Palestinian terror. A new chapter, or same old story?
Mahmoud Abbas is a man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to terrorism. His venomous and hate filled tirades against Israel have encouraged Palestinians to become ‘martyrs’ in the cause of holy war. Meanwhile, the West refuses to face reality
During the last week, Israelis have experienced a relentless wave of attacks by Palestinians. Dozens of incidents have led to five Israeli fatalities with many more innocent civilians being injured and traumatised.
These have been described as 'lone wolf' attacks, given that they seem to lack any central planning and have been committed with apparent spontaneity.
But this ignores the ideological guiding hand behind apparently disconnected acts of terror. In this case, the guiding hand has largely come from Mahmoud Abbas, a man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to terrorism. His venomous and hate filled tirades against Israel have encouraged Palestinians to become ‘martyrs’ in the cause of holy war.
But more crucially, Abbas has escaped censure for his destructive rhetoric, with western leaders willing (at most) to condemn individual terrorists, not a leader who goads them to commit acts of violence.
Consider first what Abbas has said in the last month alone. On September 16 he declared that:
“The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours... and they (the Jews) have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
He went on to bless “every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem” before adding that every terrorist “would receive God’s reward.” At the UN shortly afterwards, Abbas again accused “extremist Israeli groups” of wanting to desecrate the Al Aqsa Mosque, where they “aimed at imposing a new reality.”
The Israeli government was using “brutal force to impose its plans to undermine the Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem,” he said, adding that such actions, “would convert the conflict from a political to religious one.”
Abbas conjured up a chilling, conspiratorial world view in which ‘demoniacal’ Jews had malevolent designs on Muslim (and other) holy places. Further, he legitimised acts of murderous violence against Jews by claiming they received some form of divine approval.
Remember that the PA chief has already spent years preaching that the Jews have no claim to Jerusalem, denying that a Temple ever existed and regarding Israelis as interlopers on Arab soil.
So while these may be ‘lone wolf attacks’ they very much enjoy a stamp of official approval and blessing. Abbas has gone further and condemned Israel for killing the terrorists who went on a murderous spree in Jerusalem.
Where does such incredible chutzpah come from? The answer is simple: Abbas knows that western leaders will offer vacuous, equivocal comments in the face of Palestinian terror and turn a blind eye to his own incitement.
Consider for a moment the outrageous moral equivalence from some quarters. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was “deeply concerned” by the violence on all sides and urged both parties “to take immediate steps to de-escalate the tensions.”
A statement released on 7 October by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini spoke of the “continuing deadly violence in East Jerusalem” which had claimed the “lives of several people” (note: not Israeli Jews) and called on both Netanyahu and Abbas “to promote calm, encourage restraint and avoid actions which further fuel tensions.”
In an initial response to the ongoing situation, US State Department spokesman John Kirby decried “all acts of violence, including the tragic stabbing in the Old City of Jerusalem today” but went on to say that “all sides” had to “take affirmative action to restore calm and avoid escalating the situation.”
But it was Abbas who destroyed the calm by making incendiary speeches and Abbas who called for the spilling of Jewish blood. Only one side has come under a relentless and vicious campaign of terror, and that is Israel.
Only one party has created an official infrastructure to support terrorism, and that is the PA. Statements of moral equivalence wrongly conflate the perpetrator and victim of terror, as if one were comparing a fire-fighter and an arsonist, or a bank robber and a policeman. They create a topsy turvy world devoid of moral considerations.
Even when Palestinian terror is condemned, often belatedly, western leaders consistently fail to blame Abbas for fomenting the violence. He is seen as part of the solution, not the problem. Yet the main reason for his co-operation with the IDF is to enable Israel to suppress those forces opposed to his rule, including Hamas. Thus his own corrupt rule is preserved while he remains free to incite and inspire more terrorism against Israel.
So what must be done now?
Firstly, Abbas must be squarely condemned by western leaders every time he issues a blood libel defaming Jews and Israelis. That applies with particular force to his absurd claims about Jewish designs on the Old City, claims that have the potential to light the bonfires of hatred.
But it equally applies to the sermons, lectures and television programmes on Palestinian media which demonise Jews and Israelis and encourage a mindset of hatred and confrontation.
Second, the West should threaten to cut funding to the PA in such cases of incitement. There should be a simultaneous demand to end the disgusting practice of paying salaries to terrorists, something which accounts for a sizeable fraction of the PA’s annual budget.
Finally, Western leaders must abandon the language of moral equivalence which is an all too regular feature of the diplomatic discourse in this conflict. It only encourages more Palestinian violence and rejectionism and fails to hold them to account as true moral agents.
Nor should knife or stone throwing attacks by Palestinians ever be minimised. They are part of a deadly terror war against innocent civilians and must always be described as such. Israel deserves unstinting support for the measures it takes to protect its people.
These are the things that need to be done. But most likely, these things will never come about. And that is why such sickening outbreaks of violent terror become more and more likely.
Jeremy Havardi is a journalist and the author of two books, Falling to Pieces, and The Greatest Briton
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