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      Op-Ed: The Problem is More Than Just Arafat

      Published: Wednesday, September 24, 2003 5:59 PM
      Palestinian Arab children are raised to hate. The official text books in Palestinian Authority-run schools teach that Jews are "evil racists," "treacherous," "enemies of the Prophets," and that suicide bombers who murder Jews are "heroes" and "martyrs."


      Yasser Arafat is a career terrorist and a war criminal, and the United States and Israel are right in refusing to deal with him. But many people seem to be under the illusion that if Arafat leaves the scene, peace will ensue. In fact, the central obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is the culture of anti-Jewish hatred and violence that envelops the entire Palestinian Arab society, including its educational system, its media, and the Palestinian Authority's cabinet ministers and parliament members.

      Palestinian Arab children are raised to hate. The official text books in Palestinian Authority-run schools teach that Jews are "evil racists," "treacherous," "enemies of the Prophets," and that suicide bombers who murder Jews are "heroes" and "martyrs."

      The problem is not just the schools, but the parents, as well. Again and again, the parents of suicide bombers have declared how proud they are that their children chose to become "martyrs" and how they hope their other children will follow suit. After the death of suicide bomber Mahmud Alabat last year, his mother declared: "My son's martyrdom is for me a source of pride... When I said goodbye, I asked him not to be afraid against the Jews, as they are cowards, that he prepare his weapons well, that he kill as many as he can and leave none alive." And who can forget the horrifying photograph, last year, of a Palestinian Arab toddler dressed as a suicide bomber? (New York Times, June 29, 2002)

      In a popular Palestinian Arab children's outdoor game, one child stands next to his friend and says, "Strap me." The "engineer" then straps a toy explosives belt onto his friend, under his shirt or robe. The two of them then hug each other, and the "suicide bomber" then turns towards a bus or a group of his friends, screams "Allah is great!" and presses a button. The children jump and fall on his right and left from the force of the "explosion." The game ends only when all the children have had their turn at being the bomber, wearing the vest and pressing the button.

      Summer recess offers no recess from Jew-hatred. In Palestinian Authority-run summer camps, children receive weapons training, stage skits in which they kidnap and murder Israelis, and sing songs about destroying Israel and replacing it with "Palestine."

      In their mosques, the Palestinian Arab masses listen to sermons of hate. PA-appointed clergymen teach them that they have a religious obligation, as Muslims, to wage jihad, or Muslim holy war, against Jews and Israel. A typical sermon, delivered by Sheikh Ibrahim Abu-Awkal at the Ijlin Mosque in Gaza last year, urged the Arabs masses to "cleanse the land from the filth of the Jews."

      PA Television frequently broadcasts videos that reinforce this message of Islamic-based hatred. One such video features an actor portraying a Palestinian Arab man who is captured while attacking Israelis. As Israelis prepare to kill him, he is greeted by a large group of beautiful young Arab women (actresses) who smile alluringly and beckon to him. He is then shown smiling in paradise while the women caress him. The video is usually aired in the afternoon hours, for maximum viewing by Palestinian Arab children.

      The PA-controlled newspapers, television, and radio pump out a constant flood of hatred. This incitement in the PA media has been so severe and unrelenting that the President of the Union of American Hebrew [Reform] Congregations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, protested what he called the "anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi language in the Palestinian media."

      The maps used in PA schools, in the PA media, in official PA offices, and even on the t-shirts worn in summer camps show all of Israel as "Palestine." The goal of destroying Israel is not some theory or far-off dream. It is the living, breathing reality of everyday Palestinian Arab society.

      Speeches by PA officials, which are then broadcast on PA Television and Radio, reinforce the message of hate. PA Cabinet Minister Imad Falouji, for example, declared on PA TV last year that "Jewish nature does not sanction peace or stability... The Jewish nation, it is known, from the dawn of history, from the time Allah created them, lives by scheme and deceit." (Jerusalem Post, August 12, 2002)

      Is it any wonder that after being fed on this constant diet of hatred, polls find that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs support violence against Israel? Polls have consistently found from two-thirds to three-quarters of Palestinian Arabs support suicide bombings against Israel. A poll earlier this year by the Gaza-based Palestinian Society for Culture, Science, and Development found 70% of Palestinian Arabs support the continuation of suicide bombings. In March 2002, the number was 64.3%; in April 2001, it was 73.7%.

      Getting rid of Yasser Arafat is one very small step in addressing a much bigger problem. An entire generation of Palestinian Arabs has been raised to idolize and emulate Arafat. Giving them Israeli land or American money will not solve the problem; in fact, it will have the opposite effect, by sending a message to them that they need not change their ways. Like German society after World War II, Palestinian Arab society will require a lengthy and intensive period of de-Nazification, to wean them away from their hatred and violence. What they need is years and years of education towards peace, democracy, and coexistence. That, ultimately, is the only hope for a durable and meaningful peace in the Middle East.