is there another army in the world that warns people to leave an area they intend to attack even though it gives up the element of surprise and allows the terrorists to escape with the civilians? How many other militaries order their pilots to abort bombing missions if civilians are detected in the area?

Even the director of UNRWA’s operations in Gaza acknowledged that Israel’s attacks in May 2021 were precise and directed at military targets. “They did not hit,” he said, “with some exceptions, civilian targets.” Under pressure from Hamas, with whom he must cooperate to do his job, he later revised his comments to fit the terrorists’ narrative (Amira Hass, “Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians,” Haaretz, May 26, 2021).

Proportionality is not simply a numerical comparison. Israel is under no obligation to allow more of its citizens to be killed to make the casualty statistics more even. In addition, as Kasher explains, “the number of Israeli casualties is not a reliable measure of the threat posed by enemy rockets. A Grad rocket hit a Beersheba classroom on December 31, 2008; had the missile hit the school when classes were in session, dozens of schoolchildren would have been killed. Luck does not diminish the threat posed by an attack.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs adds:

Under the Geneva Conventions, as well as customary international law, if a military objective, such as a missile launcher or weapons stockpile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease being a lawful military objective. The primary responsibility for civilian causalities arising from the “shielding” lies with the party that deliberately placed civilians at risk.

Furthermore, as Kasher points out, the laws of warfare “were intended to guide a military conflict between armies with clear chains of command in which all the troops wear uniforms, bear arms openly, and are responsible to the civil government of a certain state.” None of these characteristics apply to the terrorist organizations.

In addition, no innocent Palestinian would be in the line of fire if terrorists did not deliberately hide among them and if the Gazans did not allow themselves to be used as shields. The people know that Hamas is building tunnels under their houses, storing weapons in residential neighborhoods, mosques, and schools. They know rockets are launch from populated areas. Why don’t they object, and why doesn’t the international community intervene before a war begins to prevent tragedies from occurring?

Click photos to enlarge

In all the protests during the war, did you hear any of the Palestinians’ supporters denounce Hamas for attacking Israeli civilians while putting their own at risk? Also, where were all the people who profess concern for Palestinians’ welfare when Bashar Assad was murdering thousands in Syria with no provocation whatsoever (Middle East Monitor, January 3, 2020)?

It is a tragedy whenever innocent lives are lost, and Israelis have consistently expressed their regret over Arab casualties. By contrast, when innocent Israelis are murdered, the terrorists celebrate and honor the killers.

Israel’s army is not infallible. As a democracy, when Israeli soldiers make mistakes in battle, they are called to account for those errors. On those occasions when noncombatants are injured or killed, investigations are launched, the Israeli public debates the military’s actions, and punishments are imposed if courts find soldiers guilty of a crime.

MYTH

Israel is illegally evicting Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

FACT

For several decades, an issue has festered between Jews and Palestinians in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Demonstrations have been held for years to prevent Jews from reclaiming land they owned prior to the illegal annexation of the area by Jordan following the 1948 War. In 2021, peaceful protests turned violent over a court order to evict Palestinians whose leases expired or were squatters.

Nir Hasson explained that Jews believe the dispute is “a legal battle over real estate” while the Palestinian residents and their supporters maintain it is “a fight against Judaization and discrimination in the city” (Nir Hasson, “What’s Behind the Latest Flare-up in Jerusalem, and What Israel Can Do to Defuse Tensions,” Haaretz, May 7, 2021).

According to Jonathan Spyer, Rabah al-Husseini, from the Husseini clan, built one of the first dwellings (now the location of the American Colony Hotel) in an area east of Jerusalem in 1865. Others joined him to live near the grave of Hussam al-Din al-Jarrahi and the town became known as Sheikh Jarrah (Jonathan Spyer, “Sheikh Jarrah, Shimon Hatzadik: A tale of two gravesites in Jerusalem,Jerusalem Post, May 12, 2021).

In 1876, Jerusalem trusts run by the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities bought a plot of land and established a Jewish neighborhood near the tomb of Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish high priest from ancient times. A second neighborhood, Nahalat Shimon, developed nearby.

During the 1948 War, thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem fled their homes, leaving behind property on the Israeli side of the armistice line. A much smaller number of Jews were forced to leave property on the Jordanian side. Among them were the Jews from Sheikh Jarrah whose property was sequestered as “enemy property” by Jordan.

In 1956, the Jordanian government, which illegally occupied the area, and the United Nations built 28 homes in Sheikh Jarrah for Palestinian refugees. They leased the properties from the Jordanian government.

In 1967, Israel recaptured and annexed the area. Israeli law required the release of a portion of the properties sequestered by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property during 1948-1967 (the Jordanian Custodian sequestered almost exclusively Jewish property), and this was the basis for the restoration of some Jews’ claims of ownership during the 1970’s in Sheikh Jarrah. Media reports and critics incorrectly said the law was discriminatory because, they claimed, Palestinians did not have the same right to reclaim the properties they fled from in the same war. That is not true. The law says nothing about Jews, and anyone, including Palestinians, can make claims for property seized by the Jordanians.

In 1982, the Jewish owners wanted to evict 23 Arab families living in the Shimon Hatzadik area, but reached an agreement whereby the Palestinian residents accepted Jewish ownership of the land in exchange for being allowed to remain in their homes as protected tenants. The Palestinians later said they were tricked into signing the deal and began to claim they had proof of owning the land dating to the Ottoman era which was never accepted by the courts.

Professor Avi Bell explained that “the current dispute in Sheikh Jarrah involves several properties with tenants whose leases have expired, and in a few cases squatters with no tenancy rights at all, against owner-landlords who have successfully won court orders evicting the squatters and overstaying tenants.” He also noted that it was the critics who were demonstrating bias by “demanding that Israel discriminate against and disregard the property owners’ lawful property rights due to their Jewish ethnicity” (Avi Bell, “Understanding the Current Sheikh Jarrah (Jerusalem) Property Dispute,” Kohelet, May 9, 2021).

Bell said Jordan was partially to blame for the Palestinians’ plight. “The reason the holdover tenants in Sheikh Jarrah lack ownership today,” he said, “is not because the state of Israel has denied the Palestinian Arabs any rights they acquired, but, rather, because the government of Jordan declined to give the Palestinian Arabs title to the land Jordan had seized.”

Bell also points out that “Israel has been so respectful of the private property rights of Palestinian Arabs that it continues to uphold private Palestinian Arab property rights that are based on Jordanian discrimination against Jews.”

In 1993, the trusts said the tenants had failed to pay rent and asked that they be evicted. It was not until 2001, however, that the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court agreed with them. More litigation further delayed enforcement of the decision. In the interim, the trusts sold their properties to the Nahalat Shimon International organization.

In 2008, Nahalat Shimon planned an expansion of the neighborhood and resumed the effort to remove the unpaying tenants. During litigation, an Israeli court determined that the people currently living in the disputed homes had been illegally squatting for decades without paying rent or holding proof of ownership. Four families were later evicted, but 13 others continued to fight the order in court.

Protests over the expected evictions, which had gone on for years, turned violent in May 2021. Simultaneously, Palestinians and Israeli police were clashing on the Temple Mount during Ramadan. Jerusalem Day was also approaching with an annual parade celebrating the unification of Jerusalem by Israel that was expected to provoke further protests.

Amid the chaos and violence, the Supreme Court was scheduled to render a decision, but decided to delay issuing a ruling to avoid potentially further enflaming the situation.

The issue in Sheikh Jarrah is about property law not ethnicity. The rightful owners simply want to recover their land, the fact that they are Jewish is irrelevant. Furthermore, this is not a decision determined by the Israeli government to advance a nefarious policy; whether the families will be evicted will be settled by Israel’s highest court, which is widely regarded as liberal.

Nevertheless, several Democrats asked the Biden administration to pressure Israel to halt the evictions. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, summed up their feelings, “we simply cannot sit by and watch this cruel, continued, illegal, forced displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. The State Department must weigh in immediately with accountability” (Ben Samuels, “Democrats Urge U.S. to Act Against Israel’s ‘Abhorrent’ East Jerusalem Evictions,” Haaretz, May 8, 2021).

The State Department spokesman said a few days later, “We’ve been clear in urging the Israelis to act responsibly, to treat Palestinian residents with compassion and with humanity in this case” (State Department Press Briefing, May 10, 2021).

Some have argued Israel should find a way to stop the eviction for the sake of pacifying the Palestinians (e.g., Ghaith al-Omari, “Israel-Gaza Violence Means Biden Must Avoid Emboldening Hamas In Any Cease-Fire Deal,” NBC News, May 18, 2021).. Ignoring the law and capitulating to mob rule, however, would be a recipe for continued unrest as Palestinians would see that violence pays and be motivated to contest the ownership of Jews throughout Jerusalem.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terrorists of “presenting a real-estate dispute between private parties as a nationalistic cause in order to incite violence in Jerusalem” (@IsraelMFA, May 7, 2021).

Indeed, the dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, along with the incidents on the Temple Mount were used to justify the launching of hundreds of rockets from Gaza by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas which provoked Israel to mount Operation Guardian of the Walls.

MYTH

EU funding for Palestinians doesn’t support terrorists.

FACT

In 2017, the European Union decided taxpayer money should not support Palestinian terrorism and decreed that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) receiving EU funding could not use the money to fund terror. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called on all Palestinian institutions to reject this condition. More than 100 NGOs publicly stated they would not accept the conditions and launched the “Palestinian National Campaign to Reject Conditional Funding” (Donna Rachel Edmunds, “PFLP to Palestinian NGOs: ‘Resist by all means’ EU’s anti-terror clauses,” Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2020). As it turned out, the terrorist group needn’t have worried; the EU has continued to indirectly provide money to the organization.

On April 30, 2020, the EU Representative to the Palestinian Authority, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, sent a letter to the network of Palestinian NGOs saying those linked to terrorism could still receive EU subsidies and that “not a single Palestinian natural person has been debarred from receiving them” (European Parliament, May 7, 2020).

