August 19, 2001
With Palestinian violence and terror against Israel intensifying, the question of why so many young Arab men are willing to strap themselves to explosives and murder scores of innocent Israelis takes on an added sense of urgency. While Palestinian apologists and their supporters like to assert that such horrific acts are desperate expressions of frustration against Israel's policies, this argument is neither moral nor compelling.
For not only does it aim to justify such atrocities, which are inherently unjustifiable, but it also overlooks the fact that there are plenty of people around the world living in far more desperate conditions than the Palestinians who do not send their youth off on suicide-bombing missions. Rather, it seems, a central contributing factor to the violence is something far more basic and disturbing - the culture of hatred for Israel that has developed in Palestinian society, one that is fueled largely by the Palestinian Authority itself.
For even as they target Israel with guns, bombs, and mortar shells, Yasser Arafat and the PA have also been waging an unrelenting war of words against the Jewish state, regularly engaging in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement of the vilest kind. The Palestinian media, which are controlled by the PA, have for years been a font of incitement, spewing forth a steady stream of Holocaust denial, racial slurs, and anti-Jewish epithets, as have the textbooks which are used in the Palestinian school system. Even after pledging on the White House lawn in September 1993 to open a new page in relations with Israel, Arafat continued to use the media at his disposal to shower his people with hateful messages, systematically demonizing Israel and the Jews. This steady stream of hostility, carefully cultivated and implemented over the past decade, has conditioned the average Palestinian to view Israel with hatred and contempt, thereby laying the conceptual groundwork in Palestinian society to justify launching vicious acts of cruelty against it.
On August 3, just days before a Palestinian terrorist carried out the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem which killed 15 Israelis, the official PA television broadcast a Friday sermon delivered at a mosque in Gaza by PA Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, in which he said, "This is jihad: either victory or martyrdom... The greatest enemies of the Islamic nation are the Jews, may Allah fight them... All spears should be directed at the Jews, at the enemies of Allah, the nation that was cursed in Allah's book. Allah has described them as apes and pigs, the calf-worshipers, idol-worshipers... The Jews have exposed their fangs. Nothing will deter them, except the color of their filthy people's blood; nothing will deter them except for us voluntarily detonating ourselves in their midst. Blessings for whoever assaulted a soldier... Blessings for whoever has raised his sons on the education of jihad and martyrdom; blessings for whoever has saved a bullet in order to stick it in a Jew's head." (Translation courtesy of the Middle East Media and Research Institute). With such venom being disseminated by their political and religious leadership, it is hardly surprising that a recent poll found that more than three out of every four Palestinians support suicide attacks against Israel.
The PA's systematic campaign of incitement occasionally veers into the comical, unintentionally revealing the absurd extent to which the PA will go to try to paint Israel in a bad light. Just last Monday, in a front-page story in the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda, the PA claimed that Israel "is using naked women to hunt down intifada youth." According to the story, a female soldier in Gaza "started to take off her clothes in front of the demonstrators until she was [nearly] naked... When they approached to throw stones at her, the female soldier whipped out a pistol from her underwear and shot at their heads." Though the story is obviously utter nonsense, the fact that the purveyors of Palestinian propaganda are willing to fabricate such fairy tales, and that many of their readers are prepared to believe them, speaks volumes about how Israel has come to be viewed by the Palestinian public.
Over the past decade, proponents of Oslo often dismissed the importance of Palestinian incitement, suggesting that what mattered was what the Palestinians did, not what they said. With benefit of hindsight, it is now more apparent than ever just how short-sighted that view has proven to be. Words have a power all their own, and the cumulative effect of years of anti-Israel hatred is now evident for all to see. And so, even if by some miracle the violence suddenly comes to an end, it is all the more crucial that Israel continue to insist on an immediate and unconditional halt to all forms of Palestinian incitement. For as long as the PA continues to foment violence and promote hatred, the number of young Palestinians willing to blow themselves up will unfortunately continue to mount.
©2001 - Jerusalem Post