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Heinous terror in Jerusalem

Feb 3, 2023 | AIJAC staff

The aftermath of the fatal terror attack in Jerusalem (Image: Twitter)
The aftermath of the fatal terror attack in Jerusalem (Image: Twitter)

Update 02/23 #01

A major Israeli anti-terror operation in the West Bank city of Jenin on January 26, part of the ongoing ten-month-long campaign by security forces known as “Breaking the Wave”, made headlines last week. (For more, don’t miss Monash University academic and AIJAC research associate Dr. Ran Porat’s backgrounder on the Jenin operation on AIJAC’s website.) Meanwhile, after a Palestinian terrorist murdered seven people, including a 14-year-old boy, outside a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Neve Yaakov the following evening in the deadliest single terror attack in Israel since 2011, and a 13-year-old Palestinian youth shot and wounded two Israelis on January 28, many news reports falsely drew a moral equivalence between the events as the product of a “cycle of violence”.

This Update takes a closer look at the incidents in Jenin and Jerusalem over the past week with some insightful commentary that debunks the notion that Israeli defensive acts of counter-terrorism are justification for more Palestinian terrorism, and takes on Palestinian incentives and incitement to commit acts of terrorism against Israelis.

First up is Seth Frantzman from the Jerusalem Post, who points out that the Jenin operation was carefully planned and focused on thwarting the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group. So far, there is no evidence the perpetrator of the Neve Yaakov attack was connected to PIJ, Frantzman writes, and just because lone wolf terrorists are angered by other incidents doesn’t turn their actions into a cycle. Calling a terror attack part of a “cycle of violence”, he adds, is dehumanising, excuses the practice of targeting civilians as a means to terrorise Israelis and undermines the efforts for peaceful conflict resolution between Israel and the Palestinians. For more of his analysis on the subject, CLICK HERE.

Next up is Enia Krivine from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who spotlights the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) longstanding policy of paying generous monthly salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons, or to the families of those killed while attacking Israelis – an outrageous practice that has been often referred to as “pay for slay”. While not written in response to the Jerusalem attacks, Krivine’s piece is highly timely given the way the PA’s payouts help sponsor terror. She updates readers on the new Israeli Government’s resumption of a tougher Israeli policy on the issue by withholding an amount of the tax money collected by Israel for the PA that is equivalent to what is paid out to terrorists and their families. Meanwhile, she cautions, Israel must weigh the risk that the PA’s budget shortfall could add to the breakdown of order in the West Bank or even the collapse of the PA, the consequences of which would also likely be dire. For Krivine’s complete assessment, CLICK HERE.

Besides financial incentives, experts on Palestinian terrorism agree that incitement against Jews and Israelis is a driving force in radicalising Palestinians to carry out attacks. Writing on this issue in the Times of Israel Blogs, Marcus Sheff, the CEO of The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), considers what could have led 13-year-old Jerusalem Palestinian Muhammad Aliwat to steal a gun from a family member and shoot two Israelis in the January 28 attack. Sheff notes that Aliwat’s school, based in the Shuafat refugee camp, uses PA textbooks that teach antisemitism and glorify martyrdom and jihadism. He contrasts the deplorable level of incitement in the PA’s textbooks to a more encouraging trend in the curriculum of schools in other Arab and Muslim states. This includes not only the United Arab Emirates – which is a signatory to the 2020 Abraham Accords agreements – but also, gradually, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and even Jordan, which he writes may teach no respect for Israel, but at least educates students in a bit of Jewish history. Sheff concludes that the PA’s persistent refusal to change their students’ textbooks must be interpreted as a national strategy that can only lead to more bloodshed. For his entire essay, CLICK HERE.

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The ‘cycle of violence’ dehumanizing cliches after Jerusalem massacre

Though Jerusalem was on the receiving end of violence, the global community still turns the narrative against the victim state.

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Jerusalem Post
Published: JANUARY 28, 2023 22:25

The mass murder of Israelis on Friday night has led to the usual wave of condemnations and also the tendency to dehumanize the victims by portraying them as part of a “cycle of violence” or as victims that were harmed due to a decades-long “conflict.” The reactions to the attack clearly fit into several categories.

