Outside View: Kerry turns blind eye to West Bank terror

By JAMES ZUMWALT, UPI Outside View Commentator
Right-wing Israelis pray for the end of US Secretary of State John Kerry's peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians at a mass prayer rally at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, January 30, 2014. The settlement movement has started a campaign to discredit Kerry who is expected to return to Jerusalem next week to resume negotiations. UPI/Debbie Hill | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/2c8d4e8ac012a1cb4a89cf14935ac5d2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Right-wing Israelis pray for the end of US Secretary of State John Kerry's peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians at a mass prayer rally at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, January 30, 2014. The settlement movement has started a campaign to discredit Kerry who is expected to return to Jerusalem next week to resume negotiations. UPI/Debbie Hill | License Photo

HERNDON, Va., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Ironically, an idiom originating more than two plus centuries ago -- from an act of courage in meeting an enemy threat -- today applies to an Obama administration choosing to ignore one.

The phrase "to turn a blind eye" applies when an undesirable truth exists but one opts to ignore it. Such ignorance can be covert -- by simply refusing to see it -- or overt, by means of a totally contrary declaration, hoping the listener gives it greater weight over what exists.


The phrase originated from the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen. British naval hero Adm. Horatio Nelson was under the fleet command of Adm. Hyde Parker. Engaging an opposing Danish fleet, an overly cautious Parker, using his ship's signal flags, sent subordinates authority to withdraw.

On his ship, Nelson raised a telescope to his right eye -- blinded in an earlier battle -- exclaiming he saw nothing. He continued to press the attack -- ultimately winning victory.


On Feb. 1, at a conference in Munich, Germany, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry -- pressing the Israelis hard to reach an agreement with the Palestinians -- made a declaration that ignores truth.

Warning increased terrorism lingered overhead for the Israelis if Palestinian talks failed, Kerry declared, "Last year, not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank."

Israeli families of six victims killed would strongly disagree.

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U.S. State Department personnel responsible for tracking terrorist acts in the West Bank fell asleep on the job. The Israelis, who have to deal with such attacks as a reality of everyday life and, thus, know the tally, tell a different story.

Israel's security agency, Shin Bet, issuing its annual terrorism report, indicated West Bank attacks more than doubled in 2013 -- 1,271 as opposed to 578 in 2012.

Kerry's suggestion terrorist violence was down also ignored 40 terrorist attacks foiled there by the Israelis.

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Of the six Israelis killed in 2013, half were civilian. These deadly attacks all occurred during the last quarter of the year -- as peace talks were actually ongoing.

Therefore, not only did Kerry ignore the truth concerning increased 2013 terrorist attack death statistics, he also sought to suggest a failed agreement would increase attacks -- ignoring the fact such an increase was already occurring as Israel was attempting to negotiate.


It is believed the terrorist group Hamas, in control of the Gaza Strip, is responsible for inspiring almost half the terrorist attacks in the West Bank during 2013.

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Israel has little optimism 2014 will be any better.

The violent last quarter of 2013 is tied to the Palestinian Authority's inability to control armed groups in the West Bank refugee camps. Things began spiraling out of control after the resignation of internationally respected diplomat Salam Fayyad as the PA's prime minister. With Fayyad's departure, the economy tumbled, negatively affecting security force payments to maintain stability.

But instability is also affecting Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

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Israeli intelligence assessments indicate Jihad and Salafi terrorist "gang brawls over control of the neighborhood" are on the verge of erupting on a broader level with Hamas unable to contain them. It is believed the gangs, and not Hamas, recently launched rockets at Ashkelon in Israel. Israel's Iron Dome defensive system alertly identified and intercepted all incoming rockets endangering populated areas.

Accordingly, this attack caused no Israeli casualties and Hamas suffered no retaliatory strikes -- Israel's calling card when casualties occur -- prompting seven such strikes in Gaza within a 3-week period this year.


But it matters not in the West Bank who is responsible as retaliatory Israeli strikes focus on "high-quality" Hamas targets.

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The violence against Israel increases, with Hamas slow in acting to stop it, most likely because it cannot. This did cause Kerry to recognize 2014 already has brought "an uptick in some violence."

However, again turning a blind eye to the reality of what Israel is already enduring, Kerry suggested, "the fact is the status quo will change if there is failure."

The term "willful blindness" applies to Kerry as well. It describes a situation in which one seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability by positioning oneself in a way to be unaware of facts which, if known, would make one liable. But the law recognizes when semantics are being played by turning a blind eye to what one really knows.

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Kerry seeks to press for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement as a U.S. foreign policy success story which, if it occurred, would only egregiously compromise Israel's security. Kerry might claim he did not know such would occur -- but willful blindness wouldn't excuse him for responsibility for Israeli endangerment.

A recent poll underscores this. It is most revealing about the Arab perception fed the West concerning the importance of the Palestinian issue and the real truth as to how that perception belies resolution.


A poll conducted by Shibley Telhami for a book he has published identifies what is of major importance to Arabs. Their concerns focus on internal issues -- with Palestine not even near the top five.

Asked about a two-state solution to the issue, two-thirds said they would accept it. While Hamas never will agree to this, also telling is the reality 25 percent of those polled are committed to fighting Israel forever.

Pressing the Israelis to reach an agreement on the Palestine issue, Kerry turns a blind eye to the increased number of terrorist attacks in 2013 to which Israel was subjected. Knowing the endangerment awaiting Israel any such agreement by those committed to its destruction brings, Kerry exercises willful blindness.

Sadly, for Israel, both the Palestinians and the United States are working together against it.


(A retired U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He has written "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran -- The Clock is Ticking.")


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)


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