Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 1, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
The Palestinians consider statements such as “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” and “Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people” as a form of “incitement,” according to a report released on Sunday by the PLO Department of Culture and Information.
The report comes in the context of Palestinian attempts to counter Israeli allegations of anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media, school textbooks, mosque sermons and public statements by Palestinian officials. In the past two decades, dozens of reports documenting Palestinian incitement against Israel and glorification of terrorists have been published by various Israeli and Jewish organizations in a move that has seriously embarrassed PA leaders and drawn criticism from some Western donors.
The PLO report – which cites statements made by a number of Israeli officials and politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – also considers calls for combating the fire kites launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip as “incitement.”
It claims that “derogatory and inflammatory comments and incitement by Israeli government officials and leaders are specifically meant to distort reality and mislead public opinion.”
However, the report intentionally ignores statements made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Palestinian officials to the effect that “Jerusalem is and will remain the eternal capital of Palestine.” In addition, PA media outlets, including the official television and radio stations, refer to Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of Palestine.”
The first example of “incitement,” according to the report, is a June 13 statement made by Netanyahu in which he is quoted as saying: “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And it will always be the capital of Israel. It’s been the capital of Israel for three thousand years.”
Another example of “inflammatory comments,” the report says, is a statement made by Education Minister Naftali Bennett in connection with Prince William’s visit to Israel. Bennett is quoted as saying: “We welcome him. We welcome everyone who visits our capital. Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, and only of the Jewish people.”
The report also takes to task Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who was quoted on June 14 as saying: “Jerusalem is not politics! Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel and the capital of the Jewish people, and that it will remain forever.”
Israeli officials’ comments on the flaming kites launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip are also cited by the report as a form of “incitement” against the Palestinians.
The report cites a statement made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on this issue as an “example of incitement and inflammatory comments.” Liberman is quoted as having said: “Whoever thinks improving the civilian and economic situation in Gaza will halt the terror kites and the violence is simply wrong. Enough with all sorts of illusion and delusions that improving the economy will end terror.”
Ironically, the PA leadership and Hamas seem to share the same sentiments expressed by Liberman. Just last week, the PA warned against Israeli and US attempts to transform the problem of the Gaza Strip into a “humanitarian” issue. The PA, which was referring to Israeli and US ideas to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, claims that these ideas are part of a “conspiracy” to impose US President Donald Trump’s yetto- be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East. Moreover, the PA leadership sees the talk about solving the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip as part of a scheme to “divide the Palestinians and create two separate entities – one in the West Bank and another in the coastal enclave.
Hamas, for its part, has repeatedly announced in recent weeks that improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip should not be interpreted as a readiness on the part of the Islamist movement to abandon the fight against Israel.
ANOTHER “EXAMPLE” of anti-Palestinian incitement mentioned in the report relates to a June 21 statement made by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, in which she says: “There is no difference between a burning kite and a Kassam rocket, and we should not tolerate the kites.”
Again, if anyone agrees with Shaked it’s the leaders and activists of the Hamas-orchestrated “March of Return” protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They often boast that the flaming kites and balloons that are being sent to Israel are part of the “Palestinian Air Force” and as another “form of resistance against Israel,” just like rockets and mortars.
The PLO report makes it clear that the Palestinians view calls by Israeli politicians to fight back against the fire kites, which have torched thousands of dunams of agricultural fields in Israel, as a form of “incitement.” As an example of the alleged “incitement,” the report points to a June 20 statement by MK Haim Yellin (Yesh Atid), where he is quoted as saying: “I am offended in the name of the state that we are not beating them to a pulp.”
According to the report, a call for taking measures against Hamas in order to secure the release of the bodies of IDF soldiers held by the terror group in the Gaza Strip also falls within the category of “incitement and inflammatory comments.” As such, the report refers to the following statement by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi): “There is no greater interest for the State of Israel than the return of our boys. We will not agree to improve the humanitarian conditions in Gaza before that.”
The report also refers to another statement by the same Knesset member in which he said: “The right path of action is to make Hamas prisoners’ conditions more difficult so that they do not receive one millimeter beyond [what] international law [prescribes]. Beyond the bare minimum, do not allow anything into Gaza. Bring them to their knees, this is our security interest.”
Interestingly, Smotrich’s remarks about the Gaza Strip are compatible with the official position of Abbas and senior PA officials in the West Bank, which is based on taking all necessary measures to force Hamas to its knees. As part of these measures, Abbas has imposed severe sanctions on the Gaza Strip, which include cutting salaries to thousands of PA employees ands forcing thousands others into early retirement, with the hope of undermining or removing Hamas from power.
The PA’s official news agency Wafa has also been publishing monthly reports titled “Incitement and Racism in the Israeli Media.” The reports often refer to opinion pieces published by Israeli writers and political analysts, as well as news stories concerning the Palestinians.
In its last report, dated June 25, the agency cites a news item in an Israeli media outlet to the effect that Hamas had paid thousands of shekels to a Palestinian family in the Gaza Strip in order to say that their infant had died of tear-gas inhalation during clashes between Palestinians and IDF soldiers.
The news item is based on a testimony of a cousin of the baby, Leila al-Ghandour, who was initially reported to have died as a result of tear-gas inhalation. The cousin, Mahmoud Omar, was quoted as having said after his arrest by the IDF that Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar paid the al-Ghandour family to say that their eight-month-old baby died of gas inhalation when, in fact, she had died of a blood disease.
According to the PA agency’s report, this news story contains a “delegitimization of the Palestinian struggle and an attempt to refute the Palestinian narrative through unsubstantiated evidence and confessions that were taken from the defendant.” Wafa also criticized the Israeli writer for using the term “Palestinian lies” in the story about the deceased infant. “The writer should have used neutral language, but here he appears completely biased by employing terms that demonize an entire people,” the agency said, claiming this was yet another “example of Israeli incitement and racism.”
The PA leadership is also upset with the unfavorable coverage Abbas reportedly receives in the Israeli media. “The Hebrew media is continuing to incite against President Mahmoud Abbas,” the Wafa report complained. To back up its claim, the report points to the words of an Israeli political analyst who reportedly said: “Abu Mazen [Abbas] rejects and condemns [Trump’s] deal of the century for his personal goals and interests.”
This sentence, in the eyes of the PA leadership, is tantamount to “incitement” and “racism.”