This is all a bit ironic, in view of Israel's insistence that Hamas doesn't play fair because it hides weapons in mosques, forcing Israel to bomb them.
Two Israeli curators on Thursday stumled (sic) upon an arms cache dating back to the British Mandate at a Synagogue in Hod Hasharon.
The weapons, which included grenades and bullet casings, were apparently stored in the building by the Hagannah Jewish militia...
Simcha Klein and Aviva Even-Hen, curators of the museum dedicated to the history of Hod Hasharon, found the arms while they were tidying rooms in the synagogue... Klein said that during the British Mandate, the synagogue used to serve as a shelter from Arab rioters, and therefore has long and narrow windows, and slits for firing. These slits apparently made the synagogue an ideal location for stashing the weapons.
-- British Mandate-era arms cache found in Hod Hasharon synagogue; Ha'aretz, 5 Feb 2009.
Weapons from Israel's pre-independence era were discovered Thursday in a large synagogue in Hod Hasharon, in central Israel.
The location, which synagogue elders say served as a meeting place for members of the Haganah in the 40s, believe that the arms have not been touched since Israel's War of Independence.
The cache was discovered when caretakers of the building decided to clean out an adjoining supply shed on the second story of the synagogue. The weapons – three stun grenades, a Sten rifle, magazines and a steel helmet - were stored in a wooden trunk in the room.
-- Pre-independence weapons discovered in synagogue; Ynet, 5 Feb 2009.
Tony Greenstein's blog is spot on in explaining why this matters. When Zionists get an attack of the vapors over some nefarious deed the Palestinians are accused of doing, but are then found to have done the very same things themselves, it is important to point this out. And not just to show that Zionists are a bunch of hypocrites, or because it's fun to say neener neener neener, you do it too.
The reason for crying foul when Zionists carry out the very same actions that they condemn as beyond the pale in others is that Zionists select and publicize these specific actions by their opponents in order to portray those opponents as "people not like us". Israel needs to portray the Palestinian people under its rule as people not like us, because it does not wish to be held accountable for treating them in ways that defy accepted standards of international law or even simple human decency. And the way to get away with treating subject peoples in a manner that defies normal human conventions is to demonize them as not quite human like us. The problem then lies not in "our" failure to observe common human decency, but in "their" failure to be properly human.
Zionism and its supporters have woven a hateful narrative that says Israel doesn't have to respect any of the safeguards and conventions that protect civilized people when it deals with Palestinians, because they're not civilized people. They're a fundamentally different sort of people, which makes it impossible to apply normal humanitarian standards in dealing with them.
The real reason why Israel cannot treat Palestinians according to normal humanitarian standards is that its own Zionist ideology requires that the non-Jewish population under its rule be treated inhumanely. This is very difficult for Zionist Israelis - raised on a narrative of their own essential and eternal victimhood, and of an honorable Jewish ethical tradition - to acknowledge. Zionism has always sold itself as simply an innocent, humanitarian project for Jewish self-determination. The aspect of Zionism that Zionists inevitably fail to come to terms with is that it involves pursuing Jewish self-determination in a land where other - overwhelmingly non-Jewish - people already live, and live in such numbers that it is impossible to establish an exclusive Jewish right to self-determination without destroying the fundamental right of everyone else to equality. As there is no people on earth that is going to quietly acquiese in the establishment in its own homeland of a sectarian state that by its very nature denies them equality, political Zionism in Palestine was always going to end up in violent confrontation with the non-Jewish population under its rule.
Israel's dilemma is that it wants to be viewed as a modern, humane, democratic state; but modern democracy requires equality. And if everyone under Israeli rule - Jewish, Muslim, Christian or otherwise - is an equal human being, then that is the end of the "Jewish state" in Palestine. It is Israel's own attachment to creating a state in historic Palestine where democratic rights are reserved in their fulness to only one of the peoples who live there that requires Palestinian human rights to be trodden on. To stop treading on Palestinian human rights - to stop routinely killing, exiling, disenfranchising and dispossessing Palestinians - is to give up the very policies that are necessary to build a Jewish state in a place where most people are not Jewish. To recognize that the annihilation of one's neighbors is a central element in one's own national ideology is a difficult and painful thing to do. It is much easier to invent an alternate reality, in which the denial of any rights to Palestinians is the result of an essential defect in their own collective nature.
Israel cannot afford to acknowledge that its conflict with the Palestinians arises out of its own ideology and the policies necessary to realize that ideology in Palestine, because then ending the conflict would require that Israel change its own behavior and re-examine its own core beliefs. So the reason for the conflict has to be found elsewhere. And the elsewhere where Israel and its defenders want to locate the source is in the very nature of the people it is fighting. "People like us" are peaceful, well-meaning, democratic, modern, Jewish; "people like them" are violent, malevolent, tyrannical, primitive, antisemites. So they fight us - and cannot be reasoned with - just because that's how they are.
The way to create proof of the Arabs' essential hatefulness is to cherry pick individual incidents and photographs; strip them of any original context; ascribe to them your own negative interpretation; declare that the origin of the incident in question lies in the nature of the individual performing it; and claim it is therefore representative of an entire people. As a specific example of this we could cite an incident that occurred during a firefight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers in the Sejaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City in Feb 2004, when NY Times reporter Greg Myre reported that: At one point, a small boy bent down in the middle of a street filled with gunfire. A Palestinian militant raced to the boy, scooping him up by his backpack and carrying him to relative safety. Three weeks later, the outgoing IDF commander in the Gaza Strip, in an interview with Ha'aretz, produced a photo from that recent incursion into Sejaiyya, and attached his own interpretation of it to impress upon readers what a dastardly kind of enemy Israel was facing: "It is impossible to say that we have not harmed innocent people," admits Shamni, "but when you see a photograph of an armed terrorist who is lifting up a Palestinian child and is crossing the road with him as a 'human shield,' during the most recent action in the Sejaiyya neighborhood, you understand with whom we are dealing."
