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Myths & Facts

By: Mitchell G. Bard

Chapter 16: The Palestinian War (Al-Aqsa Intifada, 2000-2005)

- “Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 caused the Palestinian War.”
- “A handful of Israelis were murdered in the war while thousands of innocent Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops.”
- “Israel created Hamas.”
- “Palestinians do not encourage children to engage in terror.”
- “Palestinian women become suicide bombers because of their commitment to liberate’ Palestine.”
- “Palestinians interested in peace are allowed freedom of speech by the Palestinian Authority.”
- “The shooting of a child being protected by his father shown on TV proves Israel does not hesitate to kill innocent Palestinian children.”
- “Israel’s policy of targeted killings is immoral and counterproductive.”
- “Israel indiscriminately murders terrorists and Palestinian civilians.”


“Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 caused the Palestinian War."


To believe Palestinian spokesmen, the five-year “al-Aqsa intifada,” was caused by the desecration of a Muslim holy place—Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount)—by Likud leader Ariel Sharon and the “thousands of Israeli soldiers” who accompanied him. The violence was carried out through unprovoked attacks by Israeli forces, which invaded Palestinian-controlled territories and “massacred” defenseless Palestinian civilians, who merely threw stones in self-defense. The only way to stop the violence, then, was for Israel to cease-fire and remove its troops from the Palestinian areas.

The truth is dramatically different.

Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, admitted months after Sharon’s visit that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon’s “provocation.” “It [the violence] had been planned since Chairman Arafat’s return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions.”1 Similarly, in 2010, Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said that Arafat instructed his organization to launch terror attacks against Israel after the failure of peace negotiations. 2

More recently, Yasser Arafat's widow, Suha, admitted that Arafat had planned the uprising. “Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return....Camp David had failed, and he said to me, ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I am going to start an intifada.’”2a Later, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm and former editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, said in an interview that "he [Arafat] decided to ignite the Second Intifada.";2b

“The Sharon visit did not cause the ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada.’ ”

— Conclusion of the Mitchell Report (May 4, 2001) 3

The violence started before Sharon’s September 28, 2000, visit to the Temple Mount. The day before, for example, an Israeli soldier was killed at the Netzarim Junction. The next day, in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart.

Official Palestinian Authority media exhorted the Palestinians to violence. On September 29, the Voice of Palestine, the PA’s official radio station sent out calls “to all Palestinians to come and defend the al-Aqsa mosque.” The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in the organized riots.

Just prior to Rosh Hashanah (September 30), the Jewish New Year, when hundreds of Israelis were worshipping at the Western Wall, thousands of Arabs began throwing bricks and rocks at Israeli police and Jewish worshippers. Rioting then spread to towns and villages throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami permitted Sharon to go to the Temple Mount—Judaism’s holiest place—only after calling Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub and receiving his assurance that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. The need to protect Sharon arose when Rajoub later said that the Palestinian police would do nothing to prevent violence during the visit. 4

Sharon did not attempt to enter any mosques and his 34 minute visit to the Temple Mount was conducted during normal hours when the area is open to tourists. Palestinian youths—eventually numbering around 1,500—shouted slogans in an attempt to inflame the situation. Some 1,500 Israeli police were present at the scene to forestall violence.

There were limited disturbances during Sharon’s visit, mostly involving stone throwing. During the remainder of the day, outbreaks of stone throwing continued on the Temple Mount and in the vicinity, leaving 28 Israeli policemen injured. There are no accounts of Palestinian injuries on that day. Significant and orchestrated violence was initiated by Palestinians the next day following Friday prayers.

“Philosophically, the difference between me and the terrorist is that he wants to hurt me and my children and my wife, while I want to hit him and spare his children and his wife . . . because even the killing of one innocent person is unfortunate and should be avoided.”

— Senior Israeli Air Force pilot 5



“A handful of Israelis were murdered in the war while thousands of innocent Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops.”


During the Palestinian War, the number of Palestinian casualties was higher than the figure for Israelis; however, the gap narrowed as Palestinian suicide bombers used increasingly powerful bombs to kill larger numbers of Israelis in their terror attacks. When the war unofficially concluded at the end of September 2005, more than 2,100 Palestinians and 1,061 Israelis had been killed. The disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties was primarily a result of the number of Palestinians involved in violence and was the inevitable result of an irregular, ill-trained group of terrorists attacking a well-trained regular army. The unfortunate death of noncombatants was largely due to the habit of Palestinian terrorists using civilians as shields.

