[Editor's note: M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.This article is in response to Jonathon Greenblatt's article http://www.jta.org/2017/01/23/news-opinion/opinion/what-trump-can-do-for-mideast-peace-on-day-one]
Anti-Defamation League director Jonathan Greenblatt has put forward a list of steps he says the Trump administration should take to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. I would like to suggest some alternative steps, focusing specifically on the role of defamation in the Mideast conflict.
Some of the points in Greenblatt’s plan make sense, such as moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and making it clear that Palestinian refugees will not be permitted to flood into Israel. On the other hand, Greenblatt proposes restricting Jewish construction in large parts of Judea-Samaria, while “freeing up [additional] areas” there for “Palestinian economic activity and building.”
The idea of less Jewish building, and more Palestinian building, in the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland, strikes me as rather unfair. It implies that those territories belongs to the Palestinians, when in fact the Jewish right to those regions is enshrined in the Hebrew bible, 3,000 years of Jewish history, and international law--three unimpeachable sources.
What is missing from the Anti-Defamation League's plan is any specific or detailed reference to Palestinian defamation of Jews and Israel. There is one passing mention of the fact that President Trump “should make clear that the path of incitement…will not yield any progress for Palestinian aspirations.”
But the problem is not just that incitement and defamation won’t help “Palestinian aspirations.” The problem is that incitement is morally wrong and leads directly to the murder of Jews. It therefore could be argued that incitement is, in fact, the single greatest obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Any suggestions by U.S. Jewish groups to the Trump administration should focus on the incitement issue and offer concrete ways to combat it.
Let’s start by making it clear that opposition to Palestinian incitement and defamation is not “rightwing.” It’s a bipartisan issue. Even Secretary of State John Kerry, despite his considerable sympathy for the Palestinian cause, occasionally acknowledged the deadly role of incitement.
On November 18, 2014, following the Har Nof (Jerusalem) synagogue massacre of five American rabbis and an Israeli policeman, here’s what Kerry said: “To have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement, of calls for ‘days of rage’, of just irresponsibility, is unacceptable. The Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement…I call on Palestinians at every single level of leadership to condemn this in the most powerful terms.”
Even in his controversial December 28, 2016 speech blasting Israel, Kerry briefly noted the problem of Palestinian incitement. He said: “The murders of innocents are still glorified on Fatah websites, including showing attackers next to Palestinian leaders following attacks. And despite statements by President Abbas and his party's leaders, making clear their opposition of violence, too often they send a different message by failing to condemn specific terrorist attacks and naming public square, streets and schools after terrorists.”
Kerry continued: “President Obama and I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership countless times, publicly and privately, that all incitements to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned violence and terrorism and even condemned the Palestinian leadership for not condemning it.”
The problem with Kerry’s strong words is that he had no interest in putting them into practice. He said Palestinian leaders should condemn terrorist attacks, but there were never any consequences when they didn’t condemn them. He said they shouldn’t name streets after terrorists, but they did, and the Obama-Kerry administration did nothing.
So I hope the Anti-Defamation League and other American Jewish groups will join me in calling on the Trump administration to try a different approach to the problem of the Palestinian Authority’s defamation of Jews and incitement to murder. This approach would implement specific consequences:
1. If the PA names streets in a particular city after terrorists, no U.S. official will visit that city again.
2. If the PA continues inciting terrorism by paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists or their families, the U.S. will deduct the equivalent amount from its aid package to the Palestinians.
3. If textbooks in UNRWA-sponsored schools in PA territory defame Jews or Israel, the U.S. will suspend its financial support for UNRWA.
These are just a few examples of what might be done.
Such steps will do a lot more to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace than endless debates over who can build what and where. The path to a genuine peace is to start changing average Palestinians’ hearts and minds. When the PA sets a new tone, by ending glorification and rewards for terrorism and defamation, then grassroots attitudes will change. When grassroots Palestinians stop looking at Jews as demons —and targets— there will be hope for a real peace.