Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Palestinian Authority incitement continues to fuel murder - and even children are a target: not newsworthy?

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The wave of attacks on Israeli civilians, which started in October 2015, is sadly still ongoing. On Sunday (Jan. 17) Dafna Meir, a nurse and mum of six, was brutally stabbed to death outside her home in Otniel, tragically in front of some of her children, who were inside the house during the attack. Neighbours revealed that the terrorist had planned on hurting the children as well, but Dafna protected them even as she was dying from her wounds. On Monday, another woman, Michal Fruman, the daughter-in-law of well-known peacemaker Rabbi Menachem Fruman z"l, was attacked and moderately wounded by a teen terrorist in Tekoa near Jerusalem. The woman, who is pregnant, was evacuated to hospital.

Neither of these attacks made the major papers in Australia - which seem to have decided that the almost daily attacks on Israeli civilians are no longer newsworthy.

They have also largely failed to report the significant role that incitement, promoted by official PA bodies, is still playing in motivating these terrorist acts (see previous blog posts on incitement during the current terror wave HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). The most recent terrorist to be elevated to ‘martyr' status as part of this ongoing incitement is Nashat Melhem, who killed three people in Tel-Aviv. Melhem, a 29-year-old Israeli Arab, carried out a shooting attack, at Hasimta bar on 1 Jan, killing two Israelis and wounding eight others. As he fled the scene, he also killed a Bedouin Israeli taxi driver.

A manhunt ensued, and a week later, on 8 Jan., Melhem was tracked down to his hometown of Arara. Melhem died during the attempts to capture him, after he opened fire at security forces and was killed by return fire.

Hamas was quick to declare him a martyr and a ‘hero', while Islamic Jihad released a statement warning that Israel would "pay a price for its crime" of killing Melhem. Both groups set up a condolence tent in Gaza City. This is not unexpected from these extremist groups - but the response from the supposedly moderate PA, still constantly touted as Israel's partner for a two-state peace, was just as appalling. It was reported that the Palestinian Authority's Health Ministry listed Melhem on its list of ‘Shaheeds', or martyrs. However, his name was shortly thereafter removed from the list, and the ministry claimed it was because Melhem was an Israeli citizen and that the list only includes names of ‘martyrs' who died within the PA's jurisdiction, i.e. the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Even while removing Melhem's name from the list, the ministry nonetheless made its support for his murderous acts clear, as it emphasised that the removal of his name did not mean he is not entitled to be characterised as a "martyr." The Health Ministry issued an official statement in the form of a press release on Jan. 9, 2016, in response to criticisms about the omission of Melhem's name from the martyrs' list, in which the ministry praised Melhem and highlighted his status as "one of the dearest martyrs" while using poetic language about his "pure blood" watering "our free homeland":

"[...] the non-inclusion [omission] of the martyr Nashat Melhem's name [...] does not indicate that the title [of martyr] has been denied him. On the contrary, he is one of the dearest martyrs, and his name is inscribed [engraved] in his pure blood that watered the soil of our free homeland. [The Ministry] noted that the non-inclusion of the martyr Nashat Melhem's name [in the register] stems from the fact that, as part of its activity, the Ministry is in charge of recording patients, diseases, martyrs and the wounded [in the West Bank and Gaza only]. [Hence,] the non-inclusion of Melhem in its register does not indicate that he is not [considered] a martyr. On the contrary, he is like any other Palestinian martyr anywhere in the world."

Before the Health Ministry's press release, Palestinian social media was outraged by the omission of his name from the register of martyrs. A new Twitter #Hashtag emerged, #the_150th_Martyr_despite_your_opposition [or, "The 150th martyr, whether you like or not"] praising Melhem as a hero and berating the Health Ministry for not acknowledging him.

Fatah posted a photo of Melhem's body on its official Facebook page, and praised and congratulated him. The text of the post reads: "Nashat Melhem died as a Martyr (Shaheed) after an armed confrontation in the courtyard of a mosque in Umm Al-Fahm on blessed Friday, congratulations and may Allah receive you in Heaven."

Fatah also opened a mourning and condolence tent to honour Melhem, a photo of which was also posted on the movement's official Facebook page on 10 Jan., with the caption "The Martyr Riyad Naif - Jalazone refugee camp branch of the Fatah movement opened a mourning tent for the heroic Martyr (Shaheed) Nashat Melhem."
As if praising a terrorist who killed three civilians and wounded eight, declaring him a martyr and endorsing his actions is not despicable enough, official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida took incitement one step further, when it claimed on Jan. 9, 2016 that Israel "executed" Melhem:

"An Israeli ‘commando' force assassinated young Nashat Melhem, who carried out the Tel Aviv operation, yesterday [8 Jan. 2016] during an exchange of gunfire."