What is more revealing than the tragic totals, however, is the specific breakdown of the casualties. According to one study, Palestinian noncombatants were mostly teenage boys and young men. “This completely contradicts accusations that Israel has ‘indiscriminately targeted women and children,’ ” according to the study. “There appears to be only one reasonable explanation for this pattern: that Palestinian men and boys engaged in behavior that brought them into conflict with Israeli armed forces.” 6

By contrast, the number of women and older people among the noncombatant Israeli casualties illustrates the randomness of Palestinian attacks, and the degree to which terrorists have killed Israelis for the “crime” of being Israeli. Israeli troops do not target innocent Palestinians, but Palestinian terrorists do target Israeli civilians.

“It is not a mistake that the Koran warns us of the hatred of the Jews and put them at the top of the list of the enemies of Islam. . . . The Muslims are ready to sacrifice their lives and blood to protect the Islamic nature of Jerusalem and al- Aksa!”

— Sheik Hian Al-Adrisi 7



“Israel created Hamas.”


Israel had nothing to do with the creation of Hamas. The organization grew out of the ideology and practice of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement that arose in Egypt in the 1920s.

Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 as an Islamic Association by Sheik Ahmad Yassin. Initially, the organization engaged primarily in social welfare activities and soon developed a reputation for improving the lives of Palestinians, particularly the refugees in the Gaza Strip.

Though Hamas was committed from the outset to destroying Israel, it took the position that this was a goal for the future, and that the more immediate focus should be on winning the hearts and minds of the people through its charitable and educational activities. Its funding came primarily from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The PLO was convinced that Israel was helping Hamas in the hope of triggering a civil war. Since Hamas did not engage in terror at first, Israel did not see it as a serious short-term threat, and some Israelis believed the rise of fundamentalism in Gaza would have the beneficial impact of weakening the PLO, and this is what ultimately happened.

Hamas certainly didn’t believe it was being supported by Israel. As early as February 1988, the group put out a primer on how its members should behave if confronted by the Shin Bet. Several more instructional documents were distributed by Hamas to teach followers how to confront the Israelis and maintain secrecy.

Israel’s assistance was more passive than active, that is, it did not interfere with Hamas activities or prevent funds from flowing into the organization from abroad. Israel also may have provided some funding to allow its security forces to infiltrate the organization. 8 Meanwhile, Jordan was actively helping Hamas, with the aim of undermining the PLO and strengthening Jordanian influence in the territories.

Though some Israelis were very concerned about Hamas before rioting began in December 1987, Israel was reluctant to interfere with an Islamic organization, fearing that it might trigger charges of violating the Palestinians’ freedom of religion. It was not until early in the intifada, when Hamas became actively involved in the violence, that the group began to be viewed as a potentially greater threat than the PLO. The turning point occurred in the summer of 1988 when Israel learned that Hamas was stockpiling arms to build an underground force and Hamas issued its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel. At this point it became clear that Hamas was not going to put off its jihad to liberate Palestine and was shifting its emphasis from charitable and educational activity to terrorism. Hamas has been waging a terror war against Israel ever since. 9


“Palestinians do not encourage children to engage in terror.”


Most Palestinians who adopt terror in the hope of either “ending the occupation” or destroying Israel do so because they freely choose murder over any other option. Palestinian terrorists also use children, however, to do their dirty work.

On March 15, 2004, Israeli security forces caught an 11-year-old boy attempting to smuggle a bomb through a roadblock. The boy was promised a large sum of money by Tanzim activists in Nablus if he delivered a bag containing a bomb stuffed with bolts to a woman on the other side of the checkpoint. If the boy was stopped and searched, the terrorists who sent him planned to use a cell phone to immediately detonate the explosives he was carrying, murdering nearby soldiers as well as the boy. The plan was foiled by an alert Israeli soldier, and the bomb apparently malfunctioned when the terrorists tried to remotely detonate it. A week later, on March 24, 2004, a 14-year-old Palestinian child was found to be carrying explosives when attempting to pass through the Israeli army checkpoint at Hawara, at the entrance of the town of Nablus. 10

Just over a year later, on May 22, 2005, a 14-year-old boy was again arrested at the Hawara checkpoint with two pipe bombs strapped to a belt he was wearing. A few days later, a 15-year-old tried to get through the checkpoint with two more pipe bombs. Yet another teen, a 16-year-old, was caught on July 4, 2005, attempting to smuggle a bomb and homemade handgun. In August, another 14-year-old boy was caught carrying three pipe bombs packed with explosives, shrapnel and glass balls. 11

These are a few examples of the cynical use of children by Palestinians waging war on Israel. Young Palestinians are routinely indoctrinated and coerced into the cult of martyrdom.

