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Myths & Facts

By Mitchell Bard

Chapter 8

Palestinians oppose terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority prevents and condemns terrorism.
Palestinians do not encourage children to engage in terror.
Terrorism directed at Israel is motivated by politics, not religion.
Israel created Hamas.
Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas are freedom fighters.
Palestinian women become suicide bombers to liberate Palestine.
Israel’s policy of targeted killings is immoral and counterproductive.
Palestinian terrorists only attack Israelis; they never assault Americans.
Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount caused the al-Aqsa intifada.


Palestinians oppose terrorism.


Let us stipulate that Palestinians are unhappy living under Israeli rule and face many hardships. The question they face is how to improve their situation and, ideally, achieve independence.

To their misfortune, Palestinian leaders have eschewed the one way to reach their goals: negotiation. Instead, since well before Israel’s capture of the West Bank in 1967, Palestinians have chosen the path of violence in the misguided belief that they can either inflict enough pain on Israelis to force them to capitulate to their demands or draw enough sympathy to their plight that the international community will pressure Israel on their behalf. The failure of these strategies over nearly 80 years has not convinced them to eschew terror and embrace compromise.

Worse, Palestinian leaders have engaged in constant incitement through sermons, social and conventional media, education, and acculturation, which has inspired men, women, and even children to engage in terrorism. Palestinians have been encouraged to seek martyrdom rather than become doctors, lawyers, and scientists. Rather than peaceful demonstrations, suicide bombing became a form of Palestinian “protest.”

Israel’s agreement to negotiate with the PLO was predicated on Yasser Arafat’s commitment to cease all violence. The promise of the Oslo agreements was sabotaged by Arafat’s refusal to fulfill this obligation and the terrorism that has continued unabated.

Israelis are also aware of the incitement by the Palestinian Authority and the widespread support for “resistance.” Support for a violent uprising reached as high as 54% in polls of Palestinians in 2021. Other polls found a third or more of Palestinians favoring armed struggle. Perhaps more alarming was a Pew survey, which found that 62% of Palestinian Muslims said suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified to defend Islam from its enemies. The results were nearly equal in Hamas-ruled Gaza (64%) and the Fatah-governed West Bank (60%).1

In an analysis of polls conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Daniel Polisar found a consistent approval pattern for generic terror attacks against Israelis. What was more disturbing, however, is that when Palestinians were asked their opinions about specific assaults that resulted in the death of Jews, their level of support increased dramatically.2

In March 2016, for example, 60% of Palestinians supported “attacks against Israeli civilians within Israel.” In June, 65% said they approved a suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus that wounded more than twenty Israelis.

Polisar concludes that “would-be terrorists contemplating an attack can be reasonably confident that if they succeed in killing or injuring Israeli civilians, their actions will earn support and praise in their society—for themselves, their families, and the militant group to which they belong, whether or not they live to enjoy it personally. Indeed, they will be seen as heroes, not only in the communiques of Hamas, but in the minds of rank-and-file Palestinians.”

People looking for reasons why peace has not been achieved should recognize the role terrorism plays in reinforcing Israeli fears that no concessions will end violence against them.


The bombing yesterday [August 9, 2001] of a crowded pizza restaurant in downtown Jerusalem, which killed at least 14 people and injured around 100, was an atrocity of the sort that must be distinguished from everything else that goes on in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. . . . [T]he deliberate targeting of civilians, including children . . . is a simple savagery that no country can reasonably be expected to tolerate.

Washington Post Editorial3


The Palestinian Authority prevents and condemns terrorism.


One of the three prerequisites to Israel’s recognition of the PLO and subsequent peace negotiations was that the Palestinians cease all terrorism against Israel. Yet, almost from the day Yasser Arafat sent this promise to Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, assaults have continued. The heinous attacks conducted in the 1990s sabotaged the Oslo process, and the second intifada, combined with the terror and rocket attacks following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, convinced most Israelis further territorial concessions would endanger their security.

Since the first Oslo agreement in September 1993, more than 1,600 Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. While it is true that cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) and Israeli security services has contributed to foiling many attacks, Israel could not be as effective if it did not maintain a presence in the West Bank.

In 2021, Palestinian terrorists conducted 54 significant terrorist attacks, the most since 2015. Three Israeli civilians were killed and 34 injured. In addition, there were about 1,700 incidents of rock-throwing and 350 involving Molotov cocktails.4  In 2022, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it foiled 500 terror attacks in the West Bank. The number of violent incidents by Palestinians, such as riots or stone-throwing, increased nearly 20% to 8,483. A total of 31 Israelis were killed – 23 civilians and eight members of the security forces were killed.5 

The Palestinian Authority lacks control over the Gaza Strip and the terrorists operating there but does not condemn their activities. During a meeting with members of Congress visiting the region in March 2022, for example, P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh dismissed the more than 4,000 rocket attacks during the violence in May 2021 as “fireworks.”6 Moreover, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly sought an alliance with Hamas, further eroding confidence in him as a “peace partner.”

