PMW in the Media
PMW exposes PA antisemitism, one of the major obstacles to peace
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Anti-Semitism still a roadblock to peace

by Ian Wilcock

IT would be a hard heart that could not feel sympathy for Palestinian national aspirations, if the objective is the establishment of a state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel. Nonetheless, it remains a formidably difficult task to accommodate the competing interests of these two national movements in the tiny chunk of territory in question. (The size of Israel and the West Bank combined is only about one-ninth the area of Victoria).

However, that challenge is made even more daunting by the torrent of virulent anti-Semitism emanating from the Palestinian Authority and bodies it controls. These utterances should be deeply alarming to anyone with an even passing familiarity with where the worst excesses of dehumanising anti-Semitism can lead.

An organisation named Palestinian Media Watch does an outstanding job of bringing attention to what the PA and related organisations are saying in Arabic, as opposed to the usually more temperate comments made in English for the world outside the Middle East.

An astonishing part of PA ideology is the constant use of the notoriously forged document of a century ago, the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the PA, this is presented as proof that Jews are running an international conspiracy to conquer and divide the world and to portray Jews and Israelis as inherently evil. The moderator at a Fatah ceremony refers to "our war with the descendants of apes and pigs". A PA magazine for youth has a young woman conversing with Hitler in a dream, who says, "Yes, I killed them so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world."

A PA television narrator describes Jews praying at their most holy site, the Western Wall, as "sin and filth". A PA daily paper marks the Jewish religious festival of Passover by calling it "the holiday of the apes". On another PA TV show, an artist displays his work: three ogres wearing the Star of David impaling children on a bayonet and devouring them one by one. Distressingly crude, racist caricatures of Jews/Israelis are published with PA approval.

Sadly there is much more. A senior Palestinian academic describes Jews as "parasitic worms", while a PA official (believe it or not, from the Ministry of Religious Trusts and Religious Affairs) talked of "the Jews - these pigs on the face of the earth". The official PA daily cites a religious teacher as describing Judaism as a "distorted, corrupted, falsified religion". PA TV broadcasts this comment: "Listen, this is a disease by means of which Allah is testing us; it's called 'Jews'."

And then there is Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and which is in a declared partnership with the PA. It has signed up to every vile anti-Semitic calumny history has to offer. Its charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

To be critical of Israel and its policies is not, of course, in itself anti-Semitic. PA opposition to many Israeli policies and practices is no surprise. But the PA must be persuaded by the many supporters of the Palestinian cause that, if it is sincere in its declared pursuit of a two-state solution, it must have the courage to stop its poisonous, racist characterisations of Jews. To allow these obscenities to continue must further undermine the confidence of the only negotiating partner that could actually deliver a state for Palestinians - Israel. Not to take such action would confirm that the PA has joined with those (headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran) whose objective is to threaten, demonise, delegitimise, even obliterate Israel, but who refuse to engage in the hard and even dangerous work of negotiation and compromise.

There are certainly problems in the reverse direction. In August there was a brutal attack by a mob of Jewish youths on a young Palestinian in Jerusalem. In 2010, a group of rabbis issued a statement arguing for a ban, on religious grounds, on the sale or rental of houses or land to non-Jews. What was instructive in these cases, however, was the response of Israeli political leaders and the wider society.

In the former case, the attack was condemned by political leaders and schools were directed to take up the issues with students. The rabbis found their position forcefully rejected by the Israeli President, Prime Minister, other rabbis and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial foundation. If the PA would learn from these responses, it could only improve the atmosphere for negotiations.

Ian Wilcock was Australia's ambassador to Israel and informal representative to the Palestinian Authority, 1997-99.