Why is there no peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Last week, the U.S. State Department criticized Israel for destroying a terrorist’s home—an action the State Department said serves to “undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.”
Surely the brutal murder of an innocent 19-year old Israeli man and the wounding of two others—which is what the Palestinian terrorist did—abundantly undercuts the prospects for peace. Surely rewarding that terrorist for his bloody act through the Palestinian Authority’s “pay for slay” program undercuts efforts for peace more than the demolition of a terrorist’s house.
But the State Department’s is just one of many false justifications for the failure to attain an Israel-Palestinian peace (let alone a “two-state solution”). To find the real reason, we would best look at the root causes of Palestinian terrorism, which have been baked into Palestinian society for generations.
Unfortunately, many mainstream media and world leaders who claim to care about ending the conflict assert that the real obstacles are, variously, Israeli settlements, Israel’s “occupation” or Israel’s unification of Jerusalem.
In truth, none of these issues can be the root cause of the conflict—because the conflict predates each of them.
In short, the conflict began because of Palestinian Arab refusal to accept the right of Jews to create a state in their indigenous homeland—a land where no other states existed. This violent Arab rejectionism has been the cause of the conflict and its singular driving force for more than 100 years.
The fuel perpetuating Palestinian rejectionism over all these decades is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement—hateful propaganda that at its worst is animated by a cult of death.
Almost every facet of Palestinian life has been engaged to spread hateful messages against Jews and Israel—whether through the media, religion, literature, songs, theater, cinema and the public space. Nowhere does this hate permeate Palestinian society more than in its indoctrination of Palestinian children and youth.
Recently, the European Parliament passed three resolutions that condemn the P.A. for continuing to teach hate and violence in its school textbooks and that oppose E.U. aid to the P.A. being used for this purpose. German MEP Niclas Herbst of the European People’s Party stressed that “paying teachers to teach antisemitism and incitement to violence through Palestinian schoolbooks should never be subsidized by E.U. money.”
Despite a report attached to the E.U. resolutions laying out numerous examples of how their education system glorifies terror—claiming that Jews are deceptive and dangerous, as well as using the term “Zionist occupation” instead of Israel—the P.A. remains unrepentant. “Everything mentioned in our school textbooks is an accurate and honest description,” said P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
However, the most egregious indoctrination to violence occurs at summer terrorist camps for Palestinian children. There, youngsters are indoctrinated and prepared in the ways of bloodshed. Already, according to Jerusalem Post correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh, 50,000 children have registered for child-soldier camps run by Hamas. The “training camps” are named after the “Sword of al-Quds battle”—the name Hamas gave to its recent war against Israel.
These summer camps provide a convenient pulpit from which Hamas can preach its radical Islamic ideology. Among the topics studied are the “themes” of “the liberation of Palestine” and the destruction of Israel, adherence to the path of jihad (“the culture of the resistance”) and the cult of shaheeds (“martyrs”).
Not only does this vile practice use and abuse children, but it also answers those who during the recent conflict claimed that any person in Gaza under the age of 18 that was killed during the May conflict was automatically a civilian. A report published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center found that at least one of the 66 children on the list of those killed during the fighting was a 17-year-old member of a terror group. He was, sadly, just another example of terrorists’ cynical use of child soldiers, who are recruited chiefly in the Hamas-run summer camps. Such recruitment of children is a violation of international humanitarian law.
The images of little children learning to fire weapons, dressed in army fatigues and jumping through hoops of fire and attack tunnels, are a sad indictment of Palestinian society. Rather than create a better future for Palestinian children, this training dooms them—and Israeli children—to a cycle of violence fueled by hatred and incitement.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry puts it best: “Peace can never reign between Israel and the Palestinians as long as generation after generation of Palestinians are being fed a never-ending diet of anti-Israel incitement.”
There is a direct correlation between education, violence and terrorism. Whether in P.A. or Hamas schools—and sadly, even schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)—the State of Israel is portrayed as an enemy that has to be destroyed. These “lessons” often descend into open anti-Semitism.
Rather than criticizing Israel for defending itself from terrorism, the Biden administration would be more effective in promoting peace if it were to reverse its decision to start re-funding the P.A. (with no preconditions) and UNRWA, whose goal is to prolong the conflict.
Indeed, this conflict will not end when negotiations are complete and a document is signed. True peace cannot be achieved solely through signatures on a piece of paper. It must also exist in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. Just as Israel has educated its society for peace throughout its history, so too must the Palestinians embrace this process.
The United States and the international community must understand that its obsessive focus on side issues like settlements, Jerusalem and demolition of terrorists’ houses allows and incentivizes violent Palestinian rejectionism. Only when our leaders and the media level their indignation at the issue of childhood incitement—toward ethnic hate and the cult of death—can we hope to see an end to the conflict.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.