Last week, the Israeli government sought to focus the world’s attention on one of the chief obstacles to peace in the Middle East: Palestinian incitement aimed at fomenting hatred of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. The report detailed the way the Palestinian Authority uses its official media, school textbooks, as well as the influence of many of its leaders to reinforce the notion that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state irrespective of its borders. The hate that is routinely broadcast on Palestinian television, published in its newspapers, or taught in schools seeks to demonize Jews and inculcate the notion that they are evil and have no rights to any part of the country. In doing so, the PA—which is supposed to be Israel’s partner for peace—doesn’t merely exacerbate an already tense situation but also sows the seeds of future conflict by teaching new generations to hate their Jewish neighbors.
Unfortunately, the reaction from the United States and much of the international media to this information was apathetic if not one of complete indifference. While some try to draw a false moral equivalence between official Palestinian government hate speech and honors for terrorist murderers on the one hand and stray comments by a tiny minority of Israelis who express hate for Arabs on the other, American officials and media pundits determined to place the blame for the lack of peace on the Jewish state simply ignore the subject. As was the case in the 1990s when both the United States and the Israeli government turned a blind eye to the incitement carried out by the newly empowered PA in the wake of the Oslo Accords, most peace processers treat talk about Palestinian incitement as a distraction from the real issues. Anything that diverts attention from attempts to pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians is seen as off the point, if not a destructive effort to derail peace.
But the issue of incitement isn’t limited to hate speech on Palestinian TV or in textbooks. As today’s New York Times reports, the PA’s rivals in Gaza have managed to put their even more extreme program of hate into action. The Hamas government there used the winter break for its schools to enroll more than 13,000 youngsters at terrorist training mini-camps throughout the Gaza Strip. The recruitment of school-age children in this manner is child abuse on a massive scale as well as a potential war crime. But just as important, it is a sign that the issue of incitement isn’t so much a theoretical problem as a literal guarantee of endless war.
The Futwaa program is funded by the Hamas Education Ministry and focuses on teaching boys and young teenagers the finer points about the use of weapons, street fighting (in which civilians are used as human shields), and ferreting out Palestinians who might give information to Israel. This massive effort not only prepares children for future service in the so-called military wing of Hamas, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which supervises the Futwaa camps, but also enables them to intensify the hate education about Israel and Jews that is already integral to public education in Gaza. As the Times notes, Hamas officials are pleased with the results and are thinking about expanding their program:
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, told Futwaa participants at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday in Gaza City that theirs was “the generation that will achieve the liberation and independence” of Palestine. Suggesting that the program would soon be provided for girls as well, Mr. Haniya predicted that Israel would face “a Palestinian generation that weakness knows no way into their hearts.”
One participant, Osama Shehada, 15, said he wanted to study physical engineering to learn how to make bombs and explosives to target Israel.
Lest there be any confusion about what this indoctrination consists of, by “liberation and independence” of Palestine, Hamas isn’t referring to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem that is supposed to be the solution to the conflict. When they say “liberation” that means “liberating” all of Israel, including those areas inside the June 1967 lines, from its Jewish population–which is to say exterminating the Jews. That the Times article refers to Hamas using bases evacuated by Israel in 2005 in an effort to separate the two peoples and therefore achieve peace for these camps is a cruel but telling irony.
Instead of ignoring Israeli efforts to focus on incitement, Secretary of State John Kerry should be paying close attention to the issue. While a solution that would create two states for two peoples regardless of the borders would be something an overwhelming majority of Israelis would happily accept, Palestinian educators, both in the West Bank governed by PA “moderates” and in Hamas-run Gaza, have ensured that most Palestinians would reject any such deal. Until a sea change in Palestinian culture occurs that would allow their leaders to make peace, all efforts to craft a compromise to resolve the conflict are doomed to fail.