In this Briefing we highlight several of the most commonly
mentioned “demonic” accusations against Israel.
Underlying each accusation is a common theme – that Israel
is cruel, evil and inhumane. Each accusation is sustained by
incomplete facts, a disregard for the context in which these
events occurred, and a refusal to acknowledge Israel’s
point of view.
In this Briefing we present concise facts to dispel the demonic
accusations, and conclude with suggestions as to why these demonic
accusations are so dangerous.
Israel has been deliberately killing Palestinian civilians
since September 2000
Israel and the Palestinians have been engaged in a cycle of
violence. Palestinian terrorists attack Israeli civilians, and
Israeli armed forces attack Palestinian civilians. Each party
is aiming to inflict harm on the civilians of the other side,
and Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians in this cycle
The terrorism originating from the Palestinian territories against
Israel presents Israel with near-impossible ethical dilemmas.
How is it to defend Israeli citizens (the responsibility of
any Government) while at the same time avoiding harm to non-combatant
Palestinians? Hundreds of suicide attacks and other acts of
violence have been foiled by Israeli security forces in the
last two years, but there has been high loss of life among Palestinian
civilians caught in the cross-fire.
Israel has repeatedly emphasised that its conflict is only
with the violent, rejectionist groups who are organised and
seek shelter in the midst of Palestinian villages and towns,
and not with the Palestinian population as a whole.
Where Israeli forces act with needless indifference to human
life, this warrants investigation and prosecution by the Israeli
authorities (and indeed such investigations have taken place).
But there is a difference between Israeli actions which cause
unintended loss of life, and the deliberate and intentional
killing of innocent people. Israel has been responsible for
causing the first, but it is not guilty of the second. For more
Briefing 7: Israel Deliberately Targets
Briefing 11: Why Are There More Palestinian
Than Israeli Victims?
Israeli checkpoints and “closures” of the
territories are collective punishment of Palestinian society
It is alleged that Israel maintains checkpoints throughout the
West Bank, and imposes “closures” of the territories,
in order to bring Palestinian society and its economy to its
knees, to force Palestinians to “surrender”, and
to humiliate the Palestinians. This is termed “collective
Suicide bombers and other terrorists have been operating from
the West Bank and Gaza against Israel since 1994, and there
have been a total of over 17,000 violent incidents since September
2000. The groups masterminding such attacks have repeatedly
declared their intention to carry out more such attacks.
Israel’s checkpoints are part of the response
of Israeli governments to this onslaught against its citizens.
Many terrorist operations have been foiled by these checkpoints
and closures, which also give Israeli citizens at least some
hope that they can live relatively “normal” lives
free of constant fear.
Israel has a long-term interest in a stable and self-sufficient
Palestinian society. If the violence would end there would be
no possible justification for the checkpoints and closures.
Seen in this light, the checkpoints are not Israeli “collective
punishment”, but Palestinian collective self-punishment.
For more see - Briefing 5: Roadblocks, Checkpoints
and The Security Fence
Israelis humiliate Palestinians at checkpoints
Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate innocent Palestinians who
have to pass through a checkpoint.
Any Palestinian passing through a checkpoint could potentially
be a suicide bomber – this is the modus operandi of the
terrorist groups. Israeli soldiers manning such checkpoints
have themselves been attacked on many occasions.
It is hardly surprising that young, frequently inexperienced
Israeli soldiers and border police treat Palestinians warily
and sometimes roughly or even violently.
It is the Palestinian threat to Israel which causes Israel
to act in this way – Israel’s policy needs to be
seen in context, not in a vacuum.
Israel has aggressively launched a “crushing”
occupation of Palestinian cities
In April 2002 Israel carried out Operation Defensive Shield
extensively re-entering the West Bank. In June 2002 Israel launched
Operation Determined Path, under which its forces occupied the
major Palestinian cities, and surrounding country. These actions,
say Israel’s accusers, are acts of aggression motivated
by Israel’s desire permanently to hold on to the West
Bank and Gaza and to crush the aspirations of Palestinian people.
These operations are Israel’s reaction to unrelenting
terrorism against its citizens, and Israel has repeatedly stated
that it has no intention permanently to reoccupy (see Briefing
32: Ariel Sharon: Unwilling to Compromise…?)
