Are Palestinians Murderers From Birth or an Incited Herd? For Israel, They're Both

If there is no one to talk to, why is the Jerusalem municipality sending local Palestinian parents a letter about how to shield their children from ‘incitement’?

Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem municipality bought into the fiction that the source of the latest wave of violence sweeping over us is incitement, and decided to mobilize against terror in the city’s neighborhoods by directly contacting Palestinian residents, rather than their leaders.

“Holding a dialogue with your children on this topic [‘the finality of death’ -  C.L.] could prevent rash decisions made by children, which harm themselves or others,” says a letter sent by city hall to the parents of 20,000 in state schools in East Jerusalem. “Children have difficulties in understanding the messages they are exposed to; adults have a key role in helping them understand and not get drawn in by rumors and distorted information.”

If the Palestinians are no more than a mob, incited by groups with vested interests, there is nothing wiser than appealing to them directly. Sending a letter, a direct appeal to the parents of these youngsters and an attempt to guide and equip them with advice on how prevent the incitement of their children and avoid their transformation into terrorists – these are clever solutions. Who cares that for years Israel has been insisting that violence is second nature to Palestinians, that there is no one to talk to, that they always were and will always be intent on annihilating us? If there is no one to talk to, why are they sending them a letter?

The city’s Education Administration has apparently not understood that the incitement theory is only a diversionary tactic. After all, if the violence stems from the grass roots, if it is a spontaneous outburst by frustrated youths, then one should look directly at the reality on the ground to find the sources of this frustration. Anyone seriously interested in quelling the violence must act to change those conditions. The problem, of course, is that the defense establishment gives assessments that differ from those the government wants to hear. “Young people carrying out these attacks feel they have nothing to lose,” the head of Military Intelligence, Herzl Halevi, told the cabinet. It’s no wonder that Minister Ze’ev Elkin jumped up and reminded Halevi that he’d neglected to mention the incitement. According to sources present at the meeting, Elkin added that one could conclude from Halevi’s words that Israel was to blame, not the incitement.

Netanyahu and his government widen or narrow the current conflagration according to their political needs. When it suits them, the Palestinians are murderers from birth, and when it suits them, the Palestinians are a herd incited by interested parties. When it’s useful to talk to them, for security reasons, there is someone to talk to, and when it isn’t useful, for diplomatic reasons, there is no one to talk to. Even when speaking of incitement, in other words an informal method of giving the green light, one should ask who is inciting and why? If the incitement is being linked to elements outside the territory where the Palestinians live, the implication is that they are under the spell of regional actors. In that case Israel should work to bolster the Palestinians’ independence so they can better withstand external pressure. If the incitement is attributed to Palestinian leaders, then they must be representing popular sentiment, namely the frustration that breeds the violence and that Israel is trying to deny.

It’s time for the government of Israel to listen to its defense establishment, which has repeatedly warned of the dangers inherent in a diplomatic standstill. What future does the right wing envisage for Israel? One doesn’t need a psychology degree to know that the roots of frustration should be addressed, not its symptoms. Israel can send a letter to Abu Mazen’s mother if it wishes to, but until it addresses the reasons for his frustration, which is the frustration of the Palestinian people, and finds a way – any way – to reduce it, Israel will continue to be afflicted with violence that will only intensify.