The Israeli-Palestinian revenge cycle, take two (+video)

Hatred, anger, and desires for revenge are being driven ever higher by the dynamic of unequal violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

By , Staff writer

  • close
    Israeli Arabs take part in a protest in the northern city of Acre July 7. The abduction and killing of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khudair has touched off clashes between police and stone-throwing Arab protesters in East Jerusalem and in several Arab villages in northern and southern Israel.
    View Caption

On June 30, the day that three missing Israeli teens were confirmed dead I wrote a short post titled "After three Israeli teens found dead will the revenge cycle be ratcheted up?"

I suggested that calls for revenge from Israeli politicians and citizens, the roundup of hundreds of Hamas members and other Palestinians, and the deaths of at least five Palestinians during the Israeli hunt for the abductees would lead to an increase in violence. The post received a flood of condemnation via emails and social media, calling me an Israel hater, an anti-semite, and pretty much a callous monster.

What struck these respondents as particularly outrageous was my breakdown of the death toll on both sides in recent years. How dare I analyze the long-running conflict by suggesting that Israeli and Palestinian lives are somehow comparable? And the notion that Israelis might pursue revenge indiscriminately against Palestinians was cited as proof of my bias and lack of regard for the facts. 

Recommended: 7 reasons to be optimistic about Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

Here is the offending section:

Against the death toll of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these deaths [of the three teens] are just a drop in the bucket. From 2000-2007, a period that includes the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, 4,228 Palestinians were killed and 1,024 Israelis were killed. Of these, 971 of the dead were children or teens, and about 854 of these Palestinian.

Though the situation has generally been less violent in recent years, the killing on both sides continues. Late 2008 and early 2009 saw Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza, in response to militant rocket fire, which resulted in about 1,400 Palestinians dead and four Israeli dead. Of the Palestinian dead, 345 were children or teens. Since that operation ended, 571 Palestinians were killed and 25 Israelis were killed through May of this year. Of the Palestinian dead in that period, 84 were children or teens and five were Israeli children or teens.

I have absolutely no regrets about pointing to these facts.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is filled with hate on both sides. This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. And yet, to point out that one side suffers disproportionately – the side that is the weaker of the two and doesn't have a state of its own – is treated by many in Israel and among its friends abroad as the height of bias.

This attitude is one of the reasons why the revenge cycle I highlighted a week ago is now heading into overdrive. Here's how it works. Palestinians in the West Bank hate the occupation, particularly mass arrests by Israeli forces and Israel's use of collective punishment. That hatred fueled the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens who were hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli response was to blame collectively Fatah and Hamas, arrest hundreds in the West Bank, and kill at least five more Palestinians as it sought for the teens' killers. An expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was also announced as a form of punishment. Then, as we know now, a Palestinian teen was kidnapped from his home in East Jerusalem and apparently burned to death by Israelis.

And as Israel has continued to turn the screws on Hamas, the Islamist movement has lashed out with rocket strikes from Gaza, which have so far killed no Israelis. The Israeli military response has killed at least 11 Palestinians so far – most, but not all, militants. The focus among Palestinians will be on the latest civilian casualties, driving more anger, more ineffectual Palestinian attacks, and deadlier Israeli responses.

There is a sort of an addiction to the revenge cycle in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and with each rotation the hatred grows deeper and the risk of escalation reaching true breaking point increases. 

One former Israeli security chief, Yuval Diskin, thinks that time may be near. Diskin was the head of the Shin Bet from 2005-2011 and pulls no punches in a post he made on his public Facebook page about Israel's role in its own insecurity.

Share this story:
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.