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Op-Ed: US President Elect Donald Trump should take a stand against Palestinian incitement

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, Rachel Avraham explains that a great way for the newly elected President to show his friendship towards Israel is to take a stand against Palestinian incitement that has prompted this recent wave of terror.
Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

As Americans were going to the polls in order to elect the next President, the Center for Near East Policy Research held a press conference at the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem that sought to raise awareness about incitement in the Palestinian educational system.   According to the Center for Near East Policy Research, over 240 US government approved textbooks for children between the first and ninth grade for subjects ranging from religious studies to mathematics and history that are utilized in over 400 UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza encourage Palestinian terrorism against the State of Israel.

US President Elect Donald Trump has pledged during his campaign to be Israel’s best friend and given this, the entire political establishment in the Jewish state welcomed his election into office.  As Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely stated, “Israel looks forward to strengthening yet further the special relationship and close friendship between Israel and the United States.”  One of the ways that Trump can strengthen the friendship between Israel and the United States is to adequately address the Palestinian incitement issue that has prompted this present wave of terror that the Obama administration has neglected to deal with.

According to Dr. Arnon Gross, who recently translated the over 240 textbooks utilized in UNRWA schools, the whole purpose of the present Palestinian educational system is to deny Israel’s legitimacy, not advocate for peace and to promote armed struggle against the State of Israel.   David Bedein, the head of the Center for Near East Policy Research, noted that he struggled to get Obama’s US State Department to address this issue properly: “They said it changed but we saw no difference.  They insisted it was ok so we did an investigation.”  After doing their investigation, they found that the US State Department under Obama was wrong: “If we had found a peace curriculum, we would have promoted it.”   The Center for Near East Policy Research noted that a peace curriculum does exist in Arabic but it is not in use in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem since it was vetoed by the Palestinian Authority.

Gross stressed that UNRWA has a policy of utilizing books supplied by the local government, which means that students in UNRWA schools study from Palestinian Authority, Syrian and Jordanian textbooks.   When Israel controlled the West Bank and Gaza, the anti-Semitic content was removed but since the Palestinian Authority regained control over the area, it was added back.   He emphasized that to the contrary of US State Department claims, the new schoolbooks are even worse than the old ones: “Without EU funding, they have become even more extreme. There are Fatah activities for Haifa and Jaffa.   The Carmel Mountains and Jazreel Valley are described as part of Palestine.” They present Jerusalem as an Arab city, claim that the Jews are occupiers, deny the Jewish connection to the Exodus story in the Bible and remove any reference to the Jewish people from the New Testament. In these school books, only Christian and Muslim holy sites are mentioned; Rachel’s Tomb, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Western Wall are presented as Muslim holy sites that the Jews took over.

“We are not counted as inhabitants of this country,” Gross noted. “There are no Jews, no Jewish cities, and their language does not exist.”  In the past, Tel Aviv was not even on the map for this reason but now, the Palestinian Authority claims that it was a Palestinian city that was occupied. British Mandate documents that included Hebrew have the Hebrew removed from them when presented to Palestinian students.  All of the textbooks describe Palestine as an exclusively Muslim Arab nation whose neighbors are Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; Israel is not mentioned: “Israelis are described as a foreign group.” A number of conspiracy theories are also presented within Palestinian school textbooks, such as blaming violence within Palestinian families on the so-called occupation.  The Jews are blamed for religious disturbances, murdering children, blowing up Palestinians, attacking Al Aqsa, destroying the rivers, demolishing homes, tearing down trees and causing pollution. This does not even include the incitement to violence found within many of the textbooks. For example, one textbook states: “Hearing weapons clash is pleasant to my ear and the flow of blood gladdens my soul.”

However, the incitement is not limited to the school curriculum.   In fact, Gross noted that schoolbooks are not even the main actor that influences young people to wage terror attacks. In my recently published book titled “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media,” I discussed how both social media and the mainstream Arabic language media have played an intimate role in influencing Palestinian female terrorism since the Second Intifada period.  All of Palestinian society honors the female suicide bombings of the Second Intifada. Palestinian female suicide bombers have summer camps, schools and other institutions named after them.  Their pictures appear as graffiti on the walls of educational institutions.   In the schools, the children do various activities honoring them.   However, the mass media in the Arab world’s coverage of the female suicide bombers of the Second Intifada and more recent female terrorists is so flamboyant and powerful that it has the potential to play an even greater role in motivating terrorists to act.  

After all, if you were a Palestinian youngster, who would not want to be described as more beautiful than the Mona Lisa and as great as Joan D’Arc, Jesus Christ and Muhammed’s first wife Khadija, like the suicide bomber Wafa Idris was described?   Indeed, Andaleeb Suleiman decided to become a suicide bomber merely because of the indoctrination she received on Arabic language television.  Also during this present wave of terror, we have witnessed how incitement in the media and social media has led to an increasing number of women to turn to terrorism and we have seen that this has motivated additional terror attacks as demonstrated by the terror attack by Ishaq Badran, who was prompted to act due to Arabic language media coverage of the terror attack implemented by female terrorist Shoruq Dwayat.

Elihu Ricter, a Hebrew University professor who is also an MD that specializes in environmental medicine and defines incitement as a form of disease that produces violence, stressed: “Tell me what they study in mosques and summer camps and I will tell you what will be of the people exposed to this for the generations to come.”  He sees an intimate connection between the social media and media messages as well as the school curriculum that encourages hatred and the demonization that has the potential to lead to genocide.  He cited the Rwandan genocide as a good example of this: “The Rwandan media’s hate and demonization towards Tutsis harnessed thousands of people that took machetes to slaughter 850,000 people. People butchered neighbors.  This kind of pollution is dangerous.  We need to understand the effects of incitement on the Palestinian front.  There is an intensive rise of hatred in mosques, social media, etc. This leads to violence.  The idea of peace, coexistence and mutual respect cannot be as long as this incitement and hatred continues.”

In light of all of this and the fact that the United States pays for one third of UNRWA’s 1.2 billion dollar budget, Bedein and Gross have asked US President Elect Donald Trump to start to deal with the incitement within the Palestinian Authority by introducing a pro-peace curriculum in UNRWA schools.  As part of this proposed curriculum, all territories that fall within the 1967 Armistice Lines should be labeled as part of Israel and Israel should be mentioned as a country that borders the Palestinian Authority. Jewish holy sites, Jewish population figures, etc. should also be included and British Mandate documents should not be forged in order to eliminate Hebrew letters.

They also called for Palestinian school textbooks to stop demonizing Jews and instead to mention them as an ordinary adversary with their own rights and interests: “It is much desired to still add to the books still non-existent materials that deal with Jews and Israelis objectively (for example, pieces that talk about the Israeli governmental structure, economy, science, technology, culture, Jewish history, etc.)  It is important to stress in the books that in spite of the conflict, the Jewish/Israeli individual is also a human being apart from being an adversary and should be treated as such accordingly.” In addition, they called for the books to note that peace is the strategic choice and this will only happen via negotiations: “The books should refrain from any presentation of an armed violent struggle as a means for solving the conflict.” They believe that the right of return should be presented as a Palestinian position up for negotiation and that the territorial struggle should be limited to the West Bank and Gaza in order to prepare young Palestinians for the prospect of having a peaceful solution to the conflict. If Trump imposed such a curriculum on UNRWA, then UNRWA will finally be able to live by its motto “peace starts here” for there can never be peaceful coexistence until indoctrination to hate the other comes to an end.

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JOL Blogger | Rachel Avraham

Rachel holds a masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland. She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.


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