“Using children to carry out or assist in armed attacks of any kind is an abomination. We call on the Palestinian leadership to publicly denounce these practices.”

— Amnesty International 12

Despite occasional claims that terror is only promoted by “extremists,” the truth is the Palestinian Authority has consistently incited its youth to violence. Children are taught that the greatest glory is to die for Allah in battle as a shahid. The PA regularly broadcast television shows that encouraged children to embrace this concept. One film used the death of Muhammad Al-Dura, the child killed in the crossfire of a shootout between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli forces, to show that life after death is paradise. An actor playing Al-Dura was shown in an amusement park, playing on the beach, and flying a kite. The Al-Dura in the film invited viewers to follow his example. Similar messages extolling the virtue of the shahid can be found in school textbooks and sermons by Muslim clergy. 13

The indoctrination is having an impact. According to one Palestinian newspaper, 79–80% of children told pollsters they were willing to be shahids. 14

Palestinian children now play death games, competing to see who will be the shahid. They also collect “terrorist cards” the way American kids collect baseball cards. The maker of the Palestinian cards sold 6 million in just over two years. “I take hundreds of these pictures from children every day and burn them,” said Saher Hindi, a teacher at a Nablus elementary school. “They turn children into extremists.” 15

“As one of the Islamic fanatics who inspired al-Qaida said: ‘We are not trying to negotiate with you. We are trying to destroy you.’ . . . They wish to destroy the whole basis of Western society—secular democracy, individual liberty, equality before the law, toleration and pluralism—and replace it with a theocracy based on a perverted and dogmatic interpretation of the Koran. . . . The idea that we should try to appease the terrorists is wrong in every respect. It would not protect us, for nothing acts as a greater incentive to terrorists than the realization that their target is weak and frightened. And it would only weaken the institutions we are trying to protect, and demonstrate to the terrorists that we are—as they frequently allege—too decadent and craven to defend the way of life to which we claim to be attached.”

London Daily Telegraph 16

Many Palestinian youngsters have gone from pretending to carrying out actual terrorist attacks. More than two dozen suicide bombers have been under the age of 18. Between 2001 and March 2004, more than 40 minors involved in planning suicide bombings were arrested. In those years, 22 shootings and bombings were carried out by minors. For example, teens ages 11–14 attempted to smuggle munitions from Egypt into the Gaza Strip; three teenagers, ages 13–15, were arrested on their way to carry out a shooting attack in Afula; and a 17-year-old blew himself up in an attempted suicide attack. In just the first five months of 2005, 52 more Palestinian minors were caught wearing explosive belts or attempting to smuggle weapons through checkpoints in the West Bank. 17

The situation finally became so serious Palestinian families protested. The mother of one of the three teenagers sent to carry out the Afula attack said of the letter he had left behind, “My son doesn’t know how to write a letter like that and has never belonged to one of the organizations. Some grownup wrote the letter for him.” The boy’s father added, “Nobody can accept to send his children to be slaughtered. I am sure that whoever recruits children in this kind of unlawful activity will not recruit his own children.” 18

Martin Fletcher interviewed the parents of the 15-year-old stopped at the Hawara checkpoint. His parents expressed their anger at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, calling its operatives criminals and saying that Allah would punish them. The correspondent spoke with the boy and read him a letter from his mother asking him to confess and to give Israel all the information in his possession about the men who had sent him. 19


“Palestinian women become suicide bombers because of their commitment to ‘liberate’ Palestine.”


It may be that some Palestinian women share the ideology of the terrorists who believe that blowing up innocent men, women, and children will achieve their political objective, but many others are blackmailed into carrying out suicide attacks by sadistic and manipulative Palestinian men.

