Poster-covered car in the PA.
Poster-covered car in the PA.Israel News Photo: (file)

Fatah-linked community leaders in the PA-controlled city of Jenin slammed the participation of 13 young local musicians aged 11 to 18 in a "Good Deeds Day," held at the Holocaust Survivor's Center in Holon.

The PA politicians made a point of using the issue of the young musicians' performance as a platform upon which to launch a diatribe against participation in any integrative activity with Jewish Israelis.

Observers noted that Palestinian Authority leaders speak to United States officials about the "vision of two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security" but when it comes down to actually allowing their children to participate -- let alone encouraging such activity with Israelis -- they sing a different tune.

Some 30 elderly Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide attended the event in question. They received with quiet courtesy the news that the performance would begin late because the musicians had been held up at a security checkpoint outside their town.

The conductor, 50-year-old Wafa Younis, was later attacked for her efforts towards co-existence, both verbally and in leaflets distributed throughout the area. Members of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction also sealed her apartment and banned her from entering the city. Although a resident of the village of Ara, an Arab village inside Israel, Younis had rented out an apartment locally in Jenin.

More ominously, Abbas's loyalists also filed a complaint with the PA Police against the conductor, claiming she "misled" the young musicians in bringing them to perform at the Israeli concert.

The youths were indeed unaware of who it was they were scheduled to entertain. They later explained, however, that their conductor was unable to make them listen to her description of the audience due to their excited chatter on the bus on the way to the event.

The concert, which opened with the Arabic melody "We Sing for Peace" included musical pieces as well as a song in Hebrew. One song was dedicated by the Israeli Arab conductor to kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The concert, produced by an organization owned by Israeli leftist billionaire Shari Arison, was held as part of the group's annual event.

The performance of the youths, members of the Jenin-based "Strings of Freedom" was roundly criticized by other PA officials as well, including Adnan al-Hinda, director of the local Popular Committee for Services.

Al-Hinda claimed the participation of the youths was meant to "impact the national culture of the young generation and cast doubt about the heroism and resistance of residents of [Jenin] during the Israeli invasion in April 2002."

Jenin politician Ramzi Fayad also slammed the participation of the young musicians, saying "There can be no normalization while Israel is continuing to perpetrate massacres against our people."

PA Fights Tolerance and Co-Existence Among Youth

The prohibition against any form of peaceful co-existence with the rest of the Israel is a familiar theme among PA officials and local Muslim leaders. Israeli Arab leaders Sheikh Ra’ad Salah and MK Jamal Zahalka harangued Israeli Arabs at a rally in October 2007, threatening those who agreed to allow their children to take part in any Israeli national service.

Men from the Bedouin and Druze sector serve in the IDF, and some carry out national service as an alternative to army service. Some non-Bedouin Arabs are also accepted into the army.

A proposal advanced by the government suggesting an alternative national service program for Israeli Arabs was slammed by MK Zahalka, a member of the Balad party, and Salah, head of the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement.

The ban on encouraging any form of peaceful co-existence or tolerance between Israeli Arabs and the rest of the country was reinforced last summer by former Balad party chairman, ex-MK Azmi Bishara, who is a fugitive from justice. The suspected Arab spy addressed a Balad youth convention on the subject via video link from Qatar, calling on the teens not to serve the country and warning them not to participate in any national service with other Israeli youths, claiming it would "erase our identity."

Bishara fled the country in April 2007 just as police were closing in to arrest him on charges of treason, based on evidence that he had passed intelligence information to the Hizbullah terrorist organization during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.