Incitement is the continued denial of freedom to Palestinians


Virtually every Palestinian official who has met an international delegation visiting Palestine has had to face the barrage of oft-repeated, ill-studied questions regarding incitement in general and Palestinian textbooks in particular. „But how do you expect to have peace if Palestinian textbooks don’t recognize Israel?“ goes the refrain. A few lessons later and our guests are politely educated about the true nature of Palestinian textbooks, what they really say and not simply what right-wing Israeli settler organizations (who have managed to convince members of the US Congress, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) claim that Palestinian textbooks say…

A PALESTINIAN VIEW by by Diana Buttu

Incitement is an oft-wielded sword by Israeli officials. They point to Palestine TV, asserting that the airing of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire is „incitement“. They point to Palestinian textbooks, alleging (incorrectly) that the books do not demarcate the 1967 border and (correctly) the lack of recognition of Israel as a „Jewish state“. They chalk both down as „incitement“. Most recently, they’ve started pointing to Palestinian streets, asserting that the naming of several streets after those killed by Israel is „incitement“.

But according to this logic, any attempt to highlight Israel’s racism and denial of freedom or resistance to such racism and denial of freedom can and should be considered „incitement“. In short, in Israel’s thinking, one is not allowed to speak of Israel’s crimes or of Palestinian resistance to such crimes, but must instead simply accept them and, well, shut up. So, no pictures of dead Palestinians, Israel must be accepted as a Jewish state (no debate allowed) and no naming of streets after Yahiya Ayyash or Dalal al-Mughrabi (both killed by Israel).

But as is often the case, those in glass houses forget that they should not throw stones. Israel conveniently forgets that its annual commemoration of „Independence Day“ constitutes incitement to Palestinians for whom the commemoration of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland in order to make way for Jewish immigrants is not a day of celebration.

Israel forgets that its own official maps issued by the Ministry of Tourism do not demarcate the 1967 border, something that by Israel’s own standards should constitute incitement. Israeli officials also fail to remember that not a single Israeli prime minister has ever recognized Palestine’s right to exist even while demanding that Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Israel has failed to take a long hard look at its own textbooks, which describe Arabs as „untrustworthy“ among other things. More subtly, Israel’s classification of Palestinian citizens of Israel as „Israeli Arabs“ is, to the holders of such a title, „incitement“ because it ignores that their identity and the identity of their ancestors both predate Israel’s creation and are not tied to Israel in any positive way.

Israel conveniently forgets that its own naming of streets and highways constitutes incitement. For example, highway 90, which runs through the Jordan Valley (in the West Bank) and which is largely off-limits to Palestinians, is named after the late Israeli tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi who openly advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

But most importantly, Israel forgets that its continued denial of freedom to the Palestinians and its continued racist, apartheid regime are the very essence of incitement. For Palestinians the list is endless and growing, particularly with each growing settlement, every home demolition, every land confiscation, every eviction and each day that passes that a brutal siege is imposed on the Gaza Strip or that Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return to their homes simply because they are not Jewish.

Perhaps in the Israeli mindset the entire „problem“ (for Palestinians are viewed simply as that) would just „disappear“ if we Palestinians stopped showing pictures of killed Palestinians, stopped demanding our rights and even took the bold step of naming our streets after Israeli terrorists or those who advocate our ethnic cleansing.

But that is an erroneous conclusion. Palestinian children do not recall what is written in their fifth grade textbook; they do recall when their classmates in the Gaza Strip are killed by Israeli bombings. Palestinians are not motivated to resist when they see the name of Yahiya Ayyash in the center of Ramallah but when they see that the Old City of Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque are off limits because they have been illegally taken over by 400 Israeli armed squatters who are protected by thousands of soldiers. No amount of „peace curriculum“ can erase the fact that Palestinians will forever resent that they reside in refugee camps while immigrants have taken over their homes.

Perhaps if we stop demanding that our rights be upheld („incitement“ to Israel), then Israel will finally see the error of its ways and decide instead to end its racist apartheid regime and set Palestinians free. Perhaps…but not likely.- Published 26/4/2010 ©

Diana Buttu is a human rights lawyer and a former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team.

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