Many people have asked me about the current wave of violence between Jews and Muslims in Israel. Why is it taking place? Is it the beginning of a new intifada (uprising)? Could it have been avoided? Does it create a risk for tourists visiting Israel?
First of all, it certainly could have been avoided. These attacks are not random, spontaneous acts of frustrated people. They are the result of many years of systematic Palestinian education in UNRWA schools, funded by the US and the EU, through which a whole generation of Palestinians have been taught that the very existence of the state of Israel in Dar al Islam (house of Islam) is illegitimate, and the only way to destroy it is by concerted violent jihad (holy war).
There is a constant explosive mixture of radical Islamic indoctrination fermenting under the surface and held back only by the security squads of Mahmoud Abbas. All that it takes for the explosion to be ignited is a green light, a “head-nod”, from President Abbas and his dictatorial regime.
The West should take this into account, stop funding incitement to violence and start pre-conditioning its massive funding on serious Palestinian education system reforms.
Each intifada always has more to do with inner Palestinian politics than the Israeli-Arab conflict. When Hamas is losing popularity in the streets, it starts firing missiles at Israel. When the PLO loses popularity, it unleashes an intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Unfortunately, killing Jews is an easy way to gain political capital in the Palestinian street; it may be easy but it comes with a terrible price. Before the first intifada, a Palestinian from Gaza could easily travel to work at a bank or hospital in Beer Sheva and an Arab from the West Bank could freely drive with his family to a beach in Tel-Aviv on any weekend. With each wave of Palestinian violence, the movement, the commerce and the livelihood of Palestinians has been decreased significantly. Intifada always backfires.
Over the past few months, Mahmoud Abbas has been portrayed in the regional media as old, ineffective and illegitimate. The most widespread dialogue has been conjecture as to “who will replace Abbas?” As a very timely, carefully contemplated response, Abbas traveled to the UN a few weeks ago, stood before the world, and declared that the Palestinians “cannot continue to be bound” by their political and security agreements with Israel. Most of the world did not understand what was novel about this declaration. The Palestinian street, however, understood quite well: the limitations have been lifted. You are free to release your fomenting rage without fear of retribution from the PLO security forces.
Following the Abbas UN declaration, attacks on Israeli citizens ensued, mutual acts of violence followed, and Abbas has yet to publicly condemn any of it. His silence is deafening. Several of Abbas’s government leaders have actually vocally supported the civil unrest. PLO Executive Committee Member, Mahmoud Ismail, declared that killing Israelis is a “national duty” and PLO Central Committee Member, Jamal Muhasim, stated that killing Israel settlers is “legitimate and legal”.
In light of this, we should applaud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s explicit condemnation of recent Jewish retributive attacks on Muslims and his call for the Israeli Police to crack down on all acts of violence from both communities.
This recent escalation could come and go quickly like rain clouds which blow over the horizon, but it could also develop into a longer term drawn-out intifada. It is too early to say. What we know is: when it is all over, many will try to ascertain which side “won” in this conflict. Such calculations are asinine. When human life is lost, nobody wins. The destruction of any life, Israeli or Palestinian, is the destruction of a whole world. In order to support Israel, we should not harm Palestinians and in order to support Palestinians, we should not harm Israel. We should advocate for the improvement and protection of life and livelihood for both peoples on both sides of the conflict. As mentioned above, I believe this starts with education reform.
For those who may be planning to travel to Israel in the near future, I would not change my travel plans. These are very targeted criminal acts being carried out against specific Israeli Jews and Muslim Arabs, in specific geographic locations. None of the attacks have been directed against tourists. Tourism is equally important to the economies of the Jews and the Muslims. Furthermore, the international media tends to exaggerate the tensions. Regardless of current events, Israel continues to be safer and have a lower crime rate on average than the safest major city in the United States.
I look forward to seeing you in our beautiful city.