National Review article misinforms readers on Israel

National Review article misinforms readers on Israel

When you know the facts on Israel’s relationship with the US, you might start looking at “our closest ally” in a whole new way. Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush Sr. each had moments of clarity, and called out Israel for its abuses.

by Kathryn Shihadah

The National Review, a venerable voice in American conservatism, recently published an article that was filled with inaccuracies, half-truths, and omissions.

In today’s hyper-polarized America, conservative media regularly attack President Joe Biden, and liberal media regularly attack former President Donald Trump.

Such reporting – when it is rooted in facts – can be valuable, and is at the heart of the First Amendment. Free speech is of supreme importance to a democratic republic. It is essential that voters be fully informed.

However, when media attempt to make their case through inaccurate statements or selective omission, they do our country and its voters a profound disservice.

Many factual criticisms could be made about Biden administration policies, including its policies on the Middle East. The National Review article in question, however, bases its criticisms on erroneous and/or decontextualized statements.

In support of best practices in journalism, we provide below the full text of the article by politician Skip Roy (R-TX-21) and Victoria Coates (art historian turned political consultant) along with corrections and context that will enable the reader to understand the issue accurately.

(The following is not a defense of President Joe Biden (or the person likely directing these policies, Secretary of State Antony Blinken). Its purpose is to correct media misinformation about one of the most important issues facing our country. Politicians from both parties have voted to give Israel over $10 million per day, and expend an additional $10 million per day on behalf of Israel; it is essential that Americans be fully and accurately informed on this issue.)

The Deadly Costs of Biden’s Israel Policy

By CHIP ROY & VICTORIA COATES, National Review, July 31, 2023 6:30 AM

As terror spikes in Israel, President Biden is getting what he paid for.

NATIONAL REVIEW: Earlier this month, President Biden addressed the recent increase in violence in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin.

The article references the Palestinian city of Jenin, but offers little context, which is essential to an accurate understanding of the situation. Below are some key facts about the city, and about the situation in Israel and Palestine:

  • Jenin has been under Israeli military operation for over 50 years. Entrances and exits are controlled by armed Israeli soldiers. In essence, it is a prison, with Israel holding the keys.
  • The city includes a crowded, poverty-stricken refugee camp with a population of 18,000, established in 1953 for Palestinians who had been forced out of their homes and off their land during Israel’s 1948 founding war.
  • Jenin has become a hub for Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation and theft of Palestinian land – what Israel calls “terrorism.”
  • In the past year, at least, Israeli forces have invaded Jenin nearly every night, beating and arresting Palestinians, blocking ambulances and shooting at medics trying to help the wounded. Some inhabitants fight back and/or protest these invasions (see daily reports here).
  • While residents most often respond with peaceful demonstrations and protests, a small number of individuals use armed resistance, which is considered legitimate under international law (making the “terrorist” label highly questionable). Meanwhile, Israel’s occupation and discriminatory system are illegal.
  • Some of the deadliest raids include July 3-4, when Israel attacked Jenin, which left 12 Palestinians and 1 Israeli dead; and January 26, when 10 Palestinians were killed; no Israelis were killed (see this). (Read here about the 2002 Israeli invasion of Jenin.)
  • In total (as of this writing), 212 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed in 2023. 21 of the 27 Israelis killed were illegal settlers who lived on land stolen from Palestinians (see details here) – a few of the 750,000 Jewish Israelis living, not in Israel, but in colonies (“settlements”) on Palestinian land – and 2 were soldiers.
Palestinians are surrounded by rubble and the remains of a destroyed vehicle outside a mosque in Jenin, West Bank, on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 after a 2-day attack by Israel.
Palestinians are surrounded by rubble and the remains of a destroyed vehicle outside a mosque in Jenin, West Bank, on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 after a 2-day attack by Israel. (photo)

NR: After opining that the terrorist attacks against Israel were carried out by “extremist” elements among the Palestinians, the president added an interesting caveat — that the terrorism was to some extent provoked by Israel’s “extreme” right-wing government.

In other words, the president of the United States created a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists murdering Israeli civilians and the duly elected government of Israel trying to defend them, simply because Israeli politics are not to his liking.

