Palestinian Society Has a Sickness, And Statehood Is Not The Cure
“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”
These words from former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir plainly state the heart of the basic problem underlying the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Many attempt to characterize the conflict as stemming from various origins:
Some say it is a conflict between two religions — Judaism and Islam. However, Palestinian society has a significant Christian population and Israel is more so a pluralistic society that includes not only Jews, but Christians, Muslims, Druze and Baha’i. Only Israel has a proven track record of safeguarding the religious freedom of its people and the integrity of historic religious sites of multiple religions.
Some say it is a conflict between a “conquering people” and a “conquered” people. However, Palestinians have never had their own sovereign state, despite walking away from multiple opportunities to do so. By contrast, Jews are a conquered (many times over) people who finally built up their own homeland into one of the world’s most successful states.
Some say it is simply a conflict about land, and that “land for peace” is the answer. However, the “land for peace” notion was debunked in 2005 when Israel unilaterally withdrew completely from the Gaza strip, with not a single Jew remaining. However, this only brought Israel wars and more terror.
The fact of the matter is that the conflict boils down to one simple issue: Palestinian society, from the very top to the very bottom, is seeded with hatred for Jews and a yearning to see all Jews eliminated, as exemplified by the popular Palestinian refrain, “From the [Jordanian] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free [of Jews].”
Leadership At the Top
The Gaza strip is run by Hamas, a terrorist organization whose founding charter calls for the annihilation of Jews and Israel. Hamas repeatedly fires thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel hoping to cause as much destruction as possible. Just a couple weeks ago, a Hamas rocket hit a kindergarten in Israel. Hamas also spends vital resources (most of which are donated by the rest of the world and a large portion of which are donated by Israel) not on Palestinian infrastructure, but on constructing terror tunnels into Israeli communities to launch terror operations.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA), the successor to the Palestine Liberation Organization, actively encourages the killing of Jews. It was recently reported that 10% of the PA budget (about $140 Million annually) is paid to terrorists and their families who carry out attacks against Jews. Just recently, Palestinian terrorist Mohammed Tarayra entered the home of a Jewish family, where he slit the throat of 13-year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel while she slept in her bed. Tarayra was killed by security forces and immediately declared a “martyr” by the PA, which designation now entitles his family to a healthy salary from the PA. For Palestinians, it quite literally pays to kill Jews. Beyond monetary reward, the PA makes common practice of naming streets and town squares after terrorists, as well as erecting monuments to terrorists.
Beyond the institutions at the top of Palestinian society, Jew hatred is preached by the individual leaders as well. Not more than a week before Hallal Yaffa Ariel’s throat was cut, a Fatah official said in an interview, “Wherever you find an Israeli, slit his throat.” The terrorist Tarayra literally followed those instructions. Abbas himself stood before the European Parliament and told a completely fabricated story about a fictional Rabbi who told Israelis to poison Palestinian wells, echoing a classic anti-Semitic trope (Abbas received a standing ovation from the European Parliament). Last week, Abbas condemned the truck ramming in Nice, France, while he makes no statement against the car rammings that have become commonplace in Israel during this recent intifada. Hamas’s Khaled Mashal and Ishmail Haniya spew nothing but vitriolic hate-filled messages about Jews. One cannot forget Yasser Arafat, who declared “We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion.”
Media And Main Street
Palestinian media fuels hatred of Jews just as much as the political organizations and leaders do. To honor Ramadan, one channel recently broadcasted a cartoon series for young children that portrays Jews as agents of Satan. Children’s cartoons also teach small children to “shoot all the Jews.”
Average Palestinians have taken to brutal terrorist tactics against Jews during the so-called “Knife Intifada,” which has seen scores of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks against civilians. Aside from official government reward for such actions, Palestinian civil organizations have taken to rewarding terrorists as well. Muhammad Al-Halabi, a terrorist shot after stabbing two civilians, was awarded an “honorary attorney’s certificate” by the Palestinian Bar Association. The Popular Art Centre held a fundraiser for the families of “martyrs.” Several of these civil organizations hold such ceremonies with foreign aid funding from other countries.
The mother of the terrorist who recently slaughtered a sleeping 13-year old Jewish girl took to Facebook to declare “My son is a hero. He made me proud. My son died as a Martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa.” She continued, “Allah willing, all of [the youth of Palestine] will follow this path.” Unfortunately, this pride of terrorists by family members is all too common among Palestinians.
