Essay: Transformative Moment?
Without sweeping change, Palestinian culture won’t permit making peace with Israel.
It’s stereotypical and wrong to suggest all Palestinians are morally bankrupt. Still, legions of ordinary Palestinians have been poisoned by a raging culture of anti-Zionist venom spewed by many in positions of power.
In a compelling commentary released by Jewish News Syndicate, Stephen Flatow, father of Alisa Flatow, murdered in an Iran-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in Israel in 1995, suggests the top White House adviser on Mideast affairs, Jared Kushner, subscribes to the myth “that average Palestinians are really just like us.”
In an interview with the Jerusalem-based Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, Kushner said: “I believe that the Palestinian people are less invested in the politicians’ talking points than they are in seeing how a deal will give them and their future generations new opportunities, more and better-paying jobs and prospects for a better life.”
Flatow, a New Jersey attorney and the Religious Zionists of America vice president, believes the average Palestinian, because of governmental indoctrination, “really does hate Jews.”
“The political culture of their society,” he says, “is not the same as the democratic political culture of the United States or Israel. Better-paying jobs are not their highest goal.”
In his commentary, Flatow blamed that thinking on Palestinian classrooms grounded in anti-Jewish propaganda and values rooted in extreme elements of Arab nationalism.
Yes, the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), the semiofficial government in the West Bank and self-anointed overseer of any future Palestinian state, has inculcated Palestinians with such acrimony toward Jews and Israel that renewed peace talks would seem unlikely to bear political fruit.
A peace treaty, were the U.S. to succeed in helping broker one, wouldn’t matter without the Palestinians also embracing a new lens through which they view anyone or anything Zionist. It’s hard to see a way out of the anti-Zionist abyss that is Palestinian culture.
Ultimately, hope, because new leadership in Ramallah and Gaza City is always possible, must remain the way forward for those who believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Coexistence, however, requires the patience of Job. The prospective peace partners are battling dark politics not only within, but also across the border.
Moderate Palestinians, if they can stay alive in a society that decries dissent, somehow must muster traction among supportive Arabs and Jews to begin the essential task of unearthing common ground.
In his Al Quds interview on June 25, Kushner said his “dream is for the Israeli and Palestinian people to be the closest of allies’’ in combating terror, spurring economic achievement, advancing science and technology, and “sharing a lifestyle of brotherhood, peace and prosperity.”
The next day, via his commentary, Flatow reminded how, worthy as it is, that dream isn’t practical given it’s the Palestinians “who perpetrate, glorify and financially reward terror.”
It’s easy to pin terror emanating from the Gaza Strip on Hamas, the terrorist organization ruling the coastal enclave. In the West Bank, the P.A., long considered by the U.S. a viable peace partner for Israel, boasts textbooks so spurious the British government just mandated a rigorous review for violent incitement before re-upping British funding support.
In a House of Commons debate on July 4, British lawmaker Joan Ryan, chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, quoted a damning 2017 report about P.A. curriculum changes. Those changes radicalized the curriculum “to a greater extent than before,” according to a report by the Israel-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
Flatow discredits Kushner’s belief that the Palestinians, so “industrious” as a people, would benefit from Israel’s prosperity were peace to come.
“Does he think the Palestinians don’t know that?” rails Flatow. “Does he think that they are simpletons who have never noticed, throughout the past century, how Jewish development of the country has benefited them and could benefit them a lot more if they made peace?”
If the Palestinians seek economic prosperity, why, Flatow asks, did they gleefully burn fully intact greenhouses when Israel withdrew all settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005? Clearly, the fiery response was an act of glee toward the retreat of “occupying” Jews. No thought was given to how the greenhouses could uplift their lives.
In suggesting Gazans “freely elected Hamas in a democratic election, and freely marched to the Gaza fence to throw Molotov cocktails at Israelis and sail flaming kites to burn down their fields,” Flatow overlooks that rising up against Hamas, dedicated by charter to destroying Israel, would require a degree of sophisticated dissent foreign to such an inhibited culture.
Kushner concluded by asserting “humankind’s ability to love” — seemingly undeterred that better-paying jobs won’t move the Palestinian soul from warmongering toward peacemaking.
Surely, Kushner, named by U.S. President Donald Trump, his father-in-law, to shepherd the new U.S. plan for bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians, must tap into something more than “humankind’s ability to love.”
The Palestinians can start by truly recognizing Israel as the Jewish state with a legitimate claim to the land and by avowing to cleanse their ingrained hatred of and violence toward Zionism.
For its part, Israel can recommit to direct, bilateral peace talks through yet another demonstrated gesture of good will — like again curtailing settlement expansion. In a region fraught with terror, Israel cannot compromise on checkpoint or border security.
Then there’s the overarching evil disrupting the Palestinians’ path to progress.
As Stephen Flatow put it: “It would take a complete overhaul of the P.A.’s media and school system, followed by generations of enlightened leadership and education, to change their values and attitudes.”
It’s an overhaul the civilized world must demand — relentlessly.