Stop Palestinian incitement
The Jerusalem Post
February, 25 2001 EDITORIAL

    (February 25) - With the ongoing Palestinian terror of the past five months, it almost seems trivial to focus attention on the seemingly mundane issue of incitement against Israel. In the past few days alone, the Palestinians have fired mortar rounds at the Gaza settlement of Elei Sinai, directed gunfire at Israelis in Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, Hebron, Neveh Tzuf, Netzarim and Neveh Dekalim, tossed grenades at IDF soldiers in Rafah, and stoned Israeli vehicles throughout the territories. There is no sign of a letup in the violence, and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority seems unwilling to give Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon a grace period in which to try to salvage the now-defunct peace process.

    But to focus entirely on the violence while ignoring the incitement that generates it would be a grave mistake. For it is the hateful daily regimen of anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric in the PA-controlled media that creates an environment conducive to violence. As with other despotic regimes throughout the region, the PA invests a great deal of time and energy in deflecting domestic criticism by redirecting the common man's fury against an external enemy, in this case Israel. As Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, has pointed out, the average Palestinian is saturated daily with loathsome anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric via PA-controlled television, radio, newspapers, and cultural events. In such an atmosphere, it is not surprising that terrorists are hailed as heroes, with their heinous actions held up as a role model worthy of replication. Incitement, then, is the fuel which keeps the flames of the intifada burning brightly.

    Examples abound. On February 15, the official PA daily Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda ran portions of a dialogue from a new Palestinian play, which portrays Jews as deserving of divine punishment for killing Palestinians and stealing their land. The play's protagonist bemoans his fate, declaring, "Allah will take revenge against the cursed JewsÉ Allah should take them and destroy them." In recent weeks, the PA has invoked a modern-day equivalent of the medieval blood libel against the Jews, alleging that Israel is using poison gas against innocent Palestinian civilians. The PA-run daily Al-Ayyam, on February 13, reported that 40 Palestinians were injured "as a result of their inhaling poison gas that for the first time was fired by the Israeli occupation forces against defenseless residents." A recent political cartoon in Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda portrayed Ariel Sharon with two bloody daggers as fangs protruding from his mouth.

    The incitement in the Palestinian media is continuously reinforced by the highest echelons of the PA leadership, as did Chairman Yasser Arafat in his recent remarks in Davos, when he labeled Israel as "fascist." Just last week, PA Jerusalem Mufti Ikrama Sabri issued a religious ruling stating that, "No stone of the Western Wall has any connection to Jewish history." This follows his January 17 assertion in an interview with the German daily Die Welt that, "It is the art of the Jews to deceive the world" (translation courtesy of the Middle East Media & Research Institute).

    In view of such utterances, Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon is right to insist that negotiations with the Palestinians cannot resume until the violence and the incitement come to an end. For too long, Israel has downplayed the importance of Palestinian incitement, pursuing agreements with the PA even as the odious rhetoric continued. It must be made amply clear to Yasser Arafat that the winds of hate must cease to blow in the Palestinian territories before Israel will consider resuming talks. Israel should also consider taking a firmer hand against Palestinian leaders who engage in incitement.

    It is to be hoped that in his meeting today with Arafat, US Secretary of State Colin Powell will place the issue of Palestinian incitement high on the agenda. Powell may also wish to question the chairman about the PA's pro-Iraq slant. After American and British forces recently bombed sites near Baghdad, the PA's Voice of Palestine radio on February 18 called for "two days of rage" to protest against "American-British aggression against Iraq."

    The PA also permitted massive pro-Iraqi rallies in Gaza and Nablus last week, at which Palestinian protesters burned an effigy of Powell. And last month, a senior PA delegation, including four cabinet ministers, visited Baghdad. If the Bush administration is serious about isolating and containing Saddam Hussein, it would do well to begin by taming his comrade-in-arms in Gaza.

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