Do you see how that works? Just look how he's manipulated that incident to show the "kind" of people with whom Israeli is dealing. They run into battle behind small children so the children will be shot and the poor Israeli soldiers will be blamed! (This is a variant of the "Arabs don't even love their children" argument, which is such a common refrain in propaganda to dehumanize Palestinians that it deserves its own title; perhaps The Zionist Blood Libel Against The Arabs would be fitting). For the reporter witnessing the scene, it was simply a dramatic incident in the middle of a firefight; but for an Israeli General, a photograph of that dramatic moment - stripped of its original context and given an false interpretation more suitable to his purpose - was a perfect opportunity to vent indignantly about the "kind" of people Israel is dealing with. (And to suggest implicitly, what can one do with people like these, other than fight them and kill them?).
That's the technique that you simply rinse - lather - repeat, incident after incident and decade after decade, till everybody just knows that "they" aren't people like us, because they commit terrible acts that are outrageously beyond the bounds of what is morally acceptable to normal, decent people.
One thing that makes this line of Zionist propaganda vulnerable is if its target audience (i.e. you and me) knows that Israel itself does the same supposedly unthinkable actions that it attributes to its enemies and identifies as revealing how truly evil they are. It's hard to convince people that your enemies are ontologically and uniquely evil, if the things that allegedly prove this are the same things that you do. If a Zionist Israeli does them too, then they obviously aren't indicators of anything distinctively Palestinian, Arab or Muslim.
For example, no matter how often you claim that terrorism in Israel and the Occupied Territories is simply an expression of irrational Arab Jew-hatred, people willl be less inclined to believe you if they know that your own Jewish state came into existence there on the back of a campaign of terrorism against Palestinian civilians, and that your own former Prime Ministers spoke approvingly of the use of terror as a tactic to overthrow a military occupation.
If you want to argue that Palestinians aren't "people like us" because their gunmen hide behind civilians, it would be preferable if your own army didn't have a long and well-publicized history of using civilians as human shields.
If you claim that Palestinians are a particularly problematic kind of human because theirs is a violent culture that teaches children to hate, it would be more convincing if your own culture did not so easily offer up images that could be used to suggest that your culture does exactly those things.
If you want to convince the rest of the world that Palestinians are fundamentally different from Jewish Israelis because they don't respect other people's religion, better not to mention the fact that Israelis build on Palestinian cemeteries, vandalize their minarets, use their mosques as election offices, and desecrate the bodies of the dead.
If you want to argue that "they" are ontologically different to "us" because "they" even target children for death, you'd better hope no-one finds out that IDF snipers deliberately target children, and publicly joke that "The smaller they are the harder it is". Hilarious.
If you're going to cherry pick examples to prove that Palestinian Muslims are essentially different from Jewish Israelis because they are the product of a hateful religion that celebrates death, then your own religious Jews should take care not to be photographed dancing with joy at the bombardments that killed thousand of civilians in Lebanon and in Gaza. And maybe better too if your own racist rabbis didn't openly advocate the killing of Arab babies, so they don't have the chance to grow up evil like their parents.
If you want people to believe that you are the blameless victims of genetic anti-semites intent on a second holocaust, it would be better if the public spaces in your own country weren't plastered with genocidal outpourings against your Arab neighbors.
And if you're trying to prove that Israel faces an uniquely diabolical enemy by alleging that they use even ambulances and mosques for belligerent purposes, you'd better not be guilty yourself of using ambulances for military operations (and covering it up in your "liberal" media) or using synagogues to stash weapons...
I could go on ad nauseam with these examples, but you get my drift.
Israel doesn't want to address the legitimate grievances the Palestinians have against it because that would require at the very least the end of the colonization of the Occupied Territories (and some uncomfortable self-examination). Having overwhelming military superiority, Israel thinks that eternal war against a militarily weaker enemy will allow her to evade having to deal with this. This is Israel's choice. And the story about how "it's impossible to deal any other way with people like them" has been very useful in enabling Israel to fight its war of choice without ever having to acknowledge that that's what it is.
But the story is difficult to sustain when the "proofs" you use to demonize others apply as readily to yourself. The fact that Zionists' "proofs" of implacable Palestinian evil can be found just as readily in an Israeli context is the Achilles Heel of the claim the I-P conflict is a war rooted in ontological issues, rather than political issues that could be resolved through talks if Israel - the dominant, occupying party - really wanted it.
That's why it's necessary to hold up the mirror to Israel whenever it tries the "people not like us" defense for getting away with murder. When you do exactly the things that you attribute to your enemies in order to portray them as not quite "people like us", you end up proving not how fundamentally different from you they are, but how very like you they are. And that's really Zionist Israel's problem in a nutshell (in fact, it's the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell): Palestinian Arabs are not an essentially different kind of people to Zionist Jews or anyone else. Palestinian Arabs are exactly "people like us", and it is precisely because they are human beings exactly like us that they do not accept being treated by Zionism in ways that people like us would never accept for ourselves.