More than 20 Palestinian women have engaged in suicide attacks. The terrorist organizations that recruit them do so in part because they believe women will generate less suspicion, and that Israeli soldiers will be more reticent to search them.

Some of the women have been convinced to engage in terrorist attacks to rehabilitate their reputations in their community if they have acquired a bad name or done something to bring shame upon their family. Shame is a powerful force in Arab society, and women who are promiscuous, engage in adultery, become pregnant out of wedlock, or behave in other ways deemed improper may be ostracized or severely punished (e.g., husbands may kill wives who shamed them in so-called “honor crimes”).

Terrorist organizations have used emotional blackmail against these often vulnerable women to convince them that by carrying out a suicide attack against Jews, they may restore their honor or that of their family. Israeli intelligence declassified a report that said Fatah operatives went so far as to seduce women and then, after they became pregnant, used their condition to blackmail them into committing heinous crimes. The report cited two specific cases, one involved a 21-year-old from Bethlehem who blew herself up in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, killing six and wounding more than 60, and the other was an 18-year-old from the Dehaishe refugee camp who blew up a Jerusalem supermarket and killed two people and wounded 22 others. 20

These examples show the merciless way Palestinian terrorists treat not only their victims, but their own people.


“Palestinians interested in peace are allowed freedom of speech by the Palestinian Authority.”


One of the principal deterrents to speaking out against Palestinian irredentism and terror in the Palestinian Authority is the threat of being murdered. By the end of the first intifada in the early 1990s, more Palestinians were killed by their fellow Palestinians than died in clashes with Israeli security forces. During the Palestinian War, intimidation and murder were used to muzzle dissent. Usually those seeking peace or an end to terror are labeled “collaborators” and, if they are lucky, arrested by the Palestinian Authority. The unlucky ones are murdered, often in grisly and public ways, such as stringing them up from lamp posts in public squares to send the message that a similar fate awaits anyone who dares cross those seeking Israel’s destruction.

“If Muslims claim that we are against violence, why aren’t we demonstrating in the streets against suicide bombings? Why is it so much easier to draw us into protest against a French ban on the hijab, but next to impossible to exorcise ourselves about slavery, stonings and suicide killings? Where’s our collective conscience?”

— Muslim author Irshad Manji 21

A Palestinian need not be interested in peace to become a target of violence; one need only express opposition or offer a challenge to the ruling Fatah party. For example, after student elections at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah resulted in the Islamic Bloc of Hamas and Islamic Jihad receiving more votes than Fatah, Palestinian security forces and members of Fatah attacked members of the Islamic groups and their supporters. Security forces opened fire on the crowd and wounded more than 100 students. 22 When the president of the Gaza-based National Institute of Strategic Studies, Riad al-Agha, criticized the Palestinian security forces on Palestine TV for failing to impose law and order after Israel’s disengagement, he was arrested. 23

There are no exact figures for the number of Palestinians killed in the internecine war; however, Amnesty International reported that “scores of Palestinians” had been unlawfully killed and that the PA “consistently failed to investigate these killings and none of the perpetrators was brought to justice.” 24 The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), a Palestinian organization that monitors slayings of Palestinians by Palestinians, recorded 43 such murders in 2002; 56 in 2003, and 93 in 2004. By October, 151 Palestinians had already been killed in 2005, more than had died in clashes with Israeli troops. 25

The killings continued after the Palestinian War. Between January 2006 and June 2007, Palestinian factions killed an estimated 616 Palestinians during the civil war between Fatah and Hamas, according to the ICHR. From January 2008 to March 2011, ICHR reports at least 570 Palestinians were killed as a result of murder, tribal fighting, gang violence, tunnel collapses (Egypt to Gaza), weapons misuse, torture, executions, revenge actions and public safety. 26


“The shooting of a child being protected by his father shown on TV proves Israel does not hesitate to kill innocent Palestinian children.”


Video stillshot of al-Dura

Perhaps the most vivid image of the Palestinian War was the film of a Palestinian father trying unsuccessfully to shield his son from gunfire. Israel was universally blamed for the death of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura, but subsequent investigations found that the boy was most likely killed by Palestinian bullets.

The father and son took cover adjacent to a Palestinian shooting position at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip. After Palestinian policemen fired from this location and around it toward an IDF position, soldiers returned fire toward the sources of the shooting. During the exchanges of fire, the Palestinian child was hit and killed.

