Should Americans Be Impartial in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

Americans cannot ignore the pathologies of Palestinian society.

According to an expert pollster from the University of Maryland, a strong majority of Americans want the US to remain neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This public sentiment has remained unchanged for the past 30 years.1  Today over 60% of Americans want the US to be impartial.

But does that make sense?

Relationships among nations are much like relationships among individuals. Nations, like individuals, support their friends and oppose their enemies.

In this post I propose that it is not in America’s interest to remain impartial in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. That is because the Palestinian people and the governments that represent them—-the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza—-have for many years acted more like enemies of the US rather than friends.

Below I describe ways in which Palestinian society and governments have acted contrary to the interests of Americans.

Palestinian Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations Sponsor Terrorism

Terrorism is violence against civilians. It is used by non-state actors like the terrorist organization Hamas, and is often supported by states such as Iran and the quasi-state of the Palestinian Authority, the governing body in the West Bank.

Stable democracies, such as the US, are harmed by terrorism. Terrorism degrades the quality of life, impedes economic and humanitarian activity, and erodes democratic values by forcing democracies to limit civil liberties in order to protect their citizens from harm.

Although rarely recognized by the international community, Palestinian civil society organizations and government have been world leaders in promoting and perpetuating international terrorism. They have been innovators in creating new forms of terror that begin in the Middle East and then spread across the world. Airplane hijacking is a case in point.

Palestinians Popularized International Airplane Hijacking

Palestinians did not invent airplane hijacking. But they popularized it.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Palestinian groups engaged in a frenzy of airplane hijackings. In 2006, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz published a brief history of Palestinian airplane hijackings. So numerous were these hijackings, the paper entitled their article, “When Plane Hijackings were Palestinian Terrorists’ Weapon of Choice.”2

In 1970, Palestinians simultaneously hijacked five airplanes. They diverted flights, seized aircraft and terrorized travelers. In 1976, Palestinians, aided by German terrorists, hijacked a flight departing from Tel Aviv. This led to international headlines and a lengthy ordeal for Israeli passengers when the flight was diverted to Entebbe, Uganda. These were just a few of many airplane hijackings by Palestinian terrorists.

As a result of these types of events, airlines across the world were forced to implement stringent security measures. These measures continue to be in effect today. Every day they inconvenience and delay travelers. They have added to the stress and cost of air travel.

Palestinian terrorists have also carried out innumerable terrorist attacks against buses and other vehicular traffic. Although most of these attacks have occurred in Israel, it is certainly not in the interests of the US to support the Palestinian groups that relentlessly pursue this form of violence.

Palestinians Popularized Suicide Bombings

As is the case with airplane hijackings, although the Palestinians did not invent suicide bombings, they popularized them. Today’s newspaper stories are replete with incidents of Islamic-inspired suicide bombings in the Middle East and throughout the world.

In 1994, shortly before the Palestinian Authority was created, Palestinian terror groups—- like Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas—-began to carry out suicide bombing attacks against Jewish Israelis. As the violence continued, the armed wing of Fatah, the political party of the PA, also sent out suicide bombers to kill Jewish Israelis. These attacks were intended to disrupt peace negotiations between Israel and the PA. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured. Suicide bombers self-detonated in crowded locations such as busses, restaurants and shopping malls. They attacked nineteen times in 1995 to 2000. The following three years saw 103 bombings in Israel.

Palestinian religious and political leaders use these attacks to demoralize and frighten the Jewish population of Israel. They often use religious motivation to justify the bombings. Many Palestinian leaders argue that because Jews are non-believers and occupiers of Islamic lands, killing them is a noble act.

In surveys of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, support for these suicide bombings has remained high. In Pew public opinion polls taken in 2007, 2009 and 2011, 68-70% of Palestinians said that suicide bombing and other violence against civilians is often or sometimes justified.  In a 2013 Pew public opinion poll, 62% of respondents said that suicide bombings can often or sometimes be justified. (By comparison, only 3% of respondents in Pakistan felt that way.)

