by Nadav Shragai
The Palestinian Authority's political zigzagging is more puzzling than ever • Fatah officials fan the flames of incitement, while PA security forces collaborate with the Israeli military to stop surging violence from spiraling into a full-blown intifada.
The optical illusion of the past week, suggesting the current wave of terrorism was winding down and allowing even the news cycle to shift its focus, has been refuted by reality, and while the number of Israeli casualties has decreased dramatically, the number of attacks has actually gone up. They have just proven far less successful.
Undermining the success rate of the stabbing attacks that have come to characterize the surge in violence plaguing Israel since early October, is the Israeli public's vigilance, and the fact that many terrorists have been neutralized by civilians and security forces prior to fully carrying out their nefarious plans, or nearly immediately afterwards, preventing them from inflicting untold harm.
Make no mistake, the spate of knife terrorism is far from over, and if in its beginning east Jerusalem was the main exporter of terrorists, the last week has shifted the focus to Hebron -- Hamas' "capital" in Judea and Samaria.
Twenty-nine terrorist attacks have taken place in the Hebron area over the past month, 22 of them stabbing attacks.
This week, Hebron was the scene of a sight as gruesome as any attack: On Sunday, during the funeral of Raed Jaradat, the terrorist who carried out the Oct. 26 stabbing attack in Beit Hanoun, north of Kiryat Arba, his father turned to one of the participants, the father of Dania Arshid, a young Palestinian woman who a few days earlier was killed after trying to stab an Israeli soldier at the Cave of the Patriarchs, and proposed a "marriage of souls" between their deceased children.
Arshid's father accepted the horrid proposal immediately, and the audience cheered. Music soon blared, turning the funeral into a macabre "wedding of shahids" (martyrs).
The following day, citing incitement, the Israel Defense Force shut down Al-Hurriya, a Fatah-affiliated radio station in Hebron. The station, which overtly calls for the murder of Jews, has been shut down twice before, in 2002 and in 2008.
Tensions in Hebron are a cause for great concern for the defense establishment, as thousands of Jews from across Israel plan to visit the city and the Cave of the Patriarchs to mark Shabbat Chayei Sarah ("The Life of Sarah," the fifth weekly portion in the annual Torah reading cycle). Six IDF battalions have been deployed in and around the city to secure worshipers. The concern is from stabbing attacks, as well as from the use of firearms, which Hamas relentlessly instigates.
No lesser between two evils
"In the choice between fighting the plague and fighting cholera, Israel has to fight both," a senior defense official said this week, at the conclusion of a security briefing. While it is unclear which is which, the official was clearly speaking of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas is pushing would-be Palestinian terrorists to introduce shooting attacks into the equation, to little success at this point, while the Palestinian Authority is going out of its way to label the surge in violence as a spate of "popular resistance."
The Palestinian Authority's position is complex: On one hand, Ramallah is publicly opposed to escalating the situation into a full-blown intifada, complete with shooting and suicide attacks, and the Palestinian security forces are collaborating with the IDF and the Shin Bet security agency to quell the violence.
The reasons are mostly tactical: Fatah is wary of losing control over the West Bank, it is concerned that Israel would undermine the Palestinian social fabric, and it is especially wary of potential Hamas power plays.
On the other hand, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his officials have expressed public support for terrorist attacks, lauding those who perpetrate them. Ramallah is behind much of the anti-Israel propaganda on the Palestinian street, pushing incitement to one of its highest levels ever.
There are numerous examples for Palestinian incitement, and organizations like the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Palestinian Media Watch and the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), as well as official Israeli intelligence bodies, have their hands full documenting events on the ground.
Top military and government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, agree that incitement is greasing the wheels of terrorism and is the driving force in the prolonged spate of terrorism.
Palestinian lies and incitement are now verging on the intolerable, as Abbas and other Palestinian officials systematically present incidents in which terrorists were killed by security forces as the "execution of innocent Palestinian civilians" whose only crime was rebelling against Israel as part of the "popular resistance."
The Palestinians have recently begun claiming that Israel is falsifying stabbing attacks, and that once innocent Palestinians are killed, Israeli security forces plant evidence and stage scenes.