The PA also glorifies and subsidizes violence against Israel. The PA incites violence through the media and indoctrinates students with a belief in martyrdom and hatred of Israel. Hundreds of schools, institutions, streets, squares, summer camps, sporting events, and festivals have been named after terrorists. For example, Muhannad Halabi, a terrorist who stabbed two Israelis to death in the Old City of Jerusalem, was called a “role model for generations of young” and honored with a memorial and a road named after him.7


The time has come for us to realize that using knives (shibrie) against the Jews will not yield us even a sliver of land (shiber), and we have to change our strategy. We need to talk to the Israelis and get our Palestinian state by peaceful means. They will give it to us: they have offered to do so many times already—otherwise we will not get it at all.

Bassam Tawil8


Rather than acting out of frustration, hatred of Israel, or a desire to “end the occupation,” many Palestinians are financially incentivized to kill Jews. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs convicted of terrorism are entitled to monthly stipends. Men who have served at least five years in Israeli jails, and women who served at least two, are entitled to these “salaries” for life. Despite severe financial difficulties caused partly by a significant reduction in international aid, the P.A. still paid roughly $193 million to prisoners and released terrorists and another $78 million to wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists in 2021.9

This pay-to-slay policy has been widely condemned, and in 2018, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act to cut American funding to the P.A. if it does not stop paying terrorists. Australia adopted a similar policy the same year. Israel also deducts the amount of money the P.A. pays terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the authority.


Palestinians do not encourage children to engage in terror.


Most Palestinians who adopt terror hoping to either end the “occupation” or destroy Israel do so because they freely choose murder over any other option. Palestinian terrorists also use children, however, to do their dirty work.

In one instance, Israeli security forces caught an eleven-year-old boy attempting to smuggle a bomb through a roadblock. Tanzim activists in Nablus promised the boy a large sum of money if he delivered a bag containing a bomb stuffed with bolts to a woman on the other side of the checkpoint. If the boy was stopped and searched, the terrorists who sent him planned to use a cell phone to immediately detonate the explosives he was carrying, murdering nearby soldiers and the boy. An alert Israeli soldier foiled the plan, and the bomb malfunctioned when the terrorists tried to detonate it remotely. A week later, a 14-year-old Palestinian child was found carrying explosives while attempting to pass through a checkpoint near Nablus.10 Teenagers were caught multiple times trying to smuggle bombs or weapons through the same checkpoint.11 In February 2022, a 14-year-old Palestinian was shot while throwing Molotov cocktails at civilian vehicles.12

Children are also taught that the greatest glory is to die for Allah in battle as a shahid (martyr). The PA regularly broadcasts television shows that encourage children to embrace this concept. For example, on the children’s show From My Country, which children host, Dalal Mughrabi was praised as a female Palestinian fighter who was called “the Bride of Jaffa.” Mughrabi and other Fatah terrorists hijacked a bus in 1978 and murdered 37 civilians, 12 of them children, and wounded over 70.13

The daughter of Hamas’ Ministry of Internal Affairs appeared in a video in May 2021 in which the young girl says, “If we die, we’ll die as martyrs for the sake of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa” and “We’ll return to Ashkelon, Haifa, Jaffa, Safed and Beit Shean – to all of Palestine, and we will pray at al-Aqsa…All of Palestine is one, and Israel will be destroyed.”14 In October, two young girls sang on PA TV: “In the name of freedom we’ll sacrifice our lives.”15

In December 2015, Israeli customs seized 4,000 Palestinian dolls wearing kaffiyehs covering their faces and holding up rocks so they resemble the young Arabs engaged in pelting Israelis. The intent is to teach young Palestinians that it is normal to throw rocks.16 But not just rocks. In January 2016, to celebrate the anniversary of Fatah’s 51 years of violence, children dressed as terrorists with masks, “toy” suicide belts, guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers marched through the streets of Bethlehem.17

The indoctrination is having an impact. According to one Palestinian newspaper, 79–80% of children told pollsters they were willing to be shahids.18 Palestinian children now play death games, competing to see who will be the shahid. They also collect “terrorist cards,” like American kids collect baseball cards. The maker of the Palestinian cards sold six million in just over two years. “I take hundreds of these pictures from children every day and burn them,” said Saher Hindi, a teacher at a Nablus elementary school. “They turn children into extremists.”19

Many Palestinian youngsters have gone from pretending to carrying out actual terrorist attacks. Dozens of minors have been involved in planning, attempting, and conducting suicide bombings. According to one study, 5% of the suicide bombings between 2000 and 2015 were carried out by Palestinians aged seventeen or under.20

