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 unity government may prove a constitutional time bomb

That Israel will soon have a government is good news; almost any government would be better than the political dysfunction that has produced three elections in the past year. But aside from its existence, there’s little to like about this “unity” government.

The biggest problem isn’t that many important issues will perforce go unaddressed, though that’s inevitable given the compromises required when neither bloc can govern on its own. Nor is it the risk that the government will be dysfunctional even on “consensual” issues like rescuing the economy from the coronavirus crisis, though this risk is real, since both sides’ leaders will have veto power over every government decision.

Rather, it’s the cavalier way that Israel’s Basic Laws are being amended to serve the particular needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new partner, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.

Though Israel’s Supreme Court wrongly claims the Basic Laws are a constitution, they were never intended as such by the parliaments that passed them. Indeed, some were approved by a mere quarter of the Knesset or less.

But they were intended as the building blocks of a future constitution should Israel ever adopt one. That’s why this handful of laws, alone of all the laws on Israel’s books, are deemed “Basic Laws,” and why each addresses a fundamental constitutional issue (the executive branch, the legislature, the judiciary, human rights, Israel’s Jewish character, etc.).

In other words, though they aren’t a constitution, they do serve as the foundation of Israel’s system of government. And tinkering with the architecture of any democratic system of government can have unintended consequences, as Israel has discovered before to its detriment.

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