Incitement is the match that lit the fuse to the current intifada, which has claimed the lives of 36 Israelis and shows no sign of abating.
That explains why Israeli forces entered Ramallah late last week and shut down “Palestine Alyoum,” a broadcast station affiliated with Islamic Jihad that airs incitement to terrorism.
It also explains why the Shin Bet is tracking down Palestinians who are using social media to incite to terror or to boast of their plans to become shahids, and knocking on their doors late at night to warn them that they are being monitored, and in some cases to make arrests.
The effort to extinguish the incitement and thereby prevent tomorrow’s terror attack includes diplomacy. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet this week that he had spoken to French President Francois Hollande to get French broadcasts of the Al Aqsa channel taken off the air (the channel was indeed removed from these satellites, but went back to broadcasting via another satellite).
Many would argue that the clampdown against inciters is too little, too late. As Nobel laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann told Hamodia in an interview in December, “one of the sections of the Oslo agreement is that incitement should stop, but that has never happened, on the contrary… And we haven’t made a fuss about it.”
But whether Israel should have or could have done more about the incitement in the past is irrelevant. It has to be halted — or at least greatly reduced — today. Because it is this incitement campaign that is putting ideas in the heads of 16-year-old killers, like the one who entered Otniel and stabbed Dafna Meir, Hy”d, in front of her children.
Murad Bader Abdullah Adais was “inspired” to launch his murderous attack by Palestinian broadcasts. Under investigation, he revealed that he had watched programs presenting Israel as “executing young Palestinians” — a morally perverse way of describing how security forces neutralized terrorists to save civilians from being killed.
“The serious results of the attack [of Mrs. Meir, Hy”d] demonstrate again the seriousness of the threat posed by the wild incitement being conducted against the state of Israel and the Jews in Palestinian media, which influences the lone attackers to conduct murder and serious terror attacks,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is in the best position to clamp down on the incitement. He knows how and where it is disseminated — via mosques, schools, broadcast stations — and can dispatch his U.S.-funded and -trained security troops to enforce a policy of zero-tolerance for murderous incitement. It might even behoove him to use his leadership position to serve as a role model, to condemn random killings, to point out that they do not advance the Palestinian cause.
Instead, he is doing the opposite. His Fatah party celebrated the murder last Tuesday of American student Taylor Force, referring to his killer, Bashar Masalha, as “the heroic martyr.” The anchor on the official PA news program referred to Force and the other victims as “settlers,” a dangerous code word.
Worst of all, when Abbas met last week with Vice President Joe Biden, he had the audacity to repeat these lies. According to Israel Radio he blamed the terror wave on the “settlements and settler violence” and accused Israel of “massacring” over 200 Palestinians.
Israel is fighting the intifada with kid gloves on, so as not to jeopardize Abbas’ rule, which is, at best, tenuous. The thinking in the political and defense establishments in Israel, and in the United States, is that as bad as he is, the alternative could be worse. There is security cooperation between Israeli and the Palestinian Authority which has saved lives (there are many instances in which Israelis who accidentally wandered into PA-controlled territories were brought to safety by Palestinian security officers).
And while he may be ineffectual, his successor could be a forceful, charismatic leader who takes the Palestinians in an even worse direction.
Nonetheless, some demands must be made of Abbas. He must play a role in ending the incitement — if not in all its forms then at least in Fatah publications and news organs under his control. And if he can’t do that, he should at least be held accountable for his own statements to the vice president of the United States.
Mr. Biden deserves credit for not only condemning the killing of Taylor Force last week but also those who failed to condemn it. “The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop,” he said.
But he and other Western leaders must be careful not to make statements that can be interpreted by the Palestinians as support for their “armed struggle.” When Biden says, as he has, that “force alone won’t solve the problem,” his words are interpreted by the Palestinians as an endorsement of their position.
Even those who believe in a viable Palestinian state, one that will recognize Israel as a Jewish country and allow its citizens to live in peace — a belief that is sounding more and more far-fetched as time passes — must take care not to inadvertently light a fuse that results in the deaths of innocents and that makes peace, or even coexistence, impossible.