The reality:

  • The current Israeli administration is considered the most extreme in the state’s history – not just by liberal Western politicians. For example, Israeli Holocaust historian Daniel Blatman said, “there are neo-Nazi ministers in the government today…ministers who, ideologically, are pure racists”; Moshe Ya’alon, former Israeli military chief of staff, described the administration as “criminal, fascist, homophobic, and corrupt.”
  • President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in the US, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, said of Netanyahu’s administration, “these are among the most extreme voices in Israeli politics.” The highly influential Anti Defamation League (ADL) declared that extremists in Israel’s government “[run] counter to Israel’s founding principles.” (For examples of what radical Israelis get away with under the current administration go here and here.)
  • Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories report growing persecution at the hands of Jewish Israeli settlers. According to the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, extremists feel emboldened by the new government: “The frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new…These people feel they are protected … that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians.”
  • A Benedictine brother reported: “Now we monks have to live under a government, one of whose members is an extreme Christian hater.” At the end of May, Jewish extremists led by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King attacked a pro-Israeli group of Evangelical Christian pilgrims who were holding a “prayer for Jerusalem” at an archaeological park.
  • The vast majority of Palestinians are either uninvolved in the conflict or protest peacefully. A number of Palestinian villages have hosted peaceful protests every week for years (for example, this and this), only to meet with violence at the hands of Israeli military (examples here and here); in Gaza, Palestinians held massive peaceful protests every Friday for 20 months – Israeli snipers killed over 200 and injured over 35,000 demonstrators.
  • Since the beginning of Netanyahu’s new administration, he has endorsed radical policies by his radical new ministers, including the confiscation of Palestinian property, Israeli police incursions into the Al-Aqsa mosque (one of Islam’s holiest sites), and increasing Israeli civilian weapon ownership.
  • Netanyahu’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir (a follower of Meir Kahane – whose racism got him banned from the Israeli legislature), has made clear his supremacist views and his desire to subjugate or get rid of Palestinians. Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich has used explicit language declaring that Palestinians do not exist, and calling for their ethnic cleansing. Both Ben-Gvir and Smotrich live on illegal Jewish-only settlements built on Palestinian land.
  • Orly Noy, chairperson of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, writes

from Israel’s standpoint, any resistance, even nonviolent resistance, to its occupation and oppression poses a danger to security that is easily recognized as terror…

This is a two-way distortion by Israel. Just as it treats every Palestinian action, even those directed against soldiers, as acts of terrorism, so too does Israel paint any Israeli action taken against Palestinians as legitimate, even when those Palestinians are civilians.

  • While Israeli politicians call Palestinians “terrorists,” Israeli forces have, since 2000, killed thousands of Palestinian children and civilians, injured 100,000, and maimed thousands. (Doctors Without Borders report 152 amputations due to injuries from Israeli weapons.)

NR: The president would do better to face the grim reality that the over $1 billion in taxpayer-funded foreign aid that his administration has poured into the Palestinian Authority (and the United Nations programs propping it up) over the last two and a half years has done nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people and has instead been diverted to fund the very terrorism for which he blames Israel.

The reality:

  • The fact that Palestinian lives need “improvement” stems directly from Israeli policy: since 1948, Israel has appropriated Palestinian wealth (especially land), blocked exportation of Palestinian products, demolished homes, destroyed crops, and more – sending the Palestinian economy into a downward spiral.
  • $1 billion in 2.5 years hasn’t fixed the problem, not because the Palestinian Authority is funneling money to terrorists – but because Israel has held Palestinians in an unrelenting chokehold for decades. A few recent human rights reports include:
  • Roy and Coates tout the $1 billion in aid to Palestinians over 2.5 years as though it is a massive sum. In reality, Israel received about 10 times as much aid during the same time period – not including billions more that Congress expends in additional programs that benefit Israel. (Our aid to Israel is almost exclusively earmarked as military aid, and much of it used to develop advanced weapons, test them on Palestinians, and market them worldwide as “battle-tested,” including to rogue nations.)
Buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes (May 2021) in the Gaza Strip.
Buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes (May 2021) in the Gaza Strip. (photo)

NR: If Biden refuses to recognize this fact, Congress will have to act to protect the American people from inadvertently funding attacks on one of our closest and most critical allies.

The reality:

chart showing US aid to Israel since WW2
(Source: United States Agency for International Development) (chart)

NR: Contrary to the Washington establishment’s preconceived notions of what works in Israel, Trump-era policy proved that defunding the Palestinians for their venomous anti-America rhetoric and abuse of American funds to reward terrorists and their families does not in fact result in a significant spike in violence.

This despite the theoretically incendiary corollary policies such as moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory.

