Commentary Magazine

A Pop Culture That Fuels Jew Hatred

Image by © Mohammad Alhaj/NurPhoto/Corbis

The latest wave of Palestinian terrorism continues to take its toll of Israeli dead and injured this week with stabbings, shootings, fire bombings and attempts to run over Jewish pedestrians. That means millions of Jews in Jerusalem and the West Bank, not to mention cities throughout the country where attacks have occurred, remain on alert. But Israelis aren’t getting much sympathy these days no matter what the Palestinians do.

Though the violence is being driven by lies about mythical Jewish plans to destroy the Temple Mount mosques, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization voted this week to condemn Israeli “aggression” in Jerusalem while determining that various Jewish shrines throughout the country were solely Muslim. UNESCO gave official sanction to the blood libels fueling a new holy war as well as condemning Israel because so many of the terrorists attacking Jews were killed before they could stab or shoot more of them. Yet until now, relatively little attention has been given to the way Palestinian popular culture has embraced not so much a new wave of nationalism as a spirit of blood lust. But while a front-page article in today’s New York Times devoted to the topic was, in that sense, a breakthrough, it was perhaps to be expected that the only critical notes about this dismaying trend in the piece concerned the poor musical quality of the hit tunes extolling murder.

While the violent and hate-driven nature of Palestinian pop culture is not a surprise to anyone who follows the subject on essential websites that monitor the Muslim world like and Palestine Media Watch, this is news to the readers of the Times, who are more accustomed to articles that paint Israeli society in the worst possible light. But the fact that the top hits of the day among Palestinians are titled “Stab, stab,” or “Run Over, Run Over the Settler,” ought to give even Americans who tend to idealize attacks on Israelis as a legitimate form of protest pause.

The article correctly points out that popular music is integral to spreading the message that killing random Jews with knives or by any other means is a laudable activity. Some of the artists tell the Times that their goal is only to get Palestinians to stand up for their rights. But it’s hard to see how pulling a knife and stabbing ordinary Israelis will do that. That’s especially true when you recall, as Times articles never do, that the Palestinian leadership has rejected several Israeli offers of statehood and independence that would have given them control over almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Indeed, the focus on the mosques on the Temple Mount, a standard theme of Palestinian leaders dating back, as I noted earlier today, to Hitler’s Palestinian ally, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, is a reminder that the real issue for the Palestinians isn’t borders or settlements but the Jewish presence anywhere in the land. In their eyes, the “settler” that the song wants to run over can be a resident of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem as much as a Jew living in a West Bank settlement.

Nor is there any divide within Palestinian society between those urging peaceful protest and those cheering murder. As the Times points out, a Palestinian, who won the “Arab Idol” television song contest and was appointed a United Nations goodwill ambassador, released a new song this past week that specifically references stabbing incidents in Jerusalem and Afula. The common denominator that runs between these more sophisticated offerings and more crude efforts is the shedding of Jewish blood and willingness to glorify anyone who kills Jews as a hero whether it is a youngster with a knife or Hamas fighters launching rockets at Israeli cities.

The response to this lamentable situation from Israel’s critics is to blame the victims and to urge Israel to redouble its efforts to make peace and thus ally the anger that is driving this culture of hate. Yet prospects for such gestures are not bright. While Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has been one of the chief inciters of the violence, refuses to accept Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s offer of negotiations without preconditions, there have been some efforts to defuse tensions over the Temple Mount. Despite the lies Abbas has spread, Israel has pledged not to change the status quo at that holy site which keeps it under the culture of a Muslim Wakf and discriminates against Jews by forbidding non-Muslim prayer. But in order to calm the disturbances Abbas caused, the PA and Jordan are now demanding that the status quo be altered to make all visits to the holiest site in Judaism contingent on Muslim approval. In other words, their goal is to render the area Jew-free.

That same sentiment was reflected in the original text of the UNESCO resolution passed this week that treated the Western Wall as part of the Al Aqsa mosque and a Muslim place with no Jewish connection. While that offensive clause was eliminated, the final resolution passed by an overwhelming vote still omitted any reference to the fact that the Temple Mount or Jerusalem is linked to Jewish history and faith and declared shrines such as Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs to be similarly without a Jewish connection.

What has this to do with Palestinian popular songs? Plenty.

Both reflect a view of the conflict that has nothing to do with disputes about borders or settlements that we are constantly told is what is making the Palestinians so angry. In the eyes of those making claims on Jewish holy places at the United Nations as well as the composers of Palestinian snuff songs, or those taking up knives, guns, and firebombs to slaughter, the conflict is a zero-sum game. Their goal is the same as that of Palestinian nationalists in the time of the Mufti of Jerusalem: Reverse the history of the last century and end the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty over any part of the country. Just as Abbas won’t accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, the people hearing his lies about the Temple Mount who go out to murder aren’t killing for the sake of a better border.

Withdrawals from territory or even concessions in Jerusalem won’t satisfy this blood lust any more than a withdrawal of every settler, soldier, and settlement from Gaza prevented it from being turned into a terrorist state run by Hamas. The reality of this culture of hate isn’t easy to accept for those who prefer to believe Abbas really is a man of peace and that a two-state solution is viable. But it remains the real obstacle to peace. Perhaps someday, when Palestinians pop culture is no longer dominated by anti-Semitic visions of Jewish blood, that solution will be possible. But until then, those urging Israel to weaken itself to appease those singing such songs are doing no favors to the Palestinians or the Jewish state. Rather than encourage more violence with actions like the UNESCO resolution, the world would do better to tell the Palestinians to sober up and realize their only path to empowerment must begin by renouncing violence and hate.

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