OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Veteran Labor Zionist calls for de-Nazifying Gaza

Einat Wilf also suggests linking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip with a Palestinian peace pledge.

Einat Wilf in the Knesset, 2012. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Einat Wilf in the Knesset, 2012. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.  

In another sign of the crisis wracking the Israeli left, a former Labor Party Knesset Member and adviser to Shimon Peres is proposing that Gaza undergo a process similar to the de-Nazification policy imposed by the Allies after World War II.

Einat Wilf made that proposal during a webinar late last month sponsored by the journal Sapir on “The Israel-Hamas War and the Future of Zionism.”

Wilf was joined in the broadcast by Michael Koplow, chief policy officer of the Israel Policy Forum, which was established in 1993 as a U.S. arm of the Israeli Labor Party.

At one point in the conversation, Koplow acknowledged: “I don’t have great answers for you on how to combat Palestinian hate.”

Wilf, who formerly chaired the Knesset Education Committee, responded by arguing that there is something Israel can and should do to combat Palestinian hate: It should drastically reform the Palestinian educational system.

“I think we’ve been negligent in not fighting the Palestinian ideology,” she said. “Unless we confront directly that this is an entire society and people committed to this, we are guaranteed endless wars and terrorism because it doesn’t matter if you call it Hamas or [Palestinian Islamic] Jihad or the DFLP [Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine] or Black September or Fatah or fedayeen … as long as this is the ideology, you will always have a new generation of trained murderers ready to operate on behalf of that ideology, and I actually think that we need to be very harsh in demanding a change to that ideology.”

She then pointed to the actions taken by the Allies in Germany and Japan after World War II. In postwar Japan, she noted: “The Japanese teachers and children, the students themselves, had to take their existing [school] books, not new ones, and they had to, with a black marker, erase anything that spoke of the supremacy of the Japanese race, of imperial ambitions, of emperor-worship, and they had to hold the pages against the sun, and if you could still read those words, you had to go again with the black marker.”

“Not a lot was left from those books,” she noted. “But an entire generation of Japanese children remember this as a foundational experience that made it clear that the old ideology was defunct, and they needed to move forward. … No school should open in Gaza without going through this process in the books. I think we need to finally put an end—we can’t just sit back and let it be the way we did for so many decades.”

Wilf then argued that changing Palestinian school books should be one in “a series of actions” that would combat Palestinian extremism. “I think no person should [be allowed to] go back to northern Gaza unless they sign a declaration that says they are not refugees, they have no ‘right of return,’ they don’t want to liberate Palestine ‘from the river to the sea’,” she said.

The former Labor Party member of Knesset then proposed another step: linking humanitarian aid to Gaza to a Palestinian peace pledge. All such aid should be conditioned on the recipients “giving a filmed, written declaration that for any bag of rice, any liter of fuel”; they pledge that “we are not refugees, we have no right of return to the State of Israel, we have no interest in ‘liberating Palestine from the river to the sea’; we only want to develop Gaza for its inhabitants; we want to live next to the Jewish State of Israel and not instead of it. And if they don’t sign, then no rice, no fuel, no nothing.”

The contrast between Wilf and Koplow was instructive. It reveals a great deal about how the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks have shaken up the Israeli left, including the Labor Party. The old guard, represented by Koplow, is still calling for the creation of a Palestinian state, even though he admitted that he has “no answer” for how to deal with Palestinian Arab hatred of Israel and Jews. If he has no answer, that means the Palestinian state he advocates would be a base of constant aggression against Israel.

Wilf, by contrast, represents the growing number of Israelis on the political left who recognize that in the wake of Oct. 7, things cannot continue as they were before. There has to be a fundamental change in the thinking of the Palestinian Arabs if there is to be any hope for a peaceful future. And that must begin by changing the hate-filled school books on which both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have raised entire generations of Arab children.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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