On May 6, 2021, the Shin Bet announced the arrests of four people working for the Health Work Committees (HWC) alleging they diverted millions of Euros donated by European governments to the PFLP. The HWC is one of at least seven EU-funded NGOs involved in helping the PFLP.

Following the arrests, the Israeli Foreign Ministry urged European powers to “immediately cease funding for Palestinian organizations that work of behalf of the PFLP terrorist group” (Dan Williams, “Israel says Palestinian NGOs funneled European donor cash to militants,” Reuters, May 6, 2021).

Lahav Harkov reported that “according to the Shin Bet, a network of PFLP-linked NGOs used fictitious projects, forged documents, and fake bank authorizations to dupe their European donors. Instead of humanitarian projects, the money paid for attacks, weapons and training, subsidies for families of PFLP terrorists, salaries for PFLP activists, and recruitment” (Lahav Harkov, “Four Palestinians to be charged with diverting European aid to terrorism,” Jerusalem Post, May 6, 2021).

The relationship between NGOs and the PFLP has been well documented. As far back as 2012, for example, Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) provided documentation that the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which continues to receive EU funding, “was established by the PFLP; is controlled by senior PFLP operatives; makes its assets available to the PFLP; and acts in coordination with and to advance the interests of the PFLP (including active involvement in PFLP political activity)” (“Breach of anti-terror law by World Vision Australia,” Shurat Hadin, March 29, 2012).

The PFLP, which calls for the destruction of Israel, uses NGOs as part of an “international campaign to slander Israel and deny its legitimacy to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people” (Yosef Kuperwasser, “How Denmark, Sweden, the U.N., and the EU Got Suckered Into Funding a Terror Organization,” Tablet, September 21, 2020). These groups have received more than $240 million in funding between 2014 and 2021 from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, France, Austria, and Sweden despite those countries’ knowledge of the NGOs’ ties to the PFLP (NGO Monitor, “Special Update” via email, May 7, 2021).

MYTH

Human Rights Watch has proven Israel is an “apartheid” state.

FACT

In its longstanding campaign of demonization of Israel, Human Rights Watch (HRW) adopted a new tack in its latest report. Knowing the absurd and ineffective efforts of anti-Israel propagandists to compare Israel to Afrikaner South Africa, HRW decided to write a new definition of “apartheid” it could selectively apply to one state – the Jewish state.

HRW relies on definitions that apply to the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group. Neither Jews nor Palestinians are racial groups so HRW expands the definition to include groups – actually only Palestinians – that share descent, national or ethnic origin.

As Professor Gerald Steinberg noted, “Beyond South Africa, no other regime or government has been deemed to meet the international definition of apartheid, not even murderous and oppressive regimes practicing separation based on race, religion, and gender such as Saudi Arabia and China” (Gerald Steinberg, “Human Rights Watch demonizes Israel via propaganda of apartheid,” Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2021).

“The report mocks the history of apartheid by using its hateful memory to describe a grab bag of policies that HRW happens to disagree with, and in many cases are not in effect, or were never in effect. Apartheid is not just a term for policies one dislikes,” the Kohelet Policy Forum wrote in its response to the report (“HRW Crosses the Threshold into Falsehoods and Anti-Semitic Propaganda,” KPF, April 26, 2021).

For its part, the Biden administration wasted no time rejecting HRW’s conclusion: “It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid,” a State Department spokesperson said (“US disagrees that Israel carrying out ‘apartheid,’” France24,” April 28, 2021).

Too often, however, truth does not matter. When a human rights organization, even one with a long history of anti-Israel bias, makes an inflammatory accusation it is assured of attracting media coverage, as was the case with HRW’s report. Journalists rarely factcheck the material before quoting the report and its authors in stories with incendiary headlines. By the time the information is evaluated by third parties, it is too late because the original, unverified story has been transmitted around the world to become fodder for Israel’s detractors.


Graphic courtesy Elder of Zion

Thus, you are unlikely to see any quotes about the report from Judge Richard Goldstone, who was appointed to the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela, played an important role in that country’s transition to democracy, and was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged crimes committed during Israel’s operation in Gaza in 2009. In a New York Times essay, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” Goldstone wrote, “In Israel there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute” used by HRW in an effort to get around the specious comparison to South Africa (New York Times, October 31, 2011).

In a rebuke to the equally fallacious claims made in the recent B’Tselem report, Goldstone noted, “there is no intent to maintain ‘an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.’ This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.”

Presciently anticipating the similarly misguided argument of John Brennan, Goldstone notes, “until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed.”

Speaking to those who demonize Israel while claiming to be interested in peace, Goldstone concluded, “The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.”

Hirsh Goodman, another native South African, said HRW “is blind to fact and reality.” He called the report, “a disgrace to the memory of the millions who suffered under that policy in South Africa” (Hirsh Goodman, “I left apartheid South Africa. Applying the term to Israel is disingenuous,” Forward, April 27, 2021).

Goodman noted that HRW is an advocate of discrimination against Jews, supporting the anti-Semitic BDS movement, and that the report came out as an Israeli Arab, a member of an Arab party in the Knesset, and an Islamist no less, had the potential to determine who would be Israel’s next prime minister. In the previous election, a coalition of Arab parties was the third largest faction in the Knesset.

This is discrimination?

What about Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens?

They have the opportunity to vote for their leaders in Palestinian elections, which were last held in 2006 (the one scheduled for May was just cancelled because the president, serving the 16th year of his four-year term, is afraid of losing). HRW apparently has no problem with the fact that a Jew cannot vote in a Palestinian election even though the outcome will affect Israel or that a Palestinian who has acquired Israeli citizenship also cannot vote in the Palestinian Authority (Elder of Ziyon, “Another Double Standard: Palestinian Law Excludes Israelis From Voting,” Algemeiner, March 26, 2021).

HRW condemns Israel for treating Palestinians in the disputed territories and Israeli citizens differently, but Israel has no obligation to treat them the same. In the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed the Palestinians should be responsible for their own lives in virtually all areas except security; hence, about 98 percent of Palestinians are governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The fact that both deny their own people civil and human rights goes unmentioned by HRW.

HRW also ignores reality while applying a standard that would make nearly every country, including the United States, guilty of apartheid. Take, for example, the report’s criticism of the Law of Return. Yes, it grants automatic citizenship to Jews, but non-Jews are also eligible to become citizens under naturalization procedures similar to those in other countries. More than two million non-Jews are Israeli citizens and 21% of the population are Arabs who enjoy equal rights under the law with Jewish citizens.

Meanwhile, Ireland has a law allowing immigrants of “Irish descent or Irish associations” to be exempt from ordinary naturalization rules while Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany and a number of other democratic states also have policies similar to Israel’s Law of Return and yet are not labeled by HRW as apartheid.

HRW apparently has no problem with Arab nations that have laws that facilitate the naturalization of foreign Arabs, with the exception of Palestinians, or with Jordan’s “law of return that provides citizenship to all former residents of Palestine – except Jews.


Graphic courtesy Elder of Zion

For HRW it is a crime for Israelis to want a Jewish majority in the Jewish state. Are Muslim states equally guilty for not accepting a non-Muslim majority?

The report castigates Israel for placing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, ignoring that checkpoints and the security fence were created to protect Israeli citizens – Jews and non-Jews from terrorists. It accuses Israel of “Judaization” of Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev, implying that Jews should not be allowed to live in parts of Israel where there are “significant Palestinian populations” (which is not the case in the Negev), including its capital.

Israel is also condemned for not agreeing to commit suicide by allowing the 5.7 million Palestinians UNRWA calls “refugees” to live in Israel. To refute the charge that Israel is therefore discriminating against Palestinians simply refer to the thousands of Palestinians who left the country and were allowed to return and become citizens (“Israel Claims 184,000 Palestinian Refugees have Returned since 1948,” Al Bawaba, January 1, 2001). Israel has also repeatedly offered to accept a limited number of Palestinians as part of a peace agreement (Gene Currivan, “ISRAEL TO ACCEPT 100,000 REFUGEES; Offer, to Go Into Effect When Peace Comes, Is Delivered to Arabs at Lausanne,” New York Times, July 30, 1949).

Summarizing the absurdity of HRW’s argument, one writer tweeted: “Israel: The only country that’s shrinks when it colonizes, grows the population it’s genociding, fattens the people it starves and consistently increases quality of life and freedoms on every metric for the people it apartheids” (@TheMossadIL, April 29, 2021).

Contrast Israel’s behavior with that of the Arab states which deny Palestinians living within their borders, sometimes for decades, the right to become citizens. The Lebanese government goes even further by denying Palestinians a host of rights and placing limits on where they can live and work (Lisa Khoury, “Palestinians in Lebanon: ‘It’s like living in a prison,’” Al Jazeera, December 16, 2017).

If you want to talk about discrimination, consider that it is a crime for a Palestinian to sell land to a Jew and a fatwa was issued by the preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Ikrimah Sabri, saying it is permitted to kill the seller (“Khatib Al-Aqsa issues a Sharia fatwa regarding the diversion or sale of real estate to settlement associations,” Sama News Agency, April 8, 2021).

Ironically, the author of the HRW report, Omar Shakir, was happy to live in Israel (imagine a black person choosing to live under the Afrikaner regime) until the Supreme Court revoked his residency permit. He is an advocate of the BDS campaign, which raises the question, Why would HRW choose someone who objects to Israel’s existence as the arbiter of its behavior (Ben-Dror Yemini, “A most dangerous and mendacious report,” Ynet, April 27, 2021)?

Highlighting HRW’s hypocrisy, the Jerusalem Post reported that one of the organization’s board members runs a venture-capital fund that invests in Israeli start-ups (Lahav Harkov, “Human Rights Watch chairman invests in Israel as he calls it ‘apartheid,’” Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2021).

It is also worth remembering that HRW uses its anti-Israel record as a fundraising tool, as we learned when Sarah Leah Whitson, the director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, went to Saudi Arabia to raise money by highlighting the group’s demonization of Israel (David Bernstein, “Human Rights Watch Goes to Saudi Arabia,” Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2009).

