Evelyn Gordon

Analysis from Israel

In confronting the current onslaught of lone-wolf attacks, the tactics Israel has used successfully against terrorist organizations have so far proven ineffective. That begs the question of what it should be doing instead. I have no solutions for the short run, but there’s one obvious step Israel must take if it wishes to prevent attacks like these over the long run. That step emerges from two of the most salient features of the current violence: Permanent residents of Israel have committed a huge proportion of the attacks, but citizens of Israel have committed very few.

The permanent residents in question are mainly east Jerusalem Arabs, and they have committed more than eight times as many attacks as Arab citizens have, even though Arab citizens outnumber permanent residents by more than 4:1. This enormous gap certainly can’t be explained by the popular fallacy that terror is motivated mainly by economic concerns; as permanent residents, east Jerusalem Arabs enjoy the same access to jobs, the same freedom of movement throughout Israel and the same health and welfare benefits that citizens do. Granted, Arab citizens are generally better off, but the difference isn’t dramatic enough to explain the dramatic gap in terrorist activity.

There is, however, one difference quite dramatic enough to explain this gap: Whereas Arab citizens study the Israeli curriculum in school, most of East Jerusalem’s permanent residents study the Palestinian Authority curriculum. And that curriculum, as sweeping reports by both Palestinian Media Watch and IMPACT-SE have detailed, is filled with vile anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement.

Inter alia, as PMW’s report notes, this curriculum rejects the legitimacy of Israel’s existence (textbooks refer to “the so-called State of Israel”), justifies violence against it, defines such violence as a religious obligation and informs students that Jews and Zionists are irredeemably evil (one book, for instance, refers to “the robbing Jews”; another tells students that Israel “killed your children, split open your women’s bellies, held your revered elderly men by the beard, and led them to the death pits”). These messages are then reinforced by the “educational” programs broadcast on the PA’s official media, where Jews are described as “monkeys and pigs,” “enemies of Allah” and the “most evil of creations,” among other charming epithets.

East Jerusalem schools have been using the PA curriculum, with Israel’s consent, ever since the PA’s establishment in 1994. In other words, Israel decided two decades ago to let the PA indoctrinate a generation of East Jerusalem schoolchildren to abominate Israel – and now it’s shocked that the graduates of this indoctrination are going out and trying to murder Israelis.

The PA curriculum obviously isn’t the only problem; the PA also contributes to the climate of incitement that drives these attacks in many other ways, including statements by its senior officials, broadcasts by its official media organs and Facebook posts by its political parties. Nor can this incitement be excused as a response to despair over the frozen peace process: This is how the PA chose to “educate” its people even in the heyday of the Oslo process when most of the world believed peace was at hand.

But completely ending the PA’s massive incitement campaign would essentially require turning the clock back to the days before Oslo – eliminating the PA, deporting its officials, shutting down its media organs, banning its political parties and removing its curriculum from the schools. And though Israel may be driven to such drastic measures someday, it’s hard to see that happening right now.

In contrast, East Jerusalem is officially under full Israeli control even according to the Oslo Accords, so there’s no impediment to altering its school curriculum. Moreover, this is in many ways an opportune time to do so. Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of East Jerusalem Arabs seeking to take the Israeli matriculation exam rather than the Palestinian one and a surge of interest among Jerusalem Arabs in bettering their Hebrew. Thus, the move is liable to meet less opposition than it would have a few years ago when East Jerusalem Arabs showed little interest in integration.

But opportune or not, Israel must replace the east Jerusalem curriculum if it wants to avoid future rounds of violence like the current one. It’s too late to do anything about the current generation of East Jerusalem Arabs; they’ve already been thoroughly indoctrinated to the view that Israel is evil incarnate. But it’s not too late to prevent the PA from brainwashing another generation of children.

Originally published in Commentary on November 24, 2015

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Are Knifings Grounds for Statehood?

I’ve been slowly wading through the 106-page magazine Haaretz put out in honor of its Israel Conference on Peace earlier this month. It contains articles by 50 Israeli, Palestinian and Western contributors, most of whom recite the same talking points veteran peace processors have used for years. But one new argument that has cropped up repeatedly underscores the degree to which the “peace industry” completely disregards historical fact: the claim that the recent wave of Palestinian attacks “proves” a Palestinian state is necessary for Israel’s security. The truth is that for all the horror of the current violence, a simple comparison with the second intifada shows that Israel suffered far more when Palestinians actually controlled their own territory.

Over the last 53 days, Palestinians have killed 20 Israelis and wounded 182. If this pace continued for a year, the number of fatalities would total 138, one of the highest annual death tolls due to terror in Israel’s history. So it’s understandable that people might think things could hardly be worse – until you consider that this projected annual total is roughly equivalent to the number of Israelis killed during a single month of the second intifada (March 2002, with 134 dead).

Altogether, Palestinians killed 452 Israelis in the worst year of that intifada (2002), along with over 200 in both the preceding and following years; thousands of other Israelis were wounded. And there’s one major reason why the death toll then was so much higher than it is now: Sizable chunks of the West Bank were under full Palestinian control as a result of the Oslo Accords. Israeli troops never entered those areas, which consequently served as safe havens where terrorist groups could plan and train for attacks, build bombs and do all the other work necessary to prepare the kind of mass-casualty attacks that were the second intifada’s hallmark.

That’s why the death toll began dropping dramatically once the Israel Defense Forces reasserted control over these areas in mid-2002: The security services spent the next several years systematically collecting intelligence about terrorist organizations and using it to degrade their capabilities, with the result that Israeli fatalities dropped by around 50 percent a year in each of the next five years – from 452 in 2002 to 208 in 2003, 117 in 2004, 56 in 2005, 30 in 2006 and 13 in 2007. And that’s also why the current violence hasn’t included any mass-casualty attacks: Since the IDF still controls the West Bank, it has been able to thwart terrorist organizations’ efforts to perpetrate them.

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