The Palestinian Authority said last week to the British daily The Guardian that US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's critique of the PA was based on information he quoted from Palestinian Media Watch's website.
Gingrich, the PA and PMW
To clarify PMW findings, and what was correct and incorrect in Gingrich's remarks, PMW wrote an op-ed that was published in Friday's Jerusalem Post:
The American congressional candidates were correct
in criticizing the PA for promoting terror
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
US presidential candidate and the former speaker of US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich said this week that the Palestinian Authority does not recognize Israel's right to exist and that Palestinian schoolbooks teach children to become terrorists. Gingrich cited what he said were PA sources to back up his remarks.
However, the PA has rejected his statements as "groundless."
According to the British daily The Guardian: "Palestinian officials said Gingrich's allegations were based substantially on material produced by an Israeli organization, Palestinian Media Watch, which has published a long list of entries on its website (palwatch.org) under the heading 'Promoting Violence for Children.' An article [on PMW's website] from 2007 describes Palestinian textbooks paid for with US aid money that deny Israel's right to exist.
"But Xavier Abu Eid, a senior adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the website and Gingrich's allegations were groundless." (December 11, 2011)
Certainly the PA's rejection of the US candidate was expected, as his charges contradict what the PA has been telling Western countries for years.
This is not merely an irrelevant distraction and rhetoric of a presidential campaign. It is these issues - PA non-recognition of Israel and its support of terror - that are at the heart of the peace process and constitute a major impediment to its success. Therefore, it is critical to determine who is correct - Gingrich or the PA.
What exactly was said about the PA?
During the ABC News Republican presidential candidates' debate (December 10, 2011), Gingrich said that the PA does not recognize Israel's right to exist. He said that "the Palestinian Authority ambassador to India said last month, 'There is no difference between Fatah and Hamas. We both agree Israel has no right to exist." This quote, taken from a PMW bulletin, is precise and is very significant, elaborating one of the most important and yet relatively unnoticed principles of PA ideology.
The PA Ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq, wrote in the official PA daily: "They [Israelis] have a common mistake or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 26, 2011)
The point of the PA ambassador was the following: The PA differentiates between recognizing that Israel in fact exists - and its unwavering denial of Israel's legitimacy, that is, Israel's right to exist. The PA educates its children with this dual message that Israel exists but has no right to exist, as expressed in a PA schoolbook for grade 12: "Palestine's war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and established the State of Israel." (Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, grade 12, p. 104)
Defining Israel as being created after "Zionist gangs stole Palestine" is the definitive expression of denying Israel's right to exist. Significantly, this rejection of Israel is not just found in Palestinian schoolbooks but is a central part of the ongoing Palestinian discourse.
When a fire raged in northern Israel last year and the PA sent a team of firefighters to join international forces trying to put it out, it was justified by a regular columnist in the official PA daily as follows: "Even if an aggressive foreigner occupies our home and steals it, we don't wish for the home to burn." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 5, 2010)
Even the official PA daily, when reporting on sporting events, uses political language that tells its readers that it rejects the legitimacy of Israel. The official PA daily reported on a ceremony honoring an Israeli Arab soccer team and its success in moving up to Israel's top division Premier League. Yet when the story was reported in the PA daily it was described as "the team's rise to the national league in the homeland occupied in 1948." (Al- Hayat Al-Jadida, June 18, 2010)
It did not report that it was the "national league in Israel."
In the article in the official PA daily that Gingrich quoted, the PA ambassador to India explained this central duality of the PA ideology, whereby they recognize Israel's existence as a fact of history, but reject Israel's right to exist, as does Hamas.
In a different part of the article the PA ambassador explained this explicitly: "There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is restating the obvious. But recognition of its right to exist is something else, different from recognition of its [physical] existence." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 26, 2011) Clearly, Gingrich was correct.
Similarly, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas himself has promoted this dual message. In his speech at the UN asking for recognition of Palestine as an independent state, Abbas stated to the international community: "Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation, and build cooperative relations based on parity and equity between two neighboring states - Palestine and Israel." (Speech at the UN, September 23, 2011)
However, on the very next day, Abbas's own government- controlled PA TV as part of its UN statehood campaign broadcast a map that included PA areas as well as all of Israel, wrapped in the Palestinian flag, symbolizing Palestinian political sovereignty over all of Israel. This visual statement was another blatant denial of Israel's legitimacy.
Newt Gingrich's second critique of the PA, which presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann likewise mentioned in the ABC debate, was of the PA schoolbooks which he said teach children to be terrorists. Gingrich said: "These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, 'If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money."
Here, Gingrich was correct in principle but his example was not. The PA schoolbooks do not include that particular math question. Instead the PA Ministry of Education does something far worse: It glorifies murderers and terrorists. The PA Ministry of Education has two of its schools named after Dalal Mughrabi (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, January 23, 2006), the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel's history, the Coastal Road massacre bus hijacking in which 37 civilians were killed.
What exactly is the PA message to its children regarding terror? When the Ministry of Education makes children study in a school that venerates a terrorist who killed 37 civilians, its message is very clear: terror and killing Israelis is not only justified but is even worthy of honor.
Fatah has a women's club at Palestinian universities called Sisters of Dalal, honoring the same terrorist Mughrabi. Two summer camps for children this past summer had groups named after her, and one of the camps was sponsored by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The entire environment the PA has created for its children envelopes them in glorification of terror.
The PA, it seems, learned that the world would no longer permit it to directly call to kill Israelis, for to do so would cause it to lose American and European funding. So instead of promoting the terror, it glorifies the terrorists; instead of Palestinian children learning that they must kill Israelis, they learn that whoever kills Israelis will become a Palestinian hero.
When the American congressional candidates criticized the PA for promoting terror among Palestinians they were absolutely correct. When they accused the PA of denying Israel's right to exist they were merely exposing authentic PA ideology.
The time is approaching for the PA to make some hard choices. Is it going to change and take the path of peace or is it going to continue on the path of deception?
(For more information on PA deception, see Deception: Betraying the Peace Process)