By GILEAD INI
It doesn’t take long for Tareq Baconi to shift from lamenting violence to defending murder. Baconi’s July 10 essay in The New York Times opens with emotive language about suffering in Jenin, the West Bank city where earlier this month 12 Palestinians, mostly combatants from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were killed fighting the Israeli military.
“Our screens are filled once again with images of weeping women, children, and the elderly,” he writes. The reader is meant to be moved by the imagery—how could they not be—and perhaps also by the author’s sensitivity to suffering.
But any such sensitivity quickly vanishes when Jewish Israelis enter the picture. Just two paragraphs after his appeal to empathy, and again throughout his piece, Baconi treats deadly violence against Jewish civilians not as a source of tears for Israeli women, children, or elderly—nor as a war crime, an exacerbation of the conflict, or a problem in any measure—but as “resistance,” alternatingly understandable, acceptable, or as the word’s noble lineage suggests, even desirable.
Terror Emanating From Jenin
Israel operated in Jenin to degrade Palestinian terror infrastructure there after six months in which Palestinians killed 26 people, overwhelmingly civilians. Not only are the victims dehumanized in Barconi’s narrative, but their deaths are covered up.
The author’s first reference to and minimization of Palestinian violence appears in the third paragraph, where Baconi goes through the motions of “rebutting” Israel’s description to the targets of the Jenin operation:
“At a Fourth of July event in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli Army had attacked ‘the most legitimate target on the planet—people who would annihilate our country.’ He was referring to months of armed resistance against Israeli settlers by young men in the Jenin refugee camp.” (Emphasis added.)
But as the text of the prime minister’s speech made clear, he was referring to “terrorists [who] perpetrated savage attacks, murdering Israeli civilians, men, women and children.” He was referring, for example, to the mass shooting on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on April 7, 2022, where the “resistance” was random gunfire sprayed at young Israelis sitting outside a lively bar, and the “settlers” were three murdered Jews from Kfar Saba and Givat Shmuel (cities that, like Tel Aviv, are not settlements).
Like Netanyahu, the U.S. ambassador to Israel condemned this “cowardly attack on innocent civilians.” The E.U. ambassador called it a “terror attack against Israeli civilians.” Even the Palestinian president straightforwardly described the “killing of Israeli civilians.” Only in a world of euphemisms and deceit—the space beneath Barconi’s byline and the New York Times logo—was the prime minister referring to “resistance” against “settlers.”
Though Barconi hopes to dehumanize the diverse group of murdered Jews by concealing their deaths and calling them all settlers, those living in settlements, like the two young brothers gunned down on Feb. 26, 2023 when a terrorist opened fire at their car in the West Bank, are equally civilians, and equally protected under international law.
Not that the gunman, a Hamas terrorist, would care where they live. Hamas is known for its murderous suicide bombing and rocket attacks targeting cities inside Israel. It is, as the prime minister correctly noted, an internationally designated terrorist group. And it is, as the prime minister correctly noted, sworn to the annihilation of Israel.
Ignores Peace Efforts
Eight more times, Barconi refers to “resistance” while erasing the Israeli dead, concealing Israeli peace offers and denying Israel’s right to defend its citizens. Murder, by contrast, is cast as a Palestinian right. “With the absence of any hope for statehood, and with no viable political leadership to lead the struggle, some take matters into their own hands through armed and unarmed forms of resistance,” Baconi writes, though he knows that Palestinian terrorism has coexisted with (and in fact undermined) past hopes for peace, and knows that Palestinians lack a state because their leaders have rejected multiple offers of statehood.
But it is a staple of anti-Israel propaganda to erase those peace offers, which after all expose the dishonesty of those charging Israel with seeking to perpetuate the conflict.
The author stacks euphemism upon misleading euphemism—as when he pretends that Gaza’s “resistance” is a protest against “occupation,” then casts Israel’s attempt to protect Israelis as beating Palestinian citizens into “submission”:
“Like Jenin, the Gaza Strip also has a history of resistance against Israeli occupation. With Hamas’s rise to power in 2006, Israel, in coordination with Egypt, tightened a hermetic blockade on the strip, effectively severing it from the rest of Palestine, and experimented with military techniques to force the population into submission.” (Emphasis added.)
The first euphemism covers for indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli population centers, war crimes under international law. The second covers for the actual goal of Gaza’s Hamas leaders: the elimination of Israel in its entirety. The third is meant to cast Israeli attempts to prevent war crimes by an anti-Semitic, eliminationist terror group as nothing but an act of oppression.
This is hardly the only time Baconi treats terror as a right and counter-terror as a wrong. He laments Israel’s military response to Gaza rocket fire because it seeks to “weaken Palestinian resistance and manage a restive population chafing against Israeli control.” (And, as throughout, he makes his argument more persuasive by failing to mention the rocket fire.) He casts Palestinian violence as “self-defense.” He says Palestinians take up arms “to resist … domination.”
Ukraine As An Example?
He is indignant that anyone might use the T-word to describe attacks on civilians by members of terror groups. The “equating of Palestinian resistance to terrorism,” he argues, is “particularly galling for Palestinians in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where resistance to illegal occupation is hailed as heroic and supported by Western weapons and military training.” As if the Ukrainian army has been in the business of ramming vehicles into little children waiting at bus stops or opening fire on bars, synagogues, bicycles and civilian cars.
These are the kinds of acts that the world understands as textbook terrorism, but that Baconi seeks to conceal behind the banner “resistance.” These are the attacks that fill Israeli homes with tears, though Baconi is unmoved, since they’re only Jewish Israeli tears. This is the nature of the violence that prompted Israel’s counter-terror operation in Jenin, an operation “remarkable” in its success at avoiding civilian casualties despite intense urban fighting.
It was so remarkable, in fact, that it seemingly flustered Baconi. Unable to condemn Israel for killing civilians, he took to the New York Times to criticize the country for even wanting to stop Palestinian violence.
Gilead Ini is a senior research analyst at CAMERA. His commentary has appeared in various publications, including The Jerusalem Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Columbia Journalism Review and National Review. Originally published by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.