As Israel began to have greater success in preventing these monstrous attacks, the Palestinians changed tactics and adopted a more low-tech approach to terror. During the wave of violence starting in October 2015 that became known as the “stabbing intifada,” at least 40 stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming attacks were conducted against Israeli civilians and security forces by Palestinian individuals under the age of 20. In one case, a 19-year-old Palestinian stabbed an 80-year-old Israeli woman riding a bus before exiting the vehicle and stabbing two more bystanders on the street.21 On another occasion, two Palestinian girls aged 14 and 16 attacked a 70-year-old Arab-Israeli with scissors in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market after mistaking the man for a Jew.22 In yet another attack, a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist snuck into a home in the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba and stabbed a sleeping thirteen-year-old American-Israeli girl to death.23

The use of children for terrorist attacks finally led some Palestinian families to protest. The mother of one of three teenagers sent to attack Jews in Afula said of the letter he had left behind, “My son doesn’t know how to write such a letter and never belonged to any groups. Someone older wrote this letter for him.” The boy’s father added, “Nobody can accept to send his children to be slaughtered. I am sure that whoever recruits children in this kind of unlawful activity will not recruit his own children.”24

Martin Fletcher interviewed the parents of a fifteen-year-old stopped at the Hawara checkpoint. His parents expressed anger at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, calling its operatives criminals and saying Allah would punish them. The correspondent spoke with the boy and read him a letter from his mother asking him to confess and give Israel all the information about the men who had sent him.25

Many of these attacks could be stopped if parents took steps to prevent their children from being radicalized and exploited, but too often, they express pride in the odious crimes their children commit.


As one of the Islamic fanatics who inspired al-Qaida said: “We are not trying to negotiate with you. We are trying to destroy you”. . . They wish to destroy the whole basis of Western society—secular democracy, individual liberty, equality before the law, toleration, and pluralism—and replace it with a theocracy based on a perverted and dogmatic interpretation of the Koran . . . The idea that we should try to appease the terrorists is wrong in every respect. It would not protect us, for nothing acts as a greater incentive to terrorists than the realization that their target is weak and frightened. And it would only weaken the institutions we are trying to protect, and demonstrate to the terrorists that we are—as they frequently allege—too decadent and craven to defend the way of life to which we claim to be attached.

London Daily Telegraph26



Terrorism directed at Israel is motivated by politics, not religion.


For many years, terrorism against Jews in the Middle East was stimulated primarily by political concerns. The Arab states used terror as a tool of warfare against Israel; Arabs angry over Israeli policies were often moved to violence, terror attracted international attention to the Palestinian cause, and bloodshed inflicted a human cost on Israelis for failing to capitulate to Palestinian demands.

At least since the days of the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s, however, religion has played a significant role in inciting violence against Jews.

Most Arabs are Muslims, but not all Muslims are Arabs. Many Muslims inside and outside the Middle East have been persuaded by spiritual leaders such as the Mufti and their own interpretation of the Koran that Jews are infidels who must submit to the will of Allah. Israeli Jews, moreover, are seen by radical Muslims as the cells in the cancerous body of Israel that is infecting the heart of Islam.

While never disappearing, the political conflict took precedence over the religious one for roughly thirty years following the establishment of Israel. The situation began to change dramatically, however, following the 1979 Iranian revolution when Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors began publicly calling for Israel’s destruction on religious grounds.27 Iran’s establishment of Hezbollah in Lebanon led to another escalation in anti-Semitic rhetoric, with the leaders of Hezbollah routinely calling for Israel’s annihilation.28

The emergence of Hamas in the Gaza Strip represented yet another step toward Islamizing the conflict. The Hamas covenant explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel—and Jews everywhere. For example, it states, “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. The Islamic Resistance Movement is but one squadron that should be supported . . . until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”29

Anti-Semitic sermons are commonplace in Palestinian mosques, courses in schools preach hatred of Jews based on Islamic teachings, and the media is filled with Islamic incitement. To cite a few examples:

Sheikh Khaled al-Mugrahbi delivered a sermon captured on video from a mosque on the Temple Mount in which he said, “We will go after the Jews everywhere. They won’t escape us. The Children of Israel will be wiped out.”30
Sheikh Omar Abu Sara offered a sermon at the al-Aqsa Mosque in which he called Jews “the most evil of Allah’s creations . . . the most evil creatures to have walked the earth.” He said that Allah turned Jews into “apes and pigs” and repeated the Hadith, which states that a final battle with the Jews is approaching in which the trees will say: “Oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim, there is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.” To ensure that his call for genocide was understood, the sheik added: “I say to the Jews loud and clear: The time for your slaughter has come.” And he beseeched Allah to “hasten the day of their slaughter.”31
The Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, Muhammad Hussein, said on official PA TV (September 18, 2020), “The texts clearly say that if an inch of ‎the Muslims’ lands is stolen, jihad ‎becomes a personal religious commandment for everyone who is ‎capable of it.” On another occasion, he declared, “The land of Palestine is waqf. It must not be relinquished nor ‎must any part of it be sold... It is the duty of the leaders of the [Islamic] ‎nation and its peoples to liberate Palestine and ‎Jerusalem, to prevent the Judaization in it” (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 23, 2015). He also said, “Jerusalem will certainly be liberated and return to the embrace of Islam, noble and strong with its holy sites and its people, and the evil will pass, Almighty Allah willing” (Official PA TV, Fatwa, September 29, and October 1, 2021).32

Palestinian children are encouraged to repeat Koranic slurs against Jews. A young Palestinian appeared on Palestinian Authority T.V., for example, and recited a poem: “You have been condemned to humiliation and hardship O Sons of Zion, O most evil among creations, O barbaric apes, O wretched pigs.”33

The popularity of Hamas also influenced a broader Islamization of the conflict among Palestinians. Hamas cast itself as the defender of Muslim land and the group that could liberate Palestine from the Zionist usurpers.


