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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Palestinian Incitement as a Violation of International Legal Norms

Filed under: Israel, Palestinians, Peace Process
Publication: Jerusalem Issue Briefs

Vol. 10, No. 32     March 22, 2011

    • Genuine peace between peoples requires far more than signed agreements. It requires bona fidemutual trust, respect, and a psyche of peace to prevail throughout all levels of society, and must emanate from the leadership.
    • Tragically, the extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic indoctrination that is so pervasive in all levels of Palestinian society has inevitably led to violence and terror, and serves to undermine any hope for peaceful relations between the two peoples.
    • Officially-sanctioned and encouraged incitement against Israel and against Jews has become a central theme in all spheres of Palestinian society, whether religious, cultural or in the education field. This inevitably results in violence and terror against Israel and its citizens.
    • The Palestinians are committed in the agreements with Israel to act to prevent incitement. Nevertheless, the Palestinian leadership continues to glorify terrorists as role models for Palestinian youth and encourage hostility and hatred toward Israel.
    • The Palestinian leadership cannot come with clean hands to the international community to ostensibly call for peace while at the same time undermining any hope for peace through incitement to terror.

One of the central and essential requirements for achieving and sustaining meaningful, peaceful, and trusting relations between peoples is the mindset, the will, and the psyche of peace – the mutual trust and respect that must exist between peoples at all levels, both among the leadership as well as among the general public.

Peace cannot be made through the signing of treaties and agreements only. It has to be ingested into the public psyche and nurtured in every tenet of day-to-day life.

Tragically, the extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic indoctrination that is so pervasive in all levels of Palestinian society has inevitably led to violence and terror, and serves to undermine any hope for peaceful relations between the two peoples.

The extent of such incitement has been aptly summarized in a document published by Israel’s Foreign Ministry:

The Palestinian education system, media, literature, songs, theater and cinema have been mobilized for extreme anti-Israel indoctrination, which at times degenerates into blatant anti-Semitism. This incitement to hatred and violence is pervasive in Palestinian society, particularly in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It exists in nursery schools and kindergartens, youth movements, schools, universities, mosque sermons, and street demonstrations.

Incitement against Israel has many faces. It begins with the complete denial of the very existence of the State of Israel. Maps in schools and universities do not even bear the name of Israel, nor a large number of its cities and towns.

Palestinian officials and religious leaders frequently deny the thousands of years of Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. By repudiating Jewish history (and the New Testament as well), the Palestinian leadership is promoting a narrative that disavows any Jewish rights to the Jewish historical homeland. Peace cannot be achieved as long as the right of the Jewish people to their own nation-state in their native land is denied.

Incitement is also characterized by the hero worship of terrorists. Inciters extol the deeds of suicide bombers, name schools and football teams after them, and hold them up as models to be emulated.1

One can only assume that such an atmosphere prevailing in Palestinian society would produce individuals who would willingly and willfully take their hatred to the active level of terror acts against Israelis, as indeed happened recently in the bestial killing of an entire family, including a four-month-old baby, in Itamar on March 11, 2011.

What mindset, context, or circumstances could possibly have driven a person to carry out such acts of blatant murder, homicide and infanticide? Sheer blinding hatred? Religious fervor overriding any sense of decency or humanity? Or perhaps some other driving force that turns a human being into the basest of animals? How, in any possible prevailing background scenario of hostility, rage, hatred or religious fervor, could a person be driven to go to such inhuman extremes?

In attempting to answer such questions in the context of the Palestinian reality and within the realities of Muslim society, one need only reflect on the long and sad history of the use of incitement in such societies as a means of manipulating the masses, the “believers,” the “faithful,” or any other social or religious grouping against the “infidel,” the “non-believer,” or the Jew.

Incitement in the Arab world has played a central part over the years in directing the opinions of society, molding the actions of the community, whether in the local village context through calls by religious and civil leaders, or in the more modern and wider national context of the electronic media, television, and the internet.

Early Uses of Incitement

The history of use of incitement by the ruling Arab authorities in Mandatory Palestine in 1920, 1929, and 1936 is well documented and includes intentionally-initiated bloody riots, massacres, and pogroms against Jews.

Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the 1920s and 30s, was one of the most influential and powerful leaders in the Islamic world. He instigated and organized Muslim riots against Palestinian Jews which resulted in hundreds of deaths. He was tried and convicted by the British Mandatory authorities in April 1920 of inciting riots against Jews in Jerusalem.

