OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Iran’s shadow war 

Israelis are defending themselves against Tehran’s foreign legions

Israeli forces operate in Jenin. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces operate in Jenin. Credit: IDF.
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Clifford D. May
Clifford D. May is the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), as well as a columnist for “The Washington Times.”

Israelis battled Palestinians in the northern West Bank last week. That’s what most media reported and it’s true as far as it goes. But here’s a more accurate description of reality: Israeli troops battled the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign legions in the northern West Bank last week.

Tehran is adept at using proxies to fight its wars: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has mainly operated in Gaza, in association with Hamas, the designated terrorist entity that rules Gaza. Hamas also receives arms, money and instruction from Iran, and now operates in Lebanon as well.

Recently, however, both PIJ and Hamas have been increasing their presence in the West Bank, a territory that, under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for governing. With Mahmoud Abbas, 87, as its chairman—he was elected to a single four-year term in 2005—the Palestinian Authority has proven decreasingly willing or able to do its job.

Israel’s two-day incursion focused on Jenin, a city from which more than 50 shootings, along with rocket attacks, have been carried out against Israeli civilians in recent months.

The most intense fighting took place in Jenin’s “refugee camp.” Do you not find it odd that Palestinians living on Palestinian territory under the Palestinian Authority are called refugees?

And how many residents of this camp do you think personally fled to the (then-Jordanian conquered) West Bank due to the (defensive) war Israel fought against neighboring Arab countries in 1948-49? Where else in the world do the descendants of refugees inherit refugee status?

After Israel’s founding, nearly a million Jews were forced to flee from Arab countries where they had lived for centuries. Their descendants do not call themselves refugees and demand a “right of return.”

In Jenin, Israeli security forces found tons of bombs, ammunition and guns—most supplied by Tehran, as PIJ’s secretary-general has openly acknowledged. A dozen Palestinians were killed. All were identified as terrorists by the Israel Defense Forces.

Some of these terrorists were young. That suggests that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ recent praise of PIJ for not recruiting children was either wishful thinking or deceptive.

PIJ and Hamas have learned that making “martyrs” of young Palestinians has public relations benefits. For example, BBC anchor Anjana Gadgil, in an exchange last week with former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, declared: “Israeli forces are happy to kill children.”

Bennett responded by asking whether she would consider a 17-year-old “trying to murder your family” a child rather than a terrorist. She snapped back: “We’re not talking about that!”

The New York Times described Jenin last week as “a bastion of armed struggle” with an “an ethos of defiance.” That Tehran backs the terrorist groups there is mentioned once, in the 16th paragraph, in a quote from an Israeli journalist.

Three U.N. “special rapporteurs” said Israel’s “attacks” had “no justification under international law.” Other countries are justified in using force for self-defense. Why a separate standard for Israel? (I suspect you know.)

The rapporteurs also called for Israelis to “end their illegal occupation” of the West Bank. Of course, Israelis do not actually “occupy” such cities as Jenin. They enter only in response to the murder of Israelis given the P.A.’s failure to govern.

If they refrained from such interventions, the West Bank would soon be fully taken over by Tehran’s proxies. That’s what happened in Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal from that territory.

More attacks on Israelis by better armed jihadis would lead to a longer and more lethal conflict—though perhaps not as long and lethal as in Syria where Bashar Assad, with help from Tehran, has killed hundreds of thousands of Arabs and displaced millions more.

Assad was recently welcomed back into the Arab League. Why is the “international community” harder on Israelis who defend themselves than it is on mass murderers? (Again, I suspect you know.)

Look, I’m not so naïve as to believe that Israeli lives matter to Guterres, U.N. rapporteurs, Gadgil, or many others who regard themselves as champions of “the Palestinian cause.” But shouldn’t they at least worry about the many Palestinians who would be killed in the wider “armed struggle” they’re encouraging and inciting?

Of course, once that conflict got underway, they would, as usual, denounce Israelis efforts to defend themselves as “disproportionate” and “illegal.”

Regarding the Jenin operation, Guterres on Thursday accused the Israelis of “violence against civilians”—providing no evidence that civilians were unintentionally harmed by the Israel Defense Forces while ignoring massive evidence that PIJ and Hamas intentionally kill Israeli civilians whenever they can.

Shouldn’t international civil servants and independent journalists be embarrassed to side with Iran’s rulers—even as those rulers sponsor terrorism abroad, run an illicit nuclear weapons program and brutalize their own subjects, not least women?

While I obviously don’t think well of them, I’d like to believe they’d prefer Palestinian-Israeli peaceful coexistence over endless Palestinian “defiance.”

Imagine if they were to say to the Palestinians: “Look, we’re with you. We, too, wish the Israelis would just disappear. But Jews are not leaving the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. They’re not going to surrender or submit to living under Islamic Jihad, Hamas, or other pawns of Tehran.

“So, negotiate with them. We’ll help you get the best deal possible. We’ll put pressure on the Israelis. And, by the way, Israelis will put pressure on themselves—if they believe there’s a real possibility of ending this conflict.”

Does the scenario I’ve outlined seem sensible? I’m afraid that’s what makes it a fantasy.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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