The founder of HRW, Robert Bernstein, said in 2009 the organization had become devoted to “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” Contrasting Israel with the countries HRW once focused on, he noted it had “at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world.”

Writing in the context of a biased HRW investigation into Israeli actions in Gaza, Bernstein lamented that “Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism” (Robert L. Bernstein, “Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast,” New York Times, (October 19, 2009).

Israel’s government is not immune to criticism and many of its policies are subject to vigorous debate and, in some cases, harsh condemnation by Israelis. What distinguishes Israel from the countries HRW should be investigating is the internal democratic processes that lead to self-examination, more enlightened policies and, where legally warranted, punishment for criminal activity.

Nevertheless, Israel’s detractors and anti-Semites will use the report to reinforce their existing prejudices and try to convince the uninformed of HRW’s alternative reality. It also feeds into the BDS narrative by arguing it is not just the “occupation” that is bad; Israel itself “is intrinsically racist and evil” and therefore should be dismantled (Herb Keinon, “The HRW apartheid report: Does it matter?” Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2021).

MYTH

Israel is preventing Palestinians from praying on the Temple Mount during Ramadan.

FACT

Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, head of the Waqf Islamic affairs council, estimated that 70,000 worshippers came in from Jerusalem, the West Bank and from Arab communities inside Israel to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (“70,000 Muslim worshipers flock to Jerusalem for 1st Friday prayers of Ramadan,” Times of Israel, April 16, 2021). This huge gathering was permitted despite the coronavirus and restrictions on large gatherings of Israeli Jews.

The pandemic did prompt Israel to restrict the number of Palestinians allowed to enter from the West Bank. Officials are limiting the number to 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians because of the “high morbidity rates” from coronavirus in Palestinian Authority areas. “The measures are being taken to allow freedom of worship and religion on one hand, and on the other hand, prevent to the extent possible the spread of COVID-19 in the region,” said a statement from COGAT, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians (“Ramadan prayers held at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa, with Israeli restrictions,” Reuters, April 16, 2021).

The Palestinians acknowledge the need to be careful. Omar Kiswani, the director of the al-Aqsa Mosque, said he was thrilled when an estimated 11,000 attended the taraweeh prayers on April 12, 2021, but said worshipers had to wear masks and keep two meters apart at the mosque, and that public areas would be sterilized daily. (Vivian Yee and Adam Rasgon, “A Ramadan Closer to Normal for 2021,” New York Times, April 13, 2021).

MYTH

The Palestinian Authority doesn’t threaten Palestinian Americans.

FACT

It is well-known that freedom of speech or the press does not exist in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and that Mahmoud Abbas, in the 16th year of his four-year term, brooks no dissent. Critics have been jailed and tortured (“Palestine: No Letup in Arbitrary Arrests, Torture,” Human Rights Watch, May 29, 2019). Now Abbas is targeting Fadi Elsalameen, a Palestinian living in the United States who has a Facebook page with around one million followers that has criticized corruption in the PA and freedom of speech violations against Palestinians.

Elsalameen was born in Hebron and now spends time in the PA and works in Washington, D.C. where he is a non-resident fellow the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Previously, he was involved with the American Task Force on Palestine, a moderate pro-Palestinian organization that supported a Palestinian state living in peace beside Israel and was critical of the PA leadership.

In March 2021, Elsalameen went to visit his family in Hebron. After he arrived, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade threatened to kill him. “My life is in danger and the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to condemn a death threat against a U.S. citizen is a green light to use violence against me,” he said (Axios, April 14, 2021).

Al-Aqsa has carried out shootings and suicide operations against Israeli civilians and military personnel and has killed Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. At least five U.S. citizens — four of them dual U.S.-Israeli citizens — were killed in al-Aqsa’s attacks. It is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States (since 2002), the EU and several other countries. The group is affiliated with Fatah, which is controlled by Abbas, and has received financial support from Iran through Hezbollah facilitators (Department of State).

Axios reported the State Department expressed concern to Palestinian officials about the threats. Nevertheless, Elsalameen said the PA refused to condemn the death threat or call it off.

Why is Abbas so upset he’s willing to threaten the life of an American citizen?

As early as 2011, Elsalameen called for his resignation (Natasha Mozgovaya, “Coming Home to Hebron, Looking Forward to Palestine,” Haaretz, May. 9, 2011). More recently, he has tweeted several critical remarks that must have upset Abbas. For example:

“Palestinians are exposing corrupt practices by senior PA officials distributing COVID-19 vaccines among themselves & their families. Ignoring at risk Palestinians altogether. Organized efforts r underway to expose these practices and inform donors like EU & US (@Elsalameen, March 1, 2021)

In a tweet approving the resumption of U.S. aid, he said, “@POTUS should ensure that transparency, anti corruption, elections, & human rights are at the top of the agenda with the PA” (@Elsalameen. April 7, 2021).

He also is critical of Hamas:

“The travel restrictions imposed by Hamas on Palestinian women out of Gaza is a human rights violation and should be revoked immediately. It contradicts Palestinian laws and values and has no place in our society. This is not the future Palestinians aspire to” (@Elsalameen, February 16, 2021).

So far, however, unlike Abbas, the leaders of Hamas have not threatened his life.

MYTH

The Palestinians need U.S. aid, which contributes to peace.

FACT

Fulfilling a campaign promise to restore aid to the Palestinians cut off by President Trump, President Biden announced plans to provide the Palestinians with $290 million in assistance. The State Department insisted the allocation was consistent with U.S. law though some members of Congress said it violated the Taylor Force Act which prohibits U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it ends its pay-to-slay policy of providing stipends to terrorists in Israeli jails and the families of suicide bombers (Matthew Lee, “US boosts aid to Palestinians as some in Congress cry foul,” AP, April 6, 2021).

In fact, the PA has more than enough money to cover the same programs the administration wants to fund if it stops payments to terrorists. In 2020, the PA spent nearly $181 million on pay-to-slay, which could instead replace the $15 million in coronavirus assistance, $75 million in assistance for infrastructure, health, and civil society groups, $40 million for law enforcement and security, and $10 million for peacebuilding programs the administration intends to dole out (Aaron Boxerman, “PLO says $15 million per month being paid in terror stipends,” Times of Israel, March 4, 2021; “The United States Restores Assistance for the Palestinians,” U.S. State Department, April 7, 2021)

The administration justified the aid as part of its commitment to “advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways in the immediate term, which is important in its own right, but also as a means to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution.”

Despite providing the Palestinians with more than $5 billion in aid since 1994, however, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept any of the repeated offers of a two-state solution (Jim Zanotti, “U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians,” Congressional Research Service, December 12, 2018). Moreover, since U.S. aid is fungible, the money can be used for various nefarious purposes and American taxpayers will once again be providing financial incentives for terrorism.

The administration also plans to resume contributions to UNRWA despite its failure to adopt reforms. In January 2021, the head of UNRWA admitted that educational material distributed to schools in the West Bank and Gaza contain “inappropriate” content glorifying Palestinian militants and encouraging violence (Melissa Weiss, “U.N. agency head admits printing ‘inappropriate’ content in Palestinian classroom materials,” JewishInsider, January 14, 2021).

The allocation of $150 million is in addition to the more than $6.2 billion the United States previously contributed to UNRWA. Those funds have exacerbated rather than solved the refugee problem, which is perpetuated by the Palestinians and Arab states that refuse to move refugees out of camps. It also allows UNRWA to add more “refugees” to its rolls rather than do anything to reduce the number or adopt an accurate count that would be under 40,000 rather than the 5.7 million it defines as refugees.

MYTH

Israel’s chaotic elections prove it is not a democracy.

FACT

Israel’s electoral process can indeed be chaotic, as evident by the fact that four elections were held in two years with the possibility of a fifth if the party leaders cannot agree to form a coalition following the inconclusive 2021 plebiscite. If anything, however, the tumult is a sign of a healthy democracy in which many voices are heard and can become part of the government.

Consider that the United States has only two major political parties which have won every election since 1848. They represent a bare majority of the eligible voters and even smaller proportion of the overall population. Since 1980, average turnout was just 54% (62% in 2020 was the highest). Donald Trump was elected in 2016 with just 46% of the popular vote, almost 3 million fewer than Hillary Clinton.

Historically, the members of the Knesset, as a whole, have represented nearly three-quarters of the voters. Since 1980, turnout has averaged 72%, nearly 20 points higher than the United States.

Israel has a proportional representation system, which means parties are allotted seats in the Knesset based on the percentage of the total votes cast they receive. For example, a party receiving 10% of the vote would win 12 of the 120 seats.

Israel’s electoral process was dominated by the Labor Party from 1948 until 1977, but each government had multiple parties in the coalition. In 2021, 26 parties ran for the Knesset and 13 won seats. If a coalition is formed, it will likely have representatives from 6-8 parties with a wide variety of positions on major issues. Unlike the United States, religious voters have their own parties to press their agenda, which is often opposed by secular parties.

Critics often make specious claims about Israel’s treatment of Arabs. All citizens in Israel have the right to vote, including Arab citizens, who make up 21% of the population. Many are represented by four Arab parties – Ra’am, Balad, Hadash, and Ta’al. When they ran as a joint list in the March 2020 election, they won 15 seats, the third highest total. In 2021, Ra’am ran alone, and won 4 seats; the rest of the Joint List won 6 seats. Some Arabs vote for the other parties and are represented on Zionist party lists.

Imagine how different American elections would be if there were individual parties advocating the interests of, for example, Evangelical, Hispanic, Black, and LBGTQ voters? If they had roles in the executive branch, would the U.S. be more or less democratic?

Many Israelis still call for electoral reforms. Israel experimented with the direct election of the prime minister in the 1996, 1999, and 2001 elections, but it was considered a failure. Israel did raise the threshold needed to win a seat in the Knesset to keep marginal parties with little support from being part of the government, but it remains low enough (3.25%) that smaller parties can win seats.