Suicide bombing as a terror tactic is also being used in the west, for example, in the attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, Britain in 2017. In that attack, the bomber killed 22 people and injured at least 59 others.

In recent years, Palestinians have popularized car ramming attacks in Israel. In these attacks, a motorist rams his vehicle into a crowd. Although these attacks first achieved popularity among terrorists in Israel, they have now spread to the west. One of the most horrific such attacks occurred in 2016 in Nice, France. Tunisian-born terrorist Lahouaiej-Bouhlel commandeered a large cargo truck and repeatedly drove it into crowds of pedestrians along a promenade. He killed 86 people and injured 458 others.

It is not in the interests of Americans to support a culture and a set of beliefs that justify these sorts of attacks.

Palestinians Use American and European Money to Reward the Killing of Civilians

Prior to the Oslo Accords, the Palestine Liberation Organization  (PLO) planned, financed and supervised thousands of terrorist attacks against civilians. The attacks were carried out all over the world, and especially in Israel. The victims of these attacks included many Americans.

After the implementation of the Oslo Accords, the PLO essentially morphed into the now-legitimate Palestinian Authority (PA). While the PA itself no longer plans and implements terrorist attacks, they continue to incentivize them. One way they do this is by means of what they euphemistically call “The Martyrs’ Fund.” Every terrorist who kills a Jew or other infidel is rewarded with a generous monthly stipend for the rest of his life. If the terrorist dies in the “martyr operation” his family receives the payment. This program is highly popular among the Palestinian population. Western critics have dubbed this program “Pay to Slay”.3

The sums devoted to rewarding terrorist killers are breathtaking. The Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs has created a schedule of payments that is used to determine the amount of the stipends to be granted to these killers. The size of the stipend is directly proportional to the number of years of imprisonment faced by the terrorist. In effect, the more victims killed, the higher the monetary reward.

In 2018, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas allocated $360 million dollars—-about 7% of the PA budget—to these blood payments. Almost half of foreign aid is diverted to these reward payments. Because the US has been the largest single donor to the Palestinian Authority, this means that for years, American taxpayer dollars were used to fund these payments. (Recently, President Trump cut most US aid to the Palestinian Authority for its support of terrorism and unwillingness to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in good faith.)

Some convicted terrorists receive thousands of dollars a month in stipends.

Last year a Palestinian terrorist broke into a home and knifed three members of the Salomon family to death. Over his lifetime, the terrorist murderer is on course to receive $3,478,000. A terrorist often receives monthly payments that exceed what an average employee earns in Palestinian Authority areas.

Israel has tens of thousands of dual Israeli-US citizens. Thus it is not surprising that Americans are among the victims of Palestinian terrorists. In 2016, a young Palestinian terrorist snuck into an Israeli home and knifed to death a 13 year old Israeli-American girl as she slept in her bed. The terrorist’s family receives monthly reward payments. Also in 2016, Taylor Force, a non-Jewish American visiting Israel, was knifed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. Force was a US Army veteran. The murderer’s relatives are receiving a generous monthly stipend.

The PA claims these are welfare payments. They are not. Eligibility for the payments is not based on need, but rather on the magnitude of the carnage the terrorist caused. Far more is spent each year on rewarding terrorists than on supporting families with welfare needs. The maximum welfare payment is 57% less than the minimum reward payment to terrorists.2

In the face of European and American complaints about these payments, the PA has tried to hide them by diverting them to other PA government programs with innocuous sounding names. This has not changed a thing. Each year, the PA budget for terrorist rewards is increased.

Last year the US Congress passed legislation—-the Taylor Force Act—-to prevent US funds from going toward these terrorist-incentivizing payments.

It is indefensible that US taxpayer money has been used to reward Palestinian terrorists for their gruesome killings of civilians. This is not an issue in which Americans should be impartial.

Palestinians Teach Their Children to Hate

Over the years, the PA and Hamas have received millions of dollars in foreign aid to support the education of school children. The Palestinians have consistently used their school systems to indoctrinate children in Jew hatred, intolerance and violence.