Palestinian hatred of Jews starts young; it is well documented that Palestinian schools use curricula and textbooks laced with anti-Jewish rhetoric. Even the schools of the supposedly neutral UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) are staffed by teachers who incite hatred and violence against Jews.
After school, Palestinian children are fed cartoons demonizing Jews. Palestinian children don’t just passively watch such programming, they also star in it as well. Just last month, Palestinian children starred in an anti-Jewish play as part of a kindergarten graduation ceremony in Gaza. The show featured the small children staging the slaughter of Israeli soldiers.
A Pervasive Problem
Hatred of Jews permeates Palestinian society from top to bottom, and this hate is so deep-seeded that it has blinded the Palestinians from recognizing and accepting a deal on numerous occasions. From rejecting the initial UN Partition Plan, to the Camp David offer in 2000, to rejecting Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, Palestinians are more focused on harming Israelis than they are on helping themselves. The Palestinian governments are more focused on diverting foreign aid and other resources to building a terror infrastructure and paying pensions to terrorists and their families than they are on building a civil infrastructure to lift up Palestinian society.
Supporters of the Palestinian cause around the world fuel the problem by completely ignoring or, worse, justifying Palestinian behavior. At the same time, they demonize Israel for taking the same measures to protect its citizens that any other Western nation would be expected to take and, in fact, are now taking in light of the terror wave washing over Europe. Just as the Jews have become the go-to scapegoat for all problems in the Middle East and beyond, the Palestinians have become pawns for Middle Eastern states and dictators to divert attention away from their own misdeeds. The free pass given by the rest of the world encourages Palestinian society to maintain the status quo, waiting for pressure on Israel to hopefully force Israel’s hand. If change is to come to the conflict, it must start with Palestinian attitudes toward the Jews and Israel, and not from a peace framework imposed by the outside world.
A Sovereign State Is Not The Cure
Palestinians and Palestinian patrons assert that the answer to all their woes is for a completely independent Palestinian state. While some form of a two-state solution is likely the only way to settle this longstanding conflict, full sovereignty will not cure the fundamental problem at hand — Palestinian hatred of Jews.
In 2005, Israel completely withdrew from Gaza and left the entire area to the full control of the Palestinians. Not one Jew, civilian or soldier, remains in Gaza. Gaza has, since then, been a sovereign Palestinian territory. Instead of building up its civil society and bettering the life of its citizens, the Palestinians in Gaza have turned it into a springboard for terror, leading Israel and Egypt to impose a military blockade of Gaza.
Israel has not completely withdrawn from the West Bank, but much of the West Bank is under Palestinian control, either exclusively or with the exception of security. While the West Bank has been quieter, there too does Palestinian society elect leaders that line their pockets while refusing to reach a meaningful peace deal. In fact, just this week Abbas refused an invitation to sit down and simply discuss the process with Netanyahu.
And yet, with the progress toward full sovereignty, nothing has changed in the Palestinian attitude toward Israel and the Jewish people. The schools and media continue to teach that Israel and the Jews are the source of Palestinian plight. Record-breaking foreign aid (aid much needed by the population) is diverted to the pockets of the leaders or the terror arsenals, leaving the Palestinian people with no added benefit.
The notion that peace can be achieved if only Israel would recognize an independent Palestine without a fundamental change in the Palestinian mentality is not supported by history. Formal statehood cannot, by itself, undo decades of brainwashing among the Palestinian people. To achieve a better quality of life and a lasting peace, Palestinians must stop teaching hate and must stop blaming Israel and Jewish for their plight. Instead, Palestinians must look within and cause meaningful change in their attitude toward the other side. In this regard, study of the opposition could prove fruitful for Palestinians.
Jews have notoriously been mistreated throughout history, from expulsion to Inquisition, pogroms to genocide. With each dark chapter, however, Jews didn’t simply wallow in self pity and blame those around them; rather, Jews focused on productively building themselves up whatever their circumstances, whether under Persian, Spanish, Ottoman control or beyond. Palestinians could take a page from this playbook. They should build up their society with the immense resources being given to them from the rest of the world. They should eliminate their obsession with hatred of the Jews. They should, instead focus on building up their education, manufacturing and science sectors.
Even if Palestinians don’t achieve great results by absolute measures, at least the effort toward relative self-betterment will indicate Palestinian society can handle the responsibility of maintaining a sovereign state alongside Israel. Once they recognize that the hatred is perpetuating a stalled peace process, and not the other way around, perhaps Palestinian leadership will be ready to sit down with Israeli leadership and productively discuss a realistic framework for peace.