At a meeting in Jerusalem last December, a State Department official was asked about the unremitting anti-Semitism emanating from Palestinian officials, their continuing celebration of the murderers of Israeli civilians and what the United States was doing about it. It was “a challenge,” she said, adding that it was “our position” that Palestinian incitement of violence was “unhelpful” to peace. Beyond this banality, she had nothing to offer.
This week’s massacre of worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue — following the Palestinian murders of Israelis in recent days by stabbing them and by running them over — raises yet again the disquieting question: has the Obama administration’s fecklessness about confronting Palestinian incitement of terror served to enable it?
In the last few weeks alone, the Palestinian Authority has posted cartoons of an Israeli pulling down his pants and preparing to “rape” an Arab woman representing a Muslim holy site. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised the Palestinian shot while attempting to assassinate an Israeli as a “martyr” who was destined for heaven. A new hit song on Palestinian social media calls for listeners to “destroy, annihilate [and] blow up” Israelis. Al-Quds University has created the “Martyr Ibrahim Al-Akhari Tournament” to honor the man who recently murdered two Israelis and injured 13 others by running them over with his car.
Despite the fact that American taxpayers provide $500 million to the Palestinian Authority annually, the Obama administration has failed to use that leverage to pressure the recipients of American aid to stop its incitement. Though then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton warned back in 2007 of the need to “stop the propaganda to which Palestinian children are being exposed,” the administration has declined to demand that the Palestinians cut it out.
It is bad enough that the president has not lifted a finger to pressure the Palestinian Authority to put an end to incitement to murder. Even worse, his administration has conducted itself in a way which, however unintended it may be, has effectively green-lighted anti-Israelism of the most vicious sort — which in turn fuels the kind of violence that has left European Jews fearful for their lives and Israelis reeling.
This has included years of publicly derisive treatment of Israel that has conveyed to Israel’s enemies and others that it stands alone, encouraging the conclusion that attacks on Israel — political and physical — have no consequences as far as the United States is concerned.
Earlier this month the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs that Israel deserved credit for having gone to “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties” in trying to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. Dempsey’s praise placed the administration’s scornful, damaging criticism of what were obviously unintended deaths of civilians in Gaza during this summer’s wholly defensive war in stark relief.
Whether by giving interviews witheringly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at particularly sensitive moments or by using obscenities to castigate him, the White House has encouraged the impression that Israel is a fair target for those who wish it ill.
The administration’s scornful treatment of Israel has registered deeply with Israel’s enemies, who have been encouraged to believe that America’s ally is being cut loose. And it has registered with particular force in the Middle East, where the intensity of anti-Semitic incitement has grown steadily.
No serious person can claim that the administration wants an upsurge of terror. But it is hard to deny that it bears a share of responsibility for it.
This post originally appeared in the Boston Herald.