Rather than stoking Palestinian violence, Trump’s policies led to the first peace deals between Israel and Arab states in 25 years.

The reality:

  • While the authors are correct in their assessment that Palestinians did not become violent as Trump-era policies rolled out, Palestinians did protest – and were killed in large numbers. For example, on the day that the US embassy move was announced, Israel killed at least 8 Palestinian protesters; on the day the embassy opened in Jerusalem, Israeli snipers killed 58 Palestinian protesters at the border with Israel.
  • The “peace deals” with Arab states consisted of the United States offering enticements – for example, permission to buy US-made weapons, and removal from the American list of state sponsors of terrorism (these are in addition to “treaties” that Israel has had with Egypt and Jordan for years – treaties bought with of billions of dollars in US aid) – in essence, the US paid for countries to normalize relations with a state that persecutes its neighbors and part of its own population.
  • In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Every President since (from both parties) has signed a presidential waiver to avoid making the move – citing national security interests. Such a move would “overturn 70 years of international consensus, and, many argue, would effectively signal the end of moves to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” Trump’s decision made clear that the U.S. government is not an objective, honest broker for peace.

In the Palestinian West Bank, Israel has placed 175 permanent checkpoints and other roadblocks, as well as scores of temporary irregular barriers and a draconian permit regime, supported by a repressive biometric surveillance system, to control and fragment Palestinian communities. (Pictured: Ephraim/Taybeh checkpoint, West Bank, Occupied Palestine
In the Palestinian West Bank, Israel has placed 175 permanent checkpoints and other roadblocks, as well as scores of temporary irregular barriers and a draconian permit regime, supported by a repressive biometric surveillance system, to control and fragment Palestinian communities. (Pictured: Ephraim/Taybeh checkpoint, West Bank, Occupied Palestine (photo)

NR: Nonetheless, a top foreign-policy priority for the Biden administration was to reverse this progress and restore Palestinian funding, starting with $15 million in emergency Covid relief in March 2021.

The reality: 

  • Unlike Roy and Coates, few Americans would begrudge one of the world’s most impoverished populations Covid relief – especially after Israel responded to the pandemic by enacting apartheid-like policies.
  • Physicians for Human Rights spoke up on this very topic in an article entitled, “Israel’s vaccine discrimination against Palestinians must end.”
  • The $15 million referenced here was to support efforts by Catholic Relief Services in healthcare facilities in the Palestinian territories (some of which Israel demolished – also see this video).

NR: This down payment was swiftly followed with larger sums, such as $235 million in April 2021 to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which President Biden proudly announced had ballooned into $316 million by July 2022.

By the end of 2023, the administration will have provided more than $650 million to the Palestinians, with another $250 million requested for fiscal year 2024. (While this funding was recently stripped out of the State and Foreign Operations bill by the House, Democrats in the Senate will almost certainly add it back in.)

All this money is supposedly intended to bolster the Palestinians’ quality of life, which would then reduce violence and increase the possibility of getting to the two-state solution to the conflict that Biden has long pursued.

The reality:

  • Under the Geneva Conventions, Israel, as the occupier of the Palestinian territories, is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the Palestinian population.
  • Because Israel refuses to fulfill these obligations, and refuses to end the occupation, the US continually steps in to support essential services, including the Palestinian healthcare system and critical assistance to refugees  – yet another expense that Americans are paying on behalf of Israel.
  • Most US funding earmarked for Palestinians is actually intended to benefit Israel, and is proposed by and/or receives support from Israel partisans such as former Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
  • Even with aid from the US, UNICEF reports that 126,000 Palestinian children under the age of 5 (35%) “are at risk of not meeting their full developmental potential due to poverty, poor nutrition, lack of access to basic services, and high levels of family and environmental stress and exposure to violence.”


NR: In reality, Biden’s misguided policy has achieved almost the opposite of its aims. The last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades.