Contrary to the conventional belief that the footage of the incident was live, it was actually edited before it was broadcast around the world. Though a number of cameramen were in the area, only one, a Palestinian working for France 2, recorded the shooting.

An IDF investigation of the incident released November 27, 2000, found that al-Dura was most likely killed by a Palestinian policeman and not by IDF fire. This report was confirmed by an independent investigation by German ARD Television, which said the footage of al-Dura’s death was censored by the Palestinians to look as if he had been killed by the Israelis when, in fact, his death was caused by Palestinian gunfire. 27

Sequence of Events at the Netzarim Junction

James Fallows revisited the story and found that “the physical evidence of the shooting was in all ways inconsistent with shots coming from the IDF outpost.” In addition, he cites a number of unanswered questions, which have led some to conclude the whole incident was staged. For example, Fallows asks, “Why is there no footage of the boy after he was shot? Why does he appear to move in his father’s lap, and to clasp a hand over his eyes after he is supposedly dead? Why is one Palestinian policeman wearing a Secret Service-style earpiece in one ear? Why is another Palestinian man shown waving his arms and yelling at others, as if ‘directing’ a dramatic scene? Why does the funeral appear—based on the length of shadows—to have occurred before the apparent time of the shooting? Why is there no blood on the father’s shirt just after they are shot? Why did a voice that seems to be that of the France 2 cameraman yell, in Arabic, ‘The boy is dead’ before he had been hit? Why do ambulances appear instantly for seemingly everyone else and not for al-Dura?” 28

Denis Jeambar, editor-in-chief of the French news weekly l’Express, and filmmaker Daniel Leconte, a producer and owner of the film company Doc en Stock, saw raw, unedited video of the shooting and said the boy could not have been shot by Israeli soldiers. “The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position. If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner.” 29

Despite the evidence that the report was inaccurate, France 2 has refused to retract the story.

“I think when you are attacked by a terrorist and you know who the terrorist is and you can fingerprint back to the cause of the terror, you should respond.”

— U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell 30



“Israel’s policy of targeted killings is immoral and counterproductive.”


Israel is faced with a nearly impossible situation in attempting to protect its civilian population from Palestinians who are prepared to blow themselves up to murder innocent Jews. One strategy for dealing with the problem has been to pursue negotiations to resolve all of the conflicts with the Palestinians and offer to trade land for peace and security. After Israel gave back much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and offered virtually all of the remainder, however, the Palestinians chose to use violence to try to force Israel to capitulate to all their demands.

A second strategy is for Israel to “exercise restraint,” that is, not respond to Palestinian terror. The international community lauds Israel when it turns the other cheek after heinous attacks. While this restraint might win praise from world leaders, it does nothing to assuage the pain of the victims or to prevent further attacks.

“The assassination of Hamas head Sheik Ahmed Yassin in 2004 played in the world as the killing of a crippled holy man by Israeli rockets as he was leaving the mosque in a wheelchair after morning prayers. Because of secrecy surrounding the operation, no file was prepared to explain why he was being killed, that he was an arch-terrorist who had, two days previously, sent two Gaza suicide bombers into Ashdod Port in an attempt to cause a mega-blast of the fuel and nitrates stored there. Or that he had been directly responsible for the deaths of scores, if not hundreds of Israelis.”

— Columnist Hirsh Goodman 31

Moreover, the same nations that urge Israel to exercise control have often reacted forcefully when put in similar situations. For example, the British assassinated Nazis after World War II and targeted IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland. In April 1986, after the U.S. determined that Libya had directed the terrorist bombing of a West Berlin discotheque that killed one American and injured 200 others, it launched a raid on a series of Libyan targets, including President Muammar Qaddafi’s home. Qaddafi escaped, but his infant daughter was killed and two of his other children were wounded. President Reagan justified the action as self-defense against Libya’s state-sponsored terrorism. “As a matter of self-defense, any nation victimized by terrorism has an inherent right to respond with force to deter new acts of terror. I felt we must show Qaddafi that there was a price he would have to pay for that kind of behavior and that we wouldn’t let him get away with it.” 32 The Clinton Administration attempted to assassinate Osama bin Laden in 1998 in retaliation for his role in the bombings of the United States embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. George W. Bush ordered “hits” on the Iraqi political leadership during the 2003 war in Iraq and his Administration said it would not hesitate to kill bin Laden while targeting a number of other al-Qaeda operatives. 33 Similarly, the Obama Administration has used drones to kill Taliban fighters and terrorists and found and killed bin Laden in 2011. 34

