Think Again: Why incitement is such a big deal

Think Again Why incitem

Ever wonder where the report claiming IDF soldiers kidnap and kill Palestinians in order to harvest their organs for transplants originated? Palestinian Media Watch provides the answer. It was lifted in toto from the December 24, 2001, edition of Al Hayat Al Jadida, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper. Donald Bostrom, the reporter for Sweden's Aftonbladet who disseminated this fabrication, has said of his handiwork, "Whether it's true or not, I have no idea. I have no clue." Given his indifference to truth, what further "scoops" can we anticipate from Bostrum? Again, Palestinian Media Watch provides the answer. Here are just some of the charges one could have read in the official Palestinian press or heard from leading Palestinian Authority officials in recent years: Israel will pay NIS 4,500 to any Palestinian who can prove he is a drug addict; Israel produced and distributed to Palestinians 200 tons of drug-laced bubble gum designed to destroy the genetic systems of Palestinian youth; it also distributes carcinogenic food and fruits for Palestinian consumption and children's games that beam radioactive x-rays. And don't forget the HIV-infected Jewish prostitutes whom Israel unleashed on Palestinian youth. Or Suha Arafat's accusation to Hillary Clinton that Israel poisons Palestinian wells. As the above accusations make clear, demonization of Israel is alive and well in the Palestinian Authority. In every agreement since the onset of Oslo, the Palestinians have solemnly pledged to end the incitement against Jews and Israel in the Palestinian media and to purge it from Palestinian textbooks. And each such undertaking has been promptly ignored. THE FAILURE to curb incitement has been so constant, so long-standing that it barely elicits a yawn today. But that apathy reflects a profound misunderstanding of the significance of that incitement. Shimon Peres once remarked, "I don't care what the Palestinians say, only what's written in the agreements." But what the Palestinians say to one another, and particularly what they teach their children, is far more important than what's written in peace agreements. Incitement and demonization are not just one more treaty violation. They reflect the failure of the Palestinians since the beginning of Oslo to create a constituency for peace with Israel, to educate the Palestinian population to the idea of living side-by-side with a Jewish state or to make clear that peace will also require concessions on the Palestinians' part. That has never happened. Even worse, there has been no education to accept the existence of Israel in any borders or to renounce once and for all the dream of throwing all the Jews into the sea. The Palestinian Authority has gone out of its way to make heroes of the most vicious terrorists - not exactly the way to encourage thoughts of reconciliation and peace. Mahmoud Abbas sent his warmest congratulations to child-murderer Samir Kuntar, upon his release from an Israeli jail, and commissioned festive celebrations in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the mastermind of the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in which 38 Israelis were murdered. At the first Fatah Conference in two decades last month, the young and old guard competed as to who could be more intransigent with regard to peace negotiations with Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh. The resolutions passed included demands that Israel accept the "right of return" for all 1948 refugees and their descendants and hand over to the Palestinians all Jewish neighborhoods built in Jerusalem since 1967. Other resolutions by the conference accused Israel of having murdered Yasser Arafat, urged exploration of a strategic alliance with Iran, and called for the upgrading of the status of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, the Fatah militia most involved in anti-Israel terror. For good measure, Muhammad Ghaneim, an extreme hard-liner who opposed the Oslo Accords, was the top vote-getter for the Fatah Central Committee and is now Abbas's heir apparent. The effect of decades of incitement to destroy Israel is fully reflected in Palestinian polls. A June 5-7 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that three-quarters of Palestinians reject any possibility of reconciliation with Israel in this generation, even if a final peace agreement were signed and an independent Palestinian state created. YET IN "The mother of all missed opportunities," (The Jerusalem Post, September 10) Larry Derfner professes to find in the decreasing rates of terrorism from the West Bank and the round-up of thousands of Hamas activists indications of a new peaceful intent among West Bank Palestinians. But the round-up of Hamas activists reflects only Fatah's desire to secure its control of the West Bank, not a new attitude towards Israel. And the main reason for reduced terrorism from the West Bank remains the persistent IDF operations and clampdowns on suspected terrorists. To the extent that reduced terrorist attempts are a function of Palestinian Authority efforts, they result from the determination not to provide Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with ammunition to fend off pressure from US President Barack Obama. In a recent article for the Hudson Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh argues that no matter how much the Palestinian economy improves, it "won't change Palestinians' negative attitude towards Israel, especially not when anti-Israel incitement and fiery rhetoric continue." The conflict, he writes, is "political, national and religious" in nature, and its resolution depends on "accepting Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people." Such acceptance cannot take place without creation of a Palestinian peace curriculum to replace the current incitement and demonization. That is why an end to incitement is not another meaningless and unenforceable promise to be included in a final peace agreement, but rather a necessary pre-condition for peace, without which all negotiations about boundaries and the like, are besides the point. Until he recognizes that, Derfner will remain rattling his cage from the inside.