Israel on Sunday returned fire in a raging propaganda war with the Palestinians, accusing the Palestinian Authority of obfuscating peace efforts, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement, glorification of violence and terrorism, and indoctrinating youth with hateful messages.
The Strategic Affairs Ministry distributed a report to Israeli journalists that accuses the PA of perpetuating the conflict “through incitement to hate, promotion of an ethos of violence and struggle, and non-development of a culture of peace.” The document lists various examples ostensibly proving that the PA demonizes Israel and the Jewish people and negates the principle of peace.
“The incitement done by the Palestinian Authority is in my mind the main obstacle to peace,” the ministry’s director-general, Yossi Kuperwasser, told The Times of Israel. “As the long as the psychological infrastructure of the Palestinian people is based on denying Israel’s right to exist in any form — let alone as the nation-state of the Jewish people — it is difficult to see how peace can be made between these two peoples.” He said the psychological infrastructure adopted by the Palestinian leadership was “not developing any culture of peace, continues to call for violence and justifies violence, and dehumanizes and demonizes the Jews.”
Although the ministry had been gathering information for this report since October 2009, its publication now comes as a counter to similar efforts by the Palestinians, who started publishing regular reports about what they call Israeli incitement against Palestinians a few months ago.
“The Palestinians in no way see themselves as bound by agreements with Israel which require all outstanding issues to be resolved through negotiations only,” the Israeli report charges. “All forms of resistance remain legitimate… The encouragement of an atmosphere supportive of violence, the demonization of Israelis and Jews, and the non-creation of a culture of peace result in an ethos that perpetuates the struggle by glorifying values antithetical to peace.”
‘Jews, Satans, and Zionist sons of bitches’
Examples of alleged incitement and statements standing in the way of reconciliation include the broadcasting on PLO television of a song asserting that “Jaffa, Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, the Galilee and the Golan are ours”; an award given to controversial US journalist Helen Thomas — who made headlines for telling Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” — by a senior PLO member in April; and visits by senior PA officials at the homes of former terrorists.
Numerous examples are given of text books that praise resistance against the “occupiers” and promote the idea of a “return” to all of historical Palestine, as well as of programs on the PA’s television station showing children singing songs glorifying armed resistance against Israel.
The report, titled “Index of Incitement,” quotes Palestinian Olympic committee chairman Jibril Rajoub referring to “Jews, Satans, and Zionist sons of bitches,” and cites PA President Mahmoud Abbas condemning “attacks by settlers which find expression in the uprooting of trees, burning of mosques, training dogs to attack us and sending wild pigs to destroy our lands.”
The report cites several examples that ostensibly show that Palestinian anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish agitation and glorification of terrorism is aimed particularly at children. A 2010 fifth grade textbook, for instance, contains a poem entitled “We are Returning.”
“Under the banner of glory, Jihad and struggle / With blood and willingness to risk life … / To Jihad on the hilltop,” the poem reads.
The cover page of the report features a cartoon showing a man in Hasidic dress who has just ripped a bloody “heart” out of the chest of a Palestinian man lying on an operation table. The “heart” is shaped like the state of Israel, including Gaza and the West Bank.
“The index sheds light and helps us prepare ourselves and avoid the mistake of not understanding who we are dealing with, who cooperates with and initiates this awful incitement,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about the report. “The Palestinian leadership is bequeathing this incitement to the coming generations and is preventing them from holding a dialogue of peace, the result of which is that it itself is incapable of adopting a dialogue of peace.”
Netanyahu said “the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize the national state of the Jewish People’s right to exist” was at the root of the conflict. “We must bring this to the attention of the governments of the world, especially ahead of the upcoming UN General Assembly.”
It is widely expected that Abbas is going to ask the UN to grant Palestine the status of a non-member state, a step Israel and the US are trying to prevent.
“When the Palestinians speak to foreign audiences, they speak quite differently than they what they say to their own audience. That’s not new, but it’s disturbing,” Kuperwasser told The Times of Israel. “Our strategy is to bring it to the attention of the Palestinians and the international community that we notice this difference exists.”
As reported by The Times of Israel, the PA’s Government Media Center in May launched a monthly series of reports highlighting alleged Israeli incitement against Palestinians.
‘We are in a totally different place that the Palestinians and any attempt to put us in the same category is really ridiculous’
The most recent report includes several examples of ostensibly hateful statements, which are, according to the Palestinians, “provocative and counterproductive to peace.” The cases, most of them retrieved from articles in the Israeli press, include an Army Radio talk-show host saying “Islam today is the most terrible disease raging around the world;” Interior Minister Eli Yishai reportedly saying that “this country belongs to us, to the white man;” and the reported announcement by an Upper Nazareth local politician that he would pay $10,000 to any Arab willing to leave the city.
“The Palestinian report [on Israeli incitement] doesn’t seem grave because what they cite is mostly people from the fringes of Israeli society who say all kinds of things,” said Kuperwasser, a former deputy chief of the IDF’s intelligence unit. “Here and there you can find something that is not in line with the messages the system in Israel is sending. We are in a totally different place than the Palestinians and any attempt to put us in the same category is really ridiculous.”
The Palestinian report on “Israeli incitement” states that the PA advocates the creation of an “objective joint committee, involving the international community, to define and monitor incitement, so that this issue can be treated with proper seriousness.”
At a briefing for Israeli journalists on Sunday in the Prime Minister’s Office, Kuperwasser said Israel agreed in principle to the idea of a joint committee, but did not pin great hopes on it, “because a committee is not going to change the problem of [Palestinian] incitement… What’s needed is a genuine decision by the Palestinians to change the picture.”