Palestinian incitement, Israeli incitement
03/15/2011 - 15:58
James Besser

In the days since the terrible murder of a family of five in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, the issue of Palestinian incitement has emerged as Talking Point Number One for pro-Israel groups here.

The Palestinian Authority hasn't done enough to curb incitement, the argument goes, which naturally leads to tragedies such as the Itamar murders.

Fair enough; it's hard to argue with claims the PA has done too little to tamp down, and has sometimes contributed to, incitement against the very idea of Israel, most notably in its own media.

But what outsiders see as tolerance of terrible incitement – and I'm among those who find it deeply offensive that, as JTA reported, the West Bank town of Al-Bireh dedicated a new town square to the “memory of Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist involved in killing 37 Israelis in a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel's coastal road” - is to the governments involved a matter of local politics.

The PA didn't officially participate in that offensive dedication, but it clearly tolerates and maybe even encourages such displays of anti-Israel animosity; that can lead to violence, and it obviously undermines efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

For PA officials, it's a matter of playing to that faction of their population that abhors the idea of making peace with the hated Zionist entity. That's an explanation, not an excuse; I'm not arguing that political necessity justifies incitement.

But we shouldn't forget that some Israeli leaders play a similar game.

Read here about the inflammatory statements made by some big-league Israeli politicians in response to the Itamar murders – including calls for Israel to keep all of the West Bank and deport its Palestinian residents.

What about the ongoing veneration of Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 killed 29 Muslims and wounded more than 100 others in a rampage at the Cave of the Patriarchs?

News reports describe how many Israelis, in mourning over the Itamar deaths, see the town square dedication as proof that the Palestinians do not want peace.

So should the Palestinians take as proof Israel does not want peace the incident a few months ago when some East Jerusalem Jews “were caught on video praising [Goldstein]. 'Dr. Goldstein, we all love you, ' they sang. 'He aimed at terrorists' heads, squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets, and shot, and shot, and shot,'” as Slate reported last year?

Okay, I concede that Palestinian incitement is probably more pervasive, and more pervasively part of official PA activity, than it is in official Israel. I have no doubt the PA's tolerance of incitement was a factor, perhaps a major one, in the Itamar tragedy. Openly celebrating suicide bombers is a more odious form of incitement than insisting Israel deserves every last inch of the West Bank.

But incitement by Israelis, including some in Netanyahu's own government, and the flaccid response of a succession of governments in Jerusalem, are also harmful to efforts to find a practical route to peace and can also add to a violence-inducing climate.

It's easy to say Netanyahu, under extreme pressure from the Israeli right, has to placate that segment in order to keep his government together by not slamming those Israeli politicians who hurl anti-Palestinian invective.

But doesn't the same thing apply to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who apparently needs to appease the anti-Israel fanatics in his own orbit in order to keep his government together?

I repeat: incitement is bad. Palestinian incitement, sanctioned or directed by the PA, has been particularly blatant.

But if you think Israel is blameless here, think again. Only when leaders across the region start putting the long term interests of their people ahead of short-term political considerations will there be any real chance for peace.

I would also submit that pro-Israel groups here are going to have a hard time selling their message that Palestinian incitement is the primary cause of today's impasse in negotiations while blithely ignoring the incitement coming from the mouths of prominent Israeli politicians.

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Comparing state supported incitement against Jews, on the air, in the classrooms and naming streets to a few on the political extreme in the Jewish world is outrageous.

Much worse is the effort to use this to justify and defend the systematic way that Palestinians speak act and think. Listen to some of Abbas speeches in Arabic, the glorification of killers and the like.

Yes you can find a few nut cases in Israel. Every society has them. But the political culture and the government institutions does not support them. The is outrageous and false.

yeah!!! It's so easy to sit on the comfortable sofa in NY/Washington and to criticize the wild Israel for its acts. It's so convenient to tell the Israeli natives to go that way or another. After all, you just want the state of Israel will not bother you with its lunatic actions...

You think you can sit in your own houses and change the world by saying a word or pressing a tiny button.
It seems that you, american jews (exactly like your president), know nothing in foreign affairs. so, I will just ask for one little request: deal with your own businesses. stay in your own exile, and leave the state of Israel for the Israelis. we have enough problems and enemies to deal with. By the way, we will try hard not to disturb your perfect lives.

I love the moral equivalence in this article.

The author cites Israeli leaders calling for Judea and Samaria to be annexed....NOTE: the author uses the name the West Bank, rather than the proper names of Judea and Samaria . It's bad enough when the press uses this designation, but when Jews also use it, it's shameful.

The Jewish Press should abandon the use of the term "West Bank". Remember, to the Arabs, ALL of Israel is occupied territory.

Now on to Baruch many people praise him? I would imagine the number is very, very many people praise the suicide bombers and murderers of children and women....thousands and thousands...probably the majority of the Arabs. Is there a public square or building named in his honor?

Rabbi Kahane's ( a proponent of separation) own political party was outlawed in Israel...actually outlawed....that's how much tolerance there is in Israel for such views.

There is NO MORAL EQUIVALENCE here....this is just another example of a Jew bending over backwards to appear "fair", when in fact, he is not being "fair" at all...he is just furthering the Arab cause.

Besser thinks that Israeli policy is partly to blame. So, to effect change in Israel he needs to make aliyah, pay Israeli taxes, serve in the IDF, i.e., put his life where his mouth is.

Until he does that his public criticism of Israel is morally wrong, certainly will NOT be listened to by anyone in power in Israel, and does nothing but give strength to those who whish Israel destroyed.

Thank you for this commentary. It gets so tiresome trying to explain that when I point out extremes of rhetoric on the Israeli side, I am not excusing any such talk by the Palestinians. What is critical is that we eliminate the kind of thinking both add to the toxic environment, and stand in the way of real moves toward peace.

It has been a while since I read any survey data that tries to show how much the attitudes of the two populations mirror each other. Most of the time in these reports, Israeli pessimism and Palestinian pessimism are roughly equal, and the same goes for vilification and the idea that nonviolent engagement is a realistic stratagem. I'd like to see you talk about that.

Yes, there exist extremists on both sides. However, the author severely distorts the situation by equating the very small percentage of Israeli Jews who support such extremism, with the very large percentage of Arabs who support extremism. The gross, disproportionate imbalance speaks volumes, but this would not serve the author's distorting narrative of attempting a facile moral equivalence.