Israel, Palestinians Both Link Violence To Inflammatory Speech | KUOW News and Information

Israel, Palestinians Both Link Violence To Inflammatory Speech

Oct 23, 2015
Originally published on October 23, 2015 4:26 pm

Since the start of this surge of Palestinian attacks on Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly accused Palestinian leaders of spreading lies about Israeli policies.

"There is no question that this wave of attacks is driven directly by incitement – incitement from Hamas, incitement from the Islamist movement in Israel, and incitement, I am sorry to say, from President [Mahmoud] Abbas and the Palestinian Authority," Netanyahu said Thursday in Berlin, where he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

In his remarks, Kerry called to "end the incitement, end the violence and commence a road that people can really understand is a road that takes people somewhere."

As one example of incitement, Israeli officials point to a video they say was made by Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip.

The video uses actors to show a young Palestinian man with a knife killing two men in Jewish religious dress. An Arabic message at the end urges Palestinians to rise up.

Israel has also cited comments by Abbas.

Last month, when Palestinians and Israeli forces were clashing daily on the Temple Mount, or Al-Aqsa compound, the Palestinian leader said, "We won't let them defile our holy places with their filthy feet." It wasn't clear whether Abbas was referring to Israeli police or to Jews who visit the Temple Mount.

More recently, Abbas said on prime-time Palestinian television that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy had been killed by Israeli police. But the boy was alive, being treated for injuries in an Israeli hospital, after allegedly participating in a knife attack.

Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz calls attacks on Jews by individual Palestinians uncoordinated, but said Palestinian leaders were encouraging them.

"It's not unorchestraed, because it's the result of years of horrible, racist, anti-Semitic incitement," he says.

Palestinian officials point right back at Israel.

They say Israeli settlement building in the West Bank has inflamed tensions for decades. They quote Israeli ministers saying there will not be a Palestinian state.

Qaddura Fares, an advocate for Palestinians held in Israeli prison, points to two Netanyahu statements in particular.

One was the Israeli leader's remark this week that a Palestinian religious leader gave Adolph Hitler the idea to exterminate Jews in the Holocaust. And the other was a Netanyahu comment suggesting Abbas has ties to the Islamic State, which is often called Daesh in Arabic.

"That there is a unity between Daesh and al-Qaida and Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen. And the responsibility of the Holocaust is a Palestinian one, not Hitler," Fares says, citing Netanyahu's remarks.

Israel's central claim of incitement has been that Palestinian leaders spread rumors that Israel plans to expand Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, or Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem.

Right now, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site, where the Al Aqsa mosque was built more than 1,300 years ago, centuries after the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed at the same spot.

Netanyahu has made it clear he has no intention to change the status quo. But Palestinians say Jewish activists who want to change the rules are gaining more power.

This was the beginning.

Shimrit Meir, an Israeli expert in Palestinian social media, says Netanyahu's accusations of Palestinian incitement are out of touch.

She does believe Abbas and the official Palestinian media are encouraging violence, but no one is listening to them.

"Abbas is very unpopular," she says.

Meir cites viral videos of stabbings and shootings as prompting other Palestinians to carry out copycat attacks. Whether it's amateur shots of the attacks, or images from Israeli security forces after assailants are shot dead, each lays the groundwork for the next attack, she says.

"For example, this one photo of a Palestinian running after an Israeli soldier with knife. It got the reaction of admiration. Man and woman, young and old, were just praising this person. And he became a hero. A true hero," she says.

She is referring to a 26-year-old Palestinian who dressed as a news photographer then stabbed a soldier near Hebron. The Israeli soldier was wounded. The Palestinian attacker was shot and killed at the scene.

In an shop with Internet access in a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp, Hisham Lafah, 25, agrees that Palestinian leaders are not inspiring attacks.

"These are individual acts, felt by every Palestinian, but some decide to resist, and others don't," he says. "Mainly what provokes us are Israeli acts. Every day the Israeli occupation is acting against our humanity and freedom. We don't need anyone to provoke us."

His Facebook posts feature pictures of Jewish funerals, of Palestinian attackers and of his cousin, blinded by Israeli gunfire, he says, in a clash with soldiers last spring. Could he imagine attacking an Israeli himself? He says no, he's his family's sole breadwinner.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

With the increase in deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence, a war of words is also taking place. Yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry called for restraint.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN KERRY: Pull back from the precipice. End the incitement, end the violence.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Emily Harris, in Jerusalem, looked at the claims of incitement by both sides.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Since the start of the recent Palestinian attacks on Jews, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed lies spread by Palestinian leaders. Standing next to Kerry yesterday in Berlin, Netanyahu pointed his finger across the Palestinian political spectrum.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: This wave of attacks is driven directly by incitement - incitement from Hamas, incitement from the Islamist movement in Israel and incitement, I'm sorry to say, from President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

HARRIS: Israeli officials highlight a video they say was made by Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: It uses actors to show a young Palestinian fatally stabbing two men dressed as a religious Jews. An Arabic message at the end says, rise up, free the people of Al-Aqsa.

That's a reference to the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount where Muslims fear Jews will gain the right to pray. This has been at the heart of incitement charges. Israel flags a comment by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas saying, we won't let them - it's not clear if he means Israeli police or Jewish visitors - defile our holy places with their filthy feet.

More recently, Abbas said that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy had been killed by Israeli police. But the boy was alive, being treated for injuries at an Israeli hospital after allegedly participating in a knife attack. Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz calls the violence against Jews uncoordinated but not un-orchestrated.

YUVAL STEINITZ: It's the result of years of horrible, racist anti-Semitic incitement.

HARRIS: Palestinian officials point their fingers right back at Israeli settlement building and comments from Israeli ministers, saying there will be no Palestinian state. Qadura Fares, a former Palestinian politician, notes two Netanyahu statements in particular - that a Muslim religious leader gave Hitler the idea to exterminate Jews, and that Abbas has ties to ISIS, called Daesh in Arabic.

QADURA FARES: That there is a unity between Daesh and al-Qaida and Mahmoud Abbas, and, the responsibility of the Holocaust is a Palestinian one, not Hitler.

HARRIS: Shimrit Meir is an Israeli expert in Palestinian social media. She says language from leaders is not driving young Palestinians, it's videos of stabbings and shootings that go viral.

SHIMRIT MEIR: For example, this one photo of a Palestinian running after an Israeli soldier with a knife, it got the reaction of men and women young and old that were just praising this person.

HARRIS: In an Internet access shop in a West Bank refugee camp, 25-year-old Hisham Lafah regularly looks at these videos. He agrees that Palestinian leaders are not inspiring attacks.

HISHAM LAFAH: (Foreign language spoken).

HARRIS: "These are individual Palestinians," he says, "acting on what everyone feels."

"Every day, the Israeli occupation acts against our humanity and freedom," Lafah says. "We don't need anyone to incite us." He posts pictures on Facebook of Jewish funerals of Palestinian attackers and of his cousin, blinded by Israeli gunfire, he says, in a clash with Israeli soldiers last spring. I asked if he could imagine knifing an Israeli himself. He said no, he's his family's sole breadwinner.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

SHAPIRO: And a correction now. In a story this week about Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks, we mischaracterized the Western Wall as the holiest site in Judaism.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It is the holiest place for Jewish prayer, but the adjacent Temple Mount is considered the holiest site. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.