If Muslims claim that we are against violence, why aren’t we demonstrating in the streets against suicide bombings? Why is it so much easier to draw us into protest against a French ban on the hijab but next to impossible to exorcise ourselves about slavery, stonings, and suicide killings? Where’s our collective conscience?

—Muslim author Irshad Manji34

Not to be outdone, the supposedly secular PLO leaders began to use Islamic themes and rhetoric to inspire and incite the Palestinian population. Addressing Muslims at a mosque in South Africa, Yasser Arafat said, “You have to come and to fight a jihad to liberate Jerusalem, your precious shrine.”35 In 1996, Arafat told a crowd in Bethlehem, “We know only one word: jihad, jihad, jihad….And we are now entering the phase of the great jihad prior to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem.”36 In 2002, Arafat declared: “Yes, brothers, with our souls and blood we redeem you, O Palestine….This is a sacred bond. We are up to this duty. Allah is great! Glory to Allah and his prophet. Jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad!”37

P.A. president Mahmoud Abbas has adopted similar rhetoric, repeatedly trying to rally support, for example, by accusing Israel of endangering the al-Aqsa Mosque, a tactic used since the days of the Mufti designed to enrage Muslims around the world. “We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for al-Aqsa and for Jerusalem,” Abbas has said.38

Amid rioting in Jerusalem in 2015, Abbas said: “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah. With the help of Allah every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah. The al-Aqsa is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet.”39

Not all Muslims hold such extreme views; however, enough believe a Jewish state cannot exist in the Muslim heartland, and that Jews should never rule over Muslims, to ensure that Islamists will remain a threat to Jews and Israel whether a peace agreement is signed or not. Any agreement that ceded “waqf” land to Israel would give the radicals an excuse to continue their jihad.


Israel created Hamas.


Israel had nothing to do with the creation of Hamas. The organization’s leaders were inspired by the ideology and practice of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement founded in Egypt in 1928.

Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 as an Islamic Association by Sheik Ahmad Yassin. Initially, the organization engaged primarily in social welfare activities and soon developed a reputation for improving the lives of Palestinians, particularly the refugees in the Gaza Strip.

Though Hamas was committed from the outset to destroying Israel, it took the position that this was a goal for the future and that the more immediate focus should be on winning the hearts and minds of the people through its charitable and educational activities. Its funding came primarily from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The PLO was convinced that Israel was helping Hamas in the hope of triggering a civil war. Since Hamas did not engage in terror initially, Israel did not see it as a serious short-term threat. Some Israelis believed the rise of fundamentalism in Gaza would have the beneficial impact of weakening the PLO, which is what happened. The unintended consequence was to strengthen radical Islamists.

Hamas certainly didn’t believe Israel was supporting it. As early as February 1988, the group put out a primer on how its members should behave if confronted by the Shin Bet. Hamas distributed several more instructional documents to teach followers how to confront the Israelis and maintain secrecy.

Israel’s assistance was more passive than active; it did not interfere with Hamas’s activities or prevent funds from flowing into the organization from abroad. Israel also may have provided some funding to allow its security forces to infiltrate the organization.40 Meanwhile, Jordan was actively helping Hamas undermine the PLO and strengthen Jordanian influence in the territories.

Though some Israelis were very concerned about Hamas before rioting began in December 1987, Israel was reluctant to interfere with an Islamic organization, fearing that it might trigger charges of violating the Palestinians’ freedom of religion. It was not until early in the intifada, when Hamas became actively involved in the violence, that the group began to be viewed as a potentially more significant threat than the PLO.

The turning point occurred in the summer of 1988 when Israel learned that Hamas was stockpiling arms to build an underground force and that Hamas had issued its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel. At this point, it became clear that Hamas was not going to put off its jihad to liberate Palestine and was shifting its emphasis to “resistance.” Hamas has been waging a terror war against Israel ever since.41


Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas are freedom fighters.


When the United States declared a war on terror and the nations that harbor them after September 11, 2001, Arab states and their sympathizers argued that many of the organizations that engage in violent actions against Americans and Israelis should not be targets because they are “freedom fighters” rather than terrorists. This has been the mantra of the terrorists, who claim their actions are legitimate forms of resistance against the “Israeli occupation.”

This argument is deeply flawed.

First, the enemies of Israel rationalize any attacks as legitimate because of real and imagined sins committed by Jews since the beginning of the twentieth century. Consequently, the Arab bloc and its supporters at the United Nations have succeeded in preventing the condemnation of any terrorist attack against Israel. Instead, they routinely sponsor resolutions criticizing Israel when it acts in self-defense.

