The missing Israeli incitement against Palestinians

“Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. … They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised here.” This noxious and racist quote from Ayelet Shaked, the current Israeli justice minister, failed to make the cut in a resolution — H.Res. 293 — marked up and passed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee in a voice vote earlier this month.

{mosads}The resolution condemns anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian Authority, but fails to cite one example of Islamophobic or anti-Palestinian incitement by Israeli officials. Herein lays the major problem with H.Res. 293: Like most House resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is unabashedly one-sided, dispensing with any pretense of objectivity.

Instead, the authors of the resolution — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) — cherry-pick a few anti-Jewish statements to stigmatize the Palestinian government as being anti-Semitic. Even worse, the authors of the resolution deliberately conflate legitimate, even innocuous, criticism and observation of Israeli governmental policy with anti-Jewish bigotry. For example, the resolution excoriates Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for noting that Israeli attempts to take over the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem — home of the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, the third holiest religious site in Islam — could cause a “devastating religious war,” an unremarkable, even banal, opinion.

It is not at all self-evident why members of Congress believe that there is a legitimate need to use taxpayer dollars to comb through often obscure and unrepresentative statements by foreign government and religious officials to ferret out examples of hatred and incitement. We have myriad examples of hate speech in the United States, but Congress appears unconcerned about it. Have Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch, for example, introduced a resolution condemning the hate speech that abounds on white supremacist media, which is responsible for nurturing the environment of hatred that poisoned the mind of homegrown terrorist Dylann Roof?

However, if Congress nonetheless deems it appropriate to pass resolutions policing speech within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then at the least it should do so dispassionately and holistically. This means also examining and, yes, condemning hatred and incitement by Israeli governmental and religious figures toward Palestinians as well. Unfortunately, there is no dearth of examples.

For example, during Israel’s devastating attack on the Gaza Strip last summer, the deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, Moshe Feiglin, referred to Palestinians as “savages of the desert,” proclaiming that “the only innocents in Gaza” are Israeli soldiers. Dov Lior, chief rabbi of illegal Jewish settlements in Hebron and Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank, called on Israel to “exterminate” the enemy in Gaza. And Col. Ofer Winter, commander of Israel’s Givati Bridage, declared a “holy war” on Palestinians in an official communique to soldiers, calling on them “to wipe out an enemy” which “curses and defames God.”

In addition, some rabbis in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank have regularly indulged in demeaning, racist and dehumanizing rhetoric against Palestinians. For example, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former spiritual leader of the Shas political party, stated that “It is forbidden to be merciful” to Arabs. “You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable. … The Lord shall return the Arabs’ deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world.” The chief rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, denounced Arab culture as “very cruel … Arabs use different codes and violent norms that amount to an ideology.” And the American-born president of a Jewish seminary in the Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, called Arabs a “cancer,” urging that Israel be “cleansed” of Arabs and foreigners.

H.Res. 293 finds faults with the Palestinian educational curriculum. Yet the resolution’s authors neglect findings from Israeli scholar Nurit Peled-Elhanan, who researched hundreds of Israeli textbooks for her book Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education. She found these textbooks invariably showing “The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal. … The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.”

The resolution also condemns Palestinians’ use of historical maps of Palestine that do not depict Israel. Yet the authors are silent about a study which found that more than three-quarters of all Israeli textbooks have erased the Green Line, the armistice line dividing Israel from Occupied Palestinian Territory.

By omitting any examples of Israeli incitement against Palestinians from their resolution, Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch do a disservice to the American public by presenting such a blatantly biased picture. Their resolution does nothing to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, but is merely intended to add to the vilification of Palestinians on Capitol Hill.

The number of the bill referenced in this piece has been corrected.

Ruebner is policy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Tags House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Israel Palestine Ted Deutch
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