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Israel has an incitement problem

Israeli politicians and pundits make sure to talk about Palestinian incitement at every opportunity. Rarely do we ever hear about Israeli incitement that denies both Palestinian history and present reality.

By Yoni Mendel

Right-wing nationalists attacking left-wing activists during a protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists, with little police interference. Three activists were injured and one right-wing person was arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists attacking left-wing activists during a protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists, with little police interference. Three activists were injured and one right-wing person was arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In Israeli public discourse, the phrase “Palestinian incitement” makes an appearance time and again. One can hear it in the news by members of both the coalition and the opposition, it is seen as an immutable fact by pundits, and it is highly prioritized by analysts at various think tanks. Suffice it to say that much of this incitement focuses on delegitimizing Israel and rejecting its existence.

Here are just a few examples of “Palestinian incitement” from the past month: after a fatal vehicular attack in Jerusalem, an Israeli think tank, Palestinian Media Watch, concluded that the attack stemmed from Palestinian incitement against Israel. In January three Israeli parliamentarians, Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu), Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), and Amir Ohana (Likud), along with the International Legal Forum, led a hearing in the Knesset’s Education, Culture, and Sports Committee on incitement in Palestinian textbooks in East Jerusalem. That same month, MK Aliza Levi (Yesh Atid) led a Knesset hearing on incitement in UNRWA’s Palestinian schools. Members of the Center for Middle East Research presented the report they wrote on the issue.

That report, compile by Dr. Arnon Gross and Dr. Roni Shaked, was celebrated by Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Ben-Dror Yemini, after he claimed that it served as proof that education at UNRWA’s schools was “close in spirit to Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.” Furthermore, after the terror attack in Petah Tikva last month, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called to “fight against Palestinian incitement.” Following President Trump’s press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) said that “Palestinians need to stop the incitement.” In other words: in Israel today, public officials, the media, and research centers focus on a single topic that seems never to disappear: “Palestinian incitement.”

Ultra-Orthodox Jews mourn at a funeral for Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, who was killed during in a vehicular attack by a Palestinian, West Jerusalem, October 13, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews mourn at a funeral for Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, who was killed during in a vehicular attack by a Palestinian, West Jerusalem, October 13, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Let’s take a look at Israel for a moment. One can easily find quotes from academic studies that focus on Israeli denial of both Palestinian reality and history. However, instead of deepening the discussion on studies conducted on “Palestinian incitement,” I will provide a few tangible examples of Israeli denial that caught my eye. It is no coincidence that these examples represent major institutions and figures in the government.

A few months ago, the Foreign Ministry released an official English-language hasbara video that tells the story of the history of this country. According to the ministry, history began with the biblical figures Jacob and Rachel, who were followed by a series of foreign occupiers — including the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, and the British. After that, somewhere in the first half of the 20th century, came the Palestinians. Without batting an eyelid, the Foreign Ministry turned the Palestinians into strangers in their own land, who arrived here shortly after the British.

Last month, the Education Ministry launched a video campaign titled, “One People, That’s the Whole Story,” with the goal of implementing the conclusions of the Bitton Committee, which sought to strengthen the heritage of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews. These videos feature different cultural icons who speak about their family members in Arab countries. Every time a country is mentioned, its map appears on the screen. And so, when famed Israeli singer Kobi Oz talks about the development town Sderot or Likud MK Jackie Levy speaks about the wave of immigration of Bukhari Jes to Jerusalem, a familiar map appears. It includes Israel, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the West Bank — all under the name “Israel.” In 2007 the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee decided that the Green Line would not appear in Israeli textbooks. The Education Ministry is only continuing that trend.

A map published by the Israeli ‘Government Advertising Agency.’ If the same map had been used by Palestinian Ministry of Education with the title 'Palestine,’ Israeli authorities would surely have complained about incitement, illegitemacy, hatred, terror and more.

The map from the Israeli Education Ministry video. If the same map had been used by Palestinian Ministry of Education with the title ‘Palestine,’ Israeli authorities would surely have complained about incitement, illegitimacy, hatred, terror and more.

Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) has also made a number of outrageous remarks. For example, two months ago he stated that he does not believe Netanyahu’s controversial statement that “Arabs are coming out in droves to the pools” was problematic, and that Bitan himself would prefer that Arabs not vote at all. Two weeks ago Bitan said that he does not think we should be speaking about a Palestinian “state,” instead suggesting an alternative phrase: “A Palestinian entity minus.”

Just a few weeks ago, Justice Minister Ayeled Shaked spoke at a conference put on by the newspaper B’Sheva, praising Prime Minister Netanyahu as he left for Washington D.C. to meet with Trump. “We must make the whole world recognize our legitimate presence in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” she said.

This needs to be our goal and it must be said. We are here to remain here: in Gush Etzion and Gush Dan, in Hebron and Holon, in Kiryat Arba and Kiryat Shmona. This may be declarative, but the world must clearly hear from us what are Israel’s borders […] our victory will begin when everyone knows that we will be here, in all parts of the State of Israel, from the sea until the Jordan river, forever.