Coalition governments are unwieldy and unstable, unlike the U.S. system where the president is guaranteed at least one four-year term. The prime minister has great power but ultimately can only remain in office if the parliament supports their policy.

Israel is not the only democracy that has these issues. Italy routinely has coalition governments that rise and fall and the originator of modern parliamentary democracy, Great Britain, is historically more stable but no-confidence votes in parliament have brought down many prime ministers.

Does Israel have a perfect system of democratic government?

Hardly.

But, as Winston Churchill famously said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” (International Churchill Society).

MYTH

Upcoming elections will produce new pro-peace Palestinian leadership.

FACT

“There’s no sugarcoating this,” Dr Natan Sachs, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institute told VICE, “the Palestinian leadership has been nothing short of abysmal, and the people who pay the price are, of course, the Palestinian people.” (Barnaby Papadopulos, “‘Most Important Ballot of My Lifetime’: Palestinians on First Vote in Fifteen Years” VICE, (February 3, 2021).

The upcoming elections are unlikely to change the “abysmal” leadership.

Mahmoud Abbas wants to curry favor with the Biden administration and the West by looking like a man who believes in democracy – but only if he is assured of victory. “Abbas is very careful to ensure that he does not lose what he possesses, and I therefore doubt that elections will go ahead,” observed Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, one of the founders of the security coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian Authority (Yaakov Lappin, “Hamas Going Through Elections Motions as it Awaits Possible West Bank Chaos,” IPT News, March 8, 2021).

Bishara A. Bahbah, a founder of the Palestine Center in Washington, agrees, “If, near to election day, Abbas feels he could lose his tripartite control of Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, he could rescind his recent commitment to elections to hold on to power without a mandate” (Bishara A. Bahbah, “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Must Resign – or Be Deposed,” Haaretz, March 17, 2021).

Abbas, now in the 16th year of his four-year term, is doing everything possible to hold onto power even as polls show that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians want him to resign (“Public Opinion Poll No. 78,” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, December 27, 2020). Abdel Fatah Hamayel, a former governor of Bethlehem, wrote on his Facebook page that the Fatah revolutionary council issued an order “to kill everyone who intends to run outside the official list of the Fatah movement” (Abdel Fatah Hamayel, Facebook, January 30, 2021).

Bahbah noted that when Nasser al-Kidwa, Yasser Arafat’s nephew, a former Palestinian foreign minister, PLO representative to the UN, and member of Fatah’s Central Committee announced plans to support Marwan Barghouti for president, the Central Committee expelled him.

Abbas also sidelined rival Mohammad Dahlan who lives in exile in the UAE after he was expelled from Fatah and convicted on trumped up charges of corruption. That conviction is now the justification used to disqualify him from running in the election.

Since announcing parliamentary elections would be held on May 22, 2021, and presidential elections on July 31, Abbas has ordered the arrest of men with suspected ties to Hamas in addition to other political rivals and critics in the West Bank. Similarly, Hamas is targeting Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip (Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA arrests Hamas supporters ahead of elections,” Jerusalem Post, January 31, 2021).

Though Israeli officials do not believe Abbas has the will or the ability to make peace, they know Hamas is worse and fear the West Bank being taken over and becoming Hamastan. Consequently, Israel has, for its own interests, helped Abbas prevent Hamas from threatening his control in the West Bank.

One group that was welcomed to the campaign was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which expressed “its firm opposition to recognizing the racist Zionist entity, and its determination to continue with all forms of the struggle, and foremost among them armed resistance, in order to liberate every grain of the soil of Palestine.” The group also demands the annulment of “the humiliating and catastrophic Oslo Accords.”

Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub said that “Fatah greatly appreciate the decision” of the PFLP to run in the elections (Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Fatah embraces terror organizations that openly reject Israel’s right to exist; suggests “all factions” run on joint list,” PMW, March 12, 2021).

According to polls, Abbas may lose to Hamas or to Marwan Barghouti. If those are the possible outcomes, the prospects for peace with Israel are not good.

Consider Abbas turned down the offer of statehood in more than 90% of the West Bank offered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 and has refused to engage in negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu since then. During that time, the situation on the ground has changed and, following the Trump peace plan, the Palestinians cannot expect an offer that good ever again. Meanwhile, Abbas continues to incite violence and indoctrinate the next generation of Palestinians with his irredentist views.

Hamas won the last election and is likely to win again given its unity and superior organization compared to the fragmented and less competent PLO. Hamas has no intention of disarming or giving up its control of Gaza and, even if it falls short of victory, Hamas will still have the second largest representation in the government. Given that its raison d'être is the destruction of Israel, any government including Hamas would be a pariah and undercut any chance of peace talks or an improvement in U.S.-Palestinian relations.

Barghouti is in jail serving multiple life terms for murder. As in the case of Hamas, electing a terrorist would reinforce the Israeli belief the Palestinians are only interested in a state replacing Israel. His supporters hope his election would lead to international pressure on Israel to release him, but that is not going to happen. Abbas, moreover, is doing everything possible to undermine his candidacy.

There is good reason for pessimism about the outcome of a Palestinian election. “Along with so many fellow Palestinians,” Bahbah wrote, “I am sick of being led and represented by a dictator. We are a smart people diminished in stature by self-appointed, ignorant, self-serving, unelected so-called leaders. And there are too many ambitious idiots hoping to succeed Abbas.”

MYTH

Women’s rights are protected by the Palestinian Authority.

FACT

Not surprisingly, Israel’s demonizers used International Women’s Day as an opportunity to attack Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. It was equally unremarkable that none of the groups that claim to be concerned with Palestinian welfare would say a word about the appalling treatment of women by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian society more broadly.

Similarly, for Women’s History Month, a U.S-based group of Palestinian Arab women calling themselves the “Palestinian Feminist Collective” published a statement endorsed by 83 organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, attacking the “Zionist settler colonial project” (they apparently don’t recognize the existence of the state they are condemning), which says nothing about the treatment of Palestinian women in the PA (“Pledge that Palestine is a Feminist Issue,” Palestinian Feminist Collective, March 2021).

The Palestinian feminists and other supporters of the Palestinian cause apparently have no problem with the treatment of women in the PA reported by the UN (“Palestine Gender Justice & The Law,” United Nations Development Programme, 2018):

  • “Palestine” has no domestic violence legislation.
  • Marital rape is not criminalized.
  • Sexual harassment is not criminalized.
  • “Palestine” does not have comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation.
  • Homosexual conduct between consenting adults is criminalized in Gaza, with a penalty of up to ten years of imprisonment.
  • There is no legal prohibition on female genital mutilation.
  • Abortion for rape survivors is prohibited.
  • Muslim women require consent of a male guardian to marry.
  • After divorce a mother automatically loses custody of her children if she remarries.

Here are some of the finding of the State Department human rights report on the treatment of women in the PA:

  • Pressure to conform to Hamas’s interpretation of Islamic norms generally restricted movement by women.
  • There were some reports unmarried women faced restrictions on travel out of Gaza.
  • Legally women can vote and participate in political life, although women faced significant social and cultural barriers in both the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Rape is illegal under PA law, but the legal definition does not address spousal rape.
  • In previous years there were reports police treated rape as a social and not a criminal matter, and authorities released some accused rapists after they apologized to their victims.
  • PA law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence.
  • One in five Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza reported at least one incident of physical abuse from their husbands. Women in Gaza were twice as likely to be a victim of spousal abuse as women in the West Bank.
  • Women were frequently unwilling to report cases of violence or abuse to the PA or de facto Hamas authorities due to fear of retribution or little expectation of assistance.
  • Some women claimed that when they reported harassment, authorities held them responsible for provoking men’s harassing behavior.
  • Women have a right to inheritance but, in practice, generally received less than men. In some cases, women have been attacked by male family members for asserting their right to an inheritance.
  • Men may marry more than one wife.
  • Women working as domestic workers were vulnerable to forced labor conditions in both the West Bank and Gaza
  • Women endured prejudice and, in some cases, repressive conditions at work.
  • Reports of gender-based employment discrimination in Gaza against women are common, and factories often do not hire pregnant or newly married women to avoid the need to approve maternity leave.

According to the Palestinian Human Rights and Democracy Media Center, there were 20 honor killings in the West Bank and Gaza in the first 10 months of 2019. “The state of women’s rights in Palestine remains at a standstill, and women are still being murdered,” the organization said in a statement. “Women remain the most prominent victims of the male culture and of the violence that grows out of it, while this culture elevates men beyond the culture of shame, appoints them as masters and guardians of morality – even when they act immorally – and grants them complete immunity” (Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, “After alleged honor killing, Palestinians examine discriminatory culture,” Jerusalem Post, (September 6, 2019).

ASWAT, an organization of Palestinian gay women, says Palestinian society “has no mercy for sexual diversity and/or any expression of ‘otherness’ away from the societal norms and the assigned roles that were formed for women. ... The Palestinian woman has no right to choose an identity other than the one enforced on her by the male figures in her family and surroundings” (“ASWAT – Palestinian Gay Women,” Mediterranean Women, August 15, 2006).

Women are used by Hamas as human shields. During the “Great March of Return,” an IDF official observed, “Hamas placed many women at the front in an effort to make it difficult for us to deal with terror targets” (Anna Ahronheim, “‘Unprecedented’ violence in Gaza leaves 58 Palestinians dead, thousands wounded,” Jerusalem Post, May 14, 2018). An Israeli soldier told the Jerusalem Post: “I saw with my own eyes Hamas activists pushing people [including] women and children to the fence” (Anna Ahronheim, “Gaza Border Residents Speak To The ‘Post’ About The Tension In Air,” Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018).