More recently, Israel has chosen a third option—eliminating the masterminds of terror attacks. It is a policy that is supported by a vast majority of the public (70 percent in an August 2001 Haaretz poll supported the general policy and a similar percentage in 2003 specifically backed the attempt to kill the leader of Hamas). The policy is also supported by the American public according to an August 2001 poll by the America Middle East Information Network. The survey found that 73 percent of respondents felt Israel was justified in killing terrorists if it had proof they were planning bombings or other attacks that could kill Israelis. 35

Then Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Moshe Ya’alon explained the policy this way:

There are no executions without a trial. There is no avenging someone who had carried out an attack a month ago. We are acting against those who are waging terror against us. We prefer to arrest them and have detained over 1,000. But if we can’t, and the Palestinians won’t, then we have no other choice but to defend ourselves. 36

The Israeli government also went through a legal process before adopting the policy of targeted killings. Israel’s attorney general reviewed the policy and determined that it is legal under Israeli and international law. 37

Targeting the terrorists has a number of benefits. First, it places a price on terror: Israelis can’t be attacked with impunity anymore, for terrorists know that if they target others, they will become targets themselves. Second, it is a method of self-defense: pre-emptive strikes eliminate the people who would otherwise murder Israelis. While it is true that there are others to take their place, they can do so only with the knowledge they too will become targets, and leaders are not easily replaceable. Third, it throws the terrorists off balance. Extremists can no longer nonchalantly plan an operation; rather, they must stay on the move, look over their shoulders at all times, and work much harder to carry out their goals.

Of course, the policy also has costs. Besides international condemnation, Israel risks revealing informers who often provide the information needed to find the terrorists. Soldiers also must engage in sometimes high-risk operations that occasionally cause tragic collateral damage to property and persons.

The most common criticism of “targeted killings” is that they do no good because they perpetuate a cycle of violence whereby the terrorists seek revenge. This is probably the least compelling argument against the policy, because the people who blow themselves up to become martyrs could always find a justification for their actions. They are determined to bomb the Jews out of the Middle East and will not stop until their goal is achieved.


In August 2002, we had all the leadership of Hamas—Sheik Yassin and all his military commanders . . . in one room in a three-story house and we knew we needed a 2,000-pound bomb to eliminate all of them—the whole leadership, 16 people, all the worst terrorists. Think about having Osama bin Laden and all the top leadership of al-Qaeda in one house. However, due to the criticism in Israeli society and in the media, and due to the consequences of innocent Palestinians being killed, a 2,000-pound bomb was not approved and we hit the building with a much smaller bomb. There was a lot of dust, a lot of noise, but they all got up and ran away and we missed the opportunity. So the ethical dilemmas are always there. 38


“Israel indiscriminately murders terrorists and Palestinian civilians.”


It is always a tragedy when innocent civilians are killed in a counterterrorism operation. Civilians would not be at risk, however, if the Palestinian Authority arrested the terrorists, the murderers did not choose to hide among noncombatants and the civilians refused to protect the killers.

Israel does not attack Palestinian areas indiscriminately. On the contrary, the IDF takes great care to target people who are planning terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Israeli forces have a history of accuracy in such assaults, nevertheless, mistakes are sometimes made. Whereas the terrorists make no apology for their attacks on civilians, and purposely target them, Israel always investigates the reasons for any errors and takes steps to prevent them from reoccurring.

Israel is not alone in using military force against terrorists or in sometimes inadvertently harming people who are not targets. For example, on the same day that American officials were condemning Israel because a number of civilians died when Israel assassinated a leader of Hamas, news reports disclosed that the United States bombed a village in Afghanistan in an operation directed at a Taliban leader that instead killed 48 Afghan civilians at a wedding party. In both cases, flawed intelligence played a role in the tragic mistakes.

