The following US congressional initiative reflects painstaking work of twenty years to overcome all odds to make the issue of war incitement of The Palestinian Authority and UNRWA onto the US agenda. We acquired and shared the new PA/UNRWA textbooks with this committee staff, and they read them- David Bedein
The US House Foreign Affairs Committee just completed a hearing focused on incitement by Palestinian leaders, in Palestinian schools, and in Palestinian media. Representatives from both parties, as well as the three individuals who testified, predominantly expressed the view that the current violence is caused by Palestinian incitement, and many cited the recent statements by Abbas welcoming “blood spilled” in Jerusalem.
The Committee’s ranking Democrat Eliot Engel said clearly that he supports a two-state solution, but that “Palestinians will never get a state on the back of terrorism.” He also noted that no government should hesitate to defend its citizens and that he was “baffled” that there should be any question about that. Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen noted that Israel is subjected to a double standard, and called out Palestinian Authority President Abbas, saying that he is not a leader who is willing to reach peace.
Jonathan Schanzer, Elliott Abrams and David Makovsky testified, and all offered suggestions for moving the current situation forward. Schanzer particularly focused on succession in Palestinian leadership. He noted repeatedly that Abbas is incapable of leading and said that while the US can’t pick the next Palestinian leader, the US must start preparing for one.
In addition to succession, one theme that arose throughout the hearing was that the US Congress must interact with European counterparts, to raise their awareness of the incitement and to pressure Europeans to voice opposition to incitement as well. Closing the PLO office in Washington was raised as well. A good suggestion from Abrams was for Israel to reach out directly to Palestinians, through social networks and smartphones, to counteract the messaging that they get through their media as well as from other Arab nations.
I was impressed when Representative Royce said that he himself had read Palestinian textbooks, and that he was struck by the extent to which those textbooks incite violence and pose an obstacle to Palestinian recognition of Israel. There was also a discussion of cutting some PA funding, and providing new textbooks directly rather than providing money for textbooks. As Schanzer pointed out though, even if this is done, there is still a problem with teachers and with UNRWA schools. I was also impressed when Representative Chris Smith noted that UNRWA-associated facebook pages have repeatedly glorified terror.
I won’t hold my breath, though, for members of the US media to internalize any of this.
The opening statement of Representative Ed Royce, Chair of the Committee is worth reading in full:
Opening Statement of the Honorable Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing: Words Have Consequences: Palestinian Authority Incitement to Violence October 22, 2015 (As prepared for delivery)
This hearing will come to order. This morning we consider the recent wave of terror that has gripped Israel.
In a span of weeks, Palestinian militants have attacked more than a hundred Jews, killing ten. A 2-year old toddler, a 13-year old on a bike and a 70- year old woman on a bus are among those wounded. This is terrorism at its core – when anyone who steps outside could be next.
These attacks, mainly stabbings, have been driven by a deliberately misleading message. Palestinian Authority officials and extremist clerics have falsely claimed that Israelis are trying to change the “status quo” by limiting Muslim access to the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound that is holy to both faiths.
The calls for killing have been amplified on social media as Arabic hashtags like “the knife intifada,” “poison the knife before you stab,” and “slaughtering the Jews,” rapidly spread a message to attack Jewish men, women and children. PA President Abbas regrettably has joined the hate speech.
Israel is contending with a deep-seated hatred, nurtured by Palestinian leaders over many years in mosques, schools, newspapers, and TV channels. Consider growing up in an environment in which television shows regularly glorify terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians; where you are taught that Jews are sub-human. Or watching a small boy interviewed on television who speaks of wanting to be an engineer: “So that I can build bombs to blow up all the Jews.” Or seeing the family next door receive a generous stipend for their son igniting his suicide vest.
Perhaps most concerning, this culture of hate is being cultivated by Palestinian leaders. After being exposed day-in and day-out to these types of messages for most of their young lives, how else do we expect young people will react once the Palestinian president declares, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem?”
And it doesn’t help when those in the media – or the Secretary of State for that matter – give this incitement a pass. Yes, there are many complexities in the Middle East, but there can be no moral equivalency when children as young as two are being stabbed. None. The U.S. should be speaking loudly and clearly – Palestinian officials must work to restore calm and renounce incendiary statements. And its leadership must be confronted with the questions: how does this incitement serve the interests of Palestinian men, women and children? How does this lay the groundwork for peace?
The international community also has a responsibility. Where is the international outcry for the generations of children which are growing up on blind hatred? Given that about one-third of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is financed through foreign aid, international donors have leverage. They could follow the lead of the U.S. Congress – and make direct funding of the PA off limits until the incitement stops.
This is a very tough time for Israel. It is my hope that President Abbas and others will seek to restore calm in the coming days, and incitement is challenged so reconciliation has a chance.
I now turn to the Ranking Member for any opening comments he may have.
Abrams’s, Schanzer’s, and Makovsky’s written statements can also be found here.