The PA signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) but ignores its provisions. The Supreme Fatwa Council, which is part of the Palestinian government and has no female members, ruled the agreement violates Sharia law (“The Supreme Fatwa Council does not accept anything that contradicts Sharia in CEDAW and elsewhere,” State of Palestine House of Iftah [Arabic], December 12, 2019). Similarly, the Supreme Commission for Tribal Affairs said provisions of the CEDAW related to inheritance, adultery, homosexuals, and Muslim women who marry non-Muslims “contradict the Palestinian national identity, our Islamic religion, customs and traditions, and we are not obligated to apply them in our society” (“Clans: Any agreement that violates the law of God will not be accepted by our society,” Alresala Net [Arabic], December 24, 2019).

The editor-in-chief of the Ma’an media network, Dr. Nasser Al-Lahham, admitted the PA was not interested in women’s rights when it signed the CEDAW, but wanted recognition as a state so it could appeal to the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel:

The government cannot implement CEDAW in its entirety in light of the existence of a societal system, and that the signing of the agreement is political and was not intended to undermine the Sharia, and had it not been for the signing of CEDAW and many other agreements, the International Criminal Court would not have accepted us (“Al-Lahham talks about CEDAW, declining election chances and 2020 plans,” Ma’an News Agency [Arabic], December 28, 2019).

MYTH

Support for the Palestinians is growing as reflected by aid to the PA.

FACT

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has relied on aid from Arab states to cover much of its budget. The Gulf states, however, have become increasingly frustrated by Palestinian resistance to negotiations and compromise with Israel. The Abraham Accords signaled a major change in their position after years of insisting Israel permit the establishment of a Palestinian state before any Gulf state would normalize relations with Israel. Palestinian condemnation of the agreements by Bahrain and the UAE further aggravated the people and leaders of the region.

The shift in policy is also reflected in the reduction of aid to the PA. According to the Anadolu Agency, funding from Arab countries dramatically decreased from $265.5 million in 2019 to $40 million in 2020. The biggest reduction was from Saudi Arabia, which reduced its assistance more than 80 percent from $174.7 million to $32.5 (Mohammad Farid Mahmoud Abdullah and Zeynep Tufekci Gulay, “Palestinian funding from Arab states down 85% in 2020,” Anadolu Agency, March 3, 2021).

Worldwide financial aid to Palestine declined from $538.3 million in 2019 to $369.7 million in 2020.

MYTH

Palestinians are fairly distributing COVID vaccines.

FACT

For weeks, leaders of the Palestinians and their supporters have complained, with help from gullible and sympathetic journalists, that they are being denied medical equipment and vaccines to fight the pandemic by the heartless Israelis. The truth is that Israel has no obligation to provide them medical supplies under the Oslo Accords because the Palestinians wanted to be responsible for health care in the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Nevertheless, Israel has provided testing, PPE, and vaccines. Palestinian authorities sometimes denied they accepted anything from Israel and turned down access to life-saving resources (e.g., “Palestinian Authority rejects UAE aid sent via Israeli airport,” Al Jazeera, May 21, 2020). PA President Mahmoud Abbas  went so far as to bar sick Palestinians (except VIPs like Saeb Erekat) from going to Israel’s world-class hospitals (Daniel Estrin and Scott Neuman,” Top Palestinian Official Receiving COVID-19 Treatment In Israeli Hospital,” NPR, October 19, 2020).

Even as Israel began to vaccinate more than 100,000 Palestinian workers, it continued to be criticized for having the chutzpah to put its own citizens’ health ahead of people who wish they were dead. Doesn’t anyone see the irony in Palestinians demanding help from a country their maps say does not exist?

Why would Palestinians want vaccines from people they frequently accuse of poisoning them? The latest version of this “big lie” is that Israel is using the coronavirus to kill terrorists in Israeli jails (Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Libel: Israel's newest “war crime” is “killing” Palestinian prisoners with the ‎Coronavirus – official PA daily op-ed,” Palestine Media Watch, (February 28, 2021).

The truth?

By the end of January 2021, Israel had begun vaccinating Palestinian prisoners while millions of Israeli citizens were still waiting for their shots (Maurice Hirsch, “Israel vaccinates imprisoned terrorists against the Coronavirus and the PA ‎spreads libels,” Palestine Media Watch, (January 28, 2021).

It’s like expecting a Black American progressive supporter of the Palestinians to say to their grandparents, “Sorry, grandma and grandpa. You’ll have to wait for your vaccine. We need to make sure the white supremacists get their vaccines first because, after all, they’re people too, America has a responsibility to take care of them, and the virus knows no difference between the vulnerable elderly and racists.”

Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. Does anyone believe the Palestinians would be giving Israelis vaccinations at all, let alone before their own people?

Never mind Israelis, just look at how the Palestinians treat their own people. The PA has begun receiving more vaccines and it is clear where the priorities lie. The PA’s corrupt leaders are secretly diverting the first doses for themselves, their cronies, sympathetic members of the Palestinian media, and members of  the national soccer team (Adam Rasgon and Patrick Kingsley, “As Palestinians Clamor for Vaccine, Their Leaders Divert Doses to Favored Few,” New York Times, March 3, 2021).

What about the elderly? The people with preexisting conditions? Refugees in crowded camps?

They’re not essential for the autocrats and kleptocrats in Ramallah and Gaza. They are even less of a priority for the BDS advocates, the Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others who hate Israel more than they care for the Palestinians. As with the persistent human rights abuses by Palestinians, they are disinterested.

The truly helpless Palestinians are those living under PA and Hamas exploitation. Unlike their supposed champions abroad, they have no illusions about their leaders who they recognize as corrupt, immoral, abusive, and self-interested. This is why polls show, for example, that 86% believe PA institutions are corrupt and the overwheming majority (66%) of Palestinians want Abbas to resign (“Public Opinion Poll No (78),” PCPSR, December 15, 2020).

Meanwhile, a Palestinian civil society organization has demanded an investigation into “the process of vaccine distribution, to hold to account those who violated the distribution principles, and to publish Covid19 vaccination plan” (Aman, March 2, 2021).

Imagine how life would change if instead of appeasing Palestinian leaders, the UN, EU, and United States focused their pressure on reforming Palestinian government and society. No one can talk seriously about a peace process before a new generation of leaders emerge who believe in democracy, the rule of law, coexistence with Israel – and taking care of the health of their people.

MYTH

Palestinians have the right to sell land to Jews.

FACT

In 1996, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mufti, Ikremah Sabri, issued a fatwa (religious decree), banning the sale of Arab and Muslim property to Jews. Anyone who violated the order was to be killed (Storer H. Rowley, “Land Sales Becoming A Weapon In Battle For Jerusalem,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1997). At least three land dealers were killed that year. Six years later, the head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, General Tawfik Tirawi, admitted his men were responsible for the murders (Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA Security Official Admits Responsibility for Murder of Palestinians,” Jerusalem Post, August 19, 2002).

On May 5, 1997, PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein announced that the death penalty would be imposed on anyone convicted of ceding “one inch” to Israel. Later that month, two Arab land dealers were killed. PA officials denied any involvement in the killings. A year later, another Palestinian suspected of selling land to Jews was murdered. The PA has also arrested suspected land dealers for violating the Jordanian law (in force in the West Bank), which prohibits the sale of land to foreigners (“The Occupied Territories: Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997,” State Department, January 30, 1998).

During the Palestinian War, few, if any Palestinians tried to sell land to Jews, but the prohibition remained in effect. Now that the war is over, the persecutions have begun again. In April 2006, Muhammad Abu al-Hawa was tortured and murdered because allegedly sold an apartment building in Israel’s capital city to Jews. Since the Mufti forbade Muslims accused of selling land to Jews from being buried in a Muslim cemetery, al-Hawa was laid to rest in a makeshift cemetery on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho (Caroline Glick, “Our World: Why is Muhammad Abu al-Hawa dead?” Jerusalem Post, April 18, 2006).

In April 2009, the Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, issued another warning against selling homes or properties to Jews.  Sheikh Tamimi reiterated that those who violated the ban, including those who rented to Jews and real estate agents and middlemen facilitating transactions, would be accused of high treason and face the death penalty (Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA: Death penalty for those who sell land to Jews,” Jerusalem Post, April 1, 2009). Later that month, a Palestinian Authority military court found a Palestinian man guilty of selling land to Jews and sentenced him to death by hanging (Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA court: Death to man who sold land to Jews,” Jerusalem Post, April 29, 2009).

In 2014, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced a decree that any Palestinian who sells land “to a hostile country or its citizens” would be punished with “life imprisonment with forced labor.” The Supreme Fatwa Council, chaired by the PA Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, said  that “anyone selling Palestinian real estate to the enemy a traitor to Allah and His Messenger, as well as to his religion and homeland, and [decreed that] he is to be shunned by all Muslims” (Official PA TV, October 21, 23, 2014, Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Abbas Decrees Life Imprisonment for Selling Land to Israelis,” Palestinian Media Watch, January 6, 2015).

In January 2016, an Israeli news program aired secretly recorded footage showing a prominent Israeli activist, Ezra Nawi, saying that he had turned in Palestinians who wanted to sell West Bank land to Jews to the Palestinian security services, who then killed them (“Israeli Leftist Taped Trying to Set Up Palestinians Who Seek to Sell Land to Jews,” Haaretz, January 8, 2016).

In 2018, an American-Palestinian, Isaam Akel, was convicted of selling land in East Jerusalem to Jews and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. At the time, 88% of Palestinians said Palestinians who sell land to Jews were “traitors” and 64% believed they should receive a death sentence (Maurice Hirsch, “The PA’s Apartheid land laws,” Palestinian Media Watch, December 31, 2018).

The PA continues to prosecute its own citizens for contributing to the “Judaization of the Palestinian lands.” On January 27, 2021, for example, a court in Bethlehem sentenced a man to 15 years hard labor for selling land to Jews (Quds Net News Agency, January 27, 2021).

In April 2021, a new fatwa was issued by the preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Ikrimah Sabri, saying it is permitted to kill anyone who sells land to Jews (“Khatib Al-Aqsa issues a Sharia fatwa regarding the diversion or sale of real estate to settlement associations,” Sama News Agency, April 8, 2021).

