Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 15, No. 34 November 1, 2015
- The bitter, civil violence and terror over the past weeks, concentrated in Hebron and in Jerusalem and revolving around the issue of the Al Aqsa mosque, are being attributed by various commentators to a series of causes and reasons.
- These include: the ongoing political stalemate and its concomitant frustration, the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and incapability of its leadership, the canard that “Al Aqsa is in danger,” and the widespread use among the younger generation of social media with its graphic images extolling martyrdom.
- The one central and overriding component of today’s crisis is the incitement of an aroused Arab public. 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.
- Incitement and manipulation of a particular community – worshippers at mosques, the younger generation in kindergartens, schools, and colleges, and the general adult community through the electronic media – have become one of the major tactical weapons in the arsenal of Arab societies in general and the Palestinian leadership in particular.
- 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.
The bitter, civil violence and terror over the past weeks, concentrated in Hebron and in Jerusalem, revolving around the issue of the Al Aqsa mosque, and enveloping Arabs both in Israel and in the disputed territories, are being attributed by various commentators to a series of causes and reasons.
These include: the ongoing political stalemate and its concomitant frustration, the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and incapability of its leadership, and the widespread use among the younger generation of social media with its graphic images of dead and wounded.
This strain of reasoning has even being taken to the absurd. In a curious, somewhat stilted, and even irresponsible view expressed by the U.S Secretary of State Kerry, attributing the violence to Israel’s settlement policy!
However, whatever the deeper causes – which will doubtless need to be addressed, the one central and overriding component of today’s crisis is the incitement of an aroused Arab public. The use of the age-old canard by the Palestinian political and religious leadership that the Al Aqsa Mosque is endangered in order to whip the Palestinian public into a frenzy is rapidly going out of control.
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, undermining any hope for peaceful relations between the two peoples.
Incitement in the Arab world has played a central part over the years in directing the opinions of society. Incitement molds the actions of the community, whether 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 in the Early 1900s
The history of institutional incitement by the 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 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 even tried and convicted by the British Mandatory authorities in April 1920 of inciting riots against Jews in Jerusalem.
In what is hardly different from today’s violence, in 1929 incited mobs attacked the Orthodox Jewish areas of Jerusalem, and violence spread rapidly to Hebron, Motza, and Safed, all old Jewish communities in Palestine that supposedly lived in harmony with their Arab neighbors. These were not “Zionist settlements.”
The district officer of the Beersheba district, Aref el Aref, preached an inflammatory sermon initiating rumors that the Jews had killed Arabs in Jerusalem, that Jews had burned down the Al-Aqsa mosque (supposedly this was documented with a fake photo), and that Jews were planning to build a synagogue near the Wailing Wall. Arab bands descended on the Orthodox Jewish community of Hebron, murdering sixty and wounding fifty inhabitants. Babies were beheaded. Old rabbis were castrated. There were incidents of rape, torture and mutilation, including the tearing of hands and fingers from bodies.
A British committee of inquiry apportioned “a share in the responsibility for the disturbances to the Mufti and individual members of the Arab Executive.”
2005 Arab Incitement after the Publication of Cartoons in Denmark
A more recent example of the explosive potential of Arab incitement was the worldwide response by Muslims to the publication of 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the prophet Mohammed, in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. This led to 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.
According to media reports, 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 and Danish embassies. And in Libya, where demonstrators stormed an Italian consulate, at least 9 people died.
Mass Media and Present-Day Palestinian and Arab Incitement
Incitement and manipulation of a particular community – attendees at mosques, and the younger generation through the education system in kindergartens, schools, and colleges, and 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 them, and repeatedly airing songs and videos glorifying them, clearly constitutes an integral component of the more subtle usage of incitement to manipulate the mindset of the Palestinian public.
Social Media Incitement
Incitement in the past, prior to the era of mass media and the internet, has been relatively local in scope and largely restricted to specific communities of mosque attendees at Friday morning prayers. Now, the industry of mass incitement used as a weapon to manipulate and influence millions has now become a realistic and lethal weapon. Spreading unfounded rumors by word of mouth from village to village is no longer necessary when a weapons like Twitter, Facebook, and the Qatari-sponsored Al-Jazeera have the capability to incite millions on the Internet and through televised images and biased reporting. All of these images are 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 of this occurs with the ostensible blessing of the religious authority instigating the incitement.
While some in Western societies might in the past have viewed localized incitement as a tolerable 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.
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 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, Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, to 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 themes of 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 anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semitism undoubtedly exceeds the demonization of earlier historical periods – whether the Christian Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dreyfus Affair in France, or Tsarist Russia. The only comparable example would be that of Nazi Germany, in which we can also speak of an “eliminationist anti-Semitism” 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,1 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:”2
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 3,3 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)4 specifically 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).5 While this resolution cannot be formally and legally considered applicable to the Palestinian Authority, which is not a state and not a member of the UN, it may be indicative of the opinion of the international community. This resolution is certainly directed towards those states that are directly involved in the negotiation process that have influence on the Palestinian leadership.
This resolution, in its third and fourth preamble 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 2006,6 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.
The damaging and toxic effects on the psyche of the Palestinian population are predictable when a Palestinian leader (Abu Mazen) publicly objects to the “dirty feet of the Israelis” treading on the Al Aqsa complex; when he 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.
A number of recent pertinent examples are indicative of an ongoing, active policy of official Palestinian incitement to fear and hate. The glorification of suicide bombers, use of false accusations, including “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” which bear no relation to reality, 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.
The Al Aqsa Canard
On August 21, 1969, a mentally unsettled non-Jewish Australian started a fire in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fire was extinguished and the damage repaired. However, this episode was used by the Arab media to increase fear and unrest among the Arab frequenters of the Al-Aqsa Mosque with the goal to generate rioting, which indeed occurred.
On March 15, 2010, official Palestinian Authority television chose to reawaken the lie accusing Israel of assisting in the 1969 arson attack in the Al-Aqsa Mosque claiming again, falsely, 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 TV7 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 in order to delay operations to extinguish [the fire].”
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. All three factors make the peace process impossible: the fear, suspicion, and hatred against the other side emanating from the highest levels of government, permeating through the religious, social, cultural, and educational system, 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.
* * *
5. Adopted by the UN Security Council on September 14, 2005