A recent review of PA school textbooks found that they contained “no suggestion or desire for peace with Israel……all mention of peace agreements with Israel have been erased. In their first lesson, five-year-old children are taught they should become shahids (martyrs) and that holy jihad (holy war) is the most important thing in life.” 4  The curriculum promotes anti-Semitism and violence. It refers to Jews and Israelis with hostility. On maps, Israel is erased. Teachers tell children that all of Israel is “Arab territory.” A recent report charged that anti-Israel incitement in textbooks has increased.

Currently, the European Union, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Finland are conducting investigations into Palestinian teaching materials for their incitement and lack of conformance to international standards.

Palestinians Abuse Human Rights

Advocates for Israel often cite the shared values that unite Israel and America. They are referring to the liberal values that have made both our countries free, stable and open societies. Both countries are characterized by free and fair elections, open political systems, freedom to dissent from government policies, free speech, a free and independent press, an independent judiciary that moderates the actions of governments and assures adherence to the rule of law, freedom of assembly, rights to due process, protection of property rights—-and all the other civil protections guaranteed by the US Constitution and Israel’s Basic Laws.

Arabs living under the PA and Hamas enjoy few of these human rights. This has been documented by Freedom House, a non-profit group that evaluates and rates the level of freedom and democracy of countries around the world. Israel consistently earns the highest rating of “1”, indicating that it is “an open and democratic society with a fair and free political life.” In Israel, the rights of Arabs, Christians, gays and other minorities are protected by law. Although these protections are not perfect, minorities have fared well in Israel. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where Arabs can freely practice their democratic rights.

By contrast, Freedom House rates the PA as a“6” on their freedom and democracy scale. This indicates “an autocratic regime with minimal political rights.” Hamas would certainly rate the lowest score. In both areas, Arabs who criticize the government are routinely arrested and imprisoned. Recently, Human Rights Watch issued a scathing report on human rights abuses in the PA and Gaza.5  They documented the imprisonment of dissenters and routine torture by PA and Hamas authorities.

Since they came to power in a violent and bloody coup in 2007, the rulers of Hamas have permitted no elections. President Abbas, head of the PA, was elected for a four year term in 2005. Fourteen years later no election has been held for his office. Given the unpopularity of PA rule, its leaders have refused to hold elections and they have dissolved their parliament. Laws are passed by decree of the president.

PA and Hamas officials strictly control the press, and more recently, social media. They allow little or no criticism of the government. Palestinian artists are constrained in their expression. Palestinians who seek to engage Jewish Israelis in joint social, humanitarian, artistic or political activities are accused of “normalization” and threatened.

In the PA and Gaza ruled areas, Christians have been harassed and threatened. As a result, Christian populations in the PA and Gaza have declined dramatically—mirroring a trend in the wider Arab world since the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Every year, women in the Palestinian territories and Gaza are murdered by family members in a cultural practice called honor killing. In an honor killing, male family members kill a wife, daughter or sister who has brought “dishonor” to the family by, for example, dating a man not approved by the family. In some cases, these women are killed for financial or inheritance reasons.

Laws in the PA and Gaza allow the family to engage in a legal maneuver called “dropping the personal right of the victim.” By one account, 95 per cent of women murdered in the Palestinian territories have their personal rights waived by their own family members. Courts then oblige the murderers by lightening or dropping prison sentences. The end result is that honor murderers typically receive little or no punishment.6

Gay men are routinely threatened and killed by their families. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have fled to Israel in order to save their lives.

In many families, women have limited rights. For example, they cannot travel or sometimes even leave their homes without the permission of their husband or other male relative. Women are a minority in the labor force. Their lack of income reinforces their diminished status in the family.

Palestinians Enforce a Judenrein (Jew-free) Policy

Palestinians are self-ruling in much of the West Bank and in all of Gaza. Jews have lived continuously in these areas for over 3,500 years. But under the PA and Hamas, no Jews are allowed to live in these areas.

Laws prohibit residence and land and home ownership by Jews. Other laws criminalize the selling of land to Jews. Even in the supposedly moderate PA, selling land to a Jew may be punished with life imprisonment or capital punishment. The PA government has a special agency that monitors land sales, and uses their security force to threaten and apprehend Palestinians who have, or may, sell land to Jews.