The silence over this policy discriminating against Jews is yet another example of how human rights crusaders, especially those critical of Israel, turn a blind eye to Palestinian abuses. Where else in the world is it a crime to sell land to Jews?

MYTH

Rejoining the Human Rights Council will allow the U.S. to reform the organization.

FACT

The worst example of how the UN is used by the anti-Semites rather than standing against them, is the Human Rights Council. The HRC was established in 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights, which had become a travesty after allowing some of the worst human rights violators to participate in deliberations and to adopt a steady stream of one-sided condemnations of Israel. The General Assembly created a new body ostensibly to erase the stain on the UN created by the original organization. Within a few months, however, the new Council proved to be worse than the original.

The lofty idea of monitoring and promoting human rights around the world was long ago subverted by the HRC, which has become a forum for some of the world’s worst human rights abusers to escape scrutiny and direct their opprobrium almost exclusively toward one state – Israel, the only country in the Middle East that respects human rights. In fact, the HRC has “condemned Israel more than all other nations of the world combined” without ever censuring countries such as China, Russia, Cuba and Zimbabwe” (Clifford D. May, “United Nations Human Rights Council delegitimizes Israel,” Washington Times, February 18, 2020).

Outraged by the bias of the council, the Trump administration withdrew its membership and funding in 2018. U.S ambassador Nikki Haley called the HRC a “protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” adding the U.S. did not want to “remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights” so as not to “provide it with any credibility” (Conor Finnegan, “US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council,” ABC News, June 19, 2018; Lauren Wolfe, “Trump’s Insidious Reason for Leaving the UN Human Rights Council,” The Atlantic, June 20, 2018).

The Biden administration, however, is returning to the HRC, initially as an observer, but eventually plans to become a full member. “We know that the Council has the potential to be an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world,” a U.S. State Department official said. “By being present at the table, we seek to reform it and ensure it can live up to that potential” (“US President Joe Biden seeks to rejoin UN Human Rights Council,” DW, February 8, 2021). As an observer, however, the United States has no vote or influence and as a member it lacks a veto.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken acknowledged that the HRC “is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel.” By returning to the Counil, he argued, the U.S. will be able to exert a positive influence. “The best way to improve the Council, so it can achieve its potential, is through robust and principled US leadership,” he said. (@SecBlinken, February 8, 2021).

In the past, U.S. membership failed to produce needed reforms or end the demonization of Israel. During the Obama administration that Blinken served in, for example, the HRC voted to compile a blacklist of companies to aid the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement campaign to ostracize Israel. The vote was 32-0-15, receiving support from many of the world’s worst human rights abusers. Kuwait voted on behalf of the 22-member Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the 56-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, and Libya. The United States opposed creating a blacklist but abstained rather than vote against it (“The U.N.’s Anti-Israel Blacklist: Myths & Facts on the ‘Settlements Database,’” UN Watch, December 24, 2017; Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, “UN Human Rights Council Votes to Form ‘Blacklist’ of Companies Operating in Israeli Settlements,” Haaretz, March 24, 2018).

The most egregious example of anti-Israel bias at the HRC is the yearly discussion of agenda item 7. In June 2007, the Council included the “human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories” as a permanent part of the Council’s agenda. The United States strongly objected to the Council focusing primarily on human rights violations by Israel but could not prevent it from doing so. Obama’s ambassador to the HRC, Keith Harper, also futilely stated in 2015, “The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the very existence of agenda item 7 and any HRC resolutions that come from it” (Tovah Lazaroff, “US affirms it stands with Israel at UNHRC, continues Agenda Item 7 boycott,” Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2015).

A related problem is the “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.” The title says all you need to know about this position created in 1993 “to investigate Israel’s violations of the principles and bases of international law… in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.” Note the area is described as Palestinian territory, ignoring the Jewish history and claim to what is not occupied but disputed territory. As Professor Gerald Steinberg noted, “The individuals appointed to this position are well-known anti-Israel activists” (Gerald Steinberg, “Castles in the Air? The American Return to the UN Human Rights Council,” Fathom, February 2021).

One other example of the Council’s bias is that while Israel is routinely criticized for its behavior in the “occupied territories,” the only references by the HRC to terrorism are applied to “extremist Israelis” (Lahav Harkov, “UNHRC’s game is rigged, so Israel isn’t playing – Analysis,” Jerusalem Post, February 12, 2020).

It is understandable that President Biden would like to rejoin the HRC as part of his broader agenda to restore U.S. leadership in foreign affairs; however, history suggests America will be an impotent bystander lending credibility to an organization that shields human rights abusers and demonizes Israel.

MYTH

Israelis should be prosecuted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

FACT

The Palestinians have for years tried to convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge Israeli soldiers and politicians with war crimes. The approach to the ICC is part of the desperate effort by Palestinians to find some international body that will force Israel to capitulate to their demands. Nothing the ICC can do, however, will bring the Palestinians one iota closer to statehood. Nevertheless, they cheered the court’s decision on February 5, 2021, claiming jurisdiction in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza (Isabel Kershner, “I.C.C. Rules It Has Jurisdiction to Examine Possible Israel War Crimes,” New York Times, February 5, 2021).

Seven states were invited to submit opinions to the court. All seven asserted the “State of Palestine” does not presently satisfy the conditions to be considered a state because the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not control the territories.

The ICC judges voted 2-1 to accept the premise that since the PA joined the Rome Statute, it should be treated as a state. In dissent, Justice Péter Kovács, of Hungary rejected this argument and said the majority’s opinion has “no legal basis in the Rome Statute, and even less so, in public international law” (“The International Criminal Court and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” BICOM, (February 10, 2021).

When the decision was announced, the State Department issued a statement:

As we made clear when the Palestinians purported to join the Rome Statute in 2015, we do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and therefore are not qualified to obtain membership as a state, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC.

We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel. The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the UN Security Council.

Similarly, Israel rejected the decision because no sovereign Palestinian state exists. Other countries, including Germany, Hungary, Australia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Brazil, Uganda and Canada also expressed opposition to an ICC probe of Israel (Lahav Harkov, “Germany, Hungary join states opposing ICC probe of Israel,” Jerusalem Post, February 9, 2021). Israel has no right of appeal because it is not a member of the court.

The United States and Israel have consistently said they will not recognize the jurisdiction of the court over their citizens. In 2002, Israel and the United States signed an agreement which said that they would not extradite, transfer or surrender any citizens of the other state to the Court, or to a third country which may surrender them to the Court.

In June 2020, the Trump administration announced sanctions against the ICC and reiterated longstanding policy that Americans are not subject to its jurisdiction. The principal motivation for the decision was anger over the court’s investigation of alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan; however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly conferred in advance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israel’s concerns about the ICC during a trip to Jerusalem (Barak Ravid, “Trump administration coordinated ICC sanctions with Israel,” Axios, June 12, 2020).

In announcing the sanctions Pompeo said the United States is “also gravely concerned about the threat the court poses to Israel. The ICC is already threatening Israel with an investigation of so-called war crimes committed by its forces and personnel in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Given Israel’s robust civilian and military legal system and strong track record of investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing by military personnel, it’s clear the ICC is only putting Israel in its crosshairs for nakedly political purposes. It’s a mockery of justice” (“Secretary Michael R. Pompeo At a Press Availability with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Attorney General William Barr, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien,” U.S. Department of State, June 11, 2020).

Pompeo acknowledged receiving letters from a bipartisan group of 69 senators and 262 House members urging him to call on the ICC to halt its “politically motivated” investigations of Israel and the United States. “That’s what the U.S. is dead set on doing, and with good reason,” Pompeo declared. “They’re a trusted and wonderful partner and a buttress of American security. If a rogue court can intimidate our friend or any other ally into abrogating its right to self-defense, that puts Americans at risk as well.”

Netanyahu applauded the U.S. decision, calling the ICC “corrupt,” “biased” and “politicized.” He accused the court of fabricating “outlandish charges,” such as that “Jews living in their historic homeland constitutes a war crime” (Noa Landau, “U.S. Decision to Sanction International Crime Court Was Coordinated With Israel, Source Says,” Haaretz, June 12, 2020).

The court’s decision to claim jurisdiction does not automatically mean that Israelis will be investigated. The prosecutor may begin an investigation, however, the current one behind the push to go after Israel will be replace in June and her successor may choose not to pursue charges.

At worst, the ICC could charge and potentially convict some Israelis of war crimes. It will take some time to identify suspects, however, and the standard for such prosecutions is high. The ICC has only prosecuted 30 cases since the court was created in 2002, winning only nine convictions (International Criminal Court). It is unlikely the court would have better luck finding fault with the democratically elected leaders of Israel or the soldiers of the IDF. Israel would fight any prosecution vigorously and, like the United States, refuse to recognize the court’s jurisdiction over its citizens.

As with other bodies, such as the Human Rights Council, the focus on Israel, a democracy with an independent judiciary that investigates accusations of abuse, represents a double standard. The ICC is not investigating blatant crimes committed by serial human rights abusers such as Turkey, China, and Russia. It has not, for example, charged Syria’s Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his citizens.

Another implication of the decision is to potentially prevent the Biden administration from restoring aid to the Palestinians. The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (pp. 1256-57) says that no Economic Support Funds can be provided to the if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”

The Palestinians should also be careful what they wish for because Israel could bring charges against the terrorists in “Palestine,” for whom the evidence of war crimes is overwhelming. Rather than standing at the head of an independent state, Mahmoud Abbas could find himself in the dock facing imprisonment as a war criminal for his responsibility in inciting violence.

MYTH

Israeli settler population surged during Trump era.

FACT

This was the headline of a story from the Associated Press which was published around the world (Joseph Krauss, “Israeli settler population surged during Trump era,” AP, January 27, 2021). The implication is that President Trump’s policy toward Israel was responsible for, or at least allowed, a dramatic growth in the number of Jews living in the West Bank. The headline was at best misleading.

