Groundhog Day in the Middle East

Steve wrote earlier today that he feels like he is living in a personal Groundhog Day, where it is perpetually April 1. I have that feeling too, never more so than with regard to the Middle East. The phrase “deja vu” doesn’t begin to do it justice. Today we got this report from the Associated Press: “Thousands of Palestinians protest in West Bank.” Stop me if you’ve heard this story before:

Thousands of outraged Palestinians took to the streets of the West Bank on Thursday, joining funeral processions and demonstrations after two protesters were killed by Israeli troops and a Palestinian prisoner died of cancer in Israeli custody.

You can find photos of the protests, too:

Of course, seasoned observers of the region–or, one might say, those who are not pathologically stupid–will have some obvious questions. Like, why did Israeli troops kill two “protesters,” and why is the fact that a Palestinian inmate died of cancer a ground for political complaint? You can discern the answers to these questions from the AP’s account, but it takes a little effort. The AP gives us Mahmous Abbas’s take on today’s events:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was responsible for the violence, claiming it was trying to divert attention from a four-year standstill in peace efforts.

“It seems that Israel wants to spark chaos in the Palestinian territories,” he said. “From the beginning, we have said we want stability and calm. Despite that, Israel on every occasion is using lethal force against peaceful young protesters, and peaceful demonstrations are being suppressed with the power of weapons. This is not acceptable at all.”

But wait! The AP also tells us this:

Tensions rose further Wednesday when two Palestinian youths were killed in the northern West Bank after throwing firebombs toward Israeli troops. In an apparent show of solidarity with Abu Hamdiyeh, militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets into Israel for three straight days, drawing Israeli retaliation, in the greatest challenge yet to a cease-fire reached in November.

So the “peaceful young protesters” carrying out their “peaceful demonstrations” on behalf of “stability and calm” were hurling firebombs at Israeli troops. How peaceful can you get?

Then there is the Palestinian who died of cancer, Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh. He was hailed as a hero by the Palestinians:

Mourners carried Abu Hamdiyeh’s body through the streets of the town, while chanting anti-Israel slogans and burning U.S. flags. Masked gunmen fired into the air, while Abu Hamdiyeh was given a full military burial.

The AP tells us that “[t]he Palestinians have blamed Israel for not giving him proper treatment.” Is there any evidence for that claim? None cited by the AP, certainly, and Israel is famous for providing first-class medical treatment to Palestinians, including Palestinians caught in acts of terrorism. And who was Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, anyway?

Abu Hamdiyeh had been serving a life sentence for involvement in an attempt to carry out a suicide bombing in a crowded Jerusalem restaurant a decade ago.

So, if you put it all together, we can distill from the AP’s report that thousands of Palestinians “protested” because 1) Israeli soldiers defended themselves when they were attacked with firebombs, and 2) a 64-year-old terrorist died of cancer, probably because he smoked too many cigarettes. The “peaceful protests” included “militants in the Gaza Strip fir[ing] rockets into Israel for three straight days,”[m]asked gunmen fir[ing] into the air,” and “[s]everal hundred people … clash[ing] with Israeli troops, hurling stones and firebombs.” But to the AP, it’s all a puzzle. The AP says it is easy to understand why the Palestinians are so addicted to firebombs:

The issue of Palestinian prisoners is deeply emotional in Palestinian society. Nearly every Palestinian family has a member or close acquaintance who has spent time in an Israeli prison….

You might think that fact reflects very poorly on the Palestinians, but no! The AP thinks it is an indictment of Israel.

All of this makes my head hurt. It is Groundhog Day X 100: we have seen the same fatuous reporting on the same dance of death more times than any of us can remember. Some months ago, I wrote that Israel should give up on the Palestinians and annex the West Bank. The West Bank has no rightful owner under international law, and no one has a better claim to Judea and Samaria than Israel. A half million Israelis now live on the West Bank, and others, including Caroline Glick, have since joined the call for annexation. Recently some Israelis floated a proposal to pay Palestinian families a substantial amount of money to vacate Judea and Samaria and go somewhere else, like Gaza, or Jordan or Syria or Egypt, or Europe, where they are ostensibly so popular. These are all good ideas, in my view. And they would allow us to wake up from Groundhog Day to the prospect of real change in a small but long-troubled corner of the world.