When Israel took action against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last year, the world media did its damndest to try to paint the Jewish state as a human rights violator. One of their chief cards in this effort was a photo of BBC video editor Jehad Misharawi holding his son Omar's body. Supposedly Omar had been killed in an Israeli missile strike.
The picture quickly went viral. The Washington Post ran with the story. The BBC suggested that Israel was responsible for the death. BBC Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar tweeted, "Questioned asked here is: if Israel can kill a man riding on a moving motorbike (as they did last month) how did Jihad's son get killed." The story became ubiquitous, a sign of Israeli brutality in an impoverished area of the world.
There's only one problem: the story wasn't true.
A report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that Israel was likely not the source of the fire that killed Omar. Instead, they said that Hamas likely fired the rocket that killed Omar.
This is not rare. Civilian casualties in Palestinian-controlled areas are common -- not because Israel is targeting civilians but because Palestinian forces often target civilians as human shields to protect against Israeli strikes. And the media often buys the propaganda efforts of Palestinians attempting to demonstrate the supposed evils of the Jews.
Israel is under assault, as usual, by both a Palestinian population largely interested in its destruction and a media that refuses to believe that uncomfortable fact. Meanwhile, President Obama is heading to Israel where he will likely call for a renewal of the failed "peace process" -- a process that has resulted in thousands of deaths, both Palestinian and Jewish, and has brought Israel no closer to peace.
So what must Israel do to protect herself?
Some on the left have proposed more land concessions by Israel. Nothing could be a greater incentive to terrorism and violence by the Palestinians. Each and every time Israel hands over land, a wave of terror follows from an emboldened anti-Semitic population bound and determined to use any territorial gains and military launching points.
Some on the right have proposed population transfer from the Gaza Strip or West Bank as a solution. This is both inhumane and impractical. Moving millions of Palestinians out of areas they have known for their entire lives will certainly not pave the way to peace. Moreover, these Palestinians will have no place to go, since their brethren across the Arab would prefer to keep them cooped up in dismal poverty than house them in their own lands.
In the end, both right and left agree that a population separation is necessary. That does not mean Palestinian statehood, which will undoubtedly result in another Iran directly on Israel's borders. It means instead moving beyond utopianism and making mental peace with the fact that no solution will be permanent. Israel will have to protect its citizens, and it will have to continue to police Palestinian borders. Settlements are not the problem here. Removing settlements is not the solution. The problem is intractable.
Recognizing that the problem is intractable is the first step toward real security for Israel. Signaling to the Palestinian population that occupation will remain permanent so long as they continue supporting terrorism should provide a disincentive to do so. As for the propaganda wars, Israel has no choice but to weather them. Omar Misharawi will always end up on the front page; the U.N. retractions will always end up on the back pages. Israel must live with that. It's difficult but not impossible. A lasting two-state solution, however, is both easy and impossible under current circumstances.
Picture courtesy Flickr/David Berkowitz