Second, “freedom fighters” do not seek to destroy a state or exterminate a people like groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas.


You can’t say there are good terrorists and there are bad terrorists.

— U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice42


Third, nowhere else in the world is the murder of innocent men, women, and children considered a “legitimate form of resistance.” Heinous crimes include: snipers shooting infants, suicide bombers blowing up pizzerias and discos, hijackers taking and killing hostages, and infiltrators murdering Olympic athletes.

Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and several other groups have engaged in these activities for decades and have rarely been condemned or their members brought to justice. They qualify as terrorist groups according to the U.S. government’s definition: “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Consequently, they should be targets of U.S. efforts to cut off their funding, arrest their leaders, and bring them to justice.43


Palestinian women become suicide bombers to liberate Palestine.


It may be that some Palestinian women share the ideology of the terrorists who believe that blowing up innocent men, women, and children will achieve their political objective, but many others are blackmailed into carrying out suicide attacks by sadistic and manipulative Palestinian men.

More than twenty Palestinian women have engaged in suicide attacks. According to one study, 5% of these terrorist acts from 2000 to 2015 were conducted by women.44 The terrorist organizations that recruit them do so partly because they believe women will generate less suspicion and Israeli soldiers will be more reticent to search them.

Some women have been convinced to engage in terrorist attacks to rehabilitate their reputations in their community if they have acquired a bad name or done something to disgrace their families. Shame is a powerful force in Arab society, and women who are accused of “improper behavior,” such as promiscuity, adultery, or becoming pregnant out of wedlock, may be ostracized or severely punished (e.g., husbands may kill wives who humiliated them in so-called “honor crimes”).

Terrorist organizations have used emotional extortion against these often-vulnerable women to convince them that a suicide attack against Jews may restore their honor or that of their families. Israeli intelligence declassified a report that said Fatah operatives went so far as to seduce women and then, after they became pregnant, used their condition to blackmail them into committing ghastly crimes. The report cited two specific cases, one involved a 21-year-old from Bethlehem who blew herself up in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, killing six and wounding more than 60, and the other was an 18-year-old from the Dehaishe refugee camp, who blew up a Jerusalem supermarket and killed two people and injured 22 others.45

Women who engage in terror are also glorified. On International Women’s Day, for example, female suicide bombers, a plane hijacker, a woman who prepared bombs for terror attacks, and a woman who led an attack on a bus that resulted in the deaths of 35 civilians, including 13 children, were praised. Two of the women have schools named after them.46


Philosophically, the difference between me and the terrorist is that he wants to hurt me and my children and my wife, while I want to hit him and spare his children and his wife . . . because even the killing of one innocent person is unfortunate and should be avoided.

— Senior Israeli Air Force pilot47


Israel’s policy of targeted killings is immoral and counterproductive.


Israel is faced with a nearly impossible situation in which it must protect its civilian population from Palestinians who are prepared to commit suicide to murder innocent Jews and indiscriminately fire rockets into Israeli towns. Israelis would prefer to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians; however, Mahmoud Abbas has been unwilling to engage in face-to-face talks with Israel’s prime minister since 2008, and radical Islamists have made clear they will accept nothing short of Israel’s destruction.

Outsiders advise Israel to “exercise restraint” rather than respond to terrorism. While this strategy may win praise from world leaders, it does nothing to assuage the victims’ pain or prevent further attacks.

When Israel knows a terror attack is imminent, and has identified the masterminds planning it, the government has sometimes chosen to eliminate the threat. Israel’s attorney general reviewed the policy and determined that “targeted killing” is legal under Israeli and international law.48

Then deputy chief of staff Major General Moshe Ya’alon explained the policy this way:

There are no executions without a trial. There is no avenging someone who had carried out an attack a month ago. We are acting against those who are waging terror against us. We prefer to arrest them and have detained over 1,000. But if we can’t, and the Palestinians won’t, then we have no other choice but to defend ourselves.49

Targeting terrorists has several benefits. First, it places a price on terror: Israelis cannot be attacked with impunity anymore, for terrorists know that if they target others, they will become targets themselves. Second, it is a method of self-defense: preemptive strikes eliminate the people who would otherwise murder Israelis. While it is true that there are others to take their place, they can do so only with the knowledge they, too, will become targets, and leaders are not easily replaceable. Third, it throws the terrorists off balance. Extremists can no longer casually plan an operation; instead, they must stay on the move, always look over their shoulders, and work much harder to carry out their attacks.50

The policy also has costs. Besides international condemnation, Israel risks revealing informers who often provide the information needed to find the terrorists. Soldiers also must engage in sometimes high-risk operations that occasionally cause tragic collateral damage to property and persons.

The most common criticism of targeted killings is that they do no good because they perpetuate a “cycle of violence” whereby the terrorists seek revenge. This is probably the least compelling argument against the policy because the people who wish to kill Jews to become martyrs always find a justification for their actions. Their goal is to destroy Israel, and they will not stop until they achieve their objective.

