If we learned anything from the wave of terror in 2015-2016, it is that words matter. In an environment where Palestinian unemployment remains staggeringly high, disenfranchised youth become more impressionable and susceptible to the pronouncements of charismatic leaders. Hence, when President Abbas decries Jews visiting the Temple Mount as having ‘no right to defile it with their filthy feet’, its legitimacy is only accentuated for young Palestinian men. The recourse to martyrdom then becomes a logical response because, as Abbas describes, ‘we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood’.
In cases like these, the line between Zionism and Jews becomes ever more blurred. A disagreement over religious access to a holy site becomes an aspersion on the humanity, or lack thereof, of Jewish people. Coupled with the reverence of Palestinian officials for mukawama (armed resistance), it is a recipe for disaster in coexistence.
Importantly, this incitement does not occur within a vacuum. It also coincides with an extensive period of classroom indoctrination. From a young age, children are not simply taught to resent encroachment on their land or commit themselves to non-violent resistance. Rather, they are taught to detest Jews and to sacrifice themselves in martyrdom to bring about their demise.
As reported by the Times of Israel in March 2016, one particular ninth-grade textbook was none-too subtle in its advocacy for armed resistance and martyrdom. One page began with a Quranic verse which instructs Muslims to kill or imprison non-believers.
If nothing else, the great crime here is the systematic hijacking of children’s minds. Young children are not yet able to discern what is right from wrong, and they are the victims of efforts to train a generation of young people in hate and animosity. This cycle is then repeated for future generations, when the children mature and circulate the material to the next cohort.
In recent years, the Palestinians have pursued efforts to join the community of nations and the system that binds them together. This includes receiving non-member observer status at the UN in 2012, as well as their ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2015. However, accessions such as these also carry responsibilities. It is, at best, disingenuous join an international legal system aimed at preventing large-scale violence whilst sowing the seeds for such calamity among one’s own people.
Given the albeit delayed moves toward free and fair elections in the Palestinian territories, the ball is now in the court of Palestinian officials and candidates. They can propagate insidious blood libels (as Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan did on Lebanese TV in 2014) or they can reject the nihilism of centuries-old folklore by countering incitement and championing non-violence.
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