It is sad to have to return to this issue, but terrorism is once again threatening to dictate our agenda. So it is appropriate to remember where we live, what was here in the past, and how it colors what is happening now.
The Shin Bet has been publishing monthly reports on terrorist activities since 2014. It turns out that the overwhelming majority of the ongoing attacks over the years are the throwing of Molotov cocktails. During the rounds of escalation in front of Gaza, hundreds and even thousands of rockets are fired. But there are also quite a few attacks of the type we have seen in recent months.
The Shin Bet has been publishing reports on terrorist activities since 2014. It turns out that most of the ongoing attacks in all those years are the throwing of Molotov cocktails. During the rounds of escalation in front of Gaza, there is rocket fire. But there are many attacks of the type we have seen recently
The following graph shows the data on the more serious types of attacks: shootings, stabbings, running over and explosives.
Shin Bet data on terrorist incidents every month
As you can see, such attacks happen regularly throughout the period. But it seems that the current wave (at the right end of the graph) is developing into one of the more significant waves of terrorism in recent years. In particular, there are relatively many shooting attacks. However, it is still far from the highs of the knife intifada at the end of 2015 and in operations Tzuk Eitan and Shomer Homat.
These data are the raw material of social and political pressures, on the spectrum between showing the Palestinians who is boss and mowing them down completely. And it is fueled even more when there are Israeli deaths, either in terrorist acts or in IDF-initiated activity in the territories, as for example in the case of the late Major Bar Falah.
But these figures are only one side of the story. The other side is what is happening with the Palestinians. There is no complete data base on this like the Shin Bet’s (which, by the way, is also far from perfect). But it is important, because just as with us terrorist actions lead to outcry against the Palestinians, with them our actions lead to mobilization against us.
These figures are only one side of the story. There is no complete data base on what is happening with the Palestinians. But it’s important, because just as terrorist actions with us lead to outrage against Palestinians, with them our actions lead to mobilization against us
Since there are no good data on all the various actions taken against the Palestinians in the territories, I am content here with data on casualties. A fairly good database is maintained by the B’Tselem organization, and includes both Palestinian and Jewish-Israeli deaths (Israeli Arabs are included with the Palestinians, but their numbers are relatively low). The data is shown in the following graph.
B’Tselem data on Jewish and Palestinian deaths every month
It is easy to see that there is a significant correlation with the previous graph: in times when there are many terrorist acts, there are also many Palestinian deaths. But the correlation is not complete. In the “Marches of Return” in Gaza, for example, you can see that most of the deaths were in 2018, and in particular at the beginning of the year, but the attacks intensified at the end of the year, and continued until the arrival of the Corona epidemic at the beginning of 2020.
A particularly noticeable phenomenon in the graph is the lack of symmetry in the deaths. On average over the period, for every Israeli death there are 20 Palestinian deaths (174 Israelis compared to 3409 Palestinians). That’s a huge gap. It can be assumed that there is a similar gap in the injured, and there the numbers are much larger.
A striking phenomenon in the graph is the lack of symmetry in the deaths. On average over the period, for every Israeli death there are 20 Palestinian deaths (174 Israelis compared to 3409 Palestinians). That’s a huge gap. It can be assumed that there is a similar gap in the injured as well
From the Israeli point of view, the obvious question is whether it is really justified. There are those who have no doubt and would like more, because a good Arab is a dead Arab regardless of who he is and what he does. Alternatively, there are those who apologize and say that there is nothing to be done, in the fight against terrorism there are also innocent victims. But there are two important distinctions to make:
The first concerns the consequences of killing innocents. It is clear that not all the dead are terrorists, and even the security forces admit this in various cases. There are arguments about how many, while trying to show that the majority are indeed terrorists.
But it doesn’t really matter if 30% are uninvolved who were accidentally hit or 70% are. In any case, this is a huge number of people. And these people have families, with thousands of relatives. And aggressive actions that cause harm to the civilian population lead to resistance.
If with us every dead person causes a wave of rants against Arabs, they have 20 times more. So it’s not only problematic from a moral point of view, it’s also not good from pure security considerations.
In addition, those who claim that what they do, by mistake, also harm innocents, should understand that the same argument also works in reverse, and justifies harming Israeli civilians as part of operations against the army.
30% or 70% uninvolved who were accidentally injured – either way that’s a huge number of people. And these people have families, with thousands of relatives. And aggressive actions that cause harm to the civilian population lead to resistance
The second distinction concerns the role of the military. 99% of Palestinian deaths are at the hands of the security forces. The settlers are only responsible for a little more than one percent. Thus the army is in fact clearly the execution contractor of the occupation.
Beyond that, 53% of Israeli casualties are from the security forces. This is of the same order of magnitude as the percentage of Palestinians killed who are operatives of terrorist organizations or actually participated in violent activity. So those who preach that the terrorist operatives should be killed, should understand that in the Palestinian arena and in the international arena the same argument also works in reverse – the Palestinians are allowed to try to kill the occupation soldiers.
In the Israeli arena, of course, this argument is not acceptable at all. But recent developments indicate that one should actually think about whether the blanket use of the term “terror” is indeed correct. The governments of Israel and the heads of the security establishment still hold to the concept of security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism. But what is happening on the ground is more and more essentially a guerilla war by an occupying force, and not indiscriminate terrorism directed against civilians.
Two events from the past week demonstrate the reversal of creativity. The first is the case of the terrorist Mohammad Minawi, who was captured in Tel Aviv before he could carry out the attack he planned. According to him, he delayed because he was looking for soldiers and did not want to harm civilians for nothing. This is a very significant change compared to the terrorist waves of the 70s and the exploding buses of the second intifada. But Israeli society has difficulty accepting this distinction. The journalist Israel Frei, who tweeted about her, was immediately suspended from his job at the DemokratTV channel, which claims to be “brave and free”.
The second incident is the attack on Hafez al-Huraini, a Palestinian resident of the village of Tawani in the southern Hebron mountain, by a group of settlers from the nearby Havat Ma’on outpost. The settler Itamar Cohen was seriously injured when al-Huraini defended himself with a hoe he had in his hand (the attack was when he was cultivating his land in the area between the village and the outpost).
The settlers spread the story that it was a planned attack by dozens of Palestinians on two innocent Jewish shepherds, but a video taken by a British activist who was there clearly shows the settlers coming to attack, armed with sticks and firearms. Despite this, al-Huraini, who was also injured in the confrontation, was arrested on charges of attempted murder, while the settlers were not arrested or even interrogated.
The Pavlovian reaction of the security forces and the government, to protect the settlers while ignoring clear evidence that they are the ones perpetrating terrorism, and at the same time increasing the pressure on the Palestinian population so that they finally “understand” and abandon the path of terrorism, will not improve the situation.
The Pavlovian reaction of the security forces and the government, to protect the settlers while ignoring clear evidence that they are the perpetrators of terrorism, and while increasing the pressure on the Palestinians to “understand” and abandon terrorism, will not improve the situation
It just makes the pressure build up. And when it can no longer be contained, it erupts. All the signs are that while the State of Israel is busy with the internal slime of another election campaign, the Land of Israel is rushing towards a third intifada.
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