The text of the story reports that the “settler population has grown at a far higher rate than the country as a whole over the last four years.” While Trump was more sympathetic than any past president, and his administration officially stated settlements are not illegal, the total number of settlers increased by fewer than 55,000, a smaller figure than during the administrations of three of his last four predecessors. This was an increase of only 13% from the end of the Obama administration. Despite his hostility to settlements, the population increased nearly 130,000 during Obama’s term. At the beginning of George H.W. Bush’s term, only 76,000 Jews lived in the territories. When he left office, the figure had increased 62% to 123,000. Today, more than 450,000 Jews live in the territories.

Israel’s settlement policy is sometimes associated with the policies of American administrations. President George H.W. Bush, for example, instituted a policy of deducting spending for settlements from loan guarantees provided to Israel. During Obama’s first year in office, he convinced Israel to freeze settlement construction for 10 months. By contrast, President Trump was more tolerant of Israeli settlement expansion.

Baruch Gordon, the director of West Bank Jewish Population Stats, told Krauss, “I don’t think any American president can influence that much, because growth on the ground is (dependent on) internal Israeli government decisions on how much construction to do and not to do.”

Moreover, as Krauss correctly noted, “Many settlers are religious Jews who tend to have larger families, driving population growth, and many Israelis are drawn to the settlements because they offer more affordable housing.”

MYTH

An Israeli human rights organization accurately compared Israel to South Africa.

FACT

B’Tselem calls itself an Israeli human rights organization, but it has become one of the go-to sources for reporters looking to demonize Israel (Seth J Frantzman, “B’Tselem’s Israel ‘apartheid’ accusation masks its own sinister agenda,” The JC January 14, 2021). It was, therefore, not surprising the group’s latest report accusing Israel of seeking to achieve Jewish supremacy by treating the Palestinians much like white South Africans once victimized blacks would get banner headlines and be reported uncritically. Typical was an article repeating the myth about Israel denying Palestinians COVID vaccines, which gave credence to another big lie by quoting from the report without any response from Israel (Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel’s vaccine success can’t hide a deeper divide,” Washington Post, January 12, 2021).

The inflammatory accusations basically come down to examples of how Palestinians in the disputed territories are treated differently than Israelis without providing any context for those distinctions. B’Tselem cannot say Israel is like white-ruled South Africa because a) the Palestinians are not a race and b) Israel does not discriminate them because they are Palestinian. Instead, the group claims Israeli bigotry is based on nationality and ethnicity even though people of the same ethnicity, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, are treated equally under the laws of Israel. Nevertheless, In an interview, B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El-Ad tried to compare Israel to South Africa while simultaneously making distinctions between them. He said, for example, the practice of designating beaches and benches for use only by whites were “petty aspects” of the Afrikaner regime and such signs are “rare” in Israel though he does not present any examples (Masha Gessen, “Why an Israeli Human-Rights Organization Decided to Call Israel an Apartheid Regime,” The New Yorker, January 27, 2021). 

The report asserts that Palestinians live “between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule.” This is false. More than 90 percent of Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Like other groups that complain about the treatment of Palestinians, B’Tselem is uninterested in the freedoms denied to those Palestinians by their leaders. It also has nothing to say about Palestinian discrimination against Jews exemplified by the crime of selling land to Jews.

Many journalists are equally myopic. In an article about the report, for example, Masha Gessen says Palestinians are forbidden to protest in the territories without a permit as if this is discriminatory. In the United States, protestors usually need permits. In the PA, no protests are allowed unless they are organized or endorsed by the authorities to support their policies.

B’Tselem wants Israel to treat Palestinians in the territories the same way it treats Israeli citizens even though those Palestinians have no desire to be Israelis. B’Tselem may not like it, but to paraphrase an American Express commercial, citizenship has its privileges.

The report says Israel is “Judaizing” the area it controls “based on the mindset that land is a resource meant almost exclusively to benefit the Jewish public.” This is one of many contradictions in the report. If Israel controls the land from the river to the sea, where is the evidence it is “Judaizing” Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin or the other Palestinian towns? If Israel was committed to cement its supremacy over the Palestinians, why did it withdraw from the entire Gaza Strip? How have the towns in Israel populated by Druze, Bedouins, and other Arabs been “Judaized”?

As Seth Frantzman put it, “How can Jews be privileged in Gaza, which is Judenrein, and where an anti-Semitic terror group is in charge? Are Jews privileged in Ramallah, under a leadership that has pushed Holocaust revisionism and denied the Jewish people’s historic connection to the land of Israel?”

B’Tselem takes for granted that Israel has no claim to the disputed territories. How is it “Judaizing” territories that are historically Jewish?

As Frantzman also notes, rather than Judaization of the territories Israel has offered the Palestinians multiple opportunities for independence. If the Palestinians had not rejected every one, these issues would be moot.

Furthermore, while nearly two million Arabs live in Israel, the Palestinians say their state would, like Gaza, be Judenrein, which doesn’t seem to bother any of Israel’s critics (Noah Browning, “Abbas wants ‘not a single Israeli’ in future Palestinian state,” Reuters, July 29, 2013). Also, why isn’t the same concern raised about the “Palestinianization” of Judea and Samaria? And has B’tselem considered how Jews would be treated if the Palestinians achieved their objective of being the single ruler from the river to the sea?

B’Tselem admits that Israel allows Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to vote in municipal elections, but leaves out that most choose not to. They acknowledge Palestinian elections have not been held since 2006, but dismiss them as essentially meaningless because Israel “retains major governance” in the territories. That absence of democracy does not trouble B’Tselem. They also ignore the Oslo Accords the Palestinians signed which grant them control over most aspects of the lives of the people living in the Palestinian Authority.

Prof. Eugene Kontorovich also notes that Israelis are not allowed to vote in the Palestinian Authority “because it is a different and independent government – even though it passes laws that greatly affect Israelis, like the “pay for slay” rewards program for terrorists” (Eugene Kontorovich, “Refuting Btselem’s Israel-Apartheid Accusation,” Kohelet Policy Forum, January 13, 2021).

Especially glaring is the omission of any discussion of Israel’s security needs. In fact, the word “security” does not appear in the report. B’Tselem condemns Israel for restricting Palestinians’ movement and using checkpoints without acknowledging they are necessary because of past and ongoing attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israel. The report gives examples of Israel limiting Palestinians’ movements in and out of the territories but doesn’t mention that prior to the pandemic more than 100,000 worked in Israel.

B’Tselem cites Israel’s Nation-State law as enshrining Jewish “supremacy” as a “binding constitutional principle.” The report repeats both legitimate and illegitimate criticism of the law. As Kontorovich notes, “While the wisdom of the Nation State law can be criticized,” it is nothing like the laws of South Africa “and instead closely resembles numerous European democratic constitutional provisions.”

“Israel’s military rule in the West Bank may be imperfect,” Frantzman acknowledges,  “but Israelis and Palestinians will link arms to resist an attempt to impose a single state upon them.”

Kontorovich concludes B’Tselem’s report is not only false and defamatory, it is anti-Semitic because “it accuses Jews, uniquely among the peoples of the world, of one of the most heinous crimes, while also judging the Jewish state by a metric not applied to any other country.” He adds, “the clear agenda is to entirely delegitimize Israel” and seek not reform but “the abolition of the regime itself and a total reshaping of the government.”

MYTH

Palestinian authorities do not demolish Palestinian homes.

FACT

Israel is pilloried when it demolishes Palestinian homes even though it is done legally. Most often the buildings are constructed without the required permits or in areas where they are not allowed. Nevertheless, the UN, the Europeans, pro-Palestinian organizations, and the media routinely condemn Israel.

Where are they when Palestinians commit human rights abuses toward their own people, as happens every day in Gaza and the West Bank?

It is unlikely you are aware, for example, that Hamas has forcibly expelled residents from their homes in Rafah. Replace the word “Hamas” with “Israel” and you can be sure the story would be subject to a report by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch and prompt a banner headline in the New York Times. Since Israel is not involved, you must have access to the Arab media to learn that Hamas is expropriating land “leaving many citizens homeless and jobless” (Rasha Abou Jalal, “Hamas forcibly expels residents from their homes in Rafah,” Al-Monitor, January 8, 2021).

Rasha Abou Jalal reported that without warning Hamas uprooted trees and bulldozed the homes and farms of 23 families that have lived in the area for decades. The homes had to be cleared so Hamas could expand the Rafah land crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt for commercial purposes.

Hamas authorities insisted the government owned the land and the residents did not have deeds proving their ownership. While Israel allows Palestinians to challenge its actions in court, the Palestinians who lost their homes were not given the opportunity to contest the decision and present the evidence they possessed showing they owned their property. Instead, homeowners who protested were assaulted and nine were arrested.

This is just one more example of how Palestinian abuses toward their own people go unnoticed and uncriticized in the West. The “human rights” organizations are silent as are those advocating the Palestinian cause who see no evil unless it can be blamed on Israel. The same is true for the UN, which would never consider a resolution critical of the Palestinians, and the Europeans who have subsidized illegal construction by Palestinians in areas controlled by Israel.

MYTH

Israel is denying COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians.

FACT

Major news outlets have been repeating this calumny even when they know it is false. Ishaan Tharoor, for example, wrote in the Washington Post that Israel is giving vaccines to Jewish settlers but not Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “Israeli officials contend that these Palestinians don’t fall under their jurisdiction under the terms of the Oslo accords and that it is the job of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to procure and distribute vaccines in the occupied territories” (Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel’s vaccine success can’t hide a deeper divide,” Washington Post, January 12, 2021).

Typical of the anti-Israel bias that appears all too often in the press, Tharoor accepts Amnesty International’s assertion that “Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones” while devaluing the position of Israeli officials who contend they have no obligation to vaccinate the Palestinians. Tharoor need only read the Oslo accords to see it is a fact, not a point of debate.

Indeed, Article VI of the Oslo agreement transferred responsibility for health and social welfare in the disputed territories to the Palestinians. Israel has no obligation to provide vaccines to the PA, though it could decide to do so on a humanitarian basis after inoculating its own population.

