“In Israel, as in France, terror is terror,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting Nov. 15. “Behind it is radical Islam and its desire to destroy its victims.” Netanyahu’s message was quickly picked up by social media and the public discourse in the aftermath of the murderous Paris terror attacks Nov. 13: Here’s your proof, spelled out with the blood of at least 129 dead and hundreds injured, that we are all victims of vicious Islamist terror, that those who fired at innocents in the heart of the French capital are the same Muslims who stab innocents in the heart of the Israeli capital, and they all have the same goal: to destroy anyone who is not part of extreme Islam.
The message that “terror is terror is terror” runs like a thread throughout Netanyahu’s demagogic rhetoric. In a statement to the cameras at the start of the Cabinet meeting, he spoke in the same breath about the Palestinian who shot dead a father and son (Ya'akov and Netanel Litman) near the settlement of Otniel in the Hebron Hills Nov. 13, and about Europe becoming a terror target several hours later.
“We are not to blame for the terrorism directed against us, just as the French are not to blame for the terrorism directed against them,” Netanyahu said in barely veiled mockery of Israel’s critics in Europe’s capitals. “It is the terrorists who are to blame for terrorism, not the territories, not the settlements and not any other thing.” The root cause of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Netanyahu, is “the desire to destroy us.”
From there it is but natural to resort to preaching morality to the “world,” which does not condemn terror attacks against Israel the way it condemns terrorism everywhere else. And how can one not mention Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who thinks that condemning terrorism in France is enough and does not act to stop the incitement motivating terrorism in the occupied territories. “The terrorists who attack us have the same murderous intent as those in Paris,” Netanyahu added. But unlike those French weaklings, we know how to handle them. “Thanks to our aggressive policy against terrorism … we succeed many times in frustrating and preventing more serious disasters." That justifies, Netanyahu says, soldiers going into Palestinian villages, the demolition of family homes and most importantly, “control of the ground,” meaning continued occupation.
According to Netanyahu’s warped logic, criticism of Israel’s occupation policy hurts the victims of terrorism. On Nov. 11, he said the European Union should be “ashamed” of its decision to approve the labeling of Israeli products made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. “The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard; it singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world.” The prime minister forgot to mention that eight years ago Israel had already agreed to disclose the provenance of products made in the settlements that are exported to Europe. Netanyahu ignored the fact that the EU’s current move was, in fact, designed to provide European consumers with the right to know where the snack displayed on the kosher foods shelf was manufactured.
Condemning the decision was not enough for him, although Netanyahu himself said that its economic impact is negligible. The prime minister took the opportunity to portray the occupier as a victim. The EU, he claimed, has decided to label only Israel and is “not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism.” In other words, Europe’s decision to label settlement products is a reward for terrorism and not a reaction to the settlement policy. Two days later, as though echoing Netanyahu’s criticism about the blow to the “side being attacked by terrorism,” a father and son, residents of the settlement of Otniel, became victims of a murderous attack.
In a Nov. 4 article published in the Israeli Haaretz' Peace Conference publication, Economic Nobel Prize laureate and psychology professor Daniel Kahneman explained that it is easier to attribute European reservations about Israeli policy to an expression of anti-Semitism than to see it, at least in part, as opposition to policy that deviates from the norms of progressive states. “If they are anti-Semites, then no matter what we do, they will treat us the same way.” In the same manner it is easier to explain the Palestinian attacks as an expression of eternal hatred than to internalize that the hatred, at least in part, is a reaction to the prolonged occupation and its attendant abuses. “If external hatred suffices as an explanation," notes the Israeli-born psychologist, "then it doesn’t matter what we do to the Palestinians in the territories. In any case, our deeds do not determine their attitude toward us.”
In Kahneman’s view, the resolution of national conflicts depends to a crucial extent on a leader’s ability to overcome such simplistic thinking. He cites the example of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who told the Israeli public that “peace is made with enemies,” and who signed the Oslo Accord with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. Netanyahu tells the public that with enemies, one makes war. Only war.
Parisians will not let themselves be cowed by terrorism. They are equipped with a resilience that enables them to get back to normal on the morning after the terror attacks at their neighborhood cafe. Their normal lives do not include the oppression of other nations. Late French President Charles de Gaulle understood more than 50 years ago that to lead normal lives, the French must vacate their settlements in Algeria and grant independence to its inhabitants. Cruel terror attacks will not change the standpoint of France and of other enlightened countries vis-a-vis colonialist countries.
Netanyahu is determined to hold onto the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and believes global terrorism will divert Europe’s attention from the occupation. To Israelis he pledges the vision of eternal life “by the sword." The Islamic State and al-Qaeda can translate this vision into Arabic and print it on their flags.