One type of condemnation singles out the perpetrator and terror attack and commemorates the victims. A second type tends to condemn the attack but also contain a reference to a “cycle of violence.” A third type tends to try to excuse or mitigate the mass murder by referencing “occupation” or “apartheid” and castigating the victims as “settlers.”

The latter two types of reactions tend to have a kind of “all lives matter” vibe. This is because they don’t seem to be able to condemn attacks on Israeli victims without trying to reference something else. This kind of condemnation is problematic because it doesn’t allow Israelis to be victims, it always tries to whitewash or add context that dehumanizes the victims by turning them into objects of a larger conflict. This type of dehumanization is problematic because it is possible to condemn attacks on Israeli civilians, full stop.

Pre-packaged responses to continued terror attacks

Many of the reactions to Friday’s attack felt pre-packaged, with the usual reference to a possible “third intifada” and “cycle of violence”; and in other instances references to “occupation.” These kinds of reactions could be heard at the UN and on major media, such as the BBC. This reads like a script for tragedy. When Israel carried out a raid on Jenin on Thursday, in which nine Palestinians were killed, reports depicted this an escalation by Israel.

Then, on Friday when a Palestinian murdered seven Israelis on Shabbat, the question raised on some media was about the “cycle” of violence. What is the cycle? The raid on Jenin was conducted to prevent Palestinian Islamic Jihad from preparing a terror attack. That terror group has been involved in increasing clashes with Israel over the last years.

It’s not a cycle, it’s a one-way conflict in which the Iran-backed PIJ stockpiles illegal weapons and threatens Israel from places like Jenin. PIJ is an illegal armed terror group. There’s no cycle, it’s Israelis trying to pre-empt the group from expanding and carrying out attacks.

On the other hand the attack in Jerusalem, apparently carried out by one perpetrator who targeted Jewish civilians, is not a cycle. It’s two different incidents, one in Jenin and one in Jerusalem. Is there evidence that PIJ is involved in both? Not according to reports. Just because lone wolf terrorists are angered by other incidents doesn’t turn their actions into a cycle.

The reason the “cycle” cliché is problematic is also because it is trotted out almost every day without introspection. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process condemned a “cycle of violence” on January 26 and back on January 18 France’s mission to the UN also said the “cycle of violence” should end. January 18 was even before the Jenin raid and the Jerusalem attack.

These kinds of statements are banal and they are becoming so common that it reads like one of those articles written by artificial intelligence, where you just plug in the new parameters and the statement comes out the other end.

Victims deserve better. Not every Palestinian and Israeli is a victim of a “cycle.” There are individual actions behind these tragedies. This is not a script for a play, but human lives cut short. The “occupation” or “Israeli control” is not an excuse for attacks or a mitigating reason or them. Perpetrators who purposely target civilians are not fighters targeting an “occupying force,” they are committing murderous crimes.

It’s possible for commentators to write about the Jenin clashes and also about the attack in Jerusalem and see each as its own incident, and each civilian death as a tragedy. When commentators try to churn this into one process it not only wreaks of “all lives matter” excuses but also is not helpful either for peace or for humanizing the victims on both sides.


Some Palestinians celebrated the terror attacks in Jerusalem (Image: Twitter)

Time For Palestinian Leaders to End “Pay-to-Slay” Terror Bounties

Enia Krivine 
Town Hall | Jan 28, 2023

Earlier this month, Israel’s new finance minister Bezalel Smotrich withheld just under $40 million of tax revenue that Israel collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Smotrich told reporters at a press conference that he is pursuing “justice” by transferring the $40 million to Israeli victims of terrorism.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called it “another nail in the Palestinian Authority’s coffin.” Smotrich, when asked whether withholding revenue from the cash-strapped authority could result in its collapse, responded: If the PA “encourages terror and is an enemy, I have no interest for it to continue to exist.”

