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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Israel’s constitutional crisis has been postponed, not resolved

After years of leftists crying wolf about democracy being endangered, Israel finally experienced a real constitutional crisis last week. That crisis was temporarily frozen by the decision to form a unity government, but it will come roaring back once the coronavirus crisis has passed.

It began with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to let the newly elected Knesset vote to replace him as speaker and culminated in two interventions by the High Court of Justice. I’m one of very few people on my side of the political spectrum who considers the court’s initial intervention justifiable. But its second was an unprecedented usurpation of the prerogatives of another branch of government, in flagrant violation of legislation that the court itself deems constitutional.

Edelstein’s refusal, despite its terrible optics, stemmed from a genuine constitutional concern, and was consequently backed even by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, who had opposed Edelstein many times before and would do so again later in this saga. The problem was that neither political bloc could form a government on its own, yet the proposed new speaker came from the faction of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party that adamantly opposed a unity government. Thus whether a unity government was formed or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s caretaker government continued, the new speaker would be in the opposition.

But as Yinon told the court, speakers have always come from the governing coalition because an opposition speaker can effectively stymie all government work. And once elected, he would be virtually impossible to oust, since 90 of the Knesset’s 120 members must vote to do so. An opposition speaker would thus “hurt democracy,” warned Yinon. “We’re planting a bug in the system, and this, too, undermines our constitutional fabric.” That’s why Edelstein wanted to wait, as Knesset bylaws permit, until a government was formed and could choose its own speaker.

Yet despite this genuine and serious concern, the fact remains that a newly elected majority was being barred from exercising its power. Moreover, it had no parliamentary way of solving the problem because only the speaker can convene parliament and schedule a vote. Thus if you believe majorities should be allowed to govern, the court was right to intervene by ordering Edelstein to hold the vote.

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