In A History of Israel, historian Howard M. Sachar relates how the Mufti played a key role in the bloody, anti-Jewish riots of 1929:

On the night of August 23 and the next morning, crowds of Arabs armed with weapons poured into Jerusalem. The newcomers gathered near the mosque courtyard to be harangued by the Mufti. Then, at noon, the mob attacked the Orthodox Jewish quarters, and violence spread rapidly to other parts of Palestine. In the late afternoon Arab bands descended on the Orthodox Jewish community of Hebron, murdering sixty and wounding fifty inhabitants….[A British committee of inquiry] found the Arabs responsible for the violence and apportioned “a share in the responsibility for the disturbances” to the Mufti and individual members of the Arab Executive.2

Similarly, in Righteous Victims, historian Benny Morris recalls:

In August of 1929, Arabs instigated violence in the Jerusalem area that spread to most of Palestine. The violence began in Jerusalem and soon spread to Hebron, Motza, and Safed, all old Jewish communities in Palestine that supposedly lived in harmony with their Arab neighbors, rather than Zionist settlements.

The principle instigators were Haj Amin El Husseini and Aref el Aref. Aref el Aref, along with Husseini, had been responsible for previous riots. He had now been appointed district officer of the Beersheba district. Aref el Aref paid a visit to Hebron shortly before the riots and preached an inflammatory sermon on Thursday, August 22. Rumors were spread that the Jews had killed Arabs in Jerusalem, that the Jews had burned down the Al-Aqsa mosque (supposedly this was documented with a fake photo) or that the Jews were planning to build a synagogue near the wailing wall.

Beginning about 3 PM on Friday, August 23, there was agitation in Hebron. People returning from prayers in Jerusalem were claiming that the Jews were killing Arabs there. Arabs began stoning the Hebron Yeshiva. An orthodox Yeshiva student tried to leave the Yeshiva building and was stabbed to death.

The riots began in earnest, however, on the morning of Saturday, August 24. Arabs killed 64 to 67 Jews in Hebron and wounded many others. Babies were beheaded. Old rabbis were castrated. There were incidents of rape, torture and mutilation. Hands and fingers were torn off bodies, apparently for jewelry.3

A more recent example of the explosive potential of Arab incitement was the worldwide response by Muslims to the publication of twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the prophet Mohammed, in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. This led to Islamic protests across the Muslim world, some of which escalated into violence including setting fire to the Danish Embassies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, storming European buildings, and burning the Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, French, and German flags in Gaza City.

As reported in the media:

At least 200 people – most of them Muslims – died in anti-Danish and more generally anti-Western and anti-Christian protests in various Muslim countries where the cartoons were republished (in a minority of cases), or as a result of television and press reports. Some were killed by police trying to control the demonstrations, others – as in the case of Nigeria – in clashes between Muslim and Christian mobs that broke out after demonstrations against the cartoons. In the Middle East a commercial boycott led to the removal of Danish goods from supermarket shelves: Arla Foods, one of the larger companies, estimated its losses in 2006 at $223 million. Danish embassies and consulates were attacked and burned in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Indonesia.

After Yousuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood preacher and host of a popular show on al-Jazeera television, called in February 2006 for a public “day of rage” against the cartoons, the riots escalated into generalized attacks on Western targets. To add fat to the fire, there were reports that Danish Neo-Nazis, in implicit collaboration with Muslim activists, were planning a public burning of the Quran (although in the event they were intercepted by Danish police). In Damascus, protestors torched the Norwegian as well as the Danish missions. And in Libya, where demonstrators stormed an Italian consulate, at least nine people died.4

Mass Media and Present-Day Palestinian and Arab Incitement

Incitement of a particular community – of attendees at mosques, of the younger generations through the education system in kindergartens, schools, and colleges, and incitement and manipulation of the general adult community through the electronic media – has become one of the major tactical weapons in the arsenal of Arab societies in general and the Palestinian leadership in particular.

Similarly, and no less powerful, the growing trend to officially glorify terrorists through posting their pictures in classrooms, dedicating streets or public squares to such terrorists, and repeatedly airing songs and videos glorifying such people, clearly constitutes an integral component of the more subtle usage of incitement to manipulate the mindset of the Palestinian public.

But while such incitement in the past, and prior to the era of mass media and the internet, had been relatively local in scope and largely restricted to specific communities of mosque attendees at Friday morning prayers, the industry of mass usage of the incitement weapon to manipulate and influence millions has now become a realistic and caustic weapon. Spreading unfounded rumors by word of mouth from village to village is no longer necessary when a weapon like Al-Jazeera has the capability to incite millions through televised images and nuanced reporting, all intended to rouse anger and hatred and to cause riots, violence, and terror among a public that has the capacity and propensity to be incited and to turn to violence, all this with the ostensible blessing of the religious authority instigating the incitement.

