(November 17, 2013 / JNS) The Nov. 13 murder of Israel Defense Forces soldier Eden Atias prompted Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor to file an official U.N. complaint on Palestinian Authority (PA) incitement, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon both focused on PA incitement in their statements on the stabbing of Atias by a Palestinian teenager.
Israeli leaders’ responses to the murder of Atias weren’t atypical. Earlier this month, Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations talks were hindered “because I see the Palestinians continuing with incitement.” Last month, after 9-year-old Israeli girl Noam Glick was shot, Netanyahu said the PA “cannot evade responsibility for these incidents” as long as incitement continues in its media outlets.
Also in October, Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministers Yuval Steinitz penned a New York Times op-ed titled “How Palestinian Hate Prevents Peace,” focusing on anti-Israel messages in the PA’s television and radio stations, public schools, summer camps, children’s magazines, Web sites, and Facebook pages.
Steinitz’s angle was no coincidence. His article was “virtually completely based on material that we have supplied his office,” says Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). While top Israeli officials attribute a lack of success in the current negotiations to PA incitement, the exposure of that incitement in the PA’s official media outlets is “Israel’s front offense around the world,” Marcus tells JNS.org.
“The senior positions in Israeli government are using our material, accepting our material, and presenting this internationally, and this is impacting the way the entire world sees the Palestinian Authority,” he says.
In terms of his watchdog group’s international impact, Marcus gives the example of how the revelation of the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorist prisoners sparked a legislative debate last spring in Norway, the largest funder of the PA in Europe. Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide initially denied to the country’s parliament that the PA funding in question constituted salaries for prisoners, but following Norwegian television reports that were based on PMW research, the foreign minister eventually admitted that he gave parliament “imprecise” information. Conservative candidates in Norway won landslide elections in September, defeating Eide’s Labor party.
“The opposition parties [in Norway] over a period of six months while our story was in the news were constantly becoming aware, over and over again by the media, of Palestinian hate promotion, paying salaries to terrorists,” Marcus says.
“The material [on incitement in the Palestinian media] is not just being used by Israel,” he adds. “It’s impacting and changing policy throughout Europe.”
Recent PMW reports reveal teams named after terrorists at Palestinian soccer tournaments, a Palestinian Authority TV (PA TV)broadcast for children teaching that the Devil and Jews are united in hatred of the Prophet Muhammad, sayings attributed to Hitler in a PA-associated youth magazine, and a statement (accompanied by a photo of a man holding a rifle) on Fatah’s Facebook page that says it is “the blood of Martyrs that draws the borders of the [Palestinian] homeland.”
Yigal Carmon—the founder and president of another watchdog of Arabic media, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)—says Abbas’s PA has a “double policy.”
“On the one hand, there is a peace process, there is even security cooperation between the agencies of the PA and our [Israeli] agencies,” Carmon tells JNS.org.
“On the other hand, the [Palestinian] national ethos remains the ethos of armed struggle and sanctifying those who fought, including the older shahids (martyrs) and everybody that killed [Israelis],” he says.
Abbas himself “sanctions collaboration with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and personally does not incite, and stands against a renewed intifada,” but “does not follow through with his policies,” according to Carmon.
“He does one thing, and PA TV, which is his tool, his PA organ, follows a different line,” Carmon says.
Yet the research of PMW documents what Marcus considers to be personal incitement by Abbas. When hosting a recent celebration for the second set of 26 terrorist prisoners released by Israel as part of the current negotiations, Abbas called the freed Palestinians “heroes.” At an October event, a speech given in Abbas’s name by another official stated, “All Palestinian land is occupied—Gaza is occupied, the West Bank is occupied, the 1948 lands (modern Israel) are occupied, and Jerusalem is occupied.” Another speech given in Abbas’s name in September called Abu Sukkar—who planned a 1975 bombing in which 15 Israelis were killed—“a hero” and “legend” who “outlined a path for us.” Also in September, Abbas hosted Egyptian poet Hesham El-Gakh, who on a PA TV broadcast recited a poem including the words “my enemy, Zion, is Satan with a tail.”
MEMRI, meanwhile, reported on a January 2013 speech for Fatah’s anniversary in which Abbas said, “We renew the pledge to our fortunate martyrs. We pledge to continue on the path of the martyr brother Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat), and his comrades and brothers, the leaders from all the fighting factions—all the martyrs.” Among other terrorists, Abbas in that speech praised Khalil al-Wazir (“Abu Jihad”), who planned and directed attacks that killed a total of 125 Israelis.
“Praising of murderers by Abbas is the ultimate incitement to violence because it’s telling Palestinians that if they want to be heroes, if they want to be accepted by their society, then the fast track to becoming a success in Palestinian society is by killing an Israeli, injuring an Israeli, or committing any kind of terror against Israelis,” Marcus tells JNS.org.
PMW revealed what Marcus calls a different kind of incitement by Abbas in June, reporting the PA president’s statement to the Saudi paper Al-Watan that Israeli actions indicate “an evil and dangerous plot to destroy Al-Aqsa [mosque] and build the alleged Temple.”
“There is no greater lie, and there’s no greater way to promote the hatred of the state of Israel, than to say Israel is planning to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque,” Marcus says.
“Let’s not forget that in the year 2000, because Yasser Arafat claimed the Al-Aqsa Mosque was defiled, it started what they called an ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada,’ which ended up with 1,200 Israelis dead and up to 4,000 Palestinians dead,” he says. “Why is [Abbas] coming to [Palestinians] and taking this most-sensitive issue, for a religious Palestinian society, and telling them that Israel has plans to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque?”
MEMRI’s Carmon says he believes there is currently “significantly less [PA] incitement than in the past,” referring to Arafat’s time. In particular, he cites a decrease in incitement in PA newspapers, while incitement has not decreased as much on PA television. But regardless of the incitement’s frequency, Carmon believes “every single case is in itself unforgivable.”
“Because the quantity is less, one should ask the question, ‘Why should there be any?’” he says. “And why should there be cases when government officials are inciting? And when it’s TV that is absolutely a government tool?”
PMW in July reported that PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash, in a sermon on the day that renewed negotiations with Israel were announced, likened PA peace agreements such as the Oslo Accords to the “Treaty of Hudaybiyyah,” a 10-year truce that was broken by the Prophet Muhammad after two years.
“In less than two years, the Prophet returned and based on this treaty, he conquered Mecca,” Al-Habbash said. “This is the example, this is the model [for contemporary peace agreements with Israel].”
Carmon tells JNS.org, “You cannot ignore the fact that [the PA’s] security agencies are collaborating with the Shabak (Shin Bet), but at the same time you cannot ignore that Habbash, a minister in the PA, calls for violence.”
The MEMRI Web site in 2013 has documented Fatah’s praising of Dalal Mughrabi—who led the 1978 coastal road massacre that killed 37 Israelis—and PA textbooks showing that the Palestinian “right of return” to current Israeli territory is a central theme in PA school curricula.
“Abbas personally is more than any other leader connected to the right of return,” Carmon says. “He is the one who even mentioned a number [of Palestinian refugees]. And the right of return is beyond ’67, which is in negotiations. It’s the right of return into what is beyond the negotiations, and that in itself is incitement par excellence [by Abbas].”
The Palestinian national ethos of an armed struggle against Israel remains the foundation of the PA, explains Carmon.
“The issue of the national ethos is a big thing. I would venture to say [the Palestinians] will not change it. They are built on that,” he says.