Australia/Israel Review

Deconstruction Zone: Palestinians must confront the violence in our culture

Mar 1, 2023 | Bassem Eid

Sweets are handed out in Gaza to celebrate the deadly synagogue attack in Jerusalem (Image: Twitter)
Sweets are handed out in Gaza to celebrate the deadly synagogue attack in Jerusalem (Image: Twitter)

Even more shocking than the massacre of seven civilians outside an east Jerusalem synagogue on Jan. 27 was the fact that this assault on civilians peacefully praying in a sacred space was not condemned but celebrated by Palestinians and their purported admirers as far away as Yemen. 

There is something deeply broken in a Palestinian street culture that honours violence against innocents. Multiple generations of Palestinian young people have been taught to hate Jews and Israel’s allies, and to equate attacks on civilians to attacks on military targets. 

Too much of the Western world has coddled this perverse cycle. Enough is enough. 

There are ominous signs that the forces of cruelty are already on the brink of dragging the Palestinian people and our neighbours through another round of terrible conflict. The shooting outside the synagogue came a day after an Israeli commando raid on an apartment building in the Jenin refugee camp targeted a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell that was reportedly on the verge of launching a major terrorist attack. 

Israeli forces killed nine people in the raid, including seven men who Israeli and Palestinian officials said were armed. Militants in Gaza fired rockets at Israel in response. Then came the shooting that killed five men and two women outside the synagogue. 

All humanity should recognise the difference between a preventative assault on a terrorist cell and the massacre of civilians in a house of worship. Yet Palestinian culture has somehow come to tolerate such chilling slaughter. It happened in 1972, after the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, and in 1976, with the plane hijacking to Entebbe, and so many times since.

Palestinians have been used as pawns by surrounding Arab nations that were pursuing a policy of eternal conflict with Israel. Most Arab countries refused citizenship to Palestinian refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars in Israel, leaving us crowded in squalid camps. 

I should know. I was born in the Old City under Jordanian rule. My family is Muslim, but we lived in the Jewish Quarter. Until 1966, when I was eight, and the Jordanian government forcibly relocated us to the Shuafat Refugee Camp, thus turning me and my family into “refugees”.

One must understand the refugee-isation of the Palestinian people to understand what has perverted our sons’ and daughters’ sense of humanity until they consider a mass shooting an occasion for sweets and dancing. 

A Palestinian refugee is not just a refugee for life: Unlike all other refugee populations, the United Nations has given Palestinian refugees the unique curse of inheritability, so that there are now Palestinian refugees of the fourth and fifth generations. 

This is how the number of Palestinians considered refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) ballooned from about 700,000 in 1948 – comparable to the 900,000 Jews who were expelled from Arab and Islamic countries in the same period – to an astonishing 5.6 million today. 

UNRWA, which runs schools in the refugee camps, including much of the Gaza Strip, has contributed to the sick street culture with antisemitic education materials that include descriptions of Jews as “ impure” and “inherently treacherous and hostile to Islam and Muslims.” 

Another factor is the lack of leadership and democratic processes in the Palestinian Government. The supposed moderate, President Mahmoud Abbas, is now serving the 19th year of a four-year term. Contesting him are Hamas, whose charter covenant calls for Israel’s destruction, and PIJ, an Iranian proxy that rains rockets on Israeli cities. 

It’s time to admit that Palestinian institutions are broken, and that they have developmentally harmed generations of Palestinian men and women, boys and girls, by whipping them into a constant froth with violently antisemitic educational and media content. 

The Palestinian Authority provides a financial incentive for terrorism by providing pensions to the families of those who attack Israelis. 

The Palestinian people’s immersion in a culture of violence now spans generations. The corrupt Palestinian institutions must be completely abolished, and an entirely new framework envisioned so that a rising generation can mature and embrace the prospects of peace and prosperity.

Bassem Eid is a Palestinian human rights activist. Reprinted from the New York Forward. © Forward (, reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.


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