(April 6, 2022 / JNS) Considering how overused the accusation of racism has become in recent years, I hesitate to bring it into a discussion of U.S.-Israel relations. Yet there does seem to be a kind of bigotry underlying a certain attitude among some senior U.S. State Department officials. And that is deeply troubling.
This concerns the State Department’s silence with regard to how the Palestinian Authority responded to the recent deaths of three Arab terrorists. On April 2, three members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad—the terror group that murdered my daughter Alisa, in 1995—set out to massacre more Jews. They were intercepted by Israeli security forces, opened fire on the Israelis and were killed in the shootout.
As we all know, the P.A. signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, called the Oslo Accords, which obligates the Palestinian leadership to fight terrorism. If the P.A. was genuinely opposed to terrorism—as the media, the State Department and the Jewish left are constantly telling us—then it would have been delighted that Israel eliminated three terrorists.
Instead, Nail Abu Rudeineh, the official spokesman for P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of “carrying out this premeditated attack, which led to the killing of three civilians.” He said Israel’s elimination of the terrorists is “a dangerous practice,” “a dangerous escalation,” and “a threat and a flagrant challenge to international law.”
P.A. Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh denounced the action of the Israeli security forces as “a horrific crime” and “extrajudicial murder.” And the P.A. Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that the Israeli soldiers be handed over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Why didn’t the U.S. State Department challenge the P.A.’s outrageous support for the terrorists? The answer, I’m afraid, involves a kind of racism. Or, to be more precise, the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” a phrase coined by Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
The State Department did not challenge the P.A. on this—or on the P.A.’s many other public expressions of support for terrorists—because there is a mindset among many senior U.S. officials according to which they expect Palestinian Arabs to be terrorists and terror supporters.
Palestinian Arab terrorism—from suicide bombings to potentially lethal rock-throwing—has become so commonplace over the years that many U.S. officials long ago grew weary of trying to get them to stop. So instead of treating the Palestinian Arabs as responsible adults and holding them to the same standards as all other civilized people, our State Department treats them as if they are somehow incapable of being non-violent.
That helps explain some of the awful statements made over the years by some U.S. officials, justifying Palestinian Arab violence.
— On June 22, 1997, The Jerusalem Post reported that “a senior U.S. official” called recent Arab violence against Jews in Hebron “a plausible safety valve” that “lets the Palestinians vent their anger.” The official’s name was not revealed. Ambassador Martin Indyk, a strident critic of Israel, was the most senior U.S. official in Israel at that time.
— On Aug. 26, 1997, the Israeli news agency Arutz 7 reported that advisers to President Bill Clinton recommended to him “that he allow what [they called] the ‘explosive’ situation between Israel and the Palestinians to deteriorate to a violent clash [because] this will convince the sides of the need to renew negotiations.” The officials were not named.
— On Jan. 14, 1999, The Jerusalem Post reported that “a senior U.S. administration official” had said there may be “riots in the territories” if Israel did not make more concessions, and “it may be unreasonable to expect that Palestinians at the grassroots level will remain quiet.” Once again, the official was not named.
— On May 21, 2000, President Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy Berger declared in a speech at Tel Aviv University that Palestinian Arab violence against Israelis was not only a curse but also “a blessing,” as “the tragedy that awaits in the event of inaction also constitutes the greatest incentive for immediate action” in the Israeli-Arab negotiations.
— Berger made the same point in a conference call with representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on July 31, 2000. He said: “Either there will be an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, or there will be a conflict. … If there is no agreement, we may be sadder and bloodier, but then maybe they’ll be prepared to make a deal.”
— On May 2, 2014, Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot’s Ynet website reported that a “senior U.S. official,” this time from the Obama administration, said: “The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end—whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.” Three days later, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the Israeli government believed the official who made the remark was former Ambassador Martin Indyk, who in 2014 was the senior U.S. envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
So, it’s no wonder that when P.A. leaders defended the three Islamic Jihad terrorists this week, Biden administration officials shrugged their shoulders and turned away. They really seem to think that Palestinian Arabs are somehow unable to be any better. The only way to describe such an attitude—towards any ethnic group—is racism.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism.”
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