The Strategic Affairs Ministry never ceases to bring us peace of mind. How nice to know that someone in Israel is monitoring Palestinian incitement, ensuring they "create an environment of peace" and striving "to push them toward a culture of peace". After all, what do we care about construction in Jerusalem, Efrat or Ramat Shlomo, or about checkpoints, arrests, home demolitions, the army's "neighbor policy," bone breaking, land appropriation or the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza?
All of these are minor issues compared with naming a square near Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman who took part in a bloody terror attack three decades ago, calling for confronting the occupation or referring to suicide bombers as martyrs. These are the real threats to peace. After all, according to the road map, the Palestinians are responsible for ending incitement. After we have meticulously fulfilled everything the road map required of us and completely frozen settlement construction, it's now their turn.
Yossi Kuperwasser, the deputy director of the Strategic Affairs Ministry and a generally bright man who once headed the Military Intelligence research department, explains that there are several categories of incitement. These include encouraging others to commit terrorist acts, demonizing Israel and creating an atmosphere of hostility toward it. The fact that the occupation persists in the Palestinian territories, and that any nation under occupation will do virtually anything to rid itself of this arrangement, is apparently missing from his consciousness.
In his view, when Palestinians get up in the morning they begin cursing Israel and plotting its erasure from the map and school textbooks through the noble acts of their martyrs. The members of the team tasked with monitoring incitement disingenuously assert that there is no difference between scrutinizing this kind of incitement and monitoring anti-Israel rhetoric emanating from Europe or the United States. The difference, however, is profound: Israel hasn't occupied France or Cleveland, or destroyed a single home there.
Incitement is an elusive affair. How, for example, would the monitoring team classify the following remarks: "The political statement made by [Scandar] Copti turned 'Ajami' from a movie into another link in the fight waged by the Palestinians in Israel against the state of which they are citizens. That makes it just like disrespecting the memory of the Olei Hagardom [pre-state Zionist militants executed by British authorities in the Mandate period] or accusing Israel of being an apartheid state even though the Israeli Palestinians' rights as citizens here exceed those of any Arab country (and include supernumerary rights, such as exemption from mandatory military service) .... Among those contributing to hatred of Israel are, in addition to filmmakers, Israeli intellectuals and artists from other disciplines - and for exactly the same reasons that the filmmakers are so eager to make their self-flagellating films."
Did the writer of these words in these pages (Israel Harel, March 11) intend to incite against Arab citizens of Israel or against Israeli intellectuals? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to examine instances of incitement in Israel before sticking our nose into the affairs of an occupied nation?
Here is a good place for the monitoring team to start: a poll conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institution and presented recently at a Tel Aviv University conference shows that 56 percent of Israeli high school students believe that the country's Arab citizens should be prohibited from being elected to the Knesset. That figure rises to 82 percent among religious youths. Around half the respondents say Israeli Arabs should not receive the same rights as Israeli Jews. In the words of Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal of the Tel Aviv University School of Education: "The worldview of religious youth melds fundamentalism, nationalism and racism."
If using the criteria of the monitoring team, Bar-Tal's remarks could be considered incitement against religious youth, or even Israeli youth in general. Before we file an indictment against Bar-Tal, however, we should return to Kuperwasser's comment that the purpose of the incitement index is to convince the Palestinians to create a "culture of peace." With whom exactly are they expected to build such a culture? With Israel's young generation, which sees Israeli Arabs as a dangerous foe from whom democratic rights should be withheld? With inciters who see an Arab film director, or the Jewish intellectuals who support him, as enemies of the state?
The incitement index is not intended to actually gauge the measure of hatred Palestinians feel toward Israel, or to create the vaunted culture of peace. It is simply another dishonest tool being used to present Israel as a pure, righteous and peace-loving nation, all of whose citizens love Arabs. This is a veil intended to conceal the fact that, while a culture of peace is being demanded of the Palestinians, the Israeli side is witnessing an unimpeded spread of a culture of racism.
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