How is it even possible that Melhem was "assassinated" if it is recognised in the exact same sentence that he was killed "during an exchange of gunfire"? The sentence only makes any kind of logical sense if one holds the position that every terrorist killed by Israeli forces is "assassinated" or "executed", regardless of the actual circumstances. This kind of black-and-white language, where Israel is the killer and Palestinians always the victims only fans the flames of hatred among Palestinian youth, who are mobilised to "avenge" the death of Palestinians who were allegedly "executed", and to share their fate in glorified "martyrdom".

Misrepresenting a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Melhem was tracked down, the PA Daily claimed on 10 Jan. 2016 that Netanyahu threatened and encouraged further "summary executions" of Palestinians:

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to back up the [Israeli] police, [Israeli] Intelligence Services, and the Israeli police counter-terrorism unit, and to encourage them to continue the summary executions that they are carrying out in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Palestinian interior (i.e., Israel). In response to the execution of Nashat Melhem by special Israeli police forces, Netanyahu stated that ‘in the name of all Israel's citizens,' he thanks ‘the police, intelligence services, and counter-terrorism unit for their precise work around the clock and for carrying out the mission required of them.'"

While it is true that Netanyahu in his statement did thank the security personnel involved in tracking down the runaway terrorist, there was not one word in his speech to encourage summary executions, only a warning that terrorists who harm Israeli citizens will be tracked down and caught. Here is the transcription of the "threat":

"Everyone who comes to murder Israelis should know that sooner or later we will reach him, within the borders of the state, and outside the borders. No one is immune. We will reach the murderers and we will reach everyone who assists them."

Can anyone really expect a Prime Minister, who is responsible for the safety and security of the civilian population, to not order the security forces to catch terrorists who carry out murderous attacks? The implication is that the Israeli attempts to protect its civilian population from terrorism are, in and of themselves, further illegitimate "crimes" against the Palestinian people.

The PA has praised terrorists throughout the current wave of violence, celebrating and glorifying their attacks and commemorating their ‘martyr' deaths, alleging that they were executed by Israel. This inversion of reality turns an armed attacker into innocent victim, and those who stop an attack, and in doing so save the lives of civilians, into cold-blooded murderers. This is not only clear and open incitement - as it encourages others to follow suit and carry out even more attacks, out of misplaced rage or a pursuit of revenge or glory - but also highly offensive and disrespectful to the memory and the families of the victims of these attacks, Israeli Jews and Arabs alike.

Take for example the commemoration of 19-year-old Muhannad Al-Halabi. Al-Halabi carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on 3 Oct. 2015 - regarded as the first stabbing attack in the current wave of violence.

Two Israeli civilians were killed in the attack, and two were injured - the latter were a mother and her two-year old child. Al-Halabi's photo was posted on Fatah's official Facebook page on 10 Jan. 2016, along with the caption "Igniter of the Jerusalem Intifada #Muhannad_Halabi" and the added text: "Igniter of the Jerusalem Intifada Martyr (Shahid) of the homeland, the hero Muhannad Halabi"

On 12 Nov. 2015, a ceremony was held in his home town Surda-Abu Qash to mark 40 days since his death. During the ceremony, a street was named after him and an official monument was erected in his honour, in the shape of a map of Palestine from the River to the Sea (including Gaza, the West-Bank and Israel) with his portrait and name over the inscription "State of Palestine".

Earlier, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian bar association awarded an honorary law degree to "the martyred hero Muhannad Al-Halabi" and dedicated its swearing in ceremony for lawyers in his honour.

The PA and Fatah sponsored sports competitions in his name, such as the "Martyr Muhannad Al-Halabi table tennis tournament" which was held in mid-December and was sponsored by Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub, and the "Muhannad Al-Halabi football tournament" held on 30 October and organised by the Martyr Yasser Arafat Youth Centre.

And al-Halabi is not the only terrorist whose legacy has been glorified in sporting events. The 2015 football championship in Hebron was held in honour of the Palestinian ‘martyrs' of the "National Awakening", i.e. the PA's term for the current wave of violence, and especially in memory of Basel Sidr, who was killed during an attempted stabbing attack near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate on 14 October 2015.
Perhaps the most disturbing example of incitement, because of the impressionable target audience, is the rally of solidarity with Ahmad Mansara, under the heading "Arresting Children Kills Childhood. Give Them the Time to Study and Play," held at a high-school in Hebron on 29 Nov. 2015. Mansara, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy from Beit-Hanina, together with his cousin, Hassan Mansara (who died in the incident), stabbed two people in nearby Pisgat-Ze'eva, including a boy his own age on 12 October 2015.

The rally was sponsored by the Palestinian Prisoners Commission, the PA Education Ministry and the Fatah movement, and was reportedly attended by Hebron Governor Kamel Hmeid and PA Education Minister Sabri Saidam, among other officials and members of the Mansara family.

During the rally, Saidam emphasised the importance of loyalty and devotion to the martyrs, and encouraged them to send letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon headed 'The Hero Ahmad Manasra,' in order to "direct world attention to the problems of the imprisoned children."

So the message of the Palestinian Education Minister to high-school students was that Palestinian teens who stab Israeli-Jewish teens are heroes who are victimised when stopped and arrested for their crimes.