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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In Europe, Israel needs a bottom-up approach to diplomacy

For years, I considered Europe a lost cause from Israel’s perspective and decried the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Euro-centric focus, arguing that it should instead devote more effort to places like Africa, Asia and South America, which seemed to offer better prospects for flipping countries into the pro-Israel camp. But the past few years have proven that Europe isn’t hopeless—if Israel changes its traditional modus operandi.

This has been evident, first of all, in the alliances that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formed with several countries in eastern and southern Europe, resulting in these countries repeatedly blocking anti-Israel decisions at the European Union level. Previously, Israeli diplomacy had focused overwhelmingly on Western Europe. Netanyahu’s key insight was that conservative, nationalist governments seeking to preserve their own nation-states would have more instinctive sympathy for a Jewish state than the liberal universalists who dominate in Western Europe, and whose goal is to replace nation-states with an ever-closer European union.

But as several recent events show, even Western Europe isn’t a lost cause. The difference is that there, conventional high-level diplomacy won’t work. Rather, the key to change is the fact that most Europeans, like most people everywhere, don’t really care that much about Israel, the Palestinians or their unending conflict. Consequently, small groups of committed activists can exert a disproportionate influence on policy.

For years, this has worked against Israel because the anti-Israel crowd woke up to this fact very early and took full advantage of it. Take, for instance, the 2015 decision to boycott Israel adopted by Britain’s national student union. The union represents some 7 million students, but its executive council passed the decision by a vote of 19-12. Or consider the academic boycott of Israel approved in 2006 by Britain’s National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (which no longer exists, having merged into a larger union). The association had some 67,000 members at the time, but only 198 bothered to vote, of whom 109 voted in favor.

Yet it turns out pro-Israel activists can use the same tactics, as in last week’s approval of a resolution saying anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism by the lower house of France’s parliament. The resolution passed 154-72, meaning that fewer than 40 percent of the National Assembly’s 577 deputies bothered to vote, even though 550 deputies were present earlier in the day to vote on the social security budget. In other words, most deputies simply didn’t care about this issue, which meant that passing the resolution required convincing only about a quarter of the house.

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