April 26, 2001
Sticks, Stones and Incendiary Words
Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian legislator and spokeswoman, a few weeks ago publicized an open letter from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon informing all Palestinians, "You are my target; you will be made to suffer, and you shall pay for the original crime of being a Palestinian."
The letter was a forgery, of course, as Ashrawi certainly knew. While it is not news that Ashrawi is a liar, this particular lie served no purpose except to provoke and increase hatred of Israel among her people.
Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews is not a new phenomenon, and the Oslo accord, which banned it, did not interrupt it. Here are some highlights from the past few years.
Nabil Ramlawi, the Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, accused Israel of injecting HIV into Palestinian babies.
The official Palestinian Authority daily paper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, ran a long article purporting to detail Israeli plans to demolish the al-Aksa Mosque.
Palestinian officials accused Israel of distributing in Palestinian territory food containing carcinogens and hormones that harm male virility.
Official Palestinian TV broadcast a speech by a Muslim cleric calling outright for the murder of Jews.
But the most despicable -- and dangerous -- incitement is found in the textbooks used in Palestinian schools, which are training the next generation of our "peace partners" to hate Israel, despise Jews and consider all of Israel their stolen property.
The textbooks routinely deny Jewish peoplehood and any historical or religious basis for Jewish claims to a connection with the Land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. They ignore or deny the Holocaust. They characterize the Jews as treacherous, disloyal, cunning, corrupt, deceitful, greedy, fanatic, evil, racist, Nazi-like and enemies of Islam. They assert that Palestinians have the obligation to "fight the Jews and drive them out of our land." These messages, along with encouragement of jihad and martyrdom, are promulgated relentlessly in history, religion, language, even mathematics texts. Peace with Israel is not discussed as an option in the textbooks, and the peace process is not referred to.
These ideas, partly because they are the ones that Palestinian children grow up with, have become "a routine part of Palestinian culture," according to Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch. In Marcus' view, these pernicious ideas reflect "normative Palestinian thinking and expectations."
The truth is, as we have seen in the past six months, not only sticks and stones but words, too, can hurt us -- and I don't mean hurt our feelings. Here in Israel, we are living next to, living interspersed with, a national group that has been taught that we are irredeemably their enemy, the enemy of Islam, the enemy of all Arabs, and whose leaders have spared no lie to encourage and justify murderous rage toward us.
Most Palestinians were horrified by the lynching of the Israeli soldiers in Ramallah a few months back -- but the lynching itself remains fully intelligible only in the context of the hatred to which the Palestinian masses have been trained.
The Palestinian media, popular culture and educational system, taken together, are a further indication that, for whatever reason, the Palestinian leadership has not just given up on reaching a negotiated peace settlement but aims to inflame forever its citizens' minds, already set on warfare against Israel.
Because of false hope, perhaps, Israeli governments, just like the American news media, have for years ignored or obscured the reality of Palestinian incitement. It was a mistake. "In many respects," Itamar Marcus told the Jerusalem Post a few weeks ago, "we are much further from peace between our peoples than we were before the signing of the Oslo accords."
Which is why we're back to sticks and stones, guns and bombs, and no longer just waging a war of words.
Palestinian Media Watch can be found online at www.edume.org .