The ‘cycle of violence’ dehumanizing cliches after Jerusalem massacre


Assessment: Speaking to reporters, US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby communicated: “We’re certainly deeply concerned by this escalating cycle of violence in the West Bank …

The mass murder of Israelis on Friday night has led to the usual wave of condemnations and also the tendency to dehumanize the victims by portraying them as part of a “cycle of violence” or as victims that were harmed due to a decades-long “conflict.” The reactions to the attack clearly fit into several categories.

One type of condemnation singles out the perpetrator and terror attack and commemorates the victims. A second type tends to condemn the attack but also contain a reference to a “cycle of violence.” A third type tends to try to excuse or mitigate the mass murder by referencing “occupation” or “apartheid” and castigating the victims as “settlers.”

“The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the Lord has spoken. Obadiah 1:18

 Palestinian gunmen and mourners attend the funeral of two Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security forces during a raid of Israeli security forces, Jenin, in the West Bank, January 19, 2023 (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The latter two types of reactions tend to have a kind of “all lives matter” vibe. This is because they don’t seem to be able to condemn attacks on Israeli victims without trying to reference something else. This kind of condemnation is problematic because it doesn’t allow Israelis to be victims, it always tries to whitewash or add context that dehumanizes the victims by turning them into objects of a larger conflict. This type of dehumanization is problematic because it is possible to condemn attacks on Israeli civilians, full stop.

Pre-packaged responses to continued terror attacks

Many of the reactions to Friday’s attack felt pre-packaged, with the usual reference to a possible “third intifada” and “cycle of violence”; and in other instances references to “occupation.” These kinds of reactions could be heard at the UN and on major media, such as the BBC. This reads like a script for tragedy. When Israel carried out a raid on Jenin on Thursday, in which nine Palestinians were killed, reports depicted this an escalation by Israel.

Then, on Friday when a Palestinian murdered seven Israelis on Shabbat, the question raised on some media was about the “cycle” of violence. What is the cycle? The raid on Jenin was conducted to prevent Palestinian Islamic Jihad from preparing a terror attack. That terror group has been involved in increasing clashes with Israel over the last years.

It’s not a cycle, it’s a one way conflict in which the Iran-backed PIJ stockpiles illegal weapons and threatens Israel from places like Jenin. PIJ is an illegal armed terror group. There’s no cycle, it’s Israelis trying to pre-empt the group from expanding and carrying out attacks.

On the other hand the attack in Jerusalem, apparently carried out by one perpetrator who targeted Jewish civilians, is not a cycle. It’s two different incidents, one in Jenin and one in Jerusalem. Is there evidence that PIJ is involved in both? Not according to reports. Just because long wolf terrorists are angered by other incidents doesn’t turn their actions into a cycle.

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