Evelyn Gordon

Analysis from Israel

Writing in the Jerusalem Post on Monday, historian Efraim Karsh made a point I’ve made many times before: Contrary to the popular notion that Israel’s “occupation” spurs Palestinian terror, the numbers inarguably prove that terror increases whenever Palestinians gain control of territory and drops whenever Israel reasserts control. In fact, Karsh said, Israel’s average annual death toll from post-Oslo terror (dating to 1993) is roughly triple the level pre-Oslo. But while he correctly cites the absence of Israel’s military as a major reason for this increase, another factor is no less important: By giving the Palestinian Authority control over schools and airwaves, Israel enabled it to launch a campaign of hate education that has significantly boosted the motivation for anti-Israel terror.

Before discussing what this education entails, consider two demonstrations of its efficacy. One is last summer’s Fikra Forum poll comparing the attitudes of East Jerusalem Palestinians, who aren’t under Palestinian civilian control, to those in the West Bank and Gaza, who are. Overwhelmingly, it found, Jerusalem residents were more moderate:

A majority (62 percent) think Israel will still exist, as either a Jewish or a bi-national state, in 30 or 40 years – compared with just 47 percent of West Bankers and 42 percent of Gazans who think so … Thirty percent of East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, as against a mere 18 percent of West Bankers, say that there were Jewish kingdoms and temples in Jerusalem in ancient times…

A stunning 70 percent say they would accept the formula of “two states for two peoples – the Palestinian people and the Jewish people.” In the West Bank, the comparable figure is 56 percent; in Gaza, 44 percent. An equally noteworthy 40 percent in East Jerusalem say that “Jews have some rights to the land along with the Palestinians” – as against just 13 percent in the West Bank or 11 percent in Gaza. And concerning Jerusalem itself, only 23 percent of its Palestinian residents insist on Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city – just half the percentage with that view in either the West Bank or Gaza.

The second is an interview with the Times of Israel earlier this month by former New York Times reporter David Shipler, who recently published a revised version of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Asked what had changed in the 30 years since Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land was originally published, Shipler said the biggest change was the way Palestinian positions and views of Israel have hardened.

“Land for peace seemed like a possible and legitimate idea back then. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza I talked to went back in history to 1967. They wanted to turn the clock back by an Israeli withdrawal from the territories conquered in the Six Day War,” Shipler said.

“But in speaking to people now, I understood that the time frame has become 1948 for the Palestinians. It’s always been about historical grievances and a clash of national narratives, but there are now more severe distortions of history, especially on the Palestinian side. Now Israelis are seen only as colonialists. There is no recognition of Jewish history in the Land of Israel, of the Holocaust, and the real reasons for the creation of Israel,” he continued.

Shipler also noticed that three decades later, there is less—if any—daylight between individual Palestinians’ expressed opinions and the official line of the Palestinian leadership.

“The conversations I had with Palestinians this time were more militant and less nuanced than in the early ’80s,” he said.

The bottom line is that, after more than two decades of PA indoctrination, Palestinians who have been living under Palestinian civilian control are far more anti-Israel and less willing to compromise than they were in 1986, and also than their peers who spent those decades under Israeli civilian control. Nor is that surprising when you examine what the PA teaches its children.

Earlier this month, IMPACT-SE released its latest study of Palestinian schoolbooks. Inter alia, it found, maps generally omit Israel, and even pre-1967 Israel is referred to as land under Israeli “occupation.” Jewish history in the Holy Land isn’t merely ignored, but actively erased: In one egregious example, the Jerusalem Post reported, “Hebrew letters are removed from a trilingual stamp from the British Mandate period.” Some books even actively promote jihad, like this line from an eighth-grade text: “Oh brother, the oppressors have exceeded all bounds and jihad and sacrifice are necessary.”

Last year, Palestinian Media Watch released its own study of Palestinian hate education, which noted that at least 25 schools are named for Palestinian terrorists, whom students are actively encouraged to view as role models. In a film shown on official PA television, for instance, one student at a school named for Dalal Mughrabi–perpetrator of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history–said her “life’s ambition is to reach the level that the martyr fighter Dalal Mughrabi reached,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Another clip from televised news in the PA showed a boy saying he learned in school to “fight the Jews, kill them and defeat them,” and another told children that Jews are “Satan with a tail.”

