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The Jerusalem Terrorist Attack in Perspective: It’s Not Just the Palestinians Who Need to Recognize Israel

Posted on March 23 2011 12:22 pm
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel
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Actions only speak louder than words when the two conflict. In the Middle East, they work in concert, representing two fronts in the war against Israel.

And so, despite legal proof to the contrary, Israel’s stewardship of Judea and Samaria became an illegal “occupation.” And oh by the way Judea and Samaria had already become the West Bank, a name made up on the fly when Jordan illegally occupied the territory between 1949 and 1967.

And the Jews who lived in this disputed territory became “settlers,” while their Arab neighbors were “residents.” And the part of the Geneva Conventions Israel’s enemies used to attempt to prove the settlements’ illegality was constructed with the express purpose of stopping Nazi population transfer. The Israel=Nazis implication was clear.

The word Palestinians, once used disparagingly by Arabs in pre-state Israel to describe the Jews there, now meant Arabs who live in the disputed territories.

And these Palestinians needed a state, to one day be called Palestine. Once again, it was the media to the rescue; The Economist has found a solution. Here’s a line from their recent editorial: “[Obama] pushed for peace in Palestine, but retreated at the first whiff of domestic opposition.”

Leave aside the obvious reference to the Israel lobby, The Economist now speaks as though there is no such country as Israel. It has gone back to calling the entire area “Palestine.” Israel is still responsible for the lack of peace, but apparently the Jews—with a democratic government and a pluralistic society with equal rights for minorities—now constitute the insurgents, the terrorists, the disruptive presence in an otherwise serene land.

So now we’ve come full circle, all thanks to words speaking far louder than actions. It shouldn’t surprise, then, that when the Washington Post reported the terrorist bombing in Jerusalem this morning, the report led with the following sentence: “A bomb exploded at a crowded bus stop Wednesday in central Jerusalem, wounding at least 25 people in what appeared to be the first militant attack in the city in several years.”

Relax everyone, there’s been no terrorist attack. Just “militant” acts. Militant, of course, is an irredeemably inexact word to use for such an event. As a former newspaper editor, I would never have allowed it—not on ideological grounds, but on the grounds that newspaper reporting has a responsibility to be as clear as possible.

But that’s the point here, isn’t it? The media is intentionally muddling the coverage, because the truth puts Israel in a morally superior position.

This is all doing more damage to the beloved “peace process.” How can the Palestinians be expected to recognize Israel if The Economist doesn’t?

Let’s return to that question in a bit. Early on in our trip to Israel last week with Act for Israel, we met with Mark Regev, spokesman for the prime minister. This is what he said about the need for a change in attitude and language from the Palestinian side:

“I would ask them, if the Jewish state is fundamentally illegitimate in your eyes, that you’re never willing to accept its legitimacy, what sort of peace are you offering me? Maybe you’re offering me a ceasefire. OK, let’s talk about a ceasefire. But you said you want peace. A ceasefire you pay less for than you pay for a peace treaty, right?”

And he continued by asking rhetorically what Israel needs for peace. This was his answer:

“One, security, and two, legitimacy. Without those two elements there is no peace.”

He is absolutely right. Because—and Regev said this himself—you must be able to protect the peace. You simply cannot do that effectively if major elements of the Palestinian side do not accept Israel’s legitimacy. Regev put it this way:

“If tomorrow, the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president signed a peace treaty, we know there would be an escalation of violence straightaway.”

That is a sad state of affairs. But Regev is right again. A peace deal that leads to more violence isn’t a peace deal at all. And true peace needs not just security, but the affirmation of Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist.

When Palestinian terrorists bombed locations in Tel Aviv, such as the Dolphinarium, they did so because Israeli governance of Tel Aviv is illegitimate in their eyes. There is no Israel on their maps, so they speak often of “liberating” Haifa. And Israel’s evacuation of Jews from the Gaza Strip has been met with nonstop rocket attacks on the Negev, because Israel’s borders are irrelevant to them. There are only two borders that matter in their mind: the river and the sea.

As rockets continue to rain down on defenseless Israeli children, and a terrorist strikes at the heart of Jerusalem, those responsible must be held to account. But the rest of the world can play a productive role here, if they’re willing, because a change in the debate must take place immediately.

After all, how can the Palestinians be expected to recognize Israel if The Economist doesn’t?

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