“As the months of Arab Spring have turned autumnal, Israel has increasingly become a target of public outrage,” the New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote this weekend from Jerusalem. “Some here say Israel is again being made a scapegoat, this time for unfulfilled revolutionary promises. But there is another interpretation, and it is the predominant one abroad — Muslims, Arabs and indeed many around the globe believe Israel is unjustly occupying Palestinian territories, and they are furious at Israel for it.”
The first interpretation — that Israel is a scapegoat for the failures of the Arab Spring (and many other previous ailments afflicting the Middle East) — is self-evidently true. The attack on the Israeli embassy grew from a rally in Tahrir Square called “Correcting the Path.” Its organizers meant to pressure the country’s military rulers to accelerate political changes. It is easier to burn an Israeli flag than reform the Egyptian government. And Israel, of course, did not cause Egypt’s economic woes, nor is it responsible for violence in Syria, poverty in Algeria or illiteracy in Yemen.
The second interpretation of recent events — that Arabs and Muslims are furious at Israel for occupying Palestinian territory — is superficially true, but it neglects to take into account a relevant and complicating fact: Israel’s crises with Egypt and Turkey are both rooted in an Israeli decision to relinquish Palestinian territory.