The reality:

  • Roy and Coates’ statement, “The last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades,” is simply false. In fact (as the chart below illustrates), often in recent years, Palestinian deaths have been much higher. Israeli deaths – while invariably much lower than Palestinian, have also been higher. For example, in 2014, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed; 84 Israelis were also killed. 
  • In total, as of this writing, 212 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed in 2023. The assertion that “the last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades” is disingenuous and whitewashes the disproportionate number of Palestinian fatalities.
  • The suggestion that these deaths are a result of “Biden’s misguided policy” is unfounded, and grants Israel impunity to continue killing Palestinians. In fact, as the chart below shows, every year in this century has been deadly for Palestinians – some Israelis have been killed almost every year as well.
  • Beyond a discussion of statistics, these are human beings with families and aspirations.
Israelis and Palestinians killed since September 29, 2000
Israelis and Palestinians killed since September 29, 2000 (the original chart, here, is interactive) (chart)

NR: In Jenin, for example, which was the direct beneficiary of much of the UNRWA funding, the Palestinian Authority has lost security control and ceded space to Iranian-backed militants who packed the camp with fighters and weapons until the Israel Defense Forces moved in to clean them out.

This intolerable threat, not the presence of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is what prompted the biggest Israeli military action in the West Bank in 20 years and the corresponding loss of life.

The reality:  

  • Israeli websites report that Palestinians in Jenin have rifles, pistols, and some homemade explosives. This “intolerable threat” caused the Israeli military to attack the city using helicopter gunships, reconnaissance drones, snipers, and 150 armored vehicles carrying 1,000 elite special forces.
  • In the 2-day attack, Israeli soldiers killed 12 Palestinians (3 of them teenagers), destroyed roads, residential neighborhoods, a mosque, 2 hospitals, and water, electricity, and phone lines. Israeli forces attacked journalists, leveled homes, and prevented ambulances from reaching injured Palestinians.
  • United Nations officials declared, “Israeli forces’ operations in the occupied West Bank, killing and seriously injuring the occupied population, destroying their homes and infrastructure, and arbitrarily displacing thousands, amount to egregious violations of international law and standards on the use of force and may constitute a war crime.”
  • The Associated Press reports that the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), strapped for cash, has had to suspend services to 200,000 of the 330,000 Palestinians who have been receiving food vouchers. “Thousands of [Palestinian] families…go through the day not sure where they will get their next meal.”WFP is counting on other assistance – including the Palestinian Authority – to help those who were cut from the program. Jenin was hit hard by these cuts.
  • AP adds that Jenin residents face particularly hard times because many also have to repair damage to their homes from Israel’s attack, or pay medical bills (or loss of income, or funeral expenses) for loved ones injured or killed. Some laborers must pass through Israeli military checkpoints, and can not get to work when Israel closes the roads. 
  • While it is possible that Iran is financing some of the resistance in Jenin, the fact remains that Palestinians have access to only light weaponry, and are no match for Israel’s military force. 
  • Bobby Ghosh of Bloomberg (and former world editor of Time magazine) suggests that if Iran is involved with the Palestinian resistance, 

Iran’s greatest ally in the cause has been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose long encouragement of the appropriation of West Bank territory by Israeli settlers — and his indulgence of their aggressive, often violent conduct toward Palestinians — has for years provided Islamic Jihad with propaganda gold. If his policies have allowed Iran to infiltrate the West Bank, that in turn has furnished Netanyahu with convenient cause to send the IDF into places like Jenin, as well as a useful distraction from his political troubles, such as the strong resistance to his proposals to reform the Israeli judiciary.

  • In fact, in 2023, radical Israeli settlers have been carrying out an average of 95 attacks against Palestinians a month (as reported by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz), including what some Israeli military leaders called “pogroms” – during which Israeli soldiers stood by and watched.
  • Palestinians in Jenin (and elsewhere) are organizing in resistance against the unlawful occupation and apartheid-like rule of Israel – a situation that has gotten much worse since the new radical government took over.
A house in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya that was torched by Israeli settlers in June 2023
A house in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya that was torched by Israeli settlers in June 2023 (photo)

NR: Biden’s insistence that Israel’s provocations are to blame is disingenuous at best. At worst, it could be a self-inflicted blow to one of America’s most important alliances, needlessly damaging our interests in the Middle East and increasing the threat of terrorism right here at home.

The reality:

  • Israel is not an American ally. In fact, our unconditional support for Israel has caused the US to lose some of its global credibility, and has perhaps made us more of a target for terrorism
  • It is worth asking why the US has so few friends in the Middle East. Jesuit Fr. John Sheehan once said, “Every time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, I can’t help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.” 
  • See point above, “A few things that ‘closest and most critical allies’ shouldn’t do – but Israel has done to the US.”

NR: In addition to suggesting a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians, President Biden also pettily refused to issue an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Washington, insisting instead that it was sufficient for Israel’s symbolic head of state, President Isaac Herzog, to visit and address a joint session of Congress.

