Incitement: The oxygen keeping the conflict alive
By demonising Jews and Israelis and portraying them as killers, thieves and liars, Abbas is entrenching a mindset of war among his people
John Kerry clearly believes that Israel is the prime villain in the peace talks with the Palestinians. Earlier this month, he delivered a withering blast at the Netanyahu administration for what he perceived to be its inflexible approach to the negotiations.
In his very public outburst on Israeli television, he slammed settlements as 'illegitimate' and warned of impending violence if a deal was not reached.
"Does Israel want a third Intifada?”, he asked somewhat ominously, before adding: “The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos". For chaos read Hamas, rockets and suicide bombings.
Kerry's words were poorly chosen for two reasons. He suggested that Israelis would only have themselves to blame for future attacks, and that they would be responsible for radicalisation in the West Bank. He was also giving the Palestinians a green light to remain intransigent and unflinching in their demands, safe in the knowledge that they could blame settlement activity if the talks collapsed.
Kerry need not have issued his dire warning. Palestinian violence has already begun to engulf these talks after a series of lethal attacks in recent weeks. On 13th November, 18-year-old Private Eden Atias was brutally stabbed to death by a young Palestinian on a bus in Afula.
This frenzied attack followed the murders of 20 year old Sergeant Tomer Hazan and Sergeant Gal Gabriel Kobi by Palestinians, as well as the fatal assault on retired Colonel Sariya Ofer in Brosh Habika.
In addition, a 9-year-old Israeli girl, Noam Glick, was shot and wounded by a sniper last month. Fatah's response to the targeting of a child was telling. On its Facebook page, they saw fit to praise the sniper, declaring that 'he left a signature of (real) men'.
Anyone but a fool can see that there is a direct link between these horrific crimes and the incessant outpouring of hate from the Palestinian Authority. Due to the invaluable work of groups like Palestine Media Watch, we know what Fatah routinely says about Jews and Israelis, and it does not make for pleasant reading.
Palestinian imams describe Jews as 'the sons of apes and pigs' and praise the hadith which calls for them to be killed. As if to make the point, terrorists are then glorified on Palestinian television, lauded as 'martyrs' for their crimes. Among those receiving adulation is Dalal Mughrabi, a Fatah operative who participated in the murder of 38 Israelis in 1978.
Then there are the grotesque libels, among them that Israel spreads AIDS, poisons Palestinian prisoners, steals organs, and seeks to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque.
The PA underpins these lies by promoting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is seen to offer proof of world Jewry's 'sinister designs'. Holocaust denial has also become a feature of Palestinian discourse.
At the very least, this poisonous hatred is destroying any opportunity for mutual recognition and reconciliation. After all, why reach an accommodation with those you have been trained to hate? At worst, it provides a lethal spur to acts of murderous violence.
Hate speech legitimises these heinous crimes in the eyes of Palestinians. It makes them believe that no Israeli is innocent and that engaging in terrorism offers instant cult status.
As proof that terror pays, the PA has just given at least $50,000 to the prisoners recently freed by Israel. This is further proof of how Palestinian society venerates those who destroy lives, not those who seek to create peace.
Of course, incitement can occur on both sides. There are occasional anti-Arab outbursts from some Israeli figures which are also reprehensible. But these are usually not mainstream voices and their views are swiftly (and rightly) condemned. Like any other democracy, Israel also has laws against incitement to racism and violence.
Moreover, most Israelis are prepared for some form of territorial compromise and support disengagement, provided that it does not jeopardise national security.
If only the same was true on the Palestinian side. Opinion polls consistently show that support for a two state solution is predicated on continuing terrorism as part of the PLO's phased plan.
It is not hard to understand why. With such ferocious hatred being disseminated by the PA, it is little wonder that Palestinians find it hard to see an end to this conflict. Incitement is the oxygen keeping the conflict alive.
By demonising Jews and Israelis and portraying them as killers, thieves and liars, Abbas is entrenching a mindset of war among his people.
Equally, by failing to demand an end to incitement, Obama is ensuring that these peace talks, like the others, end in failure.
Jeremy Havardi is a journalist and the author of two books, Falling to Pieces, and The Greatest Briton
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