While some in Western societies might in the past have preferred to look down on localized incitement as an acceptable trait of religious culture in non-democratic, archaic, or feudal societies, and even as a form of freedom of expression, the international community can no longer dismiss modern incitement as such.

As observed by Professor Robert S. Wistrich, Professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Head of its Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism:

Popular and influential mass media bring this kind of incendiary incitement daily into countless Arab homes; TV stations, including Al-Jazeera, reinforce on a regular basis the image of a demonic Israel that not only criminally murders defenseless Arab children, but deliberately spreads drugs, deadly viruses, vice, and prostitution into the Arab world or tries to poison Palestinian food and water.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious anti-Semitic fabrication in history, has long been a best-seller in the Arab world. In 2002 it was “dramatized” for Egyptian television in a multimillion-dollar blockbuster series, “Horseman without a Horse,” that was screened during Ramadan. No less appalling, a year later, was the hideously anti-Semitic Syro-Lebanese TV series “Al-Shattat (the Diaspora),” which included revolting scenes reconstructing the “blood libel” calumny as if it were a normal Jewish ritual practice. Indeed, the medieval European myth that Jews murder Christian children and use their victims’ blood for Passover matzot is extensively propagated and widely believed in the Arab world.

It has become “normal” over the past four decades to see Israeli leaders from Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan to Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, and Ehud Olmert stigmatized as monsters in Nazi regalia, hands dripping in blood or bathed in a halo of swastikas.

Such anti-Jewish toxins are not merely a by-product of the Arab-Israeli conflict. They derive from traditional Islamic sources as well as bathing in longstanding anti-Semitic stereotypes, images, and accusations of European Christian origin. The tone is particularly vicious, scurrilous, and often blood-curdling in its incitement to violence.

The following words of the prominent Saudi Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, Imam at the Ka’aba mosque in Mecca (the most important shrine in the Muslim world), are representative of thousands of such sermons regularly broadcast across the Arab world: “The Jews of today [are] evil offspring, infidels, distorters of [God’s] words, calf worshippers, prophet-murderers…the scum of the human race whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs.”

…The endlessly repetitive demonization of Israeli Jews as “Nazis” has rammed home a vicious hate message to millions of Arabs in the Middle East. Hence it is hardly surprising that the sentiment produced by such crass caricatures should result in a popular song entitled “I Hate Israel,” which only a few years ago was a smash hit in Cairo, Damascus, and East Jerusalem. More than that, to judge by the sheer volume of such venomous anti-Semitic manifestations (especially in Egypt) we can say that levels of hostility have increased rather than diminished over time.

Particularly sobering is the fact that Arab theologians, intellectuals, artists, and professional people are so prominent in promoting racist stereotypes of this kind. One finds editors-in-chief of establishment newspapers, authors of best-selling books, deans of university faculties, and other academic “experts” on Israel, Judaism, and the Jews at the forefront of such bigotry. In other words, Arab Antisemitism is not only a matter of government manipulation, Islamist demagogy, organized propaganda, social backwardness, or raw, primitive hatred – though all of these elements are indeed present. It has cultural and intellectual legitimacy. Moreover, the ubiquity of the hate and prejudice exemplified by this hard-core Antisemitism undoubtedly exceeds the demonization of earlier historical periods – whether the Christian Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dreyfus Affair in France, or the Judeophobia of Tsarist Russia. The only comparable example would be that of Nazi Germany in which we can also speak of an “eliminationist Antisemitism” of genocidal dimensions, which ultimately culminated in the Holocaust.

References to Incitement in Agreements between Israel and the Palestinians

The need to avoid the use of incitement and hostile propaganda has from the start of the peace process been recognized and acknowledged by all concerned and deemed essential to achieve any peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Accordingly, provisions to prevent incitement were included in the various agreements and memoranda signed between Israel and the Palestinians. Regrettably, such agreed-upon provisions have remained a “dead letter” in the behavior of the Palestinians.

    • The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip stipulates in Article XXII, paragraphs 1 and 2, dealing with “Relations between Israel and the [Palestinian] Council”:

1. Israel and the Council shall seek to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and shall accordingly abstain from incitement, including hostile propaganda, against each other and, without derogating from the principle of freedom of expression, shall take legal measures to prevent such incitement by any organizations, groups or individuals within their jurisdiction.
2. Israel and the Council will ensure that their respective educational systems contribute to the peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and to peace in the entire region, and will refrain from the introduction of any motifs that could adversely affect the process of reconciliation.


