Analysis from Israel

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

One Response to To End Violence, Scrap PA Curriculum

  • Rafi says:

    This is an absolute no-brainier.
    Given that, it must be asked: why was this obvious step – forbidding incitefull “education” in Israel׳s capital- not taken long, long ago?
    It is one of Binyamina Netanyahu’s blind spots.
    The Har HaBayit slanders have been alowed to dominate the discourse while areas where Isrsel can meet no legitimate opposition from the international community, and which would assert Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, have been ignored, to our great cost.
    Another such “blind spot” example is Netanyahu’s (and everyone else’s) acquiescence to Arab aggression on the ancient Jewush cemetery on Har HaZetim, the Mount of Olives.
    Jews cannot visit graves without armed guards and without fear of the frequent attacks by Arabs in an ancient Jewish cemetery in the ancient Jewish capital.
    The international community could not voice any rational opposition to Israel placing a permanent IDF unit on Har HaBayit for as long as necessary.
    And if they do, so what?
    The government is abducating in both of the above responsibilities.

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Your ‘Historical Detail,’ Our Real Life

A review of a comedy of manners set in England in the 1920s wouldn’t seem the obvious place to look to understand why the average Westerner really has no business trying to tell Israelis how to run their country. But two sentences in this New York Times book review encapsulate the problem perfectly: “Historical details, which abound, are often fascinating. (Who knew that beards interfere with gas masks?)”

I’m sure most New York Times readers don’t know that. But virtually every adult Israeli does, other than a few recent immigrants. That’s because almost every adult Israeli either has a gas mask or did at one time (mine still lives in my closet), and many of us have actually worn them. They were distributed nationwide before the 1991 Gulf War, out of fear that Saddam Hussein would put chemical warheads on the missiles he launched at Israel during the war. Israel, incidentally, was one of only two countries Saddam launched missiles at, even though it wasn’t one of the 39 countries actually waging war on Iraq at the time.

Since then, Israel has run several nationwide campaigns to get people to exchange their old gas masks for new ones. That gas masks have an expiration date is another fascinating “historical” detail most Westerners probably don’t know (the campaigns ended a few years ago, after the implosion of both Iraq and Syria reduced the risk of a chemical attack). Israel also passed a law requiring every new house to include a bomb shelter capable of doubling as a sealed room, since ordinary bomb shelters offer no protection against chemical attacks (yet another little-known “historical” detail). That’s one of many factors contributing to the country’s sky-high housing costs, but not one Israelis complain about. In-house bomb shelters are even more necessary today, given the thousands of rockets launched at Israel by both Hezbollah and Hamas over the last 10 to 15 years.

Even Israelis who were children in 1991 undoubtedly remember being woken by sirens in the middle of the night, rushing to makeshift sealed rooms (heavy-duty plastic wrap, tape and damp towels), putting on their masks and sitting for hours waiting for the all-clear. The adults also remember being unable to fall asleep at night while awaiting that siren. The chronic sleep deprivation experienced by people under missile bombardment is another little-known historical detail (somehow, it never seems to interest human rights organizations as much as the sleep deprivation of captured terrorists during interrogations).

As for beards, this being Israel, a public battle raged for months in 1990-91 over whether Haredi men, who normally don’t shave for religious reasons, should be given special, more expensive masks that can accommodate beards, or whether they could reasonably be expected to shave, given that in Jewish law, saving a life trumps most other religious precepts. There was even a high-profile court case by a secular bearded man charging discrimination because Haredim got the special masks while he did not (he won).

Of course, there’s no reason why reviewer Susan Coll or any other Westerner should know any of these “historical details.” Thankfully, no Western country has faced the threat of bombardment with chemical warheads, or even conventional rockets, in more than 70 years. The problem is that so many Westerners who share her ignorance feel fully qualified to tell Israel what it should do, despite not knowing the most basic facts about the security challenges it faces.

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