Tharoor’s story even acknowledges the Palestinians have not requested assistance from Israel, but quotes the Palestinian Foreign Ministry’s false claim that Israel is responsible for providing vaccines and is “committing racial discrimination against the Palestinian people.”

Palestinians are not a race, of course, and the idea Israel is discriminating against Arabs is easily disproven by the fact that Israeli Arabs are receiving the vaccination.

Moreover, a PA Ministry of Health official told the Jerusalem Post, “We are working on our own to obtain the vaccine from a number of sources.” He added, “We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of Health, and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.” Another official said the PA had obtained vaccines from other sources with the help of the World Health Organization (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinians: We didn't ask Israel for COVID-19 vaccine,” Jerusalem Post, December 21, 2020).

For months, Israel has been offering and providing assistance to the PA to fight the pandemic, but the Palestinians repeatedly rejected offers of aid and even blocked sick people from going to Israeli hospitals. Exceptions are made for VIPs, however, and Saeb Erekat, who spent his career demonizing Israel, went to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem after contracting COVID (Daniel Estrin and Scott Neuman,” Top Palestinian Official Receiving COVID-19 Treatment In Israeli Hospital,” NPR, October 19, 2020).

When the Palestinians did ask for vaccines in January 2021, the Israeli government shipped 100 doses to the PA. Another shipment was also on the way (Netael Bandel, “After Denial, Israel Says It Provided COVID Vaccines to Palestinian Authority,” Haaretz, January 13, 2021). The Palestinian Ministry of Health denied, however, that it had received any COVID-19 vaccinations from Israel and continued to insist it would take responsibility for inoculations (“Ministry of Health dismisses reports about receiving vaccinations from Israel, WAFA, January 7, 2021).

While the PA rejects Israeli help, a group of 10 Israeli, Palestinian and international health and “human rights” organizations called for Israel to provide vaccinations to the Palestinians (“Joint Statement: 10 Israeli, Palestinian and international health and human rights organizations: Israel must provide necessary vaccines to Palestinian health care systems,” Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, December 22, 2020). This is typical of the hypocrisy of such organizations, several of which support the anti-Semitic BDS movement and have campaigned against any contact with Israel because it would signify normalization with a nation they believe should not exist.

The attacks on Israel continued, ignoring that the PA struck deals in January with four vaccine companies that would provide enough vaccines for 70 percent of the population with the WHO expected to provide doses for most of the rest. In early February, the PA received 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The day before Israel delivered 2,000 vaccines to the West Bank.

The PA only shipped vaccines to Gaza (with Israeli permission) on February 17, 2021. Some Palestinians were concerned Hamas would use them for its leaders rather than those intended – dialysis patients and people undergoing transplants, followed by medical workers.

On February 19, 2021, officials from Israel’s Health Ministry met with their counterparts in Ramallah. “Understanding that Israel and the Palestinians live in one area and that an outbreak of COVID-19 among the Palestinian Authority may also affect the infection rate among Israeli residents, senior ministry officials visited with the PA Health Ministry and received a briefing on the coronavirus situation in the PA, morbidity data and the epidemiological investigations that are taking place,” the ministry said in a statement.

The PA Health Ministry subsequently announced it had reached an agreement with the Israeli Health Ministry to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel (Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman and Khaled Abu Toameh, “Coronavirus: Israel to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinian workers,” Jerusalem Post, February 20, 2021). 

On February 22, 2021, Israel opened a center at the Qalandiyah checkpoint to enable East Jerusalem residents who cannot enter Israel to get vaccinated. Haaretz reported Magen David Adom (MDA) has initiated a  vaccination campaign in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem to address the high rate of infection there (Nir Hasson, “Israel Opens Vaccination Center at Checkpoint to Reach Palestinian East Jerusalem Residents,” Haaretz, February 23, 2021).

The prime minister’s office discloseed on February 23, 2021, that Israel provided vaccines for medical staff in the PA (Lahav Harkov, “Israel donates COVID vaccines to Palestinian Authority, other countries,” Jerusalem Post, February 23, 2021).

While Israel continues to be criticized for prioritizing vaccinating its citizens over the Palestinians, Italy blocked the export of vaccine doses to Australia in early March 2021 due to supply shortages in the EU, and France was considering taking similar action to ensure it has enough vaccines to meet domestic demands (Nicola Ruotolo, James Frater and Zamira Rahim, “Italy blocks eport of Covid-19 vaccine doses to Australia, using EU powers for the first time,” CNN, March 4, 2021; Barbara Wojazer, “France could follow Italy and block vaccine shipments, health minister says,” CNN, March 5, 2021).

Meanwhile, Palestinians are potentially spreading the virus inside Israel due to their failure to abide by health guidelines when visiting the Temple Mount. Thousands gather each week, especially on Friday, many without masks or making any effort to maintain the required social distance. They may infect each other as well as many others when they return to their neighborhoods.

“The Temple Mount has become a hotbed of COVID infection at a level that is hard to grasp,” notes Nadav Shragai. “When we add the crowded housing conditions in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, where people continue to gather and law enforcement is virtually nonexistent, we get a chain of infection that kills Jews and Arabs alike” (Nadav Shragai, “Temple Mount has turned into ‘Corona Mount,’” Israel Hayom, December 20, 2020).

In February 2021, Israel wanted to open a coronavirus vaccination station in the Temple Mount area, but the request was rejected by Abbas who didn’t want to give Jews access to the area. Israel then suggested that the vaccinations be administered by Arab Israeli paramedics dressed in clothes that bear no markings of Israeli medical establishments. That offer was also turned down (“Abbas said to veto Israeli vaccination station on Temple Mount,” Times of Israel, (ebruary 25, 2021).

On June 18, 2021, Israel agreed to send 1.4 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the PA in exchange for receiving a similar number of doses from the PA in October when it is expected to receive a shipment. Shortly after the deal was announced, however, the PA cancelled it because the health minister said the vaccines were going to expire too soon for them to be administered. The PA had already received 90,000 doses but returned them to Israel. The decision was particularly ironic given that Israel was condemned for a year for not doing more to help the Palestinians deal with the pandemic (Ali Sawafta and Rami Ayyub, “Palestinians cancel deal for near-expired COVID vaccines from Israel,” Reuters, June 18, 2021).

MYTH

America’s Arab allies support U.S. positions at the UN.

FACT

The United States provides a security umbrella for its allies in the Arab world. It also has provided them with billions of dollars in weapons and frequently supports their political ambitions. In addition to arms sales, for example, the Trump administration also did little to discourage the Saudi-led embargo against Qatar even though Qatar is the site of a major U.S. military base. Trump defended rather than punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is accused of directing the assassination of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The administration also supported Saudi intervention in Yemen over congressional objections and sided with the Sunni states against Iran.

If those allies are grateful, it does not show at the UN where, year after year, they vote against the United States, and not just on resolutions related to Israel. In 2019, 100 resolutions passed with a vote in the UN General Assembly, 17 of which were characterized as anti-Israel by the United States. Among the Arab states, Sudan surprisingly voted with the United States most often, but still just 29 percent of the time. As a group, the Arab states voted against the United States on 78 percent of the resolutions. Somalia was at the bottom of the list, opposing the United States 91 percent of the time; Syria was next at 88 percent.

By comparison, Israel has consistently been at or near the top of the list of America’s top UN allies. In 2019, Israel was far ahead of the pack, voting with the United States 96 percent of the time, followed by Micronesia (73 percent). Major U.S. allies such as Canada (66  percent), Australia (66 percent), Great Britain (64 percent), and France (60 percent) lagged far behind.

An “Israel-related” matter is defined by the United States as “any resolution specifically mentioning the state or territory of Israel. The titles and context of these resolutions usually remain the same in the annual scapegoating with almost two-dozen one-sided resolutions against Israel (compared to less than a half-dozen country-specific resolutions on the rest of the world combined).”

The State Department reported in 2019:

Of 193 UN member states, 27 countries voted at least once against any of the 16 anti-Israel resolutions, seven more countries than last year’s 20. Eleven countries (Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Estonia, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia) joined the list, while four (France, Togo, Moldova, and Japan) dropped off. Note that neither Jordan nor Egypt, which have peace agreements with Israel, voted with Israel and the United States even once (United States Department of State).

MYTH

The Trump peace plan does not offer the Palestinians a capital in Jerusalem.

FACT

Critics falsely argued the Trump peace plan is not consistent with a two-state solution. In fact, it specifically provides for a Palestinian state and goes into great detail about various elements of that state including its borders, treatment of refugees, and security obligations. It also meets the Palestinian demand that Jerusalem serve as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Palestinians object to where in Jerusalem the capital is to be established. They maintain the fantasy that they will control all East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and will fly their flag over Judaism’s holiest place – the Temple Mount. The Trump plan recognizes this is never going to happen. Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a state with a capital in Jerusalem and sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods and control of Muslim holy places. Ehud Olmert made a similar proposal to Mahmoud Abbas. Both Arafat and Abbas decided to prove Abba Eban’s observation that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

The Trump plan offered the Palestinians a third chance to establish a state with a capital in Jerusalem, this time based in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, which is part of the Jerusalem Governorate of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians reacted with outrage at the idea. “We will not accept Abu Dis or Al-Eizariya, as the capital of the Palestinian State,” Abbas declared after the plan was released (“Abbas: We will not accept Abu Dis or Al-Eizariya as capital of Palestinian State,” Middle East Monitor, February 8, 2020).

Abbas, however, accepted the idea 25-years earlier when he reached an agreement with Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin to establish the Palestinian capital in Abu Dis. That agreement was never officially signed by either side; nevertheless, the following year, the Palestinians constructed a parliament building in Abu Dis. The failure of the Oslo peace talks following an upsurge in Palestinian terror attacks erased the chance of creating a state based on the Oslo Accords.

The parliament building is still standing, albeit in disrepair, awaiting the arrival of a Palestinian legislature should the Palestinians ever agree to a peace agreement.