For 18 months from September 2000 Israel called upon the Palestinian
Authority to curb the terrorism originating from the territories,
and it was only their continued failure to do so which prompted
Israel’s operations (See Briefing 14: The Palestinians’
Failure to Curb Terror: Three Examples).
March 2002 was the worst month of terrorism in Israel’s
54 year history, with 130 civilian fatalities, culminating in
the bombing of the Passover celebration at Netanya’s Park
Hotel. These events were the trigger for Operation Defensive
June 2002 witnessed particularly gruesome suicide attacks in
various parts of Israel, resulting in the death of over 60 students,
schoolchildren and others. It was this further sequence of attacks
which prompted Israel’s Operation Determined Path.
Israel is not an eager occupier of Palestinian cities, but
a reluctant re-occupier. (see Briefing 15: Israel’s Reluctant
Reoccupation of Palestinian towns).
Israel massacred Palestinians in Jenin
Israel massacred Palestinians in Jenin when it entered its refugee
camp in April 2002, in the course of its military operations.
Jenin operated as a nerve centre, and key training and recruitment
ground, for Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists.
23 suicide attacks in the months preceding the attack had been
launched from Jenin, and terrorist spokesmen based in Jenin,
operating with impunity, promised more.
The terrorists’ centre of operations was located in a
heavily fortified area of a Palestinian refugee camp on the
outskirts of Jenin, and Israeli confined its military operation
to that area. The terrorists were given the opportunity to surrender,
but they chose to fight, booby-trapping civilian homes and (according
to subsequent reports appearing in Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram,
among other places) deliberately involved civilians in the clash
with Israeli forces.
Israel required its soldiers to enter homes from door to door,
and through walls, rather than bombard the centre from the air,
in an effort to minimise innocent civilian casualties. 23 Israeli
soldiers died as a result of this tactic. A UN report in August
2002 found no evidence to support Palestinian and some western
claims of an Israeli “massacre” of Palestinians.
Most of the 52 Palestinians who died were armed fighters.
Israel endangered The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Israel ignored Christian sensitivies and religious freedoms
by besieging Palestinians taking refuge in the Church of the
Nativity in Bethlehem
Hundreds of thousands of Christians freely visit Bethlehem and
other holy sites in Israel, protected by the Israeli authorities.
This contrasts with the situation in many Muslim countries where
Christian minorities are seriously and routinely persecuted.
In their effort to escape approaching Israeli forces, Palestinian
gunmen broke into the Church of the Nativity in April 2002,
in flagrant violation of the sanctity of the holy site. This
act triggered the siege. The ringleaders of the besieged Palestinians
were hardened terrorists with proven involvement in attacks
on Israeli civilians.
During the weeks of the siege, Israel sought to maintain the
sanctity of the church, and seek a peaceful resolution, even
when its soldiers were fired upon from within the Church precincts.
Israeli offers to bring in food and drink were repeatedly refused
by the Palestinians inside.
The siege ended peacefully. But the fact that a gang of armed
Palestinians could have holed themselves up there for over 6
weeks demonstrated Palestinian disregard for Christian rights,
not Israeli disregard for such rights.
“Israel hinders Palestinian ambulances with expectant
Israel stops Palestinian ambulances at checkpoints, causing
expectant mothers to miscarry at birth. This accusation has
been levelled against Israel from time to time.
Thousands of Arab women give birth to healthy babies in Israeli
hospitals each year. By having access to Israeli healthcare
the Palestinians enjoy the highest quality maternity care of
any Arab people in the region.
There is no deliberate effort by Israel to harm expectant mothers.
But in Israel’s view the checkpoints are necessary to
protect its citizens from attack. Responsibility for the delays
experienced by ambulance drivers and their patients lays on
the shoulders of the Palestinian terrorist groups which force
Israel to maintain the checkpoints in the first place.
In any event, Israel has introduced humanitarian procedures
at checkpoints to try to “fast-track” cases of genuine
Incidentally, Palestinians have been caught smuggling suicide
weaponry inside Red Crescent ambulances, to the horror of (amongst
others) the International Red Cross. Such actions hardly smooth
the passage for Palestinian ambulances.
Israel kills international peace activists
Several peace activists from the US and the UK have been injured
or killed in recent months, while in the Gaza Strip. Israel
cynically attacks these activists who are on humanitarian missions
to try to protect Palestinian civilians. This demonstrates clearly
that Israel is opposed to peace.