Meanwhile, nations that urge Israel to exercise restraint have often reacted forcefully in similar situations. For example, the British targeted IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland, and the United States targets al-Qaeda and ISIS leaders. The United States has launched hundreds of drone strikes to kill terrorists, and President Obama ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.51

The policy is supported by a vast majority of Israelis (90% in a July 2001 Maariv poll52). According to a 2015 AP-GFK poll, the American public also supports the tactic – 60% of Americans favored (13% opposed) the use of drones to “target and kill people belonging to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.”53


Case Study

In August 2002, we had all the leadership of Hamas—Sheik Yassin and all his military commanders . . . in one room in a three-story house, and we knew we needed a 2,000-pound bomb to eliminate all of them—the whole leadership, 16 people, all the worst terrorists. Think about having Osama bin Laden and all the top leadership of al-Qaeda in one house. However, due to the criticism in Israeli society and in the media, and due to the consequences of innocent Palestinians being killed, a 2,000-pound bomb was not approved and we hit the building with a much smaller bomb. There was a lot of dust, a lot of noise, but they all got up and ran away and we missed the opportunity. So the ethical dilemmas are always there.54


Palestinian terrorists only attack Israelis; they never assault Americans.


The PLO has a long history of brutal violence against innocent civilians of many nations, including the United States. Palestinian Muslim terrorist groups are a more recent phenomenon, but they have not spared Americans either. Palestinian terrorist attacks involving American citizens go back to at least 1970 when more than three dozen Americans were among the passengers who were held hostage when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked four jets. There have been more than twenty other cases of Americans victimized by Palestinian terrorists. Here are some examples:

  • December 20, 2010, an American tourist hiking in the foothills of Jerusalem was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist.
  • June 30, 2014, Naftali Frankel (16) was one of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered while hitchhiking from a yeshiva in Gush Etzion.
  • October 22, 2014, three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun was killed when a Palestinian rammed his car into a light-rail station.
  • October 1, 2015, Eitan Henkin and his wife Naama were ambushed and murdered by Palestinian gunmen as they drove with their four children in the West Bank.
  • October 13, 2015, Richard Lakin (76) was killed when Palestinians hijacked a bus in Jerusalem.
  • November 19, 2015, a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on cars stuck in a traffic jam in Gush Etzion, killing an Israeli, an American tourist, and a Palestinian, and wounding seven others. Five of the wounded were American Yeshiva students. The American fatality was Ezra Schwartz (18).
  • March 9, 2016, a Palestinian attacker began stabbing random Israelis at the entrance to the Jaffa Port. One victim was an American tourist, Taylor Force (28), a U.S. Army veteran on a school-sponsored trip to Israel. Palestinian Authority T.V. called Taylor a “settler,” and his killer was honored as an Islamic martyr.55
  • January 8, 2017, two out of four Israeli soldiers killed in a truck-ramming attack were U.S. citizens.
  • May 5, 2019, a rocket fired by terrorists from the Gaza Strip at Ashdod killed Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman (21), a dual American-Israeli citizen, as he was running for shelter.

An even more shocking crime was the murder of another American citizen, Hallel Yaffa Ariel (13), in her bed on June 30, 2016. The response from the Palestinian Authority—the one committed by formal agreement to stop all terrorism—was to fund the mourning tent of the family whose son committed the murder, to send a representative to pay his respects, and to honor the killer as a martyr (making the family eligible for a monthly stipend.56


In Gaza last week, crowds of children reveled and sang while adults showered them with candies. The cause for celebration: the cold-blooded murder of at least seven people—five of them Americans—and the maiming of 80 more by a terrorist bomb on the campus of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

—Historian Michael Oren57



Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount caused the al-Aqsa intifada.


To believe Palestinian propagandists, the five-year Palestinian uprising, which took more than 1,000 Israeli lives, was caused by the desecration of a Muslim holy place (Haram al-Sharif – the Temple Mount) by Ariel Sharon and the “thousands of Israeli soldiers” who accompanied him on September 28, 2000.

The truth is dramatically different.

Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami permitted Sharon to go to the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest place – only after calling Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub and receiving his assurance that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. The need to protect Sharon arose when Rajoub later said that the Palestinian police would do nothing to prevent violence during the visit.58

Sharon did not enter any mosques, and the 34 minutes he spent on the Temple Mount were during normal hours when the area was open to tourists.

The day after Sharon’s visit, the Voice of Palestine, the Palestinian Authority’s official radio station, called on “all Palestinians to come and defend the al-Aqsa Mosque.” The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in organized riots. Yasser Arafat also secretly sent a message to Hamas: “I have no problem with Hamas carrying out operations.” Arafat also arranged for the transfer of weapons to Hamas.59

Just before Rosh Hashanah (September 30), when hundreds of Israelis were worshipping at the Western Wall, thousands of Arabs began throwing bricks and rocks at Israeli police and Jewish worshippers. Rioting then spread to towns and villages throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip in what became known as the al-Aqsa intifada.