Although capital punishment has not been carried out for land sales, a number of Palestinians are serving long prison terms for selling property to Jews. Recently, the US government objected to the imposition of a life sentence on a dual Palestinian-American citizen who sold land to a Jew.

Palestinian Corruption in the PA and Gaza is Endemic

Since the establishment of the PA in 1994 and the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, Palestinian rulers have stolen millions of public dollars that were intended to better the lives of their citizens. This is a massive theft. The PA government has received four times as much money per capita as the US gave to Western Europe for post-World War II reconstruction.

For years, American and European donors have played a cat-and-mouse game with Palestinian leaders. Donor countries demand greater accountability and set up special mechanisms to ensure that funds are spent for their intended purpose. The PA and Hamas respond by diverting funds to newly created government bureaus and using other trickery.  How have corrupt Palestinian leaders spent this money? They skim millions from the many donor grants designed to improve the quality of life of Palestinians—-from education, infrastructure, police training, cell phone service, and so on. The funds are diverted to top leaders and their families. For example, through these methods, President Abbas and his two sons have become multi-millionaires. PA and Hamas leaders have built luxurious mansions for themselves and their family members.

In Gaza, millions of dollars in humanitarian supplies and cash are illegally diverted to Hamas’ war against the Jews. For example, the international community has donated tons of cement to Gazans for the purpose of reconstruction. Hamas has commandeered much or most of this cement to build hundreds of miles of terror tunnels to be used in attacking Israel. These tunnels serve as munitions storage, hiding places for terrorists and rocket launching sites. Tragically, over a hundred children have died building these tunnels. (Hamas uses children as tunnel diggers because they are small enough to maneuver in the tunnels.)

In one public opinion survey in PA governed areas, respondents cited Palestinian Authority corruption as the number one problem in their society—-above the Israeli “occupation.”

Until Palestinian leaders end the corruption game, foreign aid will fail to secure a functioning democracy and economy for Palestinians. It is not in the interest of Americans to use taxpayer dollars to funnel money to corrupt Palestinian leaders who enrich themselves and make endless war.

Palestinians are Hostile to America

Palestinian hostility to Americans is rampant. This was evident in the widespread Palestinian celebrations immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. These attacks left almost 3,000 Americans dead. Palestinians watched on their televisions as thousands of Americans fled in fright and horror from the burning Twin Towers and the Pentagon. They saw Americans jump to their deaths from the Towers.

As soon as television reports broke news of the attacks, celebrations broke out in many Palestinian communities all across the West Bank and Lebanon. They were characterized by jubilant gunfire, motorists honking car horns, and dancing and cheering in the streets. Revelers waved Palestinian flags and handed out sweets to passers-by, a traditional Arab form of celebration. PA officials, conscious of their international reputation, tried feverishly—-and with limited success—-to stop filming of these celebrations. Had they not done this, Americans might have been more aware of the joyous celebration on the Palestinian street.

Palestinians are Hostile to Jews

Of all the areas of the world, the Arab world is the most anti-Semitic. And among Arab populations, the most anti-Semitic are Palestinians. According to the Jerusalem Post, 93% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza hold negative views of Jews.7

Palestinian Leaders Have Repeatedly Rejected US and International Peace Offers

Palestinian leaders rejected international proposals to divide Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state in 1937 (the British Peel Commission) and again in 1947 (the United Nations Partition Plan).

In 2000, the Israeli government agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Gaza, and almost all of the West Bank (with land swaps for the Palestinians). Palestinians rejected this offer.

In 2008, the Israeli government offered the Palestinians all of Gaza, 94 per cent of the West Bank (with compensating land swaps), evacuation of 60,000 Israelis from the West Bank, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a family reunification program for about 50,000 Palestinian refugees to settle in Israel. Palestinian leaders chose to ignore this Israeli offer.

For the past ten years, the Palestinian Authority has mostly refused to come to the negotiating table. Hamas has denounced all negotiations with the Israelis, choosing instead to continue their violent jihad.

