The Jerusalem Post

Tread carefully

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In the wake of the recent Gaza war, a new consensus is emerging in some Western countries that seeks to re-focus attention on the Israel-Palestinia­n conflict, which began during the war with Hamas last month. Despite Hamas provoking the war by firing long-range rockets at Jerusalem, and despite an unpreceden­ted level of rocket fire over 10 days of fighting, Israel faced the most criticism.

It is important that the current government take heed of this criticism and remain wary of provoking too much anger at Israel. This is not because Israel’s critics are fair or correct. They are not. Israel’s critics often have a disproport­ionate hatred of Israel. They are fueled by extreme pro-Palestinia­n activists, sometimes backed by actual Palestinia­n and Islamic terrorist groups in the West that exploit the conflict to push antisemiti­c attacks on Jews.

The progressiv­e or “woke” trend that builds on “intersecti­onal” politics has also attempted to portray Israel as a “settler-colonial state” and part of “white supremacy.” None of this is fair or just – or true. Israel is a diverse country, as exemplifie­d by the extraordin­ary diversity of the new government. Supported by the Ra’am party and with Arab members of the government, this Knesset and government is also unpreceden­ted in the role of women and minorities in power.

Despite this reality, Israel must contend with hostile agendas abroad, manifested in how the airstrike on Gaza on Tuesday evening – in response to arson balloons – received widespread coverage.

Previous Israeli airstrikes went largely unnoticed, because they did not cause casualties. For instance when former chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot told the New York Times in January 2019 that Israel had carried out thousands of attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, his comments were greeted with interest, but not controvers­y. Apparently very few people were killed in those airstrikes – there were no grieving Syrian families with children lost in the attacks, and no media rushed to report Israel’s use of “disproport­ionate” force against warehouses allegedly holding Iranian weapons in Syria.

Now that reality may be changing. The years of chaos that began with the Arab Spring illustrate­d how the Israel-Palestinia­n conflict was not central to the region. Israel has been saying this for years, but the Palestinia­ns succeeded in putting themselves on the internatio­nal agenda, displacing many other minority groups that sought justice, such as the Kurds. Beginning with the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries, as well as the rise of ISIS in 2014, Israel was not a focus of attention.

During the Trump years, the world’s focus was on what Trump would do next. With him gone, many human rights groups, such as B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch, have sensed that now is the time to re-focus energies on Israel, describing the country as practicing apartheid across all the areas it controls, from the West Bank to Jerusalem and inside the Green Line. These groups disingenuo­usly claim Israel “occupies” Gaza when in fact Gaza is illegally occupied by Hamas, and the Palestinia­n Authority has been ejected from the enclave.

However, this new focus on Israel and allegation­s that Israel “occupies” Gaza means that Hamas bares almost no criticism for the recent attacks. Indeed, UN statements and reports don’t even mention Hamas’s role. Israel faces an uphill battle in bringing the world’s attention to Hamas crimes, such as its use of disproport­ionate rocket fire, its recruitmen­t of children soldiers, and the terrorizin­g of civilians.

With this in mind, it is important that the new government set the right tone. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s comments condemning some of the racism displayed at the flag march this week is a welcome change in tone and messaging from Jerusalem. Israel’s government wants to be a light unto the nations in line with the hopes and dreams of Israelis, Zionists and the Jewish people since time immemorial. We can be this light, but we must be cognizant of the agendas seeking to cloud our actions that focus only on the negative.

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