An open reply to an open letter

Dear Open Letter writers,

As you’re aware, there has been an endless stream of bad news emanating from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the last few weeks. The level of violence has peaked to the level that commentators are openly discussing whether we are in, or about to be in, an intifada – a terrifying prospect.

It seems like every hour there is breaking news of the latest attack. The majority of these are stabbing attacks, perpetrated by Palestinians against a variety of targets, but there have also been several others – including the shooting of Henkin family, and an attempted suicide bombing on Sunday. Sometimes the perpetrators are stopped and arrested; sometimes they are killed.

Unfortunately, it has largely seemed as if the rest of the world is simply ignoring this. If the terrorist in question is arrested, the story goes unreported. If they are killed in action, the story is immediately re-framed with the Palestinian as the victim, with little if any attention paid to those they were trying to murder.

In response to this increase in violence, as you know, the ZF has decided to hold a protest and vigil outside the Palestinian Mission, using the common hashtag #IsraeliLivesMatter. Neither of these sit well with those who have signed your Open Letter condemning our decision.  Ironically, given you conclude your missive by extolling the virtues of ‘positive dialogue’ you have decided that instead of contacting us to discuss it directly you would condemn us publicly instead. But let me respond to your criticisms.

Firstly, the usage of the hashtag #IsraeliLivesMatter. We didn’t coin the phrase, but used it as it is in common circulation amongst the online pro-Israel community.

The actual meaning behind the phrase reflects the logic behind the original #BlackLivesMatter – to raise awareness about a specific community that feels it is under attack.  In this specific example, the Israeli community that feels that the threats to their lives are being ignored, and their deaths downplayed or even justified.

One trigger for this has been the aforementioned media coverage, whereby there are now numerous examples of misleading headlines and stories that focus on Palestinians killed, rather than the Israelis they were trying to kill.

The other has been the quite frankly appalling reaction from many Palestinians to this spate of violence, and the related indifference of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) representative told the cabinet Sunday, that “senior PA and Fatah officials are involved in the incitement that is fanning the violence”. This is the reason why we have decided to hold our event outside the Palestinian Mission – the de facto Palestinian embassy. We wish to hold the Palestinian Authority to account, a decision that you describe as “itself incit[ing] hatred towards Palestinians.” Just so we’re clear, here’s a reminder of what actual incitement is.

It’s promoting on social media cartoons and videos encouraging Palestinians to stab any Jew they can. It’s Hamas imams and politicians calling on their followers to take up arms – the Hamas that is still part of the Unity Government. It’s calling for a Third Intifada.

It’s describing those killed whilst trying to indiscriminately murder Israelis as martyrs. It’s the paying of salaries to those arrested whilst trying to indiscriminately murder Israelis. It’s a Palestinian couple naming their baby after a man who indiscriminately murdered Israelis. It’s the Palestinian Bar Association giving that same man an honorary degree. It’s Mahmoud Abbas holding his tongue when Israelis are being murdered – and then condemning the deaths of Palestinians killed whilst murdering Israelis.

And last but not least, it’s the incessant lie that Al Aqsa is under attack, and that the only way to protect it is with violence. It’s Mahmoud Abbas saying, on Palestinian TV:

“We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.”

Since you end by praising Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin, let me conclude on a rare note of agreement with you and also praise their contributions. Their condemnations of violence and racism are both welcome and necessary. The ZF also condemns both violence and racism, as do yourselves.  Were the Palestinian leadership as willing to join us, we would not feel the need to hold this protest. Sadly, as it stands, we do.


Paul Charney
Zionist Federation of the United Kingdom and Ireland