Biden's executive order should sanction Palestinians.
If he only sanctions Jews, the U.S. president will be guilty of antisemitism.
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This is a guest essay written by Dr. Mitchell Bard, the Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order, declaring a national emergency that allows him to implement new measures to combat “settler violence,” including sanctions concurrently announced against four Israeli extremists who carried out acts of violence in the West Bank.
Biden wrote that he finds “the situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region.”
“For these reasons,” added Biden, “these actions constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
The term “settler violence” was popularized following the 1989 publication of David Weisburd’s “Jewish Settler Violence: Deviance as Social Reaction.” In his study, Weisburd focused on concerns with crimes of “altruistic” law violations. By that, he meant violating the rules and laws of a society in the name of “higher” laws and in response to another group’s violence.
The numbers of “settler violence” come from various overly leftist NGOs like B’tselem, Peace Now, and Yesh Din, or from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which is supplied by Palestinian Authority operatives. They are not objective in the least. Overall, the media and diplomatic campaign is predicated on weak data.
Biden should be thanked for his executive order to sanction four settlers because, in doing so, he essentially undercut its premise, that there are “in particular high levels of extremist settler violence.”
He has recognized that only 0.001 percent of the 600,000 Jews living in the West Bank are engaged in such violence. This gives a better indication than media reports of the true extent of the problem. More names may be added, but it will still represent an infinitesimal fraction of the people his administration has demonized.
More importantly, the order requires the administration to sanction thousands of Palestinians, starting with the Palestinian Authority, which it wants to reward with statehood and put in charge of Gaza.
The order is titled “Executive Order on Imposing Certain Sanctions on Persons Undermining Peace, Security, and Stability in the West Bank.” The text says it applies to “any foreign person” — not only Jews — “that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank” by “an act of violence or threat of violence targeting civilians” and applies to “a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, any of the activities.”
If the president applies these criteria to all the parties in the West Bank, he’s got a lot of sanctioning to do, considering that the IDF reported there were 25,257 Palestinian attacks against Jewish settlers between 2019 and 2022.
Many reports with exaggerated figures have been published in recent months to gin up criticism of settlers, but the reality remains that the overwhelming majority of extremist violence is perpetrated against Jews, not Palestinians. After all, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, noted in December 2023 concern for “settler violence and attacks on Israelis by Palestinians” was “extremely alarming.”
Whereas Matthew Miller, State Department spokesman, spoke in December 2023 of “unprecedented levels of violence by Israeli extremist settlers targeting Palestinians and their property,” that characterization is overblown and unsupported rhetoric.
Moreover, there was no recent uptick or “surge” in settler violence. Israeli media reported in early November that, compared to 2022, “there has been an overall almost 50-percent decrease in incidents in which Jews were engaged in violent offenses in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank).”
Thus, if Biden and his administration are serious, the following must be sanctioned:
The Palestinian Authority, which is a “government entity” that threatens peace and stability by incitement to violence, glorifying murderers, and adopting an educational curriculum that encourages antisemitism and a rejection of coexistence.
The Palestinian Authority’s chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and the rest of the officials responsible for incentivizing violence against Jews by paying murderers and the families of suicide bombers through “pay-to-slay” subsidies.
Official Palestinian media outlets, which are filled with incitement against Jews and Israel.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are already on the U.S. designated terrorist list, so all of their members qualify, as do others on the list, including the Palestine Liberation Front — Abu Abbas Faction, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and those that should be on the list such as The Lion’s Den, Tanzim, Popular Resistance Committees, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The Palestine Liberation Organizations, which remains committed to the phased strategy for the “complete liberation of Palestine,” as reflected in all the Palestinian Authority maps.
Fatah (the faction that runs the Palestinian Authority), which released a video showing members of its Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades participating and bragging about their role in the October 7th massacre.
Palestinian security forces involved in the murder and torture of Palestinians. While most of the violence of Palestinians in the West Bank is directed at settlers and Jews inside Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority also brutalizes its people.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which runs 19 refugee camps in the West Bank. While we don’t yet know how many staff members of this agency in the West Bank are members of Hamas, it would be surprising if many were not affiliated with it and the other terror groups. Staffing aside, we know that this agency’s schools use the same textbooks full of hatred and incitement against Israel and Jews in the West Bank that it disseminates in Gaza.
The Biden administration refuses to acknowledge that the handful of extremist settlers are not the obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The president should know better. He is surely aware that the Palestinians have rejected statehood offers going back to 1937 and as recently as 2008.
Biden knows that Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with any Israeli prime minister in the last 15 years, which includes Biden’s time as vice president under Barack Obama, and the three years of his presidency.
He also must understand why Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, came to power and the entire Israeli electorate shifted to the Right after the “land for peace” myth collapsed with Hamas terror, following Israel’s complete disengagement from Gaza in 2005.
Biden’s executive order could contribute to peace only if enforced fairly. If he only sanctions Jews, the U.S. president will be guilty of antisemitism. How hypocritical would that be considering his administration’s proclaimed commitment to fighting Jew hate?