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