    • Annex VI to the Interim Agreement – Protocol Concerning Israeli-Palestinian Cooperation Programs,6 in paragraph 4 of the preamble, expresses the agreement of both sides “to meet common challenges which require a coordinated overall approach and, taking into account their respective distinguishing features, they will act with respect for the values and human dignity of the other side.”
    • In Article VII on Cultural and Educational Cooperation, this protocol calls upon the sides to focus their educational cooperation on “other ways of promoting better mutual understanding of their respective cultures.”
    • Article VII of the annex on “The People to People Program”:7

      2.   The two sides shall cooperate in enhancing dialogue and relations between their peoples, as well as in gaining a wider exposure of the two publics to the peace process, its current situation and predicted results.
      3.   The two sides shall take steps to foster public debate and involvement, to remove barriers to interaction, and to increase the people-to-people exchange and interaction within all areas of cooperation described in this Annex and in accordance with the overall objectives and principles set out in this Annex.

    • According to the Wye River Memorandum of October 23, 1998, paragraph 3,the Palestinian side agreed to issue a decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence or terror, and establishing mechanisms for acting systematically against all expressions or threats of violence or terror. This decree will be comparable to the existing Israeli legislation which deals with the same subject.In the same vein, the parties agreed that a U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli committee will meet on a regular basis to monitor cases of possible incitement to violence or terror and to make recommendations and reports on how to prevent such incitement. The Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. sides will each appoint a media specialist, a law enforcement representative, an educational specialist, and a current or former elected official to the committee.
    • The Quartet’s “Roadmap to a Permanent Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (2003)9specifically requires at the outset of implementation of the first phase of the program that both sides end all incitement against the other by official institutions.


  • The need to control incitement was referred to specifically in Security Council Resolution 1515 of November 19, 2003, which endorsed the “Roadmap,” reiterating the demand for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement, and destruction.

Reference to Incitement in International Instruments

Perhaps the most pertinent international instrument that deals with the scourge of incitement to terror is UN Security Council Resolution 1624 (2005).10 While this resolution cannot be formally and legally considered applicable to the Palestinian Authority, which is not a state and a member of the UN, it nevertheless may be seen to be indicative of the opinion of the international community, and is certainly directed to those states that are directly involved in the negotiation process and which have influence on the Palestinian leadership.

This resolution, in its third and fourth preambular paragraphs, states:

Condemning…in the strongest terms the incitement of terrorist acts and repudiating attempts at the justification or glorification of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts,

Deeply concerned that incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and intolerance poses a serious and growing danger to the enjoyment of human rights, threatens the social and economic development of all States, undermines global stability and prosperity, and must be addressed urgently and proactively by the United Nations and all States, and emphasizing the need to take all necessary and appropriate measures in accordance with international law at the national and international level to protect the right to life.

In a similar vein, the first article of the resolution determines the obligation placed by the Council on states:

Calls upon all States to adopt such measures as may be necessary and
appropriate and in accordance with their obligations under international law to:

(a) Prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts;
(b) Prevent such conduct;
(c) Deny safe haven to any persons with respect to whom there is credible
and relevant information giving serious reasons for considering that they have been guilty of such conduct;

The third article of the resolution calls upon states:

to continue international efforts to enhance dialogue and broaden understanding among civilizations, in an effort to prevent the indiscriminate targeting of different religions and cultures, and to take all measures as may be necessary and appropriate and in accordance with their obligations under international law to counter incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and intolerance and to prevent the subversion of educational, cultural, and religious institutions by terrorists and their supporters;

The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted as a resolution by the UN General Assembly in September 2006,11 in its annexed Plan of Action, addressed the issue of measures to deal with the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, and referring to incitement, determined “To continue to work to adopt such measures as may be necessary and appropriate and in accordance with our obligations under international law to prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts and prevent such conduct.”

Actual Incitement by the Palestinian Authority

Despite the above specific commitments vis-à-vis Israel, and international obligations, the Palestinian Authority continues to deliberately use language intended, whether openly or by intimation, to incite the population through spreading fear and suspicion to harbor sentiments of mistrust, hostility, and hatred toward Israel and Jews.

When a Palestinian prime minister publicly stamps his feet on an Israeli flag, when Palestinian leaders consistently, repeatedly, and publicly question the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence and its Jewish heritage in the area, and when Palestinian children, from kindergarten upward, are manipulated through the official Palestinian education system to hate the Jew, to see the Jew as the enemy, and to glorify those who have killed Jews, the resulting effect on the psyche of the Palestinian population is predictable.

