Analysis: Terror attacks focus attention on PA incitement

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians claimed what it is thought to be its youngest victim with the death last week of four-day old Amiad Yisrael Ish-Ran.

The baby was born last Sunday by emergency C-section hours after his pregnant mother and father were seriously injured in a shooting attack.

Shira Ish-Ran and her husband Amichai (pictured), who are recovering in the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem from the attack, were among eight victims of a shooting attack on 9 December at a bus stop near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah.

The couple were unable to attend their son’s funeral at the Mount of Olives. Amiad’s grandfather said that, despite his short life, few people had “managed to unite the nation of Israel” like he had. The remarks were a reflection of the outpouring of public sympathy and grief.

Israeli security forces arrested four suspects, and a fifth, Salih Barghouti, was killed in a shootout whilst trying to flee. Hamas claimed responsibility for the terror attack, posting on social media “Hamas announces with great pride the death of its martyr Salih Omar Barghouti, the perpetrator of the heroic Ofra operation.”

In what was the worst week of terrorism this year, with two Israeli soldiers killed and two others were seriously injured in a second attack which occurred four days after, and near the site of, Sunday’s attack.

Under pressure from the Israeli right to adopt a tougher stance, Benjamin Netanyahu defended the controversial ceasefire which brought an end an upsurge of violence in Gaza in November, but warned Hamas against further attacks.

“I conveyed a clear message to Hamas — we won’t accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

Hamas has also claimed responsibility for a terror attack in which two Israelis died at the West Bank industrial complex of Barkan on 7 October.

Last week, as part of its effort to reduce tension in Gaza and address the coastal enclave’s humanitarian plight, Israel allowed the transfer of $15m, the second tranche of Qatari cash designed to pay the salaries of 30,000 Hamas civil servants. Israel also agreed that Qatar can underwrite the costs of operating the Gaza power plant at full capacity.

The Palestinian Authority, which has imposed tight sanctions on Gaza in an attempt to squeeze Hamas, has vehemently opposed the infusion of Qatari cash.

While Hamas bears direct responsibility for the terror attacks, last week’s violence has also once again focused attention on the PA’s policy of inciting, incentivising and glorifying terrorism.

“Pay for slay”

The most egregious aspect is the PA’s policy of paying salaries to those convicted of terrorism offences serving time in Israeli prisons, and the families of “martyrs” who have died or been injured attempting to carry out attacks. Under the so-called “pay to slay” policy, the allowances range from $364 a month for a term of up to three years in prison to $3,120 for a term of 30 years. Terrorists from Jerusalem receive a monthly $78 supplement, while Arab-Israeli terrorists receive a $130 supplement. By making greater payments for longer sentences, the policy thus incentivises the most heinous acts and rewards the perpetrators and their families.

Last year, it was revealed that the bill for such payments has exceeded $1bn over the last four years. They are also estimated to take up roughly seven percent of the PA’s budget.

This year, Israel, the US and Australia have attempted to impose financial penalties on the PA over the payments. Last week, the Dutch parliament voted for a seven percent cut in funding to the PA. LFI has argued that, until these payment stop, UK aid to the PA – worth $125m in the five years to 2021 – should be cut by 14 percent. This money should be used to establish a new Palestinian Peace Fund, aimed at young people.

However, Abbas has resolutely defended “pay for slay” and refused to change course, saying in July “even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families”. “We view the prisoners and the martyrs as planets and stars in the skies of the Palestinian struggle, and they have priority in everything,” the Palestinian president argued.

Schools named after terrorists

Particular concerns have also been raised about the manner in which the PA seeks to indoctrinate Palestinian children and young people, with schools, sports tournaments and summer camps named after terrorists.

Evidence compiled by LFI and submitted to the UK government last year detailed recent examples. More than 20 Palestinian Authority schools in the West Bank and Gaza are named after terrorists or Nazi collaborators. One such example is Dalal Mughrabi, who led the infamous 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, in which 38 civilians, 13 of them children, died. Three PA schools are named after Mughrabi. The PA has also named three schools after Salah Khalaf, the head of the Black September group which carried out the 1972 Munich massacre in which 11 Israeli athletes were brutally tortured and murdered.

Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas who instigated the suicide bombing campaign designed to destroy the Oslo peace process; Nash’at Abu Jabara, who built the suicide belts used by bombers during the Second Intifada in which hundreds of Israeli civilians were injured and murdered; and the notorious Nazi collaborator and alleged war criminal, Amin Al-Husseini, have also been similarly honoured.

The PA has publicly boasted that it is responsible for this policy, with its news agency suggesting in 2015: “The Ministry of Education and Higher Education emphasised that naming state schools is under the authority of the Minister alone.”

In September, Belgium became the first European country to cut off its relations with the PA Ministry of Education over incitement in its schools. After attempting to pressure the PA by freezing funding last year, the Belgium government tired of Ramallah’s refusal to engage and ended funding for the construction of PA schools. “As long as school names are used to glorify terrorism, Belgium can no longer cooperate with the Palestinian Education Ministry and will not give out budgets for the construction of schools,” it said in a statement.

Following pressure from LFI, the British government announced in December 2016 that it would tighten how it spends the £25m it sends annually to the PA. Critically, the Department for International Development pledged that the money it spends helping fund the salaries of PA officials in the West Bank would in future “only go towards the salaries of health and education public servants on a vetted list”. The pay of some 30,000 employees of the PA Ministry of Education and Higher Education is part-funded by UK taxpayers.

However, DfID told LFI chair Joan Ryan last March that it didn’t know whether any of the teachers whose salaries it pays are employed in schools named after terrorists and Nazi collaborators.

Sports tournaments are also frequently named after terrorists. Shortly after the outbreak of the “knife intifada” in September 2015, for instance, the PA named a school football tournament after Ahmad Manasrah. Alongside his 15-year-old cousin, Manasrah had the previous month carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem which seriously injured a 13-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man. “I went there to stab Jews,” the teenager later told police.

“Sons of pigs”

Children’s TV programmes on official PA TV have been repeatedly condemned for their antisemitism and glorification of violence. Such programmes, for instance, feature children reciting poems calling Jews “barbaric monkeys”, “the sons of pigs” and the “most evil among creations”. Programmes aimed at children also suggest that Israel has no right to exist and will disappear and be replaced by “Palestine”; violence – “armed struggle” – is legitimate to fight Israel; and the killers of Israelis are heroes and role models.

More radical curriculum

Over the past year, LFI has been campaigning specifically on the newly introduced PA school curriculum. The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-Se) has published a series of damning reports about it, arguing that the curriculum “exerts pressure over young Palestinians to acts of violence in a more extensive and sophisticated manner”; has expanded its focus from the “demonisation of Israel to providing a rationale for war”; and is “more radical than ever, purposefully and strategically encouraging Palestinian children to sacrifice themselves to martydom”.

Particularly pernicious examples include teenagers taught that those who sacrifice themselves will be rewarded with “72 virgin brides in paradise”; children of 13 taught Newton’s Second Law through the image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers; and children of 11 told that martyrdom and jihad are “the most important meanings of life”. Schoolbooks also describes terrorists such as Mughrabi as “heroes”.

British ministers admitted in March that “UK funded public servants and teachers under the Ministry of Education and Higher Education are … involved in the implementation process”. In response LFI has called on the government to take action, saying it should suspend all aid to the PA which directly or indirectly finances those teaching and implementing the curriculum until the authority commits to wholesale and urgent revisions of it.

Ministers have refused LFI’s requests, suggesting at a Westminster Hall debate in July instigated by Ms Ryan that they wished to await the results of an independent review into the curriculum. That review, first announced in May following LFI MPs writing to the prime minister on the issue, has yet to be commissioned by the government.

When parliament returns in January, LFI vice-chair Dame Louise Ellman will keep up the pressure by introducing a 10-minute rule bill that will mandate that UK assistance to the PA education system must comply with international values of peace and tolerance. It will also require an annual review to ensure compliance.

Please support this bill by encouraging your MP to attend the introduction of Dame Louise’s bill. You can write to them via the campaign website set up by our friends at the Israel-Britain Alliance and We Believe in Israel.