Thousands of Israelis and non-Israelis demonstrate in favour
of Palestinian rights inside Israel, without fear and free of
Several of the US and UK activists who have been harmed in recent months have placed themselves in highly dangerous situations, ignoring the appeals of the Israeli authorities not to enter what is effectively a war zone. Each incident has been investigated, and the deaths found to have been accidental, except for the fatal shooting of Briton Tom Hurndall, where an Israeli soldier has been charged with criminal offence (which may be murder or manslaughter).
Israel also considers that the key organisation sponsoring these projects – the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – is not a neutral peace agency, but a
highly partisan organisation which takes a one-sided view of the conflict and sympathises with the cause and the methods of operation of the terrorist groups.
Israel is ruining the Palestinian economy
Through blockade, closure and economic strangulation, Israel
is trying to impoverish the Palestinians and ruin their economy
Israel has a strong vested interest in a stable and prosperous
During the Oslo peace process years, Israel’s government
and private sector companies invested large amounts in building
up the Palestinian economy. Israel supported large financial
assistance programmes from the European Union, the World Bank
and other agencies.
Israel’s security fence and its closures of the West
Bank and Gaza now are entirely caused by the terrorist threat
from those territories. In addition, in the previous Palestinian
leadership, corruption and financial mismanagement were rampant.
It is these factors which have brought about the collapse of
the Palestinian economy, not Israel’s legitimate response
to Palestinian violence.
On many occasions, Israel has relaxed security restrictions
within the territories in order to assist the local economy,
even though this has resulted in a renewal of terrorist operations.
If there were a sustained halt in the terrorism, there is no
reason why the Palestinian economy could not begin to revive,
with Israeli cooperation.
Israel disrupts Palestinian Universities
Israel is needlessly disrupting Palestinian universities.
Palestinian universities have grown dramatically since 1967,
when Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza as a result
of the Six Day war. Meanwhile, thousands of Israeli Arabs enjoy
some of the best quality higher education in the Middle East,
and during the peace process years Israel encouraged academic
and student collaboration between Palestinian universities and
This has all changed because of the Palestinian intifada. Several
Palestinian universities such as An-Najah and Hebron have become
conspicuous centres for terrorist activity and incitement, prompting
Israel to close them temporarily. These closures are self-inflicted,
and the inevitable reaction of Israel to what is perceived to
be an intolerable anti-Israeli agitation.
If there were a curbing of the incitement of terrorism, then
Israel would have no reason to demand the temporary closure
of any of these universities, and academic bridges could once
again begin to be built.
Israel has cut off person-to-person exchange with Palestinians
Israeli policies have severed links which had been building
up over several years between Israelis and Palestinians. This
shows that the Israelis are treating the Palestinians as less
than human beings, and are not interested in treating them with
human respect and dignity.
This is completely wrong. During the peace process years of
Oslo, Israelis initiated many dialogue and cultural-exchange
ties: academic, professional, women’s’ groups, and
others. Joint business and technology projects were explored,
and schools and universities invited counterparts from Palestinian
institutions to meet them. Neighbouring Jewish and Arab villages
began to build stronger bridges.
Most of this effort has frozen as a result of the violence
of the last two years. But this is not because Israelis do not
want to pursue such ties – only that the violence has
broken the political rapport upon which such links were based,
and because many Palestinians are intimidated by the terrorist
groups and afraid of maintaining the links.
Even in the midst of the violence, Israelis have continued
to initiate many dialogue groups – low-profile, but continuing
Israel destroys Palestinian olive groves to deprive poor farmers
Olive groves are a particularly cherished asset in Palestinian
society, and rich with symbolic significance. Israel uproots
these in senseless acts of agricultural vandalism.
Many attacks on Israeli armed forces and civilians have been
launched from under cover of olive groves. In certain situations,
the army has felt compelled to remove, or reduce the size of
these groves. But it is absurd to suggest that this is senseless
vandalism. Israel has a clear reason for doing so. Equally important,
in conditions of peace Israel could share with the Palestinians
an increasing amount of agricultural technology, and foster
cooperation in their mutual benefit.
The effects of Israel’s demonisation
The allegations against Israel listed above (and many others)
have the cumulative impact of “demonising” Israel.
This depiction of the country as persistently evil, cruel and
inhumane has serious effects:-