Imad Faluji, the P.A. communications minister, later admitted the violence had been planned in July after Yasser Arafat’s return from peace talks at Camp David, where he rejected the Israeli offer for statehood.60 This was confirmed by Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar who said that Arafat instructed his organization to launch terror attacks against Israel after the failure of peace negotiations.61

Yasser Arafat’s widow, Suha, also confessed that Arafat had planned the uprising. “Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return . . . Camp David had failed, and he said to me, ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I am going to start an intifada.’”62

An investigatory committee led by former Senator George Mitchell examined the cause of the violence and concluded: “The Sharon visit did not cause the ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada.’”

1 “Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups,” Pew Research Center, (September 10, 2013).

2 “Palestinian Public Opinion Poll #60,” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey, (June 2016); Daniel Polisar, “Palestinian Public Opinion Is behind Tel Aviv Terror Attack,” Times of Israel, (June 10, 2016).

3 Washington Post, (August 10, 2001).

4 “Palestinian Terrorism, 2021: Summary, Types and Trends,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, (February 2, 2022).

5 Emanuel Fabian, “IDF says West Bank raids foiled some 500 terror attacks over past year,” Times of Israel, (November 28, 2022); Anna Ahronheim, “IDF arrests 3,000 Palestinians, thwarts 500 attacks in past 6 months,” Jerusalem Post, (November 28, 2022).

6 Marc Rod, “Lawmakers reflect on trips to Israel,” Jewish Insider, (March 8, 2022).

7 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Fatah official: Murdering Israelis is Palestinian’ right,’” Palestinian Media Watch, (November 18, 2015); Marcus and Zilberdik, “Fatah and P.A. municipality erect monument in honor of terrorist murderer,” Palestinian Media Watch, (October 1, 2021).

8 Bassam Tawil, “Muslim Blood and Al-Aqsa,” Gatestone Institute, (October 31, 2015).

9 Maurice Hirsch, “Three ways the P.A. tried to hide its terror reward payments in 2021,” Palestinian Media Watch, (February 9, 2022).

10 “14-Year-Old Suicide Bomber Intercepted,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (March 24, 2004).

11 “Improvements at the Security Crossings and Roadblocks in the West Bank,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (June 14, 2005); “Terror Attack at the Hawara Crossing Near Nablus Thwarted,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (May 24, 2005); “Palestinian Terror Increases,” CAMERA (August 30, 2005).

12 Tovah Lazaroff and Khaled Abu Toameh, “U.N. upset by IDF killing of Palestinian teenage Molotov cocktail thrower,” Jerusalem Post, (February 23, 2022).

13 Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “5 kids on PA TV children’s show praise terrorist murderer Dalal Mughrabi who led murder of 25 adults and 12 children,” Palestinian Media Watch, (June 6, 2021).

14 Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Hamas’ abuse of kids in Gaza: “If we die, we’ll die as Martyrs” - Hamas spokesman’s young daughter,” Palestinian Media Watch, (June 6, 2021).

15 Itamar Marcus, “The Palestinian Authority’s child soldier strategy against Israel,” Jerusalem Post, (February 3, 2022).

16 Stuart Winer, “Israel Seizes Thousands of Rock-Thrower Dolls Headed for P.A.,” Times of Israel, (December 8, 2015).

17 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Palestinian Children Wear’ Suicide Belts’ to Celebrate Fatah’s 51 Years of Violence,” Palestinian Media Watch, (January 11, 2016).

18 Anna Geifman, “Who Is Killing Palestinian Children?” The Jerusalem Post, (August 7, 2014).

19 Palestinian Kids Collect Terrorist Cards,” The Jerusalem Post, (December 25, 2003).

20 “Palestinian Suicide Bombing in Israel Statistics,” Statistic Brain, (December 16, 2015).

21 Ben Hartman and Yaakov Lappin, “Palestinian Assailant Stabs Three People in Rishon Lezion Terror Attack,” Jerusalem Post, (November 2, 2015).

22 Ari Yashar, “Stabbing at Mahane Yehuda Market,” Arutz Sheva, (November 23, 2015).

23 Chaim Levinson, Gili Cohen, and Ido Efrati, “Palestinian Man Stabs and Kills 13-Year-Old Israeli Girl Asleep in Her West Bank Home,” Haaretz, (June 30, 2016).

24 Ali Daraghmeh, “Palestinians Shocked over Kids on Attack,” Associated Press, (March 1, 2004).

25 MSNBC (May 27, 2005), cited in “Public Outcry in Nablus against Use of Teenagers for Terrorist Missions,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, (May 30, 2005).

26 “The World at War,” The Telegraph, (March 14, 2004).

27 Reza Kahlili, “Ayatollah: Kill All Jews, Annihilate Israel,” WorldNetDaily, (February 5, 2012).

28 Kali Robinson, “What Is Hezbollah?” Council on Foreign Relations, (October 26, 2021).

29 “The Covenant of the Hamas—Main Points,” Federation of American Scientists, (No date).

