Former senior White House official Elliott Abrams
uses PMW documentation in Congress
to prove PA “teaching of hate”
In July 2015, PMW director Itamar Marcus met with Elliott Abrams. Since then, Abrams has been receiving regular PMW updates. The following are segments of a speech he gave to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in which he criticized the US government for not “combatting incitement.” Segments marked in bold indicate PMW documentation.
Prepared statement by Elliott Abrams
Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Council on Foreign Relations
Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
United States House of Representatives
1st Session, 114th Congress, Oct. 22, 2015
Hearing on “Words Have Consequences: Palestinian Authority Incitement to Violence”
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
The subject of this hearing could not be more important, as we know from the terrorist attacks in Israel in the last few weeks.
What leads a young person, a teenager, to stab or attempt to stab to death someone he has never met? Stabbing is the most intimate of attacks—not setting a bomb for people you will never see, not shooting at a distance, but reaching out to someone inches away from you and taking that person’s blood. The answer, I believe, is the teaching of hate.
“Incitement” is the term we usually use, but hatred is what we mean. “Incitement” means teaching
generations of Palestinians to hate Jews by demonizing and dehumanizing them; teaching hate and terror by honoring terrorists; and teaching hate by telling lies about what is happening at the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif and other Muslim religious sites…
Those lies are being repeated in Palestinian media and worse yet by the top Palestinian leadership. Palestinian Authority President and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas early on during the crisis that “Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet.” [PMW report, “Abbas: We won't allow Jews' ‘filthy feet,’" Sept. 17, 2015] …
Telling that lie has the predictable effect of spurring violence. Moreover, once the violence began Palestinian leaders began giving verbal support to it. Abbas himself said “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every Shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will.” [Ibid]
And as you know, he then accused Israel of the cold blooded murder—“summary execution of our children in cold blood,” he said—of a Palestinian teenager —who was first of all a terrorist who was stabbed two Israelis and secondly is not dead, but is being treated in an Israeli hospital. So instead of calming tensions what we get from Abbas is lie after lie to stoke the tension. I am aware that Palestinian police have worked to stop the violence on many occasions, as I am aware that Abbas has denounced the arson at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. This suggests to me that Abbas is against any outbreak of uncontrollable violence in the West Bank, which he rules, but content to see violence spread in Jerusalem and all of Israel.
The background to the current wave of violence is the pattern of glorification of terrorists. Here is perhaps the best, meaning the worst, example, from Palestinian Media Watch:
Dalal Mughrabi led the most deadly terror attack in Israel's history. 37 civilians, 12 of them children, were killed in her 1978 bus hijacking. The Palestinian Authority has turned this terrorist into a celebrated hero and role model, as schools, summer camps, and sports tournaments are all named after her. Her attack was celebrated by a Fatah spokesman as "the most glorified sacrifice action in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle." [Al- Ayyam, July 13, 2008] Palestinian newspapers also frequently glorify Mughrabi, as in the Al-Ayyam article which described Mughrabi as writing "the most glorious page of heroism in the history of the Palestinian struggle. [Aug. 2, 2009] The PA celebrated the 31st anniversary of the killings with an hour-long TV special, which opened with the narrator glorifying the attack. Advisor to Mahmoud Abbas, Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Sabri Saidam said on the day of the naming of a square in her name: "Every one of us has tried in his own way to express his pride in this Martyr [Mughrabi]." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 14, 2011]
There are many other examples one could cite, but let me just give one more from the current wave of terrorism. Muhannad Halabi, who was 19, killed 2 Israelis, Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Bennett, and injured Bennett's wife, Adele, and their 2-year-old son in a stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem on Oct. 3, 2015. Following the attack, he was shot and killed by Israeli security forces. The Palestinian Bar Association decided one week later on Oct. 10, 2015 to award Halabi, whom they called a “heroic Martyr,” an honorary law degree and to dedicate its swearing-in ceremony for the next class of lawyers after him… [PMW report, “Fatah brought soil from Al-Aqsa to grave of killer of two,” Oct. 14, 2015]
But let’s return to the U.S. Government. After Tuesday October 13, when three Israelis were killed, the State Department spokesman said “We mourn any loss of innocent life, Israeli or Palestinian. We continue to stress the importance of condemning violence and combating incitement.”
He’s right about combating incitement. The problem is, we’re not doing it.
This is a bipartisan error: administrations of both parties have, over the decades, decried and condemned incitement but we’ve never made it a central issue. There has always been some other pressing matter that took precedence: we wanted to get the Palestinians to back a UN resolution or oppose one, to come to the negotiating table, to have a smooth visit, or to hire or fire some official, so the immediate always came before the matter of deeper long-term importance: incitement, which means teaching hatred.
And to be fair to all those administrations, including when I served in the Executive Branch, it is difficult to know exactly what to do. When there are calls to stop the funding of the PA, it is usually the government of Israel that winces. It does not want to see all governmental functions in the West Bank fall back into its lap because the PA collapses.
So what can be done? Let me suggest three steps. First, close the PLO office in Washington and do not permit the opening of a PA office until the incitement stops. Second, if we cannot usefully stop all PA funding, let’s try to stop the illegal personal funding, the corruption, that is rife there. We can demand investigations, or undertake them; you could make it a condition of spending appropriated funds. It is widely understood in the region that since the departure of Salam Fayyad as prime minister almost two and a half years ago corruption has increased steadily. Third, we should keep track of who is doing the incitement, by name, and be sure they are barred from getting visas at least for a period of time.
These steps are not panaceas, but they are better than what we usually do—which is very little or nothing.
But we have seen in the last few weeks that teaching hatred and glorifying terror eventually results in acts of terror that reflect hatred.
Thank you for inviting me here today. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.