Arab leaders have engaged in rejectionism for the past 82 years. It is not in the interest of Americans to continue to support Palestinian leaders who refuse to make peace with America’s ally, Israel.

Where Should the American People Stand?

In this post I have argued that it is in the interest of Americans to favor our ally Israel over the Palestinians.

Israel is a vital ally that secures American interests and values in the Middle East. Hamas and the PA, on the other hand, routinely violate American values of freedom and open government, abuse US aid, are hostile to American interests and are unwilling to make peace by sharing sovereignty with Jews. Americans cannot ignore these pathologies of Palestinian society that impede peace and progress.

At the same time, if Americans are to be fair, they must acknowledge a key fact: Palestinian governments do not speak for all Palestinians.

Like all governments, the PA and Hamas represent millions of people who have divergent values, attitudes and preferences. The intransigence of Palestinian leaders stands in contrast to the many thousands of Palestinians who live, work, govern, raise families and pursue their daily lives alongside Jews in harmony. If peace is to be had, these are the Palestinians and Jews who will agree to it—-because it is in their interest.

Footnotes

  1. Poll: American Support Grows for One-State Solution in Israel, National Public Radio [Transcript, 5:44PM ET], December 15, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2019 from:

https://www.npr.org/2018/12/15/677100908/poll-american-support-grows-for-one-state-solution-in-israel

 

  1. When Plane Hijackings were Palestinians Terrorists’ Weapon of Choice. Ha’aretz. May 29, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2019 from:

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/after-egyptair-four-hijackings-that-shook-israel-1.5424289

 

  1. Gerber, S. & Kuperwasser, Blood Money, Not Benevolence: The PLO’s Justification of ‘Pay for Slay’, Washington Examiner, January 11, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2019 from:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/blood-money-not-benevolence-the-plos-justification-of-pay-for-slay

 

    Characterizing payments for terror as social welfare is a deception. The Palestinian system governing payments to terrorists is far superior to the regular needs-based welfare system. In the Palestinian Authority’s 2018 budget, more than $330 million goes to 10,500 imprisoned and released prisoners and 37,500 families of martyrs and injured. In contrast, the PA’s social welfare budget is $214 million and supports 118,000 households.
Prisoners receive 1,400-12,000 shekels, paid monthly. Families of those killed perpetrating terror attacks receive 6,000 shekels immediately, then a minimum of 1,400 shekels monthly for life. Social welfare recipients are only eligible based on need, and they receive only 250-600 shekels per month, paid quarterly. The maximum welfare payment is 57% less than the minimum pay-for-slay salary. Remember this when a Palestinian official conflates payment for terrorism with social welfare.

 

  1. Moshe, S. Switzerland to Examine Reports that Palestinian Textbooks Promote, Violence, Racism. The Algemeiner. January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 12, 2019 from:

https://www.algemeiner.com/2019/01/08/switzerland-to-examine-reports-that-palestinian-textbooks-promote-violence-racism/

“School materials that run contrary to the spirit of a two-state solution, which glorify violence, which fuel racism and anti-Semitism or trivialize violations of international law and human rights, are not in compliance with the Swiss position on the Middle East,” a spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA) said……”

 

  1. Palestine: Authorities Crush Dissent: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture Systematic. Human Rights Watch. October 23, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2019 from: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/10/23/palestine-authorities-crush-dissent

 

  1. Lieber, D. As So-called ‘Honor Killers’ Get Away with Murder, Palestinians Say Law, Judges, Outdated. Times of Israel. May 18, 2017. Retrieved January 28, 2019 from:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-so-called-honor-killers-get-away-with-murder-palestinians-say-law-judges-outdated/

 

  1. Friedson, F. How Can Negotiators in the Israeli-Palestinian Talks Learn From Bahrain? Jerusalem Post. September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 23, 2017 from: http://www.jpost.com/middle-east/how-can-negotiators-in-the-israeli-palestinian-talks-learn-from-bahrain-505616

 

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors. Dr. Berger also blogs at: https://realbulletpoints.wordpress.com/
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