Incitement:  The Engine Driving Global Terrorism, Part I
Incitement: The Engine Driving Global Terrorism, Part I

First  Step  Towards  Eradicating  Terrorism  –   Zero Tolerance for Incitement

The Muslim-Arab world fans the flames of hatred and violence against Israel, and against the United States and Westerners as a whole. Directly responsible for inciting terrorism and unleashing its lethal genie, Muslim-Arab leaders have produced uncontrollable, hard-to-detect mobile homicide bombers, a low-tech delivery system ready to attack anyone, anywhere, anytime.

In our high-tech world, terrorists have become the ultimate low-tech weapon of mass destruction, whether they are armed with belts packed with explosives or, in a worst-case scenario, carrying lethal biological (or chemical weapons) capable of spreading death and disease worldwide.[1]   The growing wave of terror thwarts peace in the Middle East and threatens the lives of Westerners throughout the world, from the heart of Manhattan to remote islands like Bali. Terrorism kills innocent victims everywhere and on all sides.

Political and religious incitement play a crucial role in mobilizing and motivating Palestinian suicide bombers. After the horrendous 2002 suicide bombing of a Passover Seder in a Netanya hotel, Fouad Ajami, a Middle East scholar at Johns Hopkins University, wrote:

“The suicide bomber of the Passover massacre did not descend from the sky; he walked straight out of the culture of incitement let loose on the land, a menace hovering over Israel, a great Palestinian and Arab refusal to let that country be, to cede it a place among the nations, he partook of the culture all around him – the glee [that] greets those brutal deeds of terror, the cult that rises around the martyrs and their families.” [2]

Despite pledges to renounce violence against Israel, Arab leaders continue to incite, inflame and encourage Palestinians to pin every problem they face as individuals and as a society on Israel. This strategy of channeling frustrations into hatred and the desire for revenge against Israel is adopted both by Israel’s immediate Palestinian neighbors and Arab leaders throughout the Muslim-Arab world. Arab leaders lend support to the Palestinian cause with money and a combination of anti-Israeli and anti-American messages from government- controlled media outlets and educational systems. Sermons that legitimize violence in the name of Islam are encouraged, delivered by extremists throughout Muslim countries and in free countries in the West.

The Role of the Intelligentsia

Equally troubling is the role of the Arab intelligentsia, particularly in Egypt and Jordan, where Westerners expected Arabs and Jews to achieve a degree of reconciliation.

Considered the cultural movers and shakers of Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian society, the Arab intellectual elite show an unwillingness to create a climate for peace.[3] Professor Shlomo Avineri, a former scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who examined the statements of two key Palestinian legislators, found them to be filled with “vitriolic language.”[4]

What  does  this  mean?  It  suggests,  writes  Avineri,  that  Oslo  has  not  really changed the Arab view of Israel as a colonialist, imperialist, foreign and illegitimate entity:

“If  this  is  the  language  of  the  leadership and  the  intellectual  elite,  one  can imagine the venom that percolates down to the street level. … One cannot have peace between diplomats and armies when this is not internalized by a country’s writers, intellectuals and poets. … Peace is too serious a matter to be left only to generals and lawyers.”[5]

Beyond their writings, the intelligentsia refuses to establish ties with Israelis, and they boycott the few colleagues who dare to favor normalized relations by expelling them from professional organizations. They organize hate campaigns against Israel, such as the Jordan-based Anti-Normalization Committee, with 130,000 members, which operates, ironically, under the aegis of the Jordanian Arab Organization for Human Rights. They blacklist those who deal with Israel and  the  professional  organizations  enforce  the  boycott.  The  Jordanian Journalists  Association  disciplined  three  members  for  traveling  to  Israel  to interview officials.

Another organization sued a lawyer who attended a reception at the  Israeli Embassy. A third group threatened to expel dentists who treat Israeli patients. A fourth expelled a theater director from the Jordanian Artists Union for establishing ties with Israelis. And lastly, the Jordan Engineers Union refused to recognize degrees from Israeli universities.[6]

According to Tel Aviv University scholars, since 1999, Egypt’s anti-normalization efforts have grown more aggressive and widespread as the elite began to view the Arab-Israeli conflict as an existential rather than territorial conflict that threatens Egyptian society and culture.

