December 1, 2015

Letter to the Editor: Israeli and Palestinian leadership

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Re: “Pop Culture, Politics and Perception |  Importing Hate,” Blogs, Nov. 4.

These past few years, the Middle East has been exploding, figuratively and literally. But there is one country that has made news headlines since its foundation. Israel and her tumultuous relationship with her neighbors, especially Palestine, are at the forefront of the minds of most foreign journalists. Matti Friedman, former correspondent for the Associated Press says, “When I was a correspondent at the A.P., the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the A.P. had in China, Russia or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined.” Yet, as Sarah Palmer noted in her latest blog post for The Sun, “Pop Culture, Politics and Perception; Importing Hate,” it’s not an easy subject to discuss, especially for those who aren’t so familiar with it. Those who follow the situation tend to be sincerely invested in it, often for personal reasons, and often have a difficult time demonstrating their understanding of the conflict clearly, because it’s not so black and white.

Palmer is quite clear in her piece that she is not an expert and considers herself as an outsider, meaning someone who has not invested time into analyzing the current and past situation in Israel. She opened up a discussion that, because of the situation’s complexity and historical significance, must be clarified and put into context.

The current state of turmoil in Israel began when Palestinian leaders incited attacks on Israelis by blatantly lying about an Israeli plan to change the policy at the Temple Mount that prohibits non-Muslims from praying at the holy site. Abbas provoked religious Muslims with statements such as “the dirty feet” of Jews don’t belong in the Mosque. This is by no means the first time Abbas has showed his support for terrorism. In 2012, the Palestinian leader glorified the terrorists responsible for killing hundreds of Israelis and two American diplomats.  In 2013, he awarded Nayef Hawatmeh, the head of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the “highest order of the star of honor” for his work in committing dozens of terrorist attacks, including one assassination of 22 school children and 4 adults in Ma’alot. In 2014, Abbas sent a letter to the family of the terrorist who tried to kill Yehudah Glick in Jerusalem, praising him for his actions and calling him a martyr. Time and time again Abbas shows his support for terrorizing Israeli civilians and the current situation is no exception.

This tension surrounding the Temple Mount dates back to 1967, when Israel was forced to defend itself yet again from the constant Syrian-sponsored Palestinian guerilla attacks from Jordan and Lebanon, and Egyptian war crimes, especially closing off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli trade. Regardless of Israel’s appeal to Jordan to stay out of the war, they attacked and occupied U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem, bringing the conflict to the holy city. At the end of the war, Israel found itself in control of East Jerusalem, but the Temple Mount remained in the hands of the Jordanian Waqf. Although every part of Israel practices religious freedom (which is why you see pictures of all different faiths at the Western Wall for instance), the Waqf only allows Muslims to pray at the Temple Mount and assigns specific hours of visitation rights for other religious groups. There is absolutely no proof that Israel planned to change this. Abbas’ message was simply intended to incite chaos.

These past months, there have been countless Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens from within the walls of the Old City and throughout the rest of the country. They are throwing boulders down on people and hiding mass amounts of weapons in the Al-Aqsa mosque. 12-year-old children are brainwashed to stab Jews. Knife-wielding extremists have assaulted elderly women. A young boy on a bicycle was assaulted in Pisgat Zeev. An Arab woman pretending to ask questions of a guard suddenly pulled out a knife and tried to stab him. There is terror everywhere in Israel right now. What have Palestinian leaders done to condemn this? Nothing. Fatah encourages it. The few extremist Jews who have attacked Palestinians are reprimanded by almost everyone in the country, and most importantly by the Israeli government. Yes, all terrorism is awful and both sides have done wrong, but there is no moral equivalency between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The Israeli government has responded by taking security measures that inconvenience the lives of moderate Palestinians living in the West Bank. As a response to an attempt to butcher everyone on a bus, Arabs living in East Talpiyot are now forced to drive all the way through Bethlehem, an hour out of the way, because they can no longer drive through Armon Hanastiv. Abbas, Fatah, Hamas … they are all supporting the men, women and children of all ages who are risking their lives to kill Israelis. Unfortunately, the average Palestinian is suffering.

This situation clearly does not boil down to a rumor about the Temple Mount. Tension between Israelis and Palestinians has only escalated since the establishment of Israel in 1948. In the years leading up to this significant date, the Palestinians refused multiple proposals for a two-state solution, which would have established Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty in the land. Rather than accepting any of the peaceful negotiations, the Palestinians and every surrounding Arab country declared war as soon as Israel declared its independence. Since then, the hostility between the two nations has only grown through decades of wars, intifadas and terrorism.

The first step in breaking this cycle is to change the education systems in Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A of the West Bank. Leaders, school teachers, imams and other role models indoctrinate Palestinian children to hate Jews and Israelis. It is not only the harsh conditions that some Palestinians live under that cause this terrorism. Before we can move forward on the relations between neighboring countries, we must address the distorted and violent education of the Palestinian people. We are all doing a disservice to the Palestinian children by ignoring the hate propagated under the Palestinian leaders.

There is no moral equivalency between the Israeli government and the PLO or Arab terrorist organizations. While the Israeli government is concerned for the safety of its citizens, the PLO holds almost no legitimacy among the Palestinians and organizations such as Hamas only advocate for terror. When Palmer states that “leaders have helped to sensationalize the violence,” it must but clarified that one side deals with terrorism through trial and justice while the other applauds the attacks.

Sarene Shaked ’18