Representative Ayanna Pressley, the least-discussed member of the Squad, whose other members are the notoriously anti-Israel Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
I happened to read an article the other day, “Representative Ayanna Pressley questions US aid to Israel ‘that is used to demolish Palestinian homes,’” by Emma Platoff, Boston Globe, May 14, 2021. It was, obviously, written before the ceasefire went into effect on May 21, about Representative Ayanna Pressley, the least-discussed member of the Squad, whose other members are the notoriously anti-Israel Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Pressley is no slouch herself when it comes to railing against Israel, demanding that the American government cut aid to the Jewish state “that is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children, and displace Palestinian families.” Her charges are absurd. Israel does not “demolish Palestinian homes” for no reason; it demolishes the homes of suicide terrorists in order to discourage terrorism. While the Palestinians’ “Pay-For-Slay” program provides generous stipends to terrorists and, in case they die during their attacks, to their families — thereby rewarding past and incentivizing future terrorism — the Israelis naturally try to discourage would-be terrorists. They have found that demolition of the houses belonging to the families of terrorists works; it dampens the ardor of would-be copycat terrorists.
An academic study (Benmelech et al.) “examines whether house demolitions are an effective counterterrorism tactic against suicide terrorism. We link original longitudinal microlevel data on houses demolished by the Israeli Defense Forces with data on the universe of suicide attacks against Israeli targets. By exploiting spatial and time variation in house demolitions and suicide attacks during the second Palestinian uprising, we show that punitive house demolitions (those targeting Palestinian suicide terrorists and terror operatives) cause an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks. The results support the view that selective violence is an effective tool to combat terrorist groups and that indiscriminate violence backfires.” The “demolition of Palestinian homes” that Pressley decries is, in fact, “the demolition of the homes of Palestinian terrorists.”
Pressley, warming to her theme, accused Israel of “imprison[ing] Palestinian children.” What can she be thinking of? Does she think the Israeli police just lock up children for no reason? And what does she know about the age at which, under Israeli law, criminal responsibility is attributed? That law declares the minimum age of “criminal responsibility” to be 12 years, which is about average for the world’s nations; it is older, in fact, than the age in all 50 of the American states. At 11 years, Massachusetts has the oldest minimum age. Many other countries attribute “criminal responsibility” to children younger than 12. For example, U.K. law attributes criminal responsibility to those who are 10 years and older. Furthermore, Pressley should know – should have found out before she spoke — that Israeli courts do not allow minor children to be imprisoned in a juvenile detention center until they reach the age of 14. And it is not unknown, but very rare for an Israeli court to convict and imprison a defendant who is between the ages of 14 and 18, and then only for a crime deemed particularly heinous, such as murder. Israeli courts are more lenient than American courts when it comes to the prosecution and incarceration of minors. In Pressley’s telling, it sounds like the savage Israelis are simply rounding up “Palestinian children” and “imprisoning them” for no obvious reason.
Pressley’s third charge is that Israel “displaces Palestinian families.” Here she appears to be alluding to the dispute over four properties in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem. It’s a simple property dispute that the Palestinians insist is an act of territorial aggression by Israel. Those territories were bought by Jews from an Arab owner in 1875. From then until 1948, they were owned by Jewish organizations, that rented them out to Jewish tenants. In 1948, Jordan seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem, expelled all the Jews from both territories, and put Arabs in former Jewish homes, including the four in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood whose status has long been disputed in the courts. Since 1967, the Jewish owner of the four properties, the Nahalat Shimon organization, has been attempting to have them returned to it. The Arabs living in them have admitted – some in 1982 and others in 2020 — that they are not the owners, but they still insist they will not be moved and that, furthermore, they will continue their policy of not paying rent to the owners.
It has taken decades for this property dispute to make its way through the Israeli courts; the four Arab families living in those properties have lost every appeal in the courts below; now the Israeli Supreme Court will finally hear the case. The Palestinians have convinced much of the world to believe that Israel is “dispossessing” these four families in some sort of illegal land grab, as part of a sinister plot to “Judaize” east Jerusalem. There is no such plot. No Israelis are trying to dispossess the 209,000 Arabs who live legally in east Jerusalem. The Israeli owner of the four lots simply wants its property back. It has the deeds going back to 1875; the Arab squatters – for that is what they are — have no deeds, but they do have a noisy and quite effective p.r. machine that has convinced many, eager to believe the worst of Israel, that the tiny Jewish state is doing a great injustice in attempting to “expel Palestinians from their own homes.” Those particular Palestinians are not in “their own homes.” They have for decades been squatting on someone else’s property, paying no rent to the property owner, and refusing to leave. And among those willing, even eager, to believe the worst of Israel – that In the Sheikh Jarrah dispute (to which the state of Israel is not even a party) the Jewish state is trying to “Judaize” east Jerusalem — is an American congresswoman who has obviously not bothered to study the matter, Pressley.