In May 2001, the Union of Egyptian Writers expelled the celebrated playwright, Ali Salem, for his pro-normalization stance. A series of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic novels and tele-novellas have been published and broadcasted. Diplomats, officials and ministers who deal with Israel are branded ‘dupes’ and ‘traitors.’ Joint agricultural ventures with Israel have been marred by accusations that Israeli agronomists introduce varieties and methods that cause cancer, AIDS, and tuberculosis.[7]

Government elites are no more hospitable to peace initiatives designed to create a climate of peaceful co-existence: in May 2004 film director Nabil Abdel-Alim applied for permission to establish an association designed to promote communication between Egyptians and Israelis. The Ministry of Social Affairs, which  oversees  Egypt's  civil  society,  refused  his  application  for  a  license  to operate as an NGO. When Abdel-Alim appealed to the judicial system, the Egyptian court rejected the establishment of an Egyptian-Israeli Association, saying Arabs do not need "false friendship.”[8]

The Effect of Indoctrination

These anti-Israeli actions have a profound impact on generations of Arabs fed a steady diet of poison-filled propaganda. Arab opinion polls find there is little desire for peace with Israel. Survey after survey shows that the majority of those polled believed the Arab-Israeli conflict should continue; and in most cases over

50 percent want Israel to eventually disappear from the Middle Eastern map.[9]

But those polls also signify more worrisome effects. Arab incitement, now broadened  to  include  anti-Western  sentiments,  as  well  as  anti-Israeli  and anti-Semitic sentiments, is producing the greatest threat to the civilized world since World War II.

For non-Arabic speakers, it is hard to grasp just how pervasive the propaganda is in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and throughout the Arab world. It is omnipresent: in state-controlled media outlets, in schools and mosques, at rallies, in speeches and articles.[10]

Whether in print, music, religious sermons, or on the radio, television and walls, the propaganda that incites permeates the refugee camps, villages and towns on the West Bank and Gaza. It touches those in radical Islamic schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. All who watch Arab-controlled television and movies, read state-controlled newspapers and government-controlled schoolbooks are affected by hate-filled propaganda.[11]

The terror that struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 was the grim harvest of a climate of violence actively supported or passively accepted  by  Arab  leaders  –  radicals  and  moderates alike  –  and  was  not  the solitary  act  of  a  renegade  or  a  madman  plotting  with  a  handful  of  ardent followers.

Terrorism against Israel and the West has reached epidemic proportions. Since September 11, not a day goes by when new terrorist attacks, failed attempts, or plots in Europe, the United States, Africa, and Asia go unreported. Those attacks have captured not just the imagination [12]  and support [13]  of the radical fringe, but of rank-and-file Arabs as well. Palestinian Arabs danced in the streets after September 11, just as they shouted with glee from the rooftops when Iraqi SCUD missiles smashed into Tel Aviv during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

as Incitement

One of the most deplorable methods of incitement is the fatwa – an Islamic ruling that has turned into a vehicle for generating support for and sanctioning mass murder. Fatwas issued over recent decades sanctify suicide bombers’ deaths, although Islam specifically prohibits suicide. The distinction drawn is between those who commit suicide for selfish reasons, and those who commit suicide to become shahids (martyrs) “for the sake of the Arab nation.” A new series of special fatwas permits and encourages women to blow themselves up, in a highly patriarchal Arab society that discourages women from leaving their homes to do anything – work, drive, or even shop – for reasons of modesty.

