While it is not new, there is an intensifying push in progressive circles, particularly among leftist Jews, to blame everything wrong in the Israeli-Arab conflict on the “occupation” of Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) by Israel.

If only Israel would withdraw, then all would be good, it is claimed. Never mind that there is no evidence the result would be anything other than another launching pad to attack as happened when Israel left Gaza in 2005; or that Muslims will accept any Jewish national entity, regardless of shape, to occupy any portion of what now is Israel.

Such facts don’t get in the way of the narrative, which assesses terrorism as a result of the “occupation” and plays fast and loose with concepts of international law. (See, The Legal Case for Israel  and The Legal Case for Israel’s ‘Settlements’, as to why the “occupation” is not illegal, nor are the settlements.)

This inverted assessment of terrorism is on full display in an Op-Ed in The Providence Journal by Nina Tannenwald, Director of the International Relations Program, and Senior Lecturer in Political Science, at The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University .

The article concerns the stabbing murder of 13-year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel while she slept in the community of Kiryat Arba near Hebron.

The perpetrator was a 17-year old Arab from a nearby village who jumped the security fence and managed to infiltrate a home before security forces found and shot him. But only after he killed Hallel.


The facts were pretty simple: girl sleeping in bed is stabbed to death.

It takes a certain distorted sense of cause-and-effect, not to mention morality, to try to blame the girl’s presence in the bed in the community for the murder.

It’s a sick twist on the type of jokes that go “shame your head got in the way of my fist” or similar snark.

It’s the sort of inverted logic that made the perpetrator’s mother proud of him. After all, it wasn’t his fault, it was the fault of the “occupation”:


Yet such inverted logic is precisely what Tannenwald does in her Op-Ed, Nina Tannenwald: It’s the occupation, stupid, which opens with these paragraphs:

The brutal stabbing death of a 13-year old girl by a Palestinian in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba on June 30, followed by a second attack on a car carrying a Jewish family that killed the father, reminds us why the 49-year Israeli occupation of Palestine must end. It is yet another round of attacks in a numbing cycle of violence that is not going to end until the occupation does.

The incident provides a window into everything that is wrong with the Israeli occupation: the cycles of revenge killing, the settler colonialism enabled by Americans, Palestinian despair that turns to violence, and the takeover of Jewish values by extremist ideologies.

The girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, an American-Israeli, was killed by a 17-year-old Palestinian who climbed the fence surrounding the settlement and stabbed her in her bed. He was then shot and killed by a security team.

Certainly, read the whole thing.

You will find the theme is consistent throughout — it’s the “occupation” that caused the 17-year old Arab to kill. If only Hallel hadn’t been sleeping in THAT community, the 17-year old Arab wouldn’t have been motivated to stab her to death.

It’s blaming the victim, as noted in a Letter to the Editor in the Projo responding to Tannenwald’s Op-Ed:

It was with great sadness, and more than a little anger, that I read the July 14 Commentary piece by Nina Tannenwald (“It’s the occupation, stupid”). Ms. Tannenwald’s piece displays such a lack of historical understanding and bigotry that I genuinely fear for the future of many of our young people, since the author is the director of the International Relations Program at Brown University. Ms. Tannenwald is entitled to her opinions, but not to re-write history.

Ms. Tannenwald cites the horrific stabbing death of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, an American-Israeli 13-year-old girl, by a young Palestinian man who climbed the fence surrounding her community on the outskirts of Hebron. The terrorist killed Hallel in her bed while she slept. According to Ms. Tannenwald, we are all “stupid” if we don’t agree with her warped conclusion that this vicious murder of an innocent child was caused by the “brutal and untenable Israeli occupation of Palestine.” In other words, Ms. Tannenwald blames the victim for this unspeakable act of Palestinian terrorism. Her views are disgraceful.

Tannenwald’s argument is a de facto justification for any act of terror no matter how horrific against any Jew who lives beyond 1949 armistice line. And it is at that armistice line that Tannemwald’s logic falls apart, because we know that Palestinian terrorists honor no armistice line. They consider all of Israel occupied.

There is a long list of terror attacks prior to 1967, prior to the “occupation.” Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, of whom we have written extensively, were killed in a bombing by Rasmea Odeh in 1969 in a supermarket in “West” (pre-1967) Jerusalem near the U.S. Consulate when the “occupation” was a mere two years old, and the current “settlements” did not exist. Just yesterday we remembered the 2001 Sbarro Pizzeria massacre, and we previously have covered many terror attacks in the pre-1967 lines.

Tannenwald’s Op-Ed reflects the decline in academia, where narratives replace facts and history, and the narrative is that Arabs of the former British Mandate invariably are the victims.

At the end of the Op-Ed, Tannenwald gave away the game:

People should denounce this brutal killing. They should also denounce the equally brutal and untenable Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Even better, they should do something to end it. The United States should hold up aid to Israel by the calculated amount that Israel will spend on settlements, as a way to encourage the Netanyahu government to get serious about peace talks. The United States should also announce that it will no longer veto resolutions in the U.N. Security Council condemning settlements.

If you want to argue to abandon Israel at the U.N. or to cut military aid to Israel (there is no economic aid), then do so.

But don’t exploit the stabbing death of an innocent 13-year old girl while she slept in bed as the device to get there.

[Note: The title was changed after publication to better reflect the point of the post.]

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