On the last day of April, Yehya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, delivered these instructions to the Palestinian people: “Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it,” he said. “And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an axe, or a knife.”
On Thursday the following week, two men from the village of Rummanah, on the northern tip of the West Bank, phoned a Jewish-Israeli driver named Oren Ben Yiftah. Ben Yiftah had regularly transported the two across the security barrier into Israel where they performed occasional work as labourers. That day, Ben Yiftah drove the two Palestinian men to the city of Elad in central Israel. They had told Ben Yiftah they had been hired to carry out urgent repairs at a synagogue. As they neared the synagogue, one man produced an axe, the other a knife and, after a struggle, they hacked Oren Ben Yiftah, a man they knew, to death. The two men then left the car and approached Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Gol, both easily identifiable by their religious garb as Jewish, and slew the men in the street. Hamas praised the men for their “brave and heroic act”. The victims, fathers in their 30s and 40s, leave behind a total of 16 children.
It is difficult to imagine a more clear-cut link between incitement to violence and the act itself; between cause and effect. Nineteen Israelis have been murdered in similar street attacks in the past few months.
Hamas has rightly been designated a terrorist organisation in Australia, but the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, is no less complicit in this process. In a prelude to an earlier spate of lethal stabbing attacks, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared: “Al-Aqsa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre”, and the Jews “have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet”. Soon after, Palestinian social media was awash with graphics and videos showing how and where to stab a victim to greatest effect.
Official Palestinian Authority TV broadcasts claims of “Zionist” plots to destroy Islamic holy sites, to “burn monasteries and churches” and “bomb” the Al-Aqsa Mosque”. Such claims have been used to rally the masses to violence since the 1920s. Needless to say, since Israel unified Jerusalem in 1967, the mosques and monasteries have stood unmolested.
As news of the Elad terror attack broke, young men in Gaza and the West Bank handed out sweets as though marking a festive day. Slain Jewish civilians immediately brighten the mood. Any visitor to a Palestinian village in the West Bank will have seen the banners, posters and public squares dedicated to their “martyrs”. Palestinian propagandists have even taken to photo-shopping photos of their captured terrorists, carefully replacing haggard, defeated countenances with assured smiles to convince their youth that there is glory even in capture.
— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) March 17, 2019
Taken together with the PA’s notorious payment of life pensions to the families of terrorists, Palestinian society operates under a system of inducement and reward that has turned the killing of Jews into an industry.
The violent purging of suspected “collaborators” is another feature of this system and reinforces the glory of the resistance and the perfidy of having contact with Jews. Hamas summarily drags suspected collaborators through the streets in the theatrical style of a mid-century junta, and the “moderate” Palestinian Authority still enforces laws that make the sale of land to Jews punishable by death, or life with hard labour if the court is moved to leniency.
The paranoia and fanaticism are not only projected outward at the Jewish menace, but meted out to the most vulnerable in Palestinian society. A law enabling rapists to evade punishment by marrying their victims remained on the books until 2018. “Honour killings” performed by brothers and fathers of sisters and daughters who have brought “shame” to their family occur with a startling regularity. Only 4 per cent of Palestinians believe homosexuality should be accepted.
Needless to say, there is no accountability for, or even great scrutiny of, this criminality and gross intolerance. It certainly doesn’t rate a mention at party conferences or in full-page pro-Palestinian resolutions passed by student unions at ANU and Melbourne University. All is shrouded in the solidarity of slogans or a sort of orientalism that judges Middle Eastern peoples against outrageously low standards.
To make them worthy of the adulation, the marches, the bumper stickers, the pledges to peremptorily recognise a Palestinian state, the Palestinians have been reconstructed as a mythical version of themselves, cleansed of all sin and stripped of all responsibility. The consequence of all of this is that there is absolutely no incentive for Palestinians to self-examine let alone reform, let alone develop a society that is functional, just and worthy of a state.
Should our new government wish to revisit Australia’s position on aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it ought to see the Palestinian leadership not as it wishes it to be but as it is, and to hold Palestinian leaders to the same standards as in every other society. Otherwise, we will see policymaking founded in delusion and more lives lost to a system of violence and impunity.
Alex Ryvchin is the co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the author of Zionism – The Concise History