The US is currently opposed to the reestablishment of the long defunct Israeli-US-American committee to monitor incitement, Strategic Affairs Ministry director-general Yossi Kuperwasser intimated on Sunday.
In a briefing to reporters following a cabinet meeting where he brought the most recent “incitement index” to the ministers’ attention, Kuperwasser said both Israel and the Palestinians expressed a willingness to set up the committee, though “we don’t hang much hope on it.” A “third party,” whom he did not identify, but which was clearly the Americans, was not interested, he said.
Diplomatic officials said that the US did not feel that at this time, with the diplomatic process at a stalemate, the establishment of a committee to look at cases of incitement would serve a constructive purpose.
A joint Israeli-Palestinian- American committee on incitement was set up in 1998 under US auspices. The Israeli team was led by the late journalist Uri Dan, who was a close confidant of Ariel Sharon, and the Palestinian side by Yasser Arafat’s spokesman Marwan Kanafani. Sharon was foreign minister when the committee was established.
The committee disbanded after about a year with little to show for its works, except for continuous arguments.
The bottom line, Kuperwasser said, is that Palestinian incitement is “going on all the time,” adding that the phenomenon is “worrying and disturbing.” He said that at an institutional level the Palestinian Authority was continuously driving three messages home: that the Palestinians would eventually be the sole sovereign on all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea; that Jews, especially those who live in Israel, were not really human beings but rather “the scum of mankind”; and that all tools were legitimate in the struggle against Israel and the Jews, though the specific tool used at one time or another depended on a cost-benefit analysis.
Kuperwasser provided the ministers with abundant examples of Palestinian incitement culled – with the help of the Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI – from Palestinian television, newspapers and textbooks.
Koby Michael, the deputy director-general at the Strategic Affairs Ministry, refuted claims that similar types of incitement could be found in the Israeli media or in statements by various politicians against Palestinians.
He said the major difference was that in Israel the incitement was not institutionalized.
There is a need, Michael said, to distinguish between institutional incitement, which exists in the PA, and examples of incitement by individuals in Israel. Likewise, he said, there was a difference between incitement created by the media – which he said is the case in the PA – and acts of incitement reported by the media, as often happens in Israel.
Kuperwasser said that the incitement created an “ethos of conflict and encourages” continued hostility to Israel. Saying that east Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine is not incitement, Kuperwasser said, but saying that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing is, he said by way of illustration.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting there were “two important things” in the incitement index.
First, he said, “the index constitutes an important clarification and reminder of where we live. Usually, we wait for crises in order to be reminded of our environment. The index sheds light and helps us prepare ourselves and avoid the mistake of not understanding whom we are dealing with, who cooperates with and initiates this awful incitement.”
The Palestinian leadership, Netanyahu said, “was bequeathing this incitement to the coming generations and is preventing them from holding a dialogue of peace, the result of which is that it is itself incapable of adopting a dialogue of peace.”
And secondly, Netanyahu said, the index shows that the root of the conflict is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish people’s right to a homeland in Israel. “We have seen horrific things here, which – inter alia – define Jews as those who poison wells, and which lay the groundwork for harsh and brutal deeds.
We must bring this to the attention of the governments of the world, especially ahead of the upcoming UN General Assembly,” he said.