The report also contains chapters on incitement in Palestinian textbooks, educational materials glorifying Hitler, and the PA policy of blocking joint peace-building activities between Palestinian and Israeli children.

Moreover, what children learn in school is reinforced by nonstop incitement from PA officials and the PA-controlled media. Just this week, for instance, the PA Foreign Ministry accused a nonexistent Israeli rabbi of urging his followers to poison Palestinian wells, a libel PA President Mahmoud Abbas repeated in his speech to the European Parliament on Thursday. Also this week, the official PA television station broadcast a Ramadan program telling viewers that Nazareth, Haifa, Jaffa, and Acre–all cities in pre-1967 Israel–are part of “holy Palestine which is a waqf [Islamic trust]. Therefore it is forbidden to relinquish a single grain of its soil.” Last week, the PA education minister visited a school to “honor” the “martyr” who murdered an Israeli policewoman in February.

And all of the above is from the “moderate” PA. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, the incitement is even worse.

Compounding the problem is that the post-Oslo upsurge in terror created a vicious cycle: To protect itself, Israel curtailed Palestinian access to its territory; consequently, most Palestinians today know less about Israel than they did 30 years ago, when many worked or visited there. They no longer have personal experience to counteract what the PA and Hamas teach them.

By ceding territory to an unrepentant terrorist organization, the Oslo Accords enabled an entire generation to be raised on a steady diet of hatred for Israel. And in so doing, they mortally wounded the very two-state solution they sought to promote.

Originally published in Commentary on June 23, 2016

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The Israel Narrative Is Wrong

The standard narrative about Israel these days goes like this: The current government is the most right-wing ever, the public is increasingly racist and anti-democratic, and the prime minister is either a right-wing zealot or a coward afraid to challenge his right-wing base. But the most remarkable part of this narrative is how durable it has proven despite all evidence to the contrary.

The latest such evidence comes from today’s Jerusalem Post report about a massive drop in construction in the settlements. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, housing starts in the settlements plummeted by 53 percent in the first quarter, compared to an 8.1 percent decline in housing starts nationwide. Needless to say, one would expect settlement construction to soar under Israel’s “most right-wing government ever” and a prime minister captive to his right-wing base. Yet in fact, as I’ve written before, the “right-wing” Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently built less in the settlements than any of his left-wing predecessors–a fact that never seems to disturb proponents of the “far-right extremist” narrative.

Even more noteworthy was a pair of reports in the left-wing daily Haaretz earlier this month about two unprecedented moves to boost equality for Israeli Arabs. The first report noted that the Council for Higher Education, chaired by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the right-of-center Jewish Home party, is advancing plans for Israel’s first ever BA-granting college in an Arab town. Until now, the only institutes of higher education in Arab towns have been teacher’s colleges. But a tender to set up a BA-granting college closed on May 31, and the CHE is now reviewing the five bids it received. The winner is expected to be announced in another few months, and the new institution is slated to open next year. To help it succeed, the government has promised millions of shekels in start-up funds plus an annual budget of 20 to 40 million shekels (depending on enrollment).

The new institution is expected to significantly increase the number of Arabs, and especially Arab women, obtaining BAs, because many will now be able to live at home and commute to college. Not only will this eliminate the expense of renting apartments near campus, but it also solves the access problem for women from conservative Arab families who are barred by social norms from living away from home.

The second report described two moves to ease the housing shortage in Arab communities. First, a government planning committee decided to build a new neighborhood in the Arab city of Taibeh, which “will be one of the largest building plans in the Arab sector to have been approved for many years,” the report noted. Second, the Interior Ministry approved a decision to take land from the Jewish jurisdiction of Misgav and give it to the Arab town of Sakhnin. The report also noted that these decisions are merely the latest in “an increasing number” over the past year and a half intended “to accelerate development in the Arab sector, after many decades of neglect and inaction.”

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