Over the last few weeks an Israeli soldier was stabbed in the torso near the settlement of Nachliel by a 15-year old Palestinian girl while he was standing by a pillbox guard tower, and the security forces announced the arrest of two Palestinians for the June 24, 2015 murder of 70-year-old farmer David Bar Kafra of Rehovot, who was killed while tending his vineyard in Moshav Pedaya. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition where he later died from his wounds.
Most likely these attacks will be attributed to "lone wolves"—persons not acting on specific orders from any particular Palestinian terrorist organization but who are compelled by some other motivation to commit murder. These lone wolf attacks increased during Ramadan, including the stabbings of a female soldier near Bethlehem and a yeshiva student at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, a drive-by shooting in the Shomron that left one dead and three wounded, a shooting near Dolev that left one dead and a driving "accident" in Jerusalem that left one Israeli dead and another seriously wounded.
The attacks have rekindled discussion about whether they should be ascribed to the ongoing incitement against Israelis and Jews in the Palestinian media, school system and speeches by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials.
Criticizing the PA for not distancing itself from these attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in late June: "The fact that up until now, the Palestinian Authority has not condemned these attacks needs to bother not only us, but also the international community as a whole. Those who do not take an unequivocal stand against terrorism cannot wash their hands."
A few days later, Minister of Defense Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon charged the Palestinian Authority with responsibility for the wave of attacks because of the incitement that has been carried on official PA radio and television.
The PA's responsibility to stop incitement and hostile propaganda goes back to the very early days of the “Peace Process” and has been recognized from the outset as essential to the achievement of any peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement stipulates that “Israel and the [Palestinian] Council…shall abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and…shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction…Israel and the [Palestinian] Council will ensure that their respective educations systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to peace in the entire region, and will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation.”
In annexes to the agreement, both sides committed to “act with respect for the values and human dignity of the other side” to focus their educational cooperation on “other ways of promoting better mutual understanding of their respective cultures” to “cooperate in enhancing dialogue and relations between their peoples.”
Since incitement—and terrorism—continued unabated in the PA despite these undertakings, the Wye River Memorandum of Oct. 23, 1998 included a provision under which the Palestinian side agreed to issue a decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence or terror and an agreement to establish a joint U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli committee to monitor cases of incitement to violence or terror and to make recommendations on how to prevent it. With little—but continuous arguments—to show for its work, the committee disbanded after about a year.
The Quartet’s “Roadmap to a Permanent Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" of 2003 specifically required that both sides end all incitement against the other by official institutions. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1515 that endorsed the Roadmap reiterated the demand for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction.
Unfortunately, all these bilateral and international instruments have remained a dead letter as incitement continues in the PA unabated, coming in many different—some seemingly innocuous—forms.
One of the bluntest forms of incitement to violence is hero worship of terrorists. In the course of June and July alone, PA television carried the expressions of joy by a Palestinian mother at the martyrdom-death of her son; a killer of 67 Israeli civilians was honored by independent Ma'an TV; A PA-Fatah summer camp for kids, featured on various Palestinian news outlets, showed army-uniform clad kids brandishing AK-47 automatic weapons indoctrinated with slogans such as "What was taken by force, can only be restored by force," and youth football (soccer) teams were named for terrorists.
Another form of incitement is anti-Semitism, such as a PA TV program that carried a young girl reciting a poem calling Jews "barbaric monkeys," "the most evil among creations," and those "who murdered Allah's pious prophets." Jews are said to be "throngs... brought up on spilling blood... impure... [and] filth;" or a preacher at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque who told the crowd assembled that "[Jews] prepare their matzah... with the blood of children...They were burned in Germany because they kidnapped young children" to make matzah. (Compiled from Palestinian Media Watch).
Numerous cartoons in the Palestinian media also encourage terrorism. Another method that contributes to encouraging terrorism is the ongoing monthly payment--totaling an estimated $3-7 million annually from the PA budget—as salaries and other financial rewards to terrorists and their families.
Since taking office again in 2009, Netanyahu restored Palestinian incitement as a government priority, charging the Ministry of Strategic Affirms with maintaining an "incitement index" and raising the issue publicly and in official meetings. The last serious attempt to approach this issue was in February 2014 when the Israeli government rejected a Palestinian-American initiative to convene a tripartite committee to address incitement and education toward peace both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Then Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz made it clear to the American mediators that a condition for participating in such a committee would be a Palestinian confidence-building measure, like deleting provocative content from official PA websites. Steinitz argued that setting up such a committee would just allow the Palestinians to avoid dealing with the issue themselves on the grounds that there was a committee handling it.
A new, welcome, resolution (H.R. 293) titled "Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority" submitted on June 3 to the U.S. House of Representatives by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) reiterates strong condemnation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the Palestinian Authority as antithetical to the cause of peace.
The resolution—after going through a long litany of examples of Palestinian incitement of the worst kind—also urges PA President Mahmud Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials to discontinue all official incitement and exert influence to discourage anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian civil society; and directs the State Department "to regularly monitor and publish information on all official incitement by the Palestinian Authority against Jews and the State of Israel."
With the Palestinian Authority now recognized as a state by the United Nations and by many individual states—including, most recently, the Vatican—it is high time to make it live up to its responsibility to curb deadly incitement. A good first step would be to throw support behind H.R. 293 and then keep Abba's feet to the fire by reporting every infraction to be included in the State Department's report.
Alan Schneider is the director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, which serves as the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The World Center is the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
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