Living with Palestine
The latest incident of violence to reach the headlines, which is not to say that it is the latest incident, involved the murder of a young soldier not yet finished with basic training, while on a bus returning from sick leave.
The even younger lad who stabbed him numerous times before he was overwhelmed by other passengers is 16 years old. The story he told the police involves him getting into Israel illegally, via one of the paths that Palestinians use, most of them concerned only to find work. This young man came with a knife, and apparently without a clear plan. If he found work, fine. If not, he would try to kill a Jew. In the background were relatives serving time in Israeli prison for murder. The family, in the view of this young man, had not been given adequate visiting rights.
Professionals in the IDF and other security organizations say that this may be part of popular resentment, always beneath the surface, increased in copy-cat fashion by hearing what others have done. They see no evidence that they are the products of organized efforts. They come from nowhere, outside the networks being watched and listened to, and therefore cannot be stopped while still in the planning stage.
Some years ago, before one did newspaper research at home via Internet, I was in the library going through microfiche files over the course of several months. I was looking for something else, but along the way I noticed that almost every day’s edition included a story of one or another attack, attempted attack, or preparations for an attack uncovered by Israeli intelligence.
As the preacher said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Israeli politicians and activists on the right, and security professional are talking past one another. One is demanding draconian solutions; the other holding to the line that an occasional uptick in individual violence is inherent in Palestinian society, and beyond the possibility of solution. It may be fueled by systematic incitement in schools, media, and mosques that has been impossible for Israel or other outsiders to halt. Its persistence need not mean that Palestinians are on the way to another intifada.
Family incitement is suggested in the latest case. Close relatives of the young killer were also murderers, and their treatment by Israeli authorities became one of the reasons leading to this killing.
Responsibility and cure are topics that are hard to pin down. What we hear from the left is that a peace agreement may be the best way to lessen Palestinian violence, but few if any are claiming that peace will end it entirely. Among the elements that provoke it are religious doctrines that anyone who is not a Muslim has no rights in the area, and certainly no right to rule over Muslims.
Religious scholars and left of center political activists will argue that such a view is a distortion of Islam. However, such claims do not prevent individual preachers—with or without education and official designation as preachers—or individual family members from passing on their hatreds of Jews, justified by religious-sounding mumbo jumbo.
Should not any discussions of peace, and certainly any formal agreement insist on reforms that reach into schools, media, and mosques?
It has already been done, included in agreements signed by Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans.
Israeli officials need not demand that Palestinian children sing Hatikva before every morning lesson, but maps in schoolbooks showing Israel and a lack of “Jews are apes and dogs” from the media and mosques should be an elementary demand for beginning any negotiations.
Palestinians have said that they cannot end freedom of expression.
Hah! Palestinians do not honor individual rights more than any other Third World kleptocracy.
USAID, equivalent bodies of the European Union, as well as NGOs concerned with human rights can finance a new edition of Palestinian school books with maps showing that Israel exists, and demand the restraint of excessively nationalistic teachers, school principals, media personnel and mullahs.
Jews also should enjoy human rights.
The Palestinians can deal with any who continue with the hateful themes by dropping them from the roof of Ramallah’s tallest building, in the manner of how Hamas has dealt with those who resist its rule in Gaza.
Israel must admit to its own problem of individual violence.
The latest incident was the nighttime burning of a Palestinian home in the outskirts of Ramallah. Thanks to an alert mother, two children escaped with their lives before the total destruction.
Israeli security forces claim to be frustrated in identifying those responsible, perhaps loosely allied, and said to be under the guidance of charismatic rabbis.
A fair comparison of violence and the efforts of police would find Israel scoring higher on measures of civilization than Palestine. However, the differences are not absolute. Israel is a lighter shade of gray. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that some well placed Israelis view Price Tag as giving an appropriate message to Palestinians about the costs of their own violence.
The Obama administration has been as responsible as anyone else for the recent increase in violence. Its obsession with forcing Israelis and Palestinians to a table falls into the category of making things worse. Participants in the talks appear to be doing nothing more than accusing one another of preventing any accomplishment.
Such a message filters out to the street, and contributes to whatever other incitement provokes individuals to take up a knife, throw stones at a passing car that looks Jewish, or make a fire bomb.
John Kerry’s warning that Israeli stubbornness will contribute to a third intifada deserves special attention. Whoever gives licenses to diplomats should remove his.
Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.