Smotrich’s condemnation of the PA refers to Ramallah’s longstanding policy of paying generous monthly salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons, or to the families of those killed while attacking Israelis. In 2021, the PA spent more than $175 million on these payments, which critics have dubbed “pay-to-play.” The payments even increase for terrorists with more blood on their hands.

2018 Israeli law attempted to pressure Palestinian leaders to end pay-for-slay by requiring the Israeli government to withhold as much tax revenue as the PA spends on payments to terrorists. In an arrangement that dates to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel collects what are called “clearance revenues” (taxes, basically) on behalf of the PA. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Israel collected $2.9 billion of such revenue in 2021. This gives Israel considerable leverage since the money it transfers makes up the largest source of the PA’s income.

Smotrich’s declared lack of interest in the survival of the PA runs contrary to the traditional position of both Washington and Jerusalem, who prefer to prop up the PA because they believe its corrupt governance is still preferable to a power vacuum or a Hamas government in the West Bank.

The idea of applying financial pressure on the PA to end pay-to-slay was inspired by the horrific murder of a young American Army veteran in Tel Aviv and legislated by the U.S. Congress long before the law passed Israel’s Knesset.

The Taylor Force Act of 2018, which bars the U.S. government from providing aid that directly benefits the PA while the “pay-to-slay” program remains in effect, sought accountability for the murder of Taylor Force, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. A Palestinian terrorist stabbed Force to death while Force was touring Tel Aviv with his fiancée.

Israeli police killed the attacker, however, his family began receiving monthly payments equal to several times the average Palestinian wage through the PA Martyr’s Fund, the vehicle for pay-to-slay expenditures.

In response, 169 members of the U.S. House of Representatives co-sponsored legislation in Force’s name that prevents American taxpayer dollars from being sent to the PA and eventually becoming pay-to-slay payments.

The Taylor Force Act became law as part of a major appropriations act in 2018, with a handful of carve-outs for humanitarian projects including funding for a hospital network and child vaccinations. Presidents of both parties have respected the Act, contributing to the current fiscal crisis of the PA. But pay-to-slay remains in place.

After years of budget shortfalls and a $1.26 billion deficit in 2021, the PA has given Jerusalem reason to fear it is on the brink of collapse. With Iran-supported terrorist organizations — mainly Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — sowing chaos in the West Bank, where violence has reached a 15-year high, the previous Israeli government decided that Israel’s security depended on continuing cooperation with the PA.

In 2021, the government of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett found workarounds that took the bite out of the pay-to-slay law, such as granting the PA loans in an amount similar to the funds withheld. In short, previous governments prioritized the PA’s financial viability over holding it accountable for pay-to-slay. Now with Smotrich’s decision, Palestinian leaders will have to weigh the benefits of pay-to-slay against the pragmatic need for revenue to run their government.

Perhaps they can afford to hold fast. The funds subject to withholding constitute approximately six percent of the total revenue Jerusalem collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Yet it’s hard to know which straw will break the camel’s back with the PA already losing control of its domain.

There is no question that financial incentives for terrorism are reprehensible. Yet the weakening of the PA and empowerment of Hamas and Islamic Jihad could cost even more Israeli lives. The new Israeli government should strike a balance between justice and pragmatism.

To the extent it can, the White House should continue to push the PA to finally do away with pay-to-slay. But most importantly, Palestinian leaders must decide whether they are willing to risk the PA’s demise to maintain the program.

Enia Krivine is the senior director of the Israel Program and the FDD National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Enia on Twitter at @EKrivine.


What Muhammad Aliwat learned in school

Palestinian curricula continue to glorify religious martyrdom and spread hatred even as educational reform is underway elsewhere in the Arab world

Times of Israel – THE BLOGS
Marcus Sheff, CEO at IMPACT-se
30 January 2023

8th-grade textbook teaching reading comprehension through a violent story promoting suicide bombings. From IMPACT-se report, 'The 2020-21 Palestinian School Curriculum, Grades 1-12,' May 2021

8th-grade textbook teaching reading comprehension through a violent story promoting suicide bombings. From IMPACT-se report, ‘The 2020-21 Palestinian School Curriculum, Grades 1-12,’ May 2021

Muhammad Aliwat, the 13-year-old Palestinian attacker who ambushed and seriously wounded a father and his son at the entrance to the City of David Friday night, used his school notebook to leave a message for his mother that reads: “God, or victory, or martyrdom. Forgive me, mother, you’re going to be proud of me.”