The terrorists themselves do not care about the lives of innocent Palestinians and are ultimately responsible for any harm that comes to them. The terrorists’ behavior is a violation of international law, specifically Article 51 of the 1977 amendment to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the use of civilians to “shield, favor or impede military operations.” 40

“In Gaza last week, crowds of children reveled and sang while adults showered them with candies. The cause for celebration: the cold-blooded murder of at least seven people—five of them Americans—and the maiming of 80 more by a terrorist bomb on the campus of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.”

— Historian Michael Oren 39

1 Jerusalem Post, (March 4, 2001).
2 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Arafat ordered Hamas attacks against Israel in 2000,” Jerusalem Post, (September 28, 2010).
2a“Suha Arafat admits husband premeditated Intifada,” Jerusalem Post, (December 29, 2012).
2b“Abd Al-Bari Atwan: Arafat Ignited Second Intifada; Why don't We Do the Same in West Bank?” MEMRI, (August 4, 2014).
3 Conclusion of the Mitchell Report, (May 4, 2001).
4 Israel Radio, (October 3, 2000), cited by Independent Media Review & Analysis,
5 Christian Lowe and Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel Air Force Seeks Expanded Anti-Terror Role,” Defense News, (March 28, 2005).
6 “An Engineered Tragedy: Statistical Analysis of Casualties in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, September 2000-June 2002,” International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, (June 2002).
7 Quoted in Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee First Statement of the Government of Israel, Israeli Foreign Ministry, (December 28, 2000).
8 Richard Sale, “Hamas history tied to Israel,” UPI, (June 18, 2002).
9 Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Ya’’ari, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising—Israel’s Third Front. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1990), pp. 227–239.
10 Associated Press; Jerusalem Post; New York Post, (March 16, 2004); (March 24, 2004).
11 Jerusalem Post, (May 25, July 5, August, 29, 2005).
12 Amnesty International, Press Release, (March 24, 2004).
13 Itamar Marcus, “Ask for Death,” The Review, (March 2003).
14 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (June 18, 2002).
15 Jerusalem Post, (December 25, 2003).
16 London Daily Telegraph, (March 14, 2004).
17 Jerusalem Post, (March 15, 2004, May 25, 2005).
18 Associated Press, (February 29, 2004).
19 MSNBC, (May 27, 2005).
20 “Blackmailing Young Women into Suicide Terrorism,” Israeli Foreign Ministry, (February 12, 2003).
21 Pearl Sheffy Gefen, “Irshad Manji, Muslim Refusenik,” Lifestyles Magazine, (Summer 2004), p. 29.
22 NewsFirstClass, (December 12, 2003).
23 Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA arrests academic voicing criticism,” Jerusalem Post, (July 5, 2005).
24 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices—2002, The State Department, March 31, 2003; B’tselem, Amnesty International, January-December 2002; Jerusalem Post, (August 25, 2002).
25 Mohammed Daraghmeh, “Palestinian Vigilante Killings on the Rise,” Associated Press, (October 6, 2005).
26 “Over 600 Palestinians killed in internal clashes since 2006,” Reuters, (June 6, 2007); “Monthly Reports on Violations of HR,” The Independent Commission for Human Rights.
27 CNN, Israel Defense Forces, Jerusalem Post, (November 27, 2000); Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (March 21, 2002).
28 James Fallows, “Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?” The Atlantic Monthly, (June 2003).
29 Eva Cahen, “French TV Sticks by Story That Fueled Palestinian Intifada,”, (February 15, 2005).
30 News Conference, (September 12, 2001).
31 Hirsh Goodman, “A Lesson Learned,” Jerusalem Report, (September 19, 2005).
32 Ronald Reagan, “Ronald Reagan on Libya,” Ronald, Posted (June 5, 2004).
33 Washington Post, (September 14 and 18, 2001).
34 “Drones are Lynchpin of Obama’s War on Terror,” Der Spiegel, (March 12, 2010).
35 Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (August 31, 2001).
36 Jerusalem Post, (August 10, 2001).
37 Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (December 3, 2001).
38 Amos Yadlin, “Ethical Dilemma’s in Fighting Terrorism,” Vol. 4, No. 8, JCPA, (November 25, 2004).
39 Michael Oren, “Palestinians Cheer Carnage,” Wall Street Journal, (August 7, 2002).
40 Customary International Humanitarian Law, “Practice Relating to Rule 97—Human Shields,” ICRC, Additional Protocal #1.