In the same article on Pressley, I came across this paragraph:
In the long-contested region, the recent escalation of violence began in the wake of Israeli efforts to force Palestinians out of parts of the city. During Ramadan, a holy month in Islam, Israeli police raided Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in the world for Muslims, setting off a skirmish in which Muslim worshippers threw rocks and police shot tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. More than 330 Palestinians and at least 21 police officers were wounded.
What’s wrong with that paragraph? Everything.
First, the “recent escalation of violence” did not begin “in the wake of Israeli efforts to force Palestinians out of parts of the city.” There have been no such efforts. I assume that Platoff is referring to the property dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, but Israeli authorities have so far made no move to evict the Palestinian tenants. Israel is a government of laws; those authorities are waiting for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. It is the Palestinians who have attempted to turn this property dispute into a political one, where the villainous Israelis, always up to no good, are trying to drive inoffensive Palestinians “out of Jerusalem.”
Second, Emma Platoff describes how “Israeli police raided Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem,” which she describes as “one of the holiest sites in the world for Muslims.” Is that all that it is? Shouldn’t she have explained to her readers that Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam; it is located on the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism? She leaves out any connection of Jews to the place; perhaps she is simply unaware of what the Temple Mount means in Judaism.
In Platoff’s account, the Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque first, thereby “setting off a skirmish” in which “Muslim worshippers threw rocks and police shot tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades.” She has things backwards, the cart before the horse, what the classical rhetoricians called the figure of hysteron-proteron. The police only entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque after Palestinians on top of the Temple Mount had been throwing not only rocks, but also Molotov cocktails, both at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall, some 70 feet below the Temple Mount, and at the police on the Temple Mount in a wild melee. Only at that point did some of the police – whose normal job on the Temple Mount is to monitor Jewish visitors, and make sure they do not pray or even silently mouth prayers, lest Muslims be offended – enter the mosque to chase down perpetrators. It was hardly a “skirmish” when the Palestinians were throwing massive rocks that could kill a man, and on the other side, the Israeli police were using non-lethal tear gas, rubber-tipped bullets, and stun guns to stop the assault on Jews at the Western Wall and the police on Temple Mount. Palestinians hurling large rocks, and Molotov cocktails, at the police was not a skirmish but a full-scale murderous riot.
Here’s what Emma Platoff should have written, instead of that misleading paragraph:
The current conflict between the terror group Hamas and Israel began with Mahmoud Abbas’ unpopular decision to call off the Palestinian elections he himself had proposed in January. Abbas encouraged Palestinian violence against Israelis because he wanted to deflect attention from that cancellation. Hamas, angry at the cancellation of elections, wanted to show that it was now in charge of managing the “resistance” to Israel, effectively showing up Abbas as irrelevant to the struggle. Arabs started to attack Jews in Jerusalem; some put up videos of their attacks on TikTok to show their friends the edifying spectacle of Arabs humiliating and beating Jews.
Meanwhile, a simple property dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, involving four Arab families who have for years refused to pay rent to the Jewish owners of the properties, came to a head, and will soon be heard by Israel’s Supreme Court. Hamas depicted the property dispute as being part of a sinister (and non-existent) campaign by Israel to “Judaize” east Jerusalem, and this led to further outbursts of violence in Jerusalem by Arab rioters.
At the same time, violence began at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest site in Islam, when Arabs began to hurl rocks both at Jewish worshippers some 70 feet below at the Western Wall, and at police on the Temple Mount itself. When Israeli police on the Temple Mount tried to subdue the violent rioters, they ran after some who had sought refuge in the Al-Aqsa Mosque; this intrusion of Jews into the mosque set off a further firestorm of rage among the Palestinian population.
Then, on Monday, May 10, Hamas began its daily barrages of hundreds of rockets into Israeli cities. It launched a total of 4,340 rockets at Israel in the 11 days of the Gaza conflict. About 640 of them fell short and landed in Gaza. Of the remaining 3,700, the IDF reported intercepting 90% of them. Of the 370 that did hit, most landed in cities of southern Israel, Sderot and Ashkelon in particular, but some also hit Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem. Israel promptly responded with bombardments that targeted Hamas weapons warehouses, intelligence offices, weapons development facilities, senior military commanders, and the network of underground tunnels that Hamas built to move both fighters and weapons throughout Gaza without, Hamas assumed, detection by Israel. The IDF has proven that assumption wrong, and in 11 days of bombing, wreaked havoc with Hamas’ system of tunnels. By the time the ceasefire went into effect, It had destroyed 60 miles of terror tunnels by the time the ceasefire.
Feel free, Ms. Platoff, to use those four paragraphs just above when you next write about the Israel-Hamas conflict. For you, there will be no charge.