Monday, 4 October 2010

Funding Palestinian Incitement, European taxpayers are made to pay for the propaganda that fuels the Mideast conflict

"Now, as new peace talks proceed, such contraventions and contradictions go on, with PBC broadcasts from March and July this year praising, for instance, 18-year-old female suicide bomber Ayyat al-Akhras, who in 2002 detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing a security guard and a 17-year-old girl in Jerusalem." Rachel Levy (photo) victim of human bomb Ayyat al-Akhras.

Article by Matthew Sinclair et Raheem Kassam in the WSJ

It is easy to understand why many Westerners are bewildered by the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Confrontations like the springtime flotilla crisis make it easy for people to see the situation as too complex, ugly, and hopeless, and they switch off. But we can't ignore what goes on in Israel and the Palestinian territories, if for no reason other than we're affecting it:  Our money is supporting indoctrination in the territories that is sowing the seeds of future conflict for decades to come. We have a responsibility to take that incredibly seriously.

In 2007, the European Union provided €420 million to the Palestinian territories, while member states also provided extensive bilateral aid: Germany provided €55 million, France €67 million, and the United Kingdom put in £63.6 million (about €76 million). Many countries have increased their donations since then, with the EU and U.S. pledging the lion's share of $7.7 billion for the period of 2008-2010, with a focus on reconstruction after last year's Gaza conflict.

Some donor countries have recently taken steps to try to prevent their funds being used to terrorize Israelis. Germany, for instance, has worked to outlaw the Turkish-German NGO, Internationale Humanitaere Hilfs organisation, which has delivered more than $8.3 million in funding to groups linked to Hamas.

But such moves only address part of the larger responsibility that donations create. Millions in Western taxpayers' pounds, euros, and dollars, now fund all the actions of the Palestinian Authority. Much of that money comes through direct budget support, which means unconditional checks to the Authority, or paying off its debts. In that way our governments support everything, good and bad, that the Palestinian Authority does.

Even when donations are carefully earmarked, they still can't be separated. It is well accepted in other areas of aid policy that donations don't just finance what the donor wants them to. Organizations like the Palestinian Authority have a budget just like a family does and even payments for specifics, like the salaries of government workers, free up room for other expenditures.

This is particularly troubling as one thing the Palestinian Authority does with its budget is run official media and print schoolbooks that radicalize Palestinians and crucially, Palestinian children. There are endless examples.

Ahmed Dughmush, a Fatah leader, promised the official Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) that to "Jerusalem march millions of martyrs" in January 2008. Najat Abu-Bakr, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told the PBC's audience in August 2008 that the Palestinians "were created on this land in order to liberate it, to live on it, to continue as people of Ribat [religious war]."

More recently, the European Union funded a television quiz show from Nov. 2009 through Jan. 2010 entitled "The Stars," which told its viewers that the size of "Palestine" is 27,000 kilometers—an area that includes all of Israel. The show also described Nazareth as a "Palestinian city." The European Union funded the entire first season of "The Stars"—the flag of the European Union was proudly displayed behind the host throughout the broadcasts.

Now consider such propaganda in the context of Israeli and Palestinian leaders's first direct talks in three years. Recall Annapolis, 2007: During those peace talks, the PBC was running graphics showing all of Israel-Palestine draped in the Palestinian flag. While the Palestinian leadership was sitting at the negotiating table supposedly working for a two-state solution, their TV channel continued to encourage the ideas that peaceful compromise and two states weren't the way forward; that the proper objective was to conquer all of Israel-Palestine. Which helped bring us to the ongoing need for peace talks today.

Now, as new peace talks proceed, such contraventions and contradictions go on, with PBC