Making Israel disappear
If you sit down with Itamar Marcus, you had better brace yourself for a jarring refresher course on Mideast reality. That’s especially true if you tend to think like the current administrationif you believe, for example, that the Israeli-Palestinian impasse is all about borders and settlements and that the construction of 900 housing units in southern Jerusalem “could end up being very dangerous,” as President Barack Obama said last week.
If it’s “very dangerous” to construct Jewish housing in a city that Israel will never, ever relinquish, what should we call the effort to brainwash children into believing that Israel itself doesn’t exist?
How should we describe the claim that not only East Jerusalem — captured by Israel in the 1967 war — belongs to the Palestinians, but that every other Israeli city, from Haifa to Ashkelon, belongs to them, too?
“In the world inhabited by Palestinian children,” Marcus tells me, “there is no Israel.” And if you give him time, the director of Palestinian Media Watch (palwatch.org) in Jerusalem will subject you to a barrage of depressing evidence for his contention.
He’ll show you snippets from TV quiz shows for Palestinian kids predicated on the non-existence of Israel.
Host: “Which mountain is the tallest in Palestine? …” Child contestant: “Mount Meron (in Israel).”
On another show, a host asks, “Which Palestinian city is called ‘the flower of Galilee’?” and then names three Israeli cities!
Then Marcus will show you school geography lessons that use maps on which Israel is missing.
Do any Palestinian textbooks acknowledge the existence of Israel, I wonder. “No,” Marcus replies.
The anti-Israeli content of Palestinian textbooks has been a longstanding concern for anyone who yearns for a permanent political settlement, but surely those books have improved since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004. Not really, says Marcus. If anything, he says, they devote more space than ever to depicting conflict with Israel as a solemn religious duty aimed at liberating a Muslim land.
Remember, we’re talking about textbooks chosen by the Palestinian government led by the allegedly moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, not the overtly jihadist Hamas. The Palestinian Authority media, meanwhile, are full of similar Islamist references that offer no room for compromise, and that honor terrorists and suicide bombers as national heroes.
No less ominous is what Marcus describes as the Palestinian Authority’s “infrastructure of hate,” the relentless depiction of Jews as sinister and evil — as conspirators spreading AIDS, for example, or undermining the very foundations of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Naturally, Jews poisoned Yasser Arafat, too — or at least that is what children are told.
In a TV tribute to Arafat earlier this month, one youngster unconsciously presented the essence of this paranoid vision: “He died from poisoning by the Jews. Well, I don’t know what he died from, but I know it was by the Jews.”
“In 2008,” the State Department boasted this summer in a press release, “the U.S. was the single largest national donor to the Palestinian Authority . . . committing more than $600 million in assistance . . . .”
And the fruits of this investment? A Palestinian public that remains in resolute denial about the reality of Israel more than 60 years after its founding. Surely that should worry us more than the expansion of a Jewish neighborhood in a capital whose Jewish roots extend back several thousand years.
E-mail Vincent Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.