Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

'Partner for peace' has strange way of showing it

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Colin Rubenstein


Canberra Times - 18 Apr, 2011


The Palestinian Authority's actions speak louder than words.

As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Passover, the Palestinian Authority has offered its own unique gift to the Jewish people honouring Hamas terrorist Abbas Al-Sayed, and in the process, demonstrating yet again why genuine peace is so elusive.

Al-Sayed was the terrorist mastermind responsible for the ''Passover Massacre'', which claimed the lives of 30 Israelis attending the traditional Passover seder meal at Netanya's Park Hotel in March 2002. Among the victims were small children and Holocaust survivors.

Passover is one of the most important, holy events on the Jewish calendar, commemorating the Jews' exodus from slavery. To mark this callous, cold-blooded massacre, one of the worst on Israeli soil, Issa Karake, the PA Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, visited last week the family of Al-Sayed (who is serving 35 life sentences in an Israeli prison for the attack), awarding them with an official, festive plaque.

PA President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayaad tell us they are ''moderates'' and a ''partner for peace'' with Israel. However, while the PA is often quoted as saying it is committed to ending the glorification of terrorists and incitement to violence, its actions often portray a very different picture as the honouring of Al-Sayed demonstrates. Most disturbingly, this is only one of many recent examples of official PA glorification of terror and violence.

In the past 12 months alone, the PA has: Awarded a $US2000 grant to the family of a Palestinian suicide bomber killed trying to detonate two bombs against IDF soldiers; named public squares and sponsored sporting events in honour of infamous terrorists; and through its official newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reported that Israel aspires to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build the Third Temple on its ruins.

This of course comes in the wake of one of the most heinous terror attacks in Israel, at Itamar in the West Bank, on March 11, when a Palestinian terrorist or terrorists a Fatah linked armed group initially claiming responsibility brutally murdered five members of the Fogel family in their sleep (during the Sabbath), slaughtering both parents and three of their children aged 11, four and three months.

Together with Hamas's recently revived and unremitting war from Gaza including the recent deliberate missile attack on a school bus these ugly acts constitute a grim reminder that the culture of violence and extremism represents the main obstacle to peace. Incidents like the massacre of the Fogel family, and the recent Jerusalem bus stop bombing, simply do not occur in a vacuum. Such acts of pitiless slaughter unfortunately neither unique nor unprecedented by Palestinian terrorists can only be the product of a pervasive infrastructure indoctrinating hate, inciting violence and instilling a world view justifying such gruesome acts.

How else can one explain a recent joint Israeli-Palestinian poll, published in the PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, that found a third of Palestinians surveyed in the West Bank and Gaza said they supported the Itamar massacre?

As thousands gathered in Jerusalem to mourn and bury the Fogels, Fatah's youth movement gathered to celebrate the naming of a square in El-Bireh in honour of Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978, was the commander of the single most deadly terror attack in Israel, which claimed the lives of 38 people. PA Minister of Culture, Saham al-Barghouti, insisted that ''it is our right to honour our martyrs''.

The Itamar massacre highlighted that, for far too long, the international community has ignored or downplayed the ongoing and systematic contributions to this incitement by the official organs of the PA, notwithstanding this is in clear violation of the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap for Peace.

Palestinian incitement makes peace all but impossible. As Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh pointedly noted, in a question to the PA: ''If you keep inciting your people, then they ask 'well, why are we then making peace with the Jews? We should be killing them as Hamas is saying'''. President Barack Obama himself, in May last year, appealed directly to President Abbas to do ''whatever he can'' to prevent acts of incitement and delegitimisation of Israel, while US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was even more direct in her statement following the Itamar massacre, saying:

''It is not enough for the Palestinian Authority to merely condemn this act. The PA must finally take immediate and decisive action ... including rooting out and condemning all those who preach violence against Israel and hatred of the Jewish people.''

The time has now come to move beyond mere pleas. Given the PA's dependence on aid (largely funded by the US and EU), the international community must insist on Palestinian accountability and the immediate end to official Palestinian incitement, with severe financial and diplomatic penalties at stake for future backsliding.

The simple point is that you cannot make progress toward peace while incitement, hate and the glorification of terror permeate into almost every institution of the PA; the schools, the mosques, the sporting and cultural events and the government-controlled media. As the PA continues to demand the world recognise a Palestinian state, one must ask exactly what kind of state it wants one that will be at peace with Israel, or one where glorifying terrorists is the norm?

Dr Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

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