Campaigning recently in Queens, Bob Turner, the Republican candidate for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat, demanded that the Obama administration “stop paying the salaries of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons.”
More than 5,500 terrorists are getting higher salaries (3,200 shekels per month, about $800) in prison than even the Palestinian civil servants are earning (2,800 shekels, about $700), according to reports, with the money coming, in part, from American foreign aid.
The terrorist salaries were first reported earlier in the summer in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, an official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority. But it was not until the Palestinian Media Watch — an Israeli group that monitors, translates and publicizes the PA’s official print and broadcast media — brought this to the attention of the Israeli media and U.S. legislators that anyone knew of it.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Rep. Elliot Engel (Bronx, Westchester, Rockland) recently authored two amendments adopted by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that required the PA “to end incitement and [prepare] its people for peace with Israel.”
It is no coincidence that Itamar Marcus, founder and director of the Palestinian Media Watch, along with Nan Jacques Zilberdik, an analyst with PMW, were recently in Washington. Marcus and Zilberdik, who operate independent of the Israeli government, have been invited by pro-Israel legislators to brief senators and congressmen, along with parliamentarians in Denmark, Canada, England, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Australia, regarding the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement that appears daily in the PA’s official newspapers and broadcasts throughout the West Bank.
Here’s what the PMW has uncovered: The recent terror attacks near Eilat that killed eight Israelis were described in official Palestinian newspapers as a “quality operation,” with Israel’s military response a “massacre.”
The PMW discovered an editorial cartoon in an official PA paper indicating that the PA cares not only about the “Green Line,” the 1949 cease-fire lines, beyond which lie the settlements, but also about a Palestinian “Red Line,” in which all of Israel, including Tel Aviv, is within the desired Palestinian border.
“Jaffa, Acre, Haifa and Nazareth are ours… Safed… Tiberias and Ashkelon are Palestinian,” goes a music video on Palestinian airwaves. “Where are you Israelis from,” asked another broadcast. “Of course, you’re from Ukraine… Germany… Falasha [Ethiopian]… Return to your homeland so that I can return to my homeland.”
There have been dozens of stories in the American media about the gentle interaction of young Israelis and Palestinians, but what often goes unreported, says Marcus while visiting The Jewish Week, are the other stories, such as the one in the PA’s Al-Ayam paper, in which a Palestinian summer camp, in the presence of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, divided its campers into three divisions: one named for the Black September terrorist group that orchestrated the Munich Olympics attack, one for the terrorist leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and one for the leader of an attack that killed 37 Israelis.
Although the White House has often condemned Palestinian incitement and the glorification of terrorists, the incitement has never been condemned with the same fury that the U.S. unleashed upon plans for a new Israeli apartment house in Jerusalem, or violations of a settlement’s “natural growth,” during the settlement freeze of 2009-10.
Marcus, 56, made aliyah from New York, and was working in the third Shimon Peres administration as a cabinet aide in the early 1990s, in the wake of the Oslo peace accords. There were some people, says Marcus, who were supportive of the negotiations with Yasir Arafat but “who happened to be taping Palestinian television, discovering all sorts of [anti-Israel] incitement in Arafat’s speeches. They didn’t want Likud to publicize it; they wanted Labor to have it,” and the tapes landed on Marcus’ desk.
“It was people from Labor,” says Marcus, “who first said, ‘Wait a minute, we’re involved in a peace process with Arafat and he’s speaking on TV about jihad, about the agreements with Israel being only temporary?’”
Marcus, having returned to the private sector, after the Peres government was voted out in 1996, remained curious about the extent of Palestinian duplicity, as revealed in their media. Marcus raised money and hired translators, the beginnings of what was to become the Palestinian Media Watch. “Instead of just looking at occasional videos,” he says, “we’d tape all of official Palestinian TV. We’d read the Palestinian newspapers every day. Immediately we realized that what we had seen [in random videos] was just the tip of the iceberg. There was an ongoing demonization of Israel, an ongoing denial of Israel’s right to exist.”
At the Wye summit meeting in 1998 with President Bill Clinton, “we gave [Prime Minister] Netanyahu an enormous amount of material” relating to Palestinian incitement, says Marcus. One result was the establishment of an Israeli, Palestinian and American negotiating committee to deal with the problem of incitement, with Marcus appointed to the Israeli team, a position he held until Ehud Barak’s election as prime minister.
“There was no significant progress” with the Palestinians, says Marcus.
Marcus, who lives in Efrat, a settlement, was asked about the charge that settlements were an incitement of their own. “Settlements,” says Marcus, “were specifically mentioned within the Oslo accords as something to be negotiated. They weren’t something to be stopped [as a first step] but something to be negotiated. You can think whatever you want about settlements, but they were not illegal according to Oslo. To say that settlements are the equivalent to the incitement and glorifying of terror, which is specifically illegal according to Oslo, is not only incorrect, it is outrageous.”
The Palestinians, says Marcus, are teaching their children, through TV and other media, “hatred against Jews, and ultimately violence against Jews. The Palestinians like to depict the conflict as territorial while hiding this horrific underlying ideology.”
In August 2000, just days before the start of the second intifada, Marcus wrote a piece in the Jerusalem Post warning that the mood in the Arabic-language Palestinian media was like what you’d expect on the eve before the outbreak of war. “Today, in 2011,” says Marcus, “we’re unfortunately hearing the same thing,” peaceful words in English combined with incitement in Arabic, glorification of terrorists in Arabic, combined with condemnation of terrorists in English.
“It’s almost too painful, too hurtful, for many Israelis and American Jews to fully comprehend,” says Marcus. Those yearning for peace “want to believe, so badly, that there is someone there on the Palestinian side, that all these television shows and official newspapers are really being produced by a freak and inconsequential fringe. When you look at the Palestinians, adults and children, singing about Tel Aviv and Haifa being Palestinian, or when you see their demonization of Jews and the delegitimization of Israel and Jewish history, if you accept that’s the official PA culture, then there’s no hope.
“But if you blame yourself,” says Marcus, “and think, maybe if only we’d stop living in Efrat, then you can have hope.” Just as long as you don’t read the PA papers or watch their TV.