The visual expression of this allegation was illustrated in a cartoon strip published this week by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority's official newspaper, depicting a knife attached to the barrel of an Israeli soldier's rifle. The knife cuts through the hand of a Palestinian man, and the soldier then pulls the rifle away, leaving the impression that the Palestinian is brandishing the knife at the soldier, who is depicted yelling, "Terrorist!"
In a run-down of recent events, Ramallah's official TV station went further, reporting that "in a fit of hysteria and madness against our defenseless youth, the occupation government's police forces are executing our children and youth in cold blood, simply because they arouse suspicion. [Israel] then makes them look guilty and falsifies evidence, to justify its actions to the world. The killing of children over nothing but suspicions makes for painful scenes, and even the greatest directors in Hollywood would find them difficult to stage, but the Zionists skillfully stage them."
This report is not unusual. Moreover, the slanderous accusations leveled at Israel are juxtaposed by the glorification of the terrorists and their actions.
The examples are many: The Palestinian Education Ministry plants trees to honor the "shahids"; Fatah recently posted a birth certificate of a baby boy named "Knife of Jerusalem" on its Facebook page; Fatah's Twitter account described stabbing attacks as "a symphony of love for Al-Quds" [Jerusalem]"; and Fatah even had soil transferred from Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to the gravesite of the terrorist who murdered two Israelis near the Old City's Lions' Gate last month, "so the shahid can embrace the land for which he died a martyr's death." The list goes on.
The terminology of Abbas' rhetoric is also interesting: He speaks of "executions" but never bothers to mention that those killed were carrying, or attempting to carry out, terrorist attacks. Moreover, Abbas has threatened to seek International Criminal Court action against Israel over these so-called "executions."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also speaks of the "execution of innocent Palestinians," and PLO Executive Committee member Mahmoud Ismail has stated that the murder of settlers is not only legal, it is "a national Palestinian duty."
No rhyme and little reason
Since the surge in violence erupted, 70 Palestinians, most of them terrorists, have been killed. On the Israeli side, 12 people were killed and 127 were wounded, 15 of them seriously.
Profiling the 35 terrorists who carried out attacks in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, 24 of whom were killed and 11 wounded, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center found that 18 of the perpetrators were aged 16 to 20, and 10 of them were minors, aged 13 to 18. The majority of terrorists are either unemployed or do not attend school, and they are not affiliated with any known terrorist organization.
Analyzing 28 terrorist attacks, ITIC found that 23 were stabbing attacks, one was a ramming attack, one was a combined ramming-stabbing attack, two were combined knifing and shooting attacks, and one was a lethal stoning attack.
The research center also found the majority of attacks, 19, took place in Jerusalem, and that 21 of the terrorists were residents of east Jerusalem neighborhoods: Six from Jabel Mukaber, six from Sur Baher, three from Beit Hanina, three from Kafr Aqab, two from the Shuafat refugee camp, and one from Al-Ram. Five terrorists were residents of Hebron and its vicinity.
"The vast majority of terrorist attacks was spontaneously carried out by lone terrorists, without actual premeditation, and using 'cold' weapons, mainly knives and other sharp objects," the ITIC's report said.
"The use of knives is widely promoted in the Palestinian media, and it is possible that it has gained even more popularity due to the impact videos depicting Islamic State executions have had."
The report noted that stabbing attacks "have an 'infectious' effect, given the glorification of the perpetrators in Palestinian media and the empathy felt for youth who were killed during such attacks."
According to the findings, "Both Jerusalem and Hebron, where the majority of terrorists resided, are two cities agitated by constant political, social and religious tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. In contrast, only a small number of Arab Israelis have taken part in the recent wave of terrorism -- three out of 35."
The current surge in violence is characterized "by terrorists devoid of any specific ideology, orderly plan or a political directing hand. Some exhibited Islamist inclinations, such as wanting to become shahids, or expressing a willingness to die for the liberation of Al-Aqsa mosque, but that does not necessarily indicate they were affiliated with Hamas or any other Islamist group."
ITIC further concluded that so far, none of the terrorists who carried out attacks in recent weeks were inspired by Islamic State, or any other Salafi ideology. The majority of them had no previous records, and only two had been previously imprisoned in Israel."
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