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State Dept. condemns naming of square for Palestinian terrorist

JTA

March 18, 2011 | 1:15 pm

The State Department issued an explicit condemnation of the naming of a square in a West Bank town for a Palestinian terrorist.

“We are disturbed by reports that a town square in the West Bank has been renamed in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, who was a terrorist responsible for an attack that killed 35 Israelis in 1978,” Mark Toner, the State Department’s spokesman, said Thursday. “We condemn this commemoration of terrorism and have conveyed our deep concern about this incident to senior officials in the Palestinian Authority and have urged them to address it. We underscore that all parties have an obligation to end any form of incitement.”

The statement was more definitive than one issued earlier in the week by a state department official who said the Obama administration was seeking clarification on the matter.

Jewish groups, including the foreign policy umbrella body for the Jewish community, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, had complained that the earlier statement did not go far enough.

Toner’s statement appeared to be a response to those complaints: Toner is the most senior spokesman at the State Dept. right now, and he led Thursday’s briefing with the statement, instead of reserving it as a response to a reporter’s question, a signal that the State Dept. uses to convey priority.

The Presidents’ Conference, in a statement, noted Toner’s remarks Thursday.

“We hope that the U.S. Administration will demand that the Palestinian leadership live up to its commitment to end incitement of all kinds and will hold them to account for the failure to do so,” the statement said. “Progress toward peace will be impossible as long as people, especially youth, are indoctrinated with hate in schools, mosques and in the public square. We welcome the intervention of the Administration with Palestinian officials, but there must be real accountability and real consequences. The international community not only must condemn acts of inhumanity and brutality, but also must express unequivocal outrage at the ongoing incitement to hatred and violence. Mere words are insufficient; there must be real action and follow-up.”

The Palestinian Authority in recent years says it has fired some mosque imams and teachers who have incited against Israel, but Israeli officials say the incitement is ingoing and widespread.

Palestinians in an official March 13 ceremony named a town square in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, for Mughrabi. Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction were on hand for the unveiling of the plaque in her memory. No P.A. government officials attended the ceremony, according to Reuters.

Mughrabi was killed in a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel’s coastal road. She had directed the hijacking of two buses on the coastal road between Haifa and Tel Aviv, which led to the murder of 37 Israelis, including 13 children.

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