The IDF needs to be better equipped to fight fire with fire when facing violent provocations by Palestinians and foreign left-wing activists.
That is the lesson Professor Richard Landes, Senior Fellow at Bar llan University's Center for International Communication, insists must be drawn from the controversial footage of an Israeli soldier being attacked by a mob of Palestinian women and children last Friday.
The video shows a soldier failing to arrest an Arab boy near Nabi Salah in Samaria who just moments earlier had been throwing rocks at security forces. After initially catching the boy, the soldier is quickly surrounded by Arab women and children who scream at, punch and bite him until a colleague is forced to extricate him, leaving the rock-thrower to go free.
The video has triggered an outcry in Israel, with calls for the IDF to review its rules of engagement, which many have argued are too soft. Yisrael Beytenu leader MK Avigdor Liberman led calls for an urgent inquiry Saturday, contending that political weakness in the face of organized campaigns by foreign-funded NGOs to provoke and prosecute IDF soldiers had led to servicemen feeling powerless to use even the most basic level of force in operations.
But Landes, who is well-known for his efforts in exposing Palestinian propaganda, insists that had the IDF simply filmed its version of events and widely disseminated the footage immediately, the effects of the clip would have been minimal.
"The IDF should have been filming, there should be another version of events," he said. In particular, the fact that the boy had his arm in a sling was cited as "proof" that he was simply an innocent bystander. Had the IDF filmed him throwing rocks prior to the arrest, that claim would have been neutralized.
Landes notes the entire incident is a classic example of "Pallywood," a term he coined "to describe staged material disguised as news" by Palestinians and their allies.
The tactic is an old one, and the Israeli security forces in the front lines should by now both be prepared to counter it, as well as taking a proactive approach, not merely waiting to respond to events as they happen.
"Israel should engage in operations to catch these guys in the act – not just the Palestinians but the journalists who help them stage these things," he said.
"We know enough about how this operates to actually catch them doing dishonest things, including using their own kids," he added, remarking on the extent to which young children are encouraged to take part in violent confrontations.
In fact, the Tamimi clan who appear in the clip have featured in a New York Times article showcasing their extensive propaganda efforts.
"In America these kids would be taken away from their parents!"
"Inverting the narrative"
The scene should in actuality serve to illustrate the "incredible restraint" shown by IDF soldiers in the face of unbelievable pressure and provocation, he said.
"If this had been Hamas with the weapons there wouldn't have been anyone left – including the photographers. The reason why people can be so aggressive is because of how restrained they (Israeli soldiers) are."
The fact that instead the images were widely portrayed as Israeli soldiers attacking an "innocent child" is due to a sustained campaign by Palestinian propagandists to "invert the narrative."
"It really is a terrible exploitation of the Palestinian people by a leadership that thrives on their suffering," he observed.
"In order for it to be an Israeli Goliath and Palestinian David – instead of the Arab-Islamist Goliath vs. an Israeli David – the Palestinians have to suffer, in particular their children.
"But once you achieve this inversion… it's very hard to reverse."
"One of the ironies" graphically illustrated in the video, in which the heavily-armed soldier does not respond to his attackers, "is that while the Palestinians use all the means they can to be lethal without bringing too much retaliation against them… the Israelis, who have much more lethal weapons, don't actually use them."
Apart from the Palestinian and foreign instigators of such propaganda efforts, Landes says western liberal audiences are acting as enablers.
"Liberal audiences need to realize that when they look at Palestinian culture they are not looking at a culture of 'brave resistance to western imperialism' – they're looking at a pre-modern culture in which the elite systematically exploit the commoners," not so much for their wealth but for their value as propaganda tools.
"They're systematically exploiting their people to victimize them in order to gain sympathy from the west. Until the west develops a detector for Palestinian hypocrisy they will continue to contribute to the victimization of the Palestinian people – by their own leadership."