On the 21st of January 2014, Dr. David Pollock, Kaufman Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Senior Advisor for the Broader Middle East at the US State Department from 2002- 2007, introduced his recently published study: Beyond Words: Causes, Consequences, and Cures for Palestinian Authority Hate Speech. Dr. Pollock drew upon his long-standing expertise in the political dynamics of Middle East countries to discuss Palestinian incitement during the peace process, illustrating his talk with various examples, many of which were from official Palestinian Authority sources. He argued that policy has failed in fighting incitement, offering some alternative ways to confront the problem, concluding that ending incitement is critical in order to see real change in the region.
Recent examples of incitement and problems it creates
- Official Palestinian Authority incitement is spread through PA media - subsidised by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union – and in statements made by cabinet ministers and President Mahmoud Abbas himself.
- This activity amounts to glorifying terrorism, which is banned under formal signed agreements between the PA and the international community.
- Fatah, of which Abbas is Secretary General, recently posted an image glorifying Dalal Mughrabi, an infamous Palestinian terrorist, and also dedicated a town square near Ramallah to her.
- Maps of the Levant on official websites and in textbooks label all Israeli territory as Palestine, including pre-1967 Israel.
- Official PA media has accused Israel of torturing and harvesting the organs of Palestinian prisoners.
- There have been various examples of official PA outlets praising Hitler.
- Each time the Israeli government releases convicted Palestinian terrorists, senior PA officials, including Abbas, greet them as ‘heroes’.
- History has shown that unless acts of incitement are confronted publicly and firmly, incitement will not only continue but also lead to mass violence and possibly even genocide.
- Incitement is self-defeating, even from a Palestinian perspective, because it hurts their own interests by creating the impression that they are not credible partners for peace.
Why incitement is still prevalent
- Palestinian anger at the Israeli occupation of the West Bank – Pollock argues that incitement only convinces Israelis that they cannot risk withdrawal from territory that will then become a hotbed for more violence and terrorism.
- Belief that Palestinian radicals, ideologues, and die-hard extremists would create domestic political problems if not ‘pandered to’ by messages of incitement against Israel. Israel tries to counter messages of incitement from the country’s own extremists – tackling vigilantism and taking away salaries of government employees who incite against Palestinians. The PA must do the same.
- Some Palestinian leaders and senior officials genuinely believe that there cannot be a two-state solution nor a State of Israel.
- The PA pays no penalty for incitement, and it is not on the agenda for current peace talks.
- The issue of incitement must be raised with foreign governments, particularly those that donate heavily to the PA.
- Aid and funding must be conditioned on the willingness of the PA to crack down on this rhetoric, as it has pledged to do. This has worked before in stopping incitement, for example when UNESCO cut off funding for a Palestinian youth magazine that published tributes to Hitler: the magazine swiftly stopped printing such pieces.
- Hamas is currently in a very weak position, so the PA no longer has to concern itself as seriously about its criticism because many Palestinians themselves no longer trust Hamas.