A number of recent pertinent examples are indicative of an ongoing, active policy of official Palestinian incitement to fear, hate, and glorification of suicide bombers:

  • The Ma’an News Agency reported on May 15, 2010, on a decision by the Foreign Affairs and Policy Committee and the National Security Committee of the Arab League

“to sever all direct and indirect contacts with Israel in protest of the policy of expulsion Israel carries out in Palestine, the latest decision being the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank into Gaza, which is a new chapter of ethnic cleansing.” The panels referred to two military orders enforced in April which expanded the definition of an “infiltrator,” thereby rendering potentially thousands of Gaza residents in the West Bank susceptible to deportation.12

The exaggerated use of loaded terms such as “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” and other such terms, which bear no relation to the actual acts complained of, is intended to create fear and to foment objection, hostility, and violence. It is intended to incite the civilian Arab populations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to violence in the fear of a perceived (and totally unfounded) campaign by Israel to rid the West Bank and east Jerusalem of its Arab populations.

  • Official Palestinian Authority television chose on March 15, 2010, to repeat a lie accusing Israel of assisting in the arson attack in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, following an earlier libel that Israel had been involved in the arson and that it was a Jew who started the fire with the Israeli government’s help. The libel was revived through a slide broadcast on PA TV claiming that “the Jew Dennis Michael set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the support of the Jewish government, which cut off the water supply from the neighborhoods close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque with a view to delaying the operations to extinguish [the fire].”In fact, a mentally unsettled non-Jewish Australian started a fire in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969. The fire was extinguished and the damage repaired. Thus, the aim of repeating this lie through official PA television could only have been to increase fear and unrest among the Arab frequenters of the Al-Aqsa Mosque with a view to generating rioting, which indeed occurred.
  • The Palestinian Authority regularly sponsors sports events, lotteries, and tournaments for youth named after prominent suicide bombers and other terrorists. Examples include glorifying the first Palestinian female suicide bomber, Wafa Idris, who blew herself up in Jerusalem, killing one and injuring more than 150 on January 27, 2002. As a volunteer for the Palestinian Red Crescent, she was able to bypass Israeli security and enter Jerusalem in a Palestinian ambulance.

The PA has repeatedly lauded Wafa Idris and other terrorists, such as Abu Jihad, who headed the PLO’s military wing and was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israeli civilians. Similarly, the lottery for a football tournament was named after Abdallah Daoud, who was responsible for many terror attacks and was one of the terrorists who stormed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002, using the monks and the religious site as shields.13

Lessons to be Learned

No peace process can be expected to prevail if it is constantly and systematically being undermined by a pervasive policy of incitement and indoctrination, of fear, suspicion, and hatred against the other side, emanating from the highest levels of government, through the religious, social, cultural, and educational system, and down to the youngest and most impressionable.

It is reasonable to assume that a culture of mistrust and hate, fanned by constant religious and public incitement, inevitably leads to violence and terror, and, as such, undermines the concept of peaceful relations. A leadership that openly and officially sanctions and encourages such incitement cannot come with clean hands to the international community and complain about lack of progress in the peace process.

Clearly, the institution of appropriate and effective public machinery within the religious, cultural, and educational infrastructures of the Palestinian Authority is a necessary and urgent requirement in order to supervise and prevent incitement at the public level. But such a policy could only be implemented if the Palestinian leadership were to demonstrate through its own acts, declarations, and behavior a sincere and genuine will to end incitement and halt its use as a weapon, and to live up to the Palestinian commitments in their agreements with Israel. The damage that has been done in molding the minds of countless children and youth to hate Israel, to hate the Jew, and to view terrorists as role models, will likely take many years, and possibly a generation, to mend.

But it has to start somewhere. After the tragic terror attack in the town of Itamar and the senseless murder of an entire family, it is high time that the Palestinians realize that they cannot play the game of ostensibly seeking peace with Israel while at the same time undermining any chance of achieving peace through a policy of public and official incitement to hatred and terror.

*     *     *



2. Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2007), p. 175. See also Carl K. Savich, “The Holocaust in Bosnia-Hercegovina, 1941-1945,” which describes the Mufti’s active involvement with the Nazis.

3. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1994), pp. 111-120.

4. See and






10. Adopted by the Security Council on September 14, 2005.

11. A/RES/60/288.


13. For further examples of official acts of incitement and glorification, see and