Over the years, the U.S. State Department has earned a reputation for being pro-Arab and anti-Israel. In 1948, when then-U.S. President Harry S. Truman became the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel, barely 11 minutes after its establishment, he was defying the “professionals” at the State Department.
The desire at Foggy Bottom to curry favor with the Arab world continues until this day. Condolence statements for victims of terrorism routinely forget to mention that the perpetrators are Palestinian and end with the infuriating call for “all parties to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions and restore calm,” as if everyone is equally responsible for the violence.
Israel’s announcement in June of plans to build 770 apartments in Gilo, a neighborhood in Yerushalayim, prompted a particularly harsh State Department response. Spokesman John Kirby accused Israel — which was building in an area that will remain part of Israel under any conceivable peace agreement — of “continuing this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about its ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
No such condemnations were issued in the direction of the Palestinians for refusing to come to the peace table, for inciting their young to kill Jews, for rewriting history in a way that erases any Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael. Until now.
In its just-released annual report on religious freedom, the State Department cited the Palestinian Authority’s official media for presenting anti-Semitic material. The report indicated that PA programming “carried religiously intolerant material” that “denied a historical Jewish presence in Yerushalayim” or referred to Jews as “evil.”
(True to form, on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, declared that the entire city belongs to Islam and the Arabs, and must be defended against the Jews.)
To the uninitiated, the State Department’s conclusion might not appear like much of a revelation. After all, thanks to organizations like Itamar Marcus’ Palestinian Media Watch, we’ve seen endless films of three- or four-year-old children holding knives, making stabbing motions in the air and cursing Jews, to the cheers of their doting parents and teachers.
We’ve seen the Palestinian school texts that have erased Israel from the maps, the imams ranting and raving from the pulpit about the need to kill Jews, and the anti-Semitic programming on PA communication outlets. And yet the report is news. Big news.
That’s because in past reports the State Department managed to spin the Palestinian denial of a Jewish connection to Yerushalayim into a mere “[criticism of] the Israeli occupation” rather than anti-Semitism. It also found no fault with the Palestinian Authority for running anti-Semitic material on its communications channels, dismissing these channels as “non-official PA and non-mainstream.”
And when it ran out of excuses for Palestinian Authority anti-Semitism it still managed to soften any criticism by claiming that the authority was working to correct the situation (it’s been “working” on the problem since the Oslo accords in 1993, with remarkably little success).
It’s important to acknowledge the change in the State Department report and express our gratitude. We can only hope that after acknowledging anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Authority, and having the courage to publicly renounce it, that it will be able to spot it elsewhere — in the European Union, the United Nations, or perhaps even closer to home.
Another even bigger breakthrough came this week from Cairo. Egyptian Foreign Minister Samah Shoukry, speaking to a group of local high school students, had the courage to state that there is no connection between Israel and terrorism.
In answer to a question, he stated: “There is no evidence showing a link between Israel and armed terrorist groups.”
As expected, Shoukry, who paid a rare visit to Israel last month — the first by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007 — was vilified by the Arab media. The London-based al-Arabi al-Jadida captured the spirit of the criticism with its headline “Samah Shoukry: The murder of Palestinian children by Israel isn’t terrorism.”
Hamas, also as expected, reacted even more vehemently. “Anyone who doesn’t view the crimes of the occupation as terrorism is physically blind and suffers from moral decline and a lack [of] direction,” wrote its international spokesman Husam Badran.
It took enormous courage for Shoukry and his boss, Egyptian President Abdel Sisi, to stand up to the Arab world’s lies and acknowledge that Israel is engaged in self-defense, not terrorism.
Similarly, it took courage for the U.S. State Department to tell the truth about anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Authority.
How wonderful it would be if these breakthroughs proved to be a harbinger of a new era, in which governments openly acknowledged the role anti-Semitism plays in their assessment of who is right and who is wrong in the Middle East and in the unbearable, immoral ease with which they condemn Israel for doing nothing more than defending itself and its national interests.