The 8th-grader, reportedly a student at the Al-Furqan Islamic School for Boys in the Shuafat refugee camp, which uses the Palestinian Authority’s curriculum, has had quite an education in martyrdom, jihad, and antisemitism this school year and last. For example, he studied comprehension through a story promoting suicide bombings, in which Palestinians “cut the necks of enemy soldiers.” In Islamic education, a textbook devotes an entire chapter to teaching that martyrdom is “obligatory,” that it brings honor, glory, and promises entrance to paradise. Those who do not sacrifice themselves are weak.

Jews are depicted as conspiratorial, powerful, evil, and impure, posing a threat to the sanctity of Islam. A teacher guide for the 7th grade teaches that Jews crushed children’s heads, set them on fire, and threw them into wells. Even the science classes Aliwat attended take advantage of the opportunity to teach hate. He learned Newton’s Second Law through the action of a slingshot aimed at soldiers, and biology through a violent clash with the IDF that asks about its effects on one’s bodily organs.

This is a small sample of some of the violent and inciteful material Aliwat was presumably exposed to in the Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum this year and last; material taught by teachers whose salaries are supported by the European Union, Germany, and other nations. It is the curriculum taught by UNRWA, whose biggest financial supporter is the United States.

UNRWA has been caught twice in the last two years by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Education (IMPACT-se) teaching its self-produced hate material. Its response was a half-apology followed by outright denial.

Education is the imparting of a society’s common knowledge and traditions to the next generation – it is the most important task adults have, it is a core task of government, and it is strategic.

So while the PA and UNRWA pursue a strategy of teaching Palestinian schoolchildren that one state – Palestine – will be gained through violence, jihad, and their personal sacrifice, others in the region are taking a different path.

Teaching tolerance

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a trailblazer, leading the way under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed al-Nahan, who ordered widescale rewrites of the country’s textbooks alongside sweeping post-9/11 state reforms. The result is outstanding. Emiratis are taught to embrace the Other and that national pride and prosperity are connected to peace and tolerance, an attitude that has undoubtedly helped pave the way to harmonizing relations between the UAE and Israel. Combating radicalism is inherent to the Emirati mentality, and tolerance toward other faiths and teaching conflict resolution are cornerstones of the education system. What’s more, the UAE will be teaching about the Holocaust in future iterations of its curriculum.

Our 2022 Saudi Arabia annual report revealed a continuing overall trend of significant improvement. This follows the gradual removal of problematic content from Saudi textbooks since IMPACT-se’s 2020 report, with dozens of lessons demonizing Jews, Christians, and non-believers removed or edited in 2021. Antisemitism based on modern European tropes has largely been removed.

Even in the case of Qatar, our 2022 report shows a continued trend of reform. Since IMPACT-se’s two reports in 2020 and 2021, which identified content that did not meet UNESCO standards, improvements were made in removing antisemitic tropes and conspiracies, and violent jihad. Problematic examples remain and there is still a disproportionate focus on Israel, but the hostile tone is being lessened, and the trajectory is positive. Our 2019 review of Jordan’srevamped curriculum shows that, overall, it teaches students to show respect and tolerance toward minorities at home and throughout the world. While displaying no respect for Israel, it features explanations of Jewish history.

Outside of the Middle East, our review of the Indonesian curriculum, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, points to teaching that is largely tolerant, promoting peace and coexistence with other religions.

All of this is suggestive of positive progress in relation to how Jews are depicted in textbooks in the region. Education remains an essential tool to promote the open-mindedness needed for religious tolerance; MENA countries continue to reform their education systems, taking a different direction from the kind of education that previous generations in these states were taught.

The Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, however, continue to glorify religious martyrdom and spread antisemitism and hatred against Israel in their schools. It is a national strategy, one the Palestinian leadership refuses to change and which inevitably, continues to result in bloodshed.

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