Most alarming is the changing nature of fatwas. Not long ago, clerics who issued fatwas  that  sanctioned  suicide  bombings  were  linked  with  dissident organizations and did so secretly, according to the London-based Arabic paper Al-Hayat. Today, well-known sheikhs openly issue fatwas, which “are made public in the press, on television and on the Internet, as if [they were] a religious duty. Religious authorities compete amongst themselves, issuing fatwas permitting the killing of people, groups and nations.”[14]

Sheik Muhammad Sayed Tantawi is a key Egyptian cleric from Al-Azhar University and is highly regarded by Palestinians. When he met with Arab members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), he sanctified suicide bombing as an act of martyrdom. Tantawi called for “intensify[ing] the martyrdom operations [i.e., suicide attacks] against the Zionist enemy,” and described the martyrdom as “the highest form of Jihad operations.” He emphasized that every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teenagers, is a legitimate  act  according  to  [Islamic]  religious  law  and  an  Islamic commandment.[15]

Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi is a television personality on the popular Arabic network, Al-Jazeera. He is also among the most influential clerics in Sunni Islam (the sect to which Palestinians belong). In July 2003, he convened a meeting in Sweden devoted to suicide bombings and the kinds of terror he said were permitted under Islamic law. In a carefully reasoned ruling, the sheikh enthusiastically endorsed “martyrdom operations” against Israelis as “a unique weapon that Allah has placed only in the hands of the men of belief.”[16 ]The Palestinian Authority itself appoints and pays the wages of some of the most rabid   clerics   and   broadcasts   their   incendiary   sermons   on   PA-controlled television.

Public opposition to this phenomenon of religious leaders who openly sanction murder as a political weapon is limited and muted.


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1 Ironically, Arafat sent a six-page private memorandum to President George W. Bush and Arab capitals outlining his own ‘plan for reform’ in the hopes of neutralizing calls for his dismissal. Among the things Arafat said he would do was ‘renounce fanaticism in the educational curricula’ – in essence a confession he had been peddling fanaticism for the past decade. See Harold Evans, “The anti-Semitic lies that threaten all of us,” The Times, June 28, 2002 at: (11264)

2 Quoted in Irwin Cotler, “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness: Sounding the Alarm,” March 10,

2003 at: (11615)

3 This has included not only refusing to establish ties with Israelis, but also boycotting the few colleagues who have been pro-normalization and expelling them from professional organizations, while often generating hatred of Israel in their own activities.

4 Citing Palestinian Legislative Council Member Hanan Ashrawi and economic Planning Minister Nabil Sha’at.

5 Shlomo Avineri, “The price of a cold peace,” Jerusalem Post, October 13, 2000 at: (11616)

6 For details of the Anti-Normalization Committee, see a series of news briefs on Arabic website, at: (11266) See also the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University, overview of Arab Countries at: (11618)

7 “Egypt’s Opposition Press Attacks Peace Activists,” MEMRI, May 12, 2000 at: (11267) For details of Ali’s expulsion, see Middle East Quarterly (Winter 2002).

8 Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2004, quoting the Associated Press, Cairo, Egypt.


10 Palestinian Media Watch, 2006; hate and incitement. See: bulletins new.htm. (11643) For translations of Arabic media content, see the Middle

East Media Research Institute at:

11 For a study on images of the West, Christians, and Jews in Saudi Arabian textbooks, (and other studies of portrayal of Jews, Israel, and Zionism in Palestinian Syrian, and Saudi-Arabian schoolbooks), see the reports of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace at: For a brief summary of differences between Israeli and PA textbooks,

see: (11160)

12 Numerous Arab papers chose to mark the first anniversary of 9/11 with anti-American and anti-Jewish caricatures suggesting the Jews profited from the WTC and America was a ‘loose cannon.’ See “On 9/11

Anniversary, Newspapers in Arab World Blame Jews and America for Attacks,” ADL, September 9, 2002 at: (11272)

13 A full 68 percent of those interviewed supported suicide bombing operations. See: (10437)

14 “Al-Afif Al-Akhahdar, The Role of Fatwas in Incitement to Terrorism,” Al-Hayat, excerpts translated by

MEMRI, January 18, 2002, at: (11281)

15 Leading Egyptian Government Cleric Calls For: 'Martyrdom Attacks that Strike Horror into the Hearts of the Enemies of Allah,’ MEMRI, April 7, 2002, at: (11619)

Jaffee  Center  for Strategic Studies.