One island of stability in a sea of change has been the continuous, vicious incitement to hate and murder Israelis and Jews that issues from every mouthpiece — schools, media, mosques, summer camps, textbooks, etc. — of the PLO (and I am not even talking about Hamas). Dore Gold tells us,
Formally, there are many clauses on incitement throughout the Oslo Agreements, especially the 1995 Interim Agreement. The parties are legally bound to abstain from incitement and hostile propaganda. They were supposed to foster “mutual understanding and tolerance.” The first phase of the 2003 Roadmap calls on “all Palestinian institutions to end incitement against Israel.” But in practice many of these clauses were dormant. Israeli governments put the greatest attention to the most politically explosive issues like borders and security. The most senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office were involved in those committees and not in the incitement committee. There were those who undoubtedly felt that if Israel complained about incitement, it would be perceived that it was looking for an excuse to get out of the peace process and not make any concessions.
But it ought to be a matter of the highest priority. “After all,” Gold asks, “what prepares a Palestinian terrorist to slit the throats of Israeli children and kill their parents in cold blood?”
Arafat and Abbas both promised to end it, and Abbas even announced that he had, but neither did. Although the PLO can make concessions to Israel when it sees an advantage, this seems to be something they will never concede, either because Palestinian honor demands it, or because indoctrinating the youth to create the next generation of murderers is too important.
The contrast between Israel’s ‘educating for peace‘ by replacing Zionist history with special ‘coexistence’ curricula, and the PA’s glorification of the worst terrorists has been stark.
Until recently, this issue was below the radar of the mass media. But Newt Gingrich’s recent comment about “the hatred [Palestinians] teach in their schools” (although Gingrich gave an example which apparently was not genuine) seems to have forced them to take notice. And the issue is impossible to ignore or deny, thanks to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) organization, which simply records and translates material from the official Palestinian media.
The frustrating thing about PMW for those who try to blame Israel for the ongoing conflict is that what they present is cold, hard fact. They are recordings, not interpretations or arguments. Here’s a recent example, chosen at random:
For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language — as opposed to English-language statements tailored to opinion in the rest of the world — is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs. This has had the effect of further entrenching the sides to the conflict and undermining confidence that it can ever be resolved.
“There is no doubt in my mind that in the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement, Israel is not considered legitimate,” said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reflecting a widespread sense of disillusionment. “This is the inner truth of the Palestinians,” he said. “They really mean it. It is not what they say on CNN, but it is what they teach their children.”
But for many, the subject of incitement and media monitoring has become as contentious as some of the messages, especially since these pronouncements are often used to score propaganda points.
Wait a minute — evidence of Palestinian duplicity is bad because it undermines confidence? What about the more basic issue, which is that it shows that the whole project of trading land and security for ‘peace’ is misguided? The suggestion is that publicizing Palestinian dishonesty damages the Peace Process, which might otherwise succeed. From this point of view, of course the activities of PMW are ‘contentious’!
Am I going too far? Look at this, which appears later in the piece:
Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.
Not clear yet? Let me make it more explicit:
The delusional Israeli Left, which wants Israel to make concessions regardless of the likely consequences, finds exposing the truth about Palestinian intentions inconvenient.
Still, it’s hard to criticize someone for simply documenting reality. What to do? Any student of rhetoric knows: attack the messenger with a traditional ad hominem:
Mr. [Itamar] Marcus, who set up Palestinian Media Watch in 1996, says that he wants to foster genuine reconciliation. His critics, however, note that he is a settler who lives in the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, a contested area of the West Bank that Israel intends to keep under any agreement with the Palestinians. [my emphasis]
Let me insert an aside, although of course the question of where Marcus lives is beyond irrelevant; if Marcus lived in the most flagrant of Judean hilltop caravans, his recordings would be no less accurate. The Gush Etzion region was settled by Jews long before 1948, when the Jordanian army expelled the Jews from the region (all but four of the defenders of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion there, founded in 1927, were massacred by the Jordanians).
In response to PMW items that show maps of the entire area from the Jordan to the Mediterranean as ‘Palestine’, Kershner tries to argue that Israel, too, is guilty of bending the truth:
While the Israeli government and news media usually say the same things in Hebrew and English, Palestinians and Israeli critics say they also do little to promote the idea of a Palestinian state. Official Israeli maps do not show the Green Line, the pre-1967 boundary that demarcates East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In Israeli officialdom, the West Bank is routinely referred to by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria. The Israeli education minister recently adopted a plan to take Israeli schoolchildren on trips to a historic Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Actually, I have an Israeli road map in my hand that does show the Green Line, and I’ve seen it on maps produced by the government as well. It may be true that maps do not show it as a border, but the position of the Israeli government (and that of the US) is that borders will be decided by negotiations between Israel and the PA. And while it is true that Israeli maps don’t include something called ‘Palestine’, there is a state of Israel and there isn’t, at least not yet, an entity called ‘Palestine’.
The ‘biblical names’ Judea and Samaria are the names that were used for these places by everyone, including Arabs and the UN, until 1950 when the Jordanians decided to rename them to make a political point. Should Israel follow them?
Finally, what exactly is the problem with Jewish children visiting a site in Hebron (incidentally, a place where Jews lived for centuries, until 1929 when they were forced out in a murderous pogrom)? Does Kershner think we should go back to the pre-1967 condition in which Jews were not permitted to visit their holy sites?
Finally, she adds,
This summer, the Israeli police briefly detained two rabbis for questioning over their suspected endorsement of a treatise co-written by a third rabbi that seemed to justify the killing of non-Jews, even babies, in wartime.
Perhaps this is intended to show that Jews can also be guilty of incitement. But the difference is that these are extremists, not the official TV station of the Israeli government. And note — they were detained by police. They were an embarrassment for the government, not official heroes.
Kershner wants to show, in keeping with Times ideology, that Israel is as responsible for the lack of peace as much as the Arabs and that an agreement between Israel and the PA that creates a Palestinian state is the answer to the conflict. But she concludes with an anecdote that, I think, contradicts both of these ideas:
In one of the most egregious examples of Palestinian doublespeak, Yasir Arafat spoke in a mosque in South Africa in May 1994, only months after the signing of the Oslo accords, and called on the worshipers “to come and to fight and to start the jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”
As the ambassador to Washington at the time, Mr. [Itamar] Rabinovich said he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain to anyone who would listen that jihad, usually translated as holy war, could also mean a spiritual struggle, in order to justify continuing the peace process.
Still, he said, it is not by chance that those focusing on Palestinian incitement and publicizing it are “rightist groups who use it as ammunition.”
Perhaps those “rightist groups” are on to something?