Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 7 August 2022. © Richard Kemp
A week ago US President Joe Biden ordered the elimination of Al Qaida boss Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul. A few days later Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid ordered the elimination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander Tayseer al-Jabari in Gaza. These were two of a kind: mass killers whose sole purpose was to inflict pain, death and destruction on ordinary decent people to bring about their vision of Islamic conquest.
Commenting on the killing of Zawahiri, UN Secretary General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN was ‘committed to fighting against terrorism and strengthening international cooperation in countering that threat’.
Of course it was a different story when Israel acted against Jabari. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland was ‘deeply concerned’ by ‘the targeted killing today of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader inside Gaza.’
Of course he was. No matter that the strike against Jabari and his attack team prevented the deaths of innocent civilians; that is nothing to an organisation that is institutionally biased against Israel. Witness Miloon Kathari, one of the commissioners in the latest UN Human Rights Council kangaroo court investigating Israel, who only a few days ago was forced to make what UN Watch chief Hillel Neuer called a non-apology apology over his antisemitic remarks last month. The commission chairwoman, Navi Pillay, who also has a long track record of anti-Israel bias, previously said Kathari’s remarks were ‘deliberately misrepresented’.
There will be no UN investigation into Zawahari’s killing but there will be into Jabari’s. This time, though, there will be no need for another Human Rights Council witch-hunt; it will simply be folded into Pillay’s permanent commission that has no end and starts with the re-creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Wennesland’s ‘deep concern’ was aggravated by comments from Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’, who managed in one tweet both to condemn Israel and contort its actions into a darkly malign parody of reality — so far, so UN. Conjured from nowhere, she claimed that Israel’s actions were to ‘deter Islamic Jihad’s possible retaliation for its leader’s arrest’, going on to describe the strikes as ‘flagrant aggression’ in breach of international law.
This is pure fiction. Israel has not claimed its operation in Gaza — codenamed Breaking Dawn — is to deter. The government has made it clear that the strikes were to prevent an imminent threat to the Israeli population. It had hard intelligence that PIJ, led by Jabari, was planning attacks across the border from Gaza. Protecting its people from violent external attack is not only permitted under international law, it is the duty of every government. If deterrence of such attacks were possible, Israel would have taken action to deter.
Jabari’s illegal attacks were to be in retaliation for the IDF arrest of Bassam Al-Saadi in Jenin last week. Saadi is the leader of PIJ in Judea and Samaria, and since May last year he has been consolidating his terrorist bases there, bringing together an assortment of other terror gangs including Hamas, Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
This left PIJ’s city strongholds, mainly in the north, largely ungovernable by the Palestinian Authority, with their Kalashnikovs calling the shots and PA security forces afraid to enter. The deteriorating situation contributed much to the wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis that included 19 dead in March and April this year. The IDF and Shin Bet launched Operation Breakwater in Judea and Samaria a few months ago, intensifying counter-terrorism action against this developing threat, and Saadi’s arrest was part of that effort.
PIJ is an Iranian proxy, directed and funded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Its leader, Ziad Nakhaleh, has been in Tehran for the last few days, meeting with his IRGC paymasters and other government officials including Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. While terrorist chief Nakhaleh has been openly rubbing shoulders with the elite of Tehran, Raisi’s chief nuclear negotiator has been whirled around Vienna in a Mercedes in a desperate attempt by the EU to salvage a deal that will pave the path to a nuclear-armed Iranian terror state.
As PIJ and its fellow jihadists have indiscriminately fired an estimated 400 missiles (at time of writing) at targets from Sderot to Tel Aviv since Operation Breaking Dawn began, the IDF has continued to launch precision strikes from the air and the ground to halt the attacks on Israeli citizens. Just as Israel’s casus belli for attacking PIJ targets was lawful, it has taken the utmost care to ensure its continued strikes are also lawful, only attacking targets that are proportionate and necessary to the military objectives and giving warnings where civilian casualties could occur. Despite such precautions, the IDF have said that some casualties have been inflicted among uninvolved civilians. Although tragic, this is often unavoidable when targeting terrorists that use their own people as human shields and, providing the laws of armed conflict are observed, is not illegal, despite the inevitable accusations of the uninformed and the malevolent.
PIJ has said it will fight on without ceasefire or negotiations. However much its military capability is written down and its terrorists killed by the IDF, it will have to put up a fight for long enough to satisfy its sponsors in Tehran. But PIJ lacks the capability for a sustained campaign along the lines of the May 2021 war and so far, Hamas has not joined the murderous foray.
Israel has been careful to avoid attacking Hamas targets in an attempt to limit the scope and duration of the conflict, and the terror group seems unwilling to be drawn in, despite Nakhaleh’s plaintive plea from Tehran that ‘Fighters of the Palestinian resistance have to stand together to confront this aggression’. Hamas is not yet ready for another clash with Israel, with the territory that it governs still reeling from the last round and an unwillingness to antagonise Egypt. Despite some words of solidarity, Hamas’s leaders will not be disappointed to see their PIJ rivals degraded by Israel. Despite that, events and pressures in the coming hours and days could compel them to unleash their own arsenal.
However long this campaign lasts, be ready for the usual suspects to join the UN in their rancour, fabrication and condemnation. We can expect non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Human Rights Watch to pile on. Amnesty International, however, might be slightly more circumspect as they are at present gyrating from the widespread international reproach that greeted their just-published report condemning Ukraine’s defensive actions, in which they again showed the total incomprehension of war and the laws of war that they often demonstrate in their denunciations of Israel.
Both the UK and the US have expressed support for Israel’s actions, although the Biden administration could not help drawing a false moral equivalence between Israel and PIJ in its call for calm ‘on all sides’. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, also apparently immune to any concept of distinction between a democratic country lawfully defending its people and an internationally-proscribed terrorist entity breaking every law in the book, has also called for ‘maximum restraint on all sides’. As though in unison, Borrell’s words were echoed by Russia — unrelenting in its violent aggression against Ukraine — demanding that ‘all the parties involved show maximum restraint’.
The media’s inveterate Israel-opposers such as the BBC, CNN and New York Times have already printed deliberately slanted headlines painting Israel as the aggressor. Slavering for the last two days at the prospect of IDF-inflicted mass casualties, much of the media immediately and without any evidence eagerly pointed the finger at Israel over the tragic killing of seven people, including four children, in Jabalia camp in the Gaza Strip. They will undoubtedly try, but journalists and UN investigators will find it hard to refute the IDF’s confirmation that they did not strike the location and have conclusive video and radar evidence that the deaths were caused by a misfired PIJ rocket, launched as so often from within the civilian population. This would certainly fit, as approximately a quarter of all terrorist rockets fired so far during this campaign have landed inside Gaza, not in Israel.
If they were not in recess we would be seeing the usual Israel apartheid garbage burgeoning on campus; but the rabble-rousers will surely grasp the not-so-painful nettle once school is back in.
All of this pandering to terrorists, especially from the UN, leads to more terrorism, more running to bomb shelters, more missile strikes that risk civilian death, and more deprivation for Gaza civilians, as condemnations and false equivalences encourage Iran and groups like PIJ and Hamas. It also feeds the growing antisemitism in the West, as hatred of Israel increasingly cloaks the publicly less fashionable hatred of Jews.