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Sticks and Stones
Palestinian incitement against Israel is more than just a war of words.
Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian legislator and spokeswoman, some weeks ago publicized an "open letter" from Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon informing all Palestinians, "You are my target, you will be made to suffer; and you shall pay for the original crime of being a Palestinian."
The letter was a forgery, of course, as Ms. Ashrawi certainly knew. While it is not news that Ashrawi is a liar, this particular lie served no purpose except to provoke and increase hatred of Israel among her people.
Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews is not a new phenomenon, and the Oslo process, which banned it, did not interrupt it. Here are some highlights from the last few years.
- Nabil Ramlawi, the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, accused Israel of injecting the HIV virus into Palestinian babies.
- The official Palestinian Authority daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, ran a long article purporting to detail Israeli plans to demolish the Al-Aksa Mosque.
- PA Health Minister Riyadh Al-Za'anoon announced that Israeli doctors were using Palestinian patients "for experimental medicines and training new doctors."
- Palestinian officials accused Israel of distributing food containing carcinogens and hormones that harm male virility in Palestinian territory.
- Palestinian officials claimed that Israeli merchants had smuggled chocolate infected with mad-cow disease (!) from England into the PA to harm Palestinians.
- Official Palestinian TV broadcast a speech by a Muslim cleric calling outright for the murder of Jews.
But the most despicable -- and dangerous -- incitement is found in the textbooks used in Palestinian schools, which are training the next generation of our "peace partners" to hate Israel, despise Jews and consider all of Israel their stolen property. If your hair needs curling, I suggest you consult the website of the Palestinian Media Watch, , the organization most to be credited for tracking and publicizing what's in the new Palestinian texts.
Or maybe you can guess what you'll find. The textbooks routinely deny Jewish peoplehood and any historical or religious basis for Jewish connection with the Land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem; they ignore or deny the Holocaust; they characterize the Jews as treacherous, disloyal, cunning, corrupt, deceitful, greedy, fanatic, evil, racist, Nazi-like, and enemies of Islam; they assert that Palestinians have the obligation to "fight the Jews and drive them out of our land." These messages, along with encouragement of jihad and martyrdom, are promulgated relentlessly in history, religion, language, even mathematics texts. Peace with Israel is not discussed as an option in the textbooks, and the peace process is not referred to.
Partly because these are the ideas that Palestinian children grow up with, they have become "a routine part of Palestinian culture," according to Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch. In Marcus's view, these pernicious ideas taken all together reflect "normative Palestinian thinking and expectations." He notes that even crossword puzzles in PA newspapers contain messages denying Israel's legitimacy and expressing deep hostility to Jews. What museum commemorates "the Holocaust and the lies"? Yad Vashem, of course. What's a Jewish trait? Treachery. (And that's on the entertainment page.)
Recently, Jewish media-watchdog groups inquired of both The New York Times and Time Magazine why they do not report fully and seriously on the issue of Palestinian incitement against Israel, and both groups received essentially the same response: Time and The Times do not consider "incitement" an important element in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
In other words, the purposeful inculcation of fierce hatred by one side against the other side is not, according to Time and The Times, a significant obstacle to the attempt to bring peace between two peoples.
That's obviously crazy, but maybe the news media are living in the same fog of confusion that so many of us did during the Oslo years, preferring to ignore what doesn't fit in the picture we want to project.
The truth is, as we have seen in the last six months, that not only sticks and stones but words, too, can hurt us - and I don't mean hurt our feelings. Here in Israel, we are living next to, living interspersed with, a national group that has been taught that we are irredeemably evil, their enemy, the enemy of Islam, the enemy of all Arabs, and whose leaders have spared no lie to encourage and justify murderous rage toward us. Most Palestinians were horrified, no doubt, by the lynching of the Israeli soldiers in Ramallah a few months back - but the lynching itself remains fully intelligible only in the context of the hatred to which the Palestinian masses have been trained.
The Palestinian media, popular culture and educational system, taken together, are a further indication that, for whatever reason, the Palestinian leadership has not only given up on reaching a negotiated peace settlement but aims to inflame the mind-set of hate and warfare against Israel forever.
For their own reasons of false hope, perhaps, Israeli governments, just like the American news media, have ignored or obscured the reality of Palestinian incitement. It was a mistake. "In many respects," as Itamar Marcus told the Jerusalem Post a few weeks ago, "we are much further from peace between our peoples than we were before the signing of the Oslo accords."
Incitement is why we're back to sticks and stones, and guns and bombs, and no longer just waging a war of words.
First published April 27, 2001, in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.
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