Commentary Magazine


The Real Culture War — Palestinian Terrorism: The Movie

If you like Palestinian terrorism, then you’ll love the new Hamas-produced movie now premiering in Gaza. In today’s New York Times, Ethan Bronner writes that the film (shot in a media center built in what used to be the Israeli settlement of Gush Katif) profiles the life of Emad Akel, a Hamas leader killed in 1993. According to the article, the film is part of a new Palestinian cultural renaissance aimed at building a “culture of resistance.” The artistic boom in Gaza includes movies, plays, art exhibits, poetry, and television series.

Bronner notes that not everybody in Gaza is thrilled with the result of Hamas rule, since it has brought nothing but death and poverty. But that’s why the leadership of the Islamist terrorist group think it’s all the more important to devote themselves to propaganda that will help justify their ideology of war-to-the-death against Israel. Though their rocket fire against Sderot and other Israeli towns and villages has slowed, they believe their top challenge is to dramatize the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, whose misery is a direct result of being run by a group bent on confrontation with Israel but completely uninterested in giving the people there a better life.

The importance of this “culture of resistance” should not be underestimated. Though Bronner treats the Hamas arts festival as a change of direction for the Palestinians, the last decade of anti-Israel terrorism was fomented in no small part by the official media of the Palestinian Authority, which took over the West Bank and Gaza in 1994. One of the greatest ironies of the Oslo peace process was that it facilitated the indoctrination in hatred and violence of a generation of Palestinian youths. As monitoring organizations such as Palestine Media Watch and MEMRI have shown, the drumbeat of incitement against Jews and Israel on Palestinian TV and radio has been incessant and effective. Children’s shows are particularly vile as they laud suicide bombings and encourage kids to aspire to nothing higher than murdering as many Jews as possible.

Hamas’s current goal is to win greater international sympathy for its cause and undermine the economic boycott of Gaza. The boycott’s goal is to prevent the terrorist group from rearming and to make it plain to its supporters that so long as they allow themselves to be ruled by terrorists, normal relations with the rest of the world are impossible. When Israel withdrew every settler and soldier from the Strip in 2005, Palestinians could have used their new autonomy to build a decent life. Instead, under Hamas’s leadership, they have redoubled their efforts to wage war on Israel. While we would hope that more Palestinians express their disgust with the rocket attacks and Hamas’s decision to sacrifice their own people on the altar of anti-Israel terror, the prospects for change appear dim.

Though Bronner sees as part of a competition to win the sympathy of the world Hamas’s current strategy and Israeli initiatives to lessen the suffering of ordinary Palestinians held hostage by the terrorists, the real key to peace is the race for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. One of the key failures of Middle East peace processors in the past has been ignoring the way both Fatah and Hamas taught hatred and rejection of peace with a Jewish state. President Obama’s obsession with Jewish settlement-building in and outside Jerusalem has shifted the focus away from the real obstacle to peace, which is a Palestinian political culture steeped in martyrdom, violence, and an unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of Israel.