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The Problem’s Not Just Arafat


Pundits are insisting that Yasir Arafat’s passing will create new opportunities for peace, because his successors will be “moderates.” In fact, however, Arafat’s death will not increase the chances for Arab-Israeli peace, because the problem is not just Arafat but rather the Palestinian Arabs’ entire culture of anti-Jewish hatred and violence.

The two men most frequently mentioned as possible successors to Arafat, Palestinian Authority prime minister Ahmed Qureia and his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, are no different from Arafat.

Abbas has said that “cracking down on Hamas, Jihad and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all” (speech in Cairo, July 23, 2003); offered cabinet positions to leader of Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Israel Radio, March 31, 2003); praised the Arab terrorists imprisoned in Israel as “political prisoners” and “heroes” (speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council, April 29, 2003); and authored a book denying that the Nazis murdered six million Jews.

Qureia opposes action by the PA against terrorists, saying “It is a mistake to aim the Palestinian weapon at a Palestinian” (Al-Nahar, June 12, 2003); attacked President Bush for referring to Israel as “a Jewish state” (Al-Nahar, June 12, 2003); declared his hope that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would “correct the historic mistake that Britain committed against Palestinians through the Balfour Declaration in 1917″ (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 14, 2001); and publicly trampled upon an Israeli flag (Jerusalem Post, July 13, 1997).

Just because Arafat will be gone, it doesn’t mean the problems will be gone. To borrow a phrase from a the 1992 presidential election campaign, it’s the Palestinian Arabs’ entire culture, stupid.

The entire Palestinian Authority regime, not just Arafat, is deeply involved in terrorism and actively promotes a culture of hatred and violence against Jews. Children in the PA’s schools are taught that Jews are evil and suicide bombers are heroes. Worshippers in PA-funded mosques hear the same message of hatred from PA-salaried clergymen. Schools, streets, and parks are named after terrorists. And this “hate process” is succeeding – polls consistently show that a large majority of grassroots Palestinian Arabs support suicide bombings and other terrorism against Israel.

Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie said in a speech in Cleveland on June 1, 2001: “We did not pay nearly enough attention to the culture of hatred created and nourished by Palestinian leaders…. Palestinian children, of course, are not born hating Jews. Hatred is a powerful sentiment that must be acquired – from parents, from education, from government authorities. The hatred of so many Palestinians for Jews results from a conscious process of demonizing the ‘Zionist enemy.’ There is a direct line between Palestinian terror and the growing use of anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi language in the Palestinian media.”

Elie Wiesel has said that “educational textbooks used in Palestinian schools are teaching a new generation to hate Israel and the Jews…. They’re full of hatred for the Jews” (Boston Jewish Advocate, Nov. 10-16, 2000).

Gary Rosenblatt, editor of the New York Jewish Week, has written that the Palestinian Arabs’ willingness to engage in violence has been “fostered by a constant barrage, over a period of many years, of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric on Palestinian television and radio, in the newspapers, in school textbooks and in fiery sermons from the mosques. Contrary to signed agreements, the Palestinian Authority has done nothing to prepare its people for peace with Israel; on the contrary, it has encouraged a violent struggle and pledged a jihad to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem” (Nov. 3, 2000).

Even in the post-Arafat era there should be no negotiations with the PA and no calls for Israeli concessions until the PA has completely eliminated its culture of hatred. The PA must take immediate, concrete steps, including:

* Eliminate all anti-Jewish hate material from PA schoolbooks and summer camps.

* Fire any PA-paid Muslim clergymen whose sermons include anti-Jewish hatred, and close down any newspaper, television station, or radio station that publishes or broadcasts anti-Jewish material. 

* Change the maps in PA schools and offices that show all of Israel as “Occupied Palestine.”

* Change the names of streets, schools, and parks that have been named after suicide bombers and other terrorists.

* Fire all members of the PA police force and security forces who have been involved in terrorism.

* Outlaw Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, seize their tens of thousands of weapons, and shut down their training camps.

* Hand over to the U.S., for prosecution, the dozens of Palestinian Arab terrorists who have murdered or injured American citizens; and honor Israel’s 45 requests for the extradition of terrorists.

The burden of proof is on Arafat’s successors. They must prove, in word and deed, that they are truly different from him – by eliminating the terrorists and educating Arab children for peace.

About the Author: Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.


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