Arabs for Israel? - Part II

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade  

This is Part II of a three-part story on Arabs urging better relations with Jews. If you have not done so already, we suggest first reading Arabs for Israel? - Part I

The situation is no better with Israel’s second regional ally, Jordan. A study conducted by The Israel Project in 2011 revealed that 92% of 1,000 interviewees had an unfavorable image of the Jewish State, with some 52% saying they would want to see the cancellation of the peace treaty with Jerusalem.

In a similar study, Lebanon showed more alarming results. According to the poll, a total of 100% felt inimical towards Israel, giving it fewer points than to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeeda.

The attitude towards Jewish people in the Middle East reinforces the generally gloomy picture. The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes survey conducted in 2009 showed an extremely unfavorable view towards Jews in Jordan (97%), Palestine (97%), Lebanon (98% among Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as 97% of Christians), Turkey (73% now, compared to 32% in 2004), Pakistan (78%) and Indonesia (74%).

Some experts speculate that the roots of this animosity are largely historical. “The hatred started after the UN decided to partition Palestine into two states -- one for Jews, the other for Arabs, leading many Muslims to believe the Palestinian land was stolen from their rightful owners,” Zakariya told Israel Today. “The numerous wars and military conflicts that followed shed too much blood and caused too much suffering, aggravating the situation even further,” he reasoned.

Others claim that the local media in countries that are hostile to Jews and Israel has played a pivotal role in forming and/or reinforcing the negative attitudes among those who are constantly exposed to hateful media messages. “TV and press are packed with negative images, so if you are exposed to them from an early age, you inevitably start hating the other side,” said Kamal Agbariya, an Arab Affairs Advisor to the mayor of Tel Aviv.

People on both sides of the debate believe that in order to minimize the hatred (or even uproot it), the Jewish State must put an end to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Israel is stronger and, as such, it must make more concessions,” explained Agbariya. “Both sides are equally at fault but the ball is in Israel’s court. It’s up to Jerusalem what to do with it,” he stressed.

However, it's unclear what additional concessions could undermine the massive propaganda campaign directed against Israel in the Palestinian territories. Every country has its domestic problems and these can always be blamed on outside party.

Indoctrination of children at an early age is also difficult to reverse, even with concessions granted within the peace-making context. Last month, the website of the Jerusalem Brigades (the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) posted pictures from the party held at one of its affiliated kindergartens in the Gaza Strip. The children -- posing as Palestinian terrorists, prisoners and Israelis -- were interviewed with one of the boys declaring: “When I grow up, I want to get on a bus with lots of Zionists and blow myself up in a suicide bombing attack and kill them.”

The PA has also used the government controlled mass media as a tool to spread anti-Israel (and at times anti-Jewish) sentiment. The hateful messages are expressed in a variety of ways: cartoons that depict the State of Israel as a snake or monster killing the peace process; one-sided documentaries that air on television and give only the Palestinian perspective on the history of the conflict; and the constantly replayed video clips of funerals and house demolitions.

The administration’s youth magazine Zayzafuna has also been engaged in incitement. The December 2011 issue ran a girl's dreamy vision of Hitler, prompting UNESCO to withdraw funding for this publication, despite the fact that it admitted Palestine as its full member several weeks earlier.

The PA’s political leaders seem to refrain from making public comments that are obviously anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, even as they give their tacit approval and even encouragement to a policy of incitement that is apparently designed to promote more terrorism. When two Palestinian teenagers murdered a family of five in the settlement of Itamar in March 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas rushed to condemn the attack. On the very same day, however, the government dedicated a town square in honor of Dalal Al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman involved in the massacre of 37 Israeli civilians during a bus hijacking in 1978. Several days later, the authority launched a song praising the "heroism" of the Itamar assailants.

But unlike politicians, who avoid being too inflammatory in their speeches for fear of lowing western support, some Muslim clerics don’t mince words when it comes to Israel or Jews. In January of this year, for example, the Grand mufti of Jerusalem was accused of incitement after quoting from a religious text -- attributed to the prophet -- that included passages about killing Jews in an end-of-days struggle. Mohammed Ahmad Hussein later refuted the allegations, saying his words were taken out of context but some believed the cleric linked the battle to the conflict with Israel. "The hour of resurrection will not come until you fight the Jews," Haaretz quoted him as saying to the crowd of believers. "The Jews will hide behind stones and trees. But the trees and the stones will call: Oh Muslim, oh servant of God, there is a Jew hiding behind me, so come and kill him," he stressed.

“Some clerics are using religion to promote political interests,” said Agbariya, referring to the PA’s attempt to play a ‘unity card’ with Hamas and their desire to please the largely anti-Israel masses. “I always tell people not to listen to the interpretations of various mediators but to read the Quran themselves,” he concluded.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the third and final part of this story

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