What would happen should the Palestinian Education Ministry decide to launch an official campaign that presents the map of the country with the name “Palestine,” without borders? What would happen should the Palestinian Foreign Ministry launch an official campaign according to which Palestinians had always lived in this country, and that the Jews arrived here — foreigners just like the British — only a century ago? Or what if a Palestinian parliamentarian refuses to treat Israel as a state, calling it an “Israeli entity minus.” What would happen should the Palestinian Justice Minister say that “We are here, in Ramallah and Nazareth, in Nablus and Sakhnin, in Jenin and Jaffa […] our victory will begin when everyone knows that we will be here, in all parts of the State of Palestinian, from the sea until the Jordan river, forever.”

It doesn’t take much to imagine. If we translate the remarks made by Israeli decision makers to Palestinian-Arabic, we wouldn’t have to wait long before the Israeli choir begins singing the same, worn out “Palestinian incitement” tune.

“Palestinian incitement” has turned into a winning code that lies at the heart of the Israeli discourse on Palestinians. I am not claiming that Palestinians are so innocent, but I do hope to glean two pieces of insight from the way Israel treats the situation in the Palestinian Authority. Firstly, the two nations struggling over this land often treat it as if it is all theirs. Secondly, the next time a researcher, analyst, or member of Knesset wants to talk about “Palestinian incitement,” he or she should begin with a full disclosure. For instance: “In addition to growing Israeli incitement that rejects the existence of Palestine — on the internet, in schools, in the parliament, and in the government, we are also bearing witness to a form of incitement that is not so different in Palestine against Israel.”

If we do not dare to look at ourselves in the mirror, we will never be able to see our own incitement against the Palestinians.

Yoni Mendel is the projects manager of the Mediterranean Unit at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and co-editor of the book review section of the Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS). This article was first published in Hebrew by the Forum for Regional Thinking. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. i_like_ike52

      Abbas has called on his fellow Palestinians to kill dirty-feeted Jews. Abbas honors mass killers who target civilians. Of course, HAMAS revels in violence and calls for it every day. It takes a lot of gall to compare the Israeli “incitement” mentioned here to what the Arabs do. For heavens’ sake, look at the reveling in violence of the various Muslim sects and Arab clans who are butchering each other in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, today and similar mutual slaughter in Lebanon and Algeria in recent years.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Your Deputy Defense Minister declares that Arabs are “animals” (dirty-feeted by definition if you ask me) and that “a Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.” But no big deal, right? It takes a lot of gall to remind you of this? You can engage in your signature whataboutism, but your Justice Minister’s words, translated to Palestinian-Arabic, as Yoni Mendel has interestingly done, would prompt paroxysms of sputtering outrage (and joy*) and self-righteous condemnation from your media and several contributors here.

        *As they reveled in the opportunity bestowed on them to create fake “existential threats”:
        http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/08/the-new-existential-threat/

        Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        http://www.7amleh.org/en/article/106

        The research reveals that 60,000 Israeli internet users wrote at least one post containing either racism or hatred towards Arabs and Palestinians 7amleh identified 675,000 racist or provocative posts against Arabs on social networks, which were uploaded at the rate of one post every 46 seconds throughout 2016. The majority of these posts were on Facebook. The number of posts more than

        Reply to Comment
    2. Zioni

      A Two Citizenships Solution vs. a Jewish-Arab State :

      A two states solution is meaningless without changing citizenship of Israeli Arabs .
      Israeli Arabs obtained Israeli citizenship illegally and against international law.
      Unfortunately, Israel long ago became a bi-national , it’s an incubator for Arab people.
      Jews will not survive in a bi-national state.
      Israel must stop to impose Israeli citizenship to the hostile nation.

      Immediately after the establishment of a new Arab state west of the Jordan River ( or return Jordanian rule ), the Arabs of Haifa, Nazareth, Lod, Galilee, Negev, Jerusalem etc. must become citizens of their new (old) state.
      If the Jews do not want to continue to live in a bi-national state, and within a generation become a minority in Israel, they must prepare for a referendum (as in Scotland) based on the UN resolution to divide Palestine for Jews and Arabs.

      Fatah-Hamas government requires land free of Jews.
      Therefore, Israeli demands are legitimate and forced:
      1. To divide National Insurance for Jews and Arabs, by forming the funds from taxes collected separately from Jews and Arabs.
      2. To employ only the Arabs, who will replace Israeli citizenship to the status of Israel’s residents.
      3. Deductions from wages ( income tax and health tax) of Arab residents to transfer to the Palestinian Authority , of course along with responsibility for health, education , jobs and pensions to all Arabs who wish to remain in Israel.

      It’s possible to separate from the Arabs by the law, as the Irish and the British, as the Czechs and the Slovaks or as the Greeks and the Turks in Cyprus .
      First to separate economically and then geographically.
      Palestinian citizenship to the Arabs, Israeli citizenship to the Jews.
      Two Nations – Two States – Two Citizenships !

      http://f3.s.qip.ru/nhEFBQpa.jpg

      Reply to Comment

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