30 “Imam Who Urged Extermination of Jews Indicted for Incitement,” Times of Israel, (November 12, 2015).

31 Nir Hasson, “Jerusalem Muslim Cleric Who Called for Slaughter of Jews Convicted of Incitement,” Haaretz, (March 28, 2016).

32 “P.A. Mufti: Sharia’h obligates every Muslim to wage Jihad ‎against what the P.A. calls “the thieving Jews,” translated by Palestinian Media Watch, (September 18, 2020); Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Itamar Marcus, “Israel’s destruction is inevitable - a repeating P.A. promise,” >Palestinian Media Watch, (October 22, 2021).

33 “Islamic Hate Speech on PA TV: Jews Are’ Most Evil among Creations,’ ‘Barbaric Apes, Wretched Pigs,’” >Palestinian Media Watch video, (November 16, 2014).

34 Pearl Sheffy Gefen, “Irshad Manji, Muslim Refusenik,” Lifestyles Magazine, (Summer 2004), p. 29.

35 Clyde Haberman, “Rabin Says Arafat’s ‘Jihad’ Remark Set Back Peace Effort,” New York Times, (May 20, 1994).

36 Yediot Aharonot, (October 23, 1996).

37 “Arafat’s N.Y. Times Op-Ed Dismissed As “Publicity Stunt,” Arutz Sheva, (March 2, 2002).

38 “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Fatah Conference: We Are All Ready to Sacrifice Ourselves for Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem,” Middle East Media Research Institute, (November 24, 2014).

39 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Abbas: We won’t allow Jews’ “filthy feet,” Palestinian Media Watch, (September 17, 2015); “Abbas: We Won’t Allow Jews to Defile Jerusalem Holy Sites with Their “Filthy Feet,” The Tower, (September 18, 2015); Tzipi Hotovely, “Abbas: ‘We Welcome Every Drop of Blood Spilled in Jerusalem,’” >Wall Street Journal, (October 18, 2015).

40 Richard Sale, “Hamas History Tied to Israel,” UPI, (June 18, 2002).

41 Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Yaari, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising—Israel’s Third Front, (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1990), pp. 227–39.

42 “The World at War,” The Telegraph, (March 14, 2004).

43 “Terrorism 2002–2005,” (Washington, DC: FBI, Undated).

44 “Palestinian Suicide Bombing in Israel Statistics,” Statistic Brain, (December 16, 2015).

45 “Blackmailing Young Women into Suicide Terrorism,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (February 12, 2003).

46 Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Itamar Marcus, “Female terrorists are female role models: A mass murderer, a bomb maker, a plane hijacker - P.A. message to women on International Women’s Day,” Palestinian Media Watch, (April 1, 2020).

47 Christian Lowe and Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel Air Force Seeks Expanded Anti-Terror Role,” Defense News, (March 28, 2005).

48 Hirsh Goodman, “A Lesson Learned,” Jerusalem Report, (September 19, 2005).

49 News Conference, (September 12, 2001).

50 Daniel Byman, “Do Targeted Killings Work?” Foreign Affairs, (March/April 2006).

51 “Drones are Lynchpin of Obama’s War on Terror,” Der Spiegel, (March 12, 2010); Scott Wilson, Craig Whitlock and William Branigin, “Osama bin Laden killed in U.S. raid, buried at sea,” Washington Post, (May 2, 2011).

52 Steven R. David, “Fatal Choices: Israel’s Policy Of Targeted Killing,” BESA, (September 2002).

53 Cody M. Poplin, “New A.P. Poll on U.S. Targeted Killing Program,” The Lawfare Institute, (May 1, 2015).

54 Amos Yadlin, “Ethical Dilemma’s in Fighting Terrorism,” vol. 4, no. 8, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, (November 25, 2004).

55 “Official Palestinian T.V. Calls Jaffa Terrorist a ‘Martyr,’ Victims’ Settlers,’” Times of Israel (March 9, 2016).

56Ruthie Blum, “Palestinian Authority Funds Mourning Tent for Terrorist Who Stabbed 13- Year- Old Israeli Girl to Death; Fatah Official Arrives to Pay Tribute to Family,” Algemeiner, (July 4, 2016).

57 Michael Oren, “Palestinians Cheer Carnage,” Wall Street Journal, (August 7, 2002).

58 Israel Radio, (October 3, 2000), cited by Independent Media Review & Analysis.

59 Elhanan Miller, “Arafat Gave Us Arms for Second Intifada Attacks, Hamas Official Says,” Times of Israel, (December 16, 2014).

60 “Intelligence Briefs: Israel/Palestinians,” Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, (March 2001).

61 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Arafat Ordered Hamas Attacks against Israel in 2000,” Jerusalem Post, (September 28, 2010).

62 “Suha Arafat Admits Husband Premeditated Intifada,” Jerusalem Post, (December 29, 2012).