Of course, given that Herzog served in the Knesset as Netanyahu’s chief political opposition and has no practical executive power, this is yet another veiled insult to Israel’s prime minister…

The reality:

  • Notably, former president Trump was not a fan of Netanyahu at all: as he revealed later, he felt that Netanyahu didn’t really want peace with the Palestinians, and was “using” him on Iran.
  • Netanyahu carries baggage, not only of appointing an extremist cabinet and allowing it to run roughshod over Palestinians; he has also been indicted on corruption charges.
  • When President Isaac Herzog spoke before a joint session of Congress, he got 29 bipartisan standing ovations. What more approval would Roy and Coates want than this – over 500 members of Congress who can’t agree on anything, sharing this much unconditional love for an Israeli leader?

NR: which will encourage one of our most important allies to look elsewhere for support.

The reality:

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, official Photo
    Dwight D. Eisenhower, official Photo (photo)

    Israel has always cozied up to whichever powers suit it at the moment – apartheid South Africa, autocrat Modi of IndiaMyanmar and other human rights abusers willing to spend their money on Israeli weaponry.

  • Israel always does what is in Israel’s best interests, regardless of world opinion.
  • For example, in 1983, Israeli intransigence resulted in the deaths of 241 US Marines in Beirut, and the slaughter of hundreds or thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
  • A select few American presidents have dared to stand up to Israel. In 1956 President Dwight David Eisenhower told Israel that “without prompt and unconditional withdrawal” from Suez, the U.S. would cut off all aid to Israel. Even when reminded that he might lose Jewish votes in the imminent elections, he said: “I don’t care in the slightest whether I am re-elected or not. I feel we must make good on our word.”
  • In 1983 Ronald Reagan refused to release fighter jets promised to Israel when Israel violated an arms agreement, and expressed outrage to PM Begin over a prolonged and violent Israeli siege in Beirut.
  • In 1991 George H.W. Bush suspended $10 billion in loan guarantees because he was opposed to Israel’s settlement plans.

NR: Today, the damage that Biden is inflicting on the U.S.–Israel partnership, and thus damage to the security of the American people, is too important to ignore.

NR: If his administration refuses to reverse its disastrous pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel policies that will do nothing to promote a real solution to the conflict, then Congress must step in.

Going forward, all members who support Israel need to stand strong against the noxious anti-Israel bias

The reality:

  • The so-called “noxious anti-Israel bias” to which the National Review article refers consists of a minute number of Congress members speaking up for Palestinian rights
  • One Congresswoman from Minnesota has tirelessly called for Palestinian children to be safe from torture and American-made weapons – even this small request has received only a lukewarm reception. Meanwhile, pro-Israel legislation abounds.
  • Significantly, public opinion polls show that American support is swinging toward justice for Palestinians, and away from massive military aid for Israel. In a democracy, this ought to be reflected in our representatives.

NR: And if the president can’t summon the good manners to formally schedule a visit for one of our closest allies to the White House, the speaker of the House should use his authority to invite the real leader of Israel to address a joint session of Congress, and the American people, about the state of affairs in his country.

The reality:

  • The “state of affairs” in Israel includes a number of highly respected human rights organizations offering meticulously documented reports showing that Israel is practicing apartheid. Not hyperbole – they make clear that Israel’s policies and practices do indeed match the internationally recognized definition of apartheid. The organizations include Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem, and Yesh Din,  Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations. A number of Christian denominations (for example, this, this, and this) support the conclusions of these groups.
  • Other groups have used the word “apartheid” for years – including the Human Sciences Research Center of South Africa.
  • Labels like “apartheid” and “fascist” and “terrorist” may or may not matter. What does matter is the fact that Israel has for generations subjected Palestinians – including many children – to cruelty and violence. Israel’s actions fly in the face of not only international law, but also humanity itself.
Israel has one of the world's most powerful militaries; their soldiers are equipped with advanced armor and weapons (Pictured: 2022, Israeli forces take up a position during clashes with Palestinians following a deadly Israeli raid in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank)
Israel has one of the world’s most powerful militaries; their soldiers are equipped with advanced armor and weapons (Pictured: 2022, Israeli forces take up a position during clashes with Palestinians following a deadly Israeli raid in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank) (photo)

 Kathryn Shihadah is an editor and staff writer for If Americans Knew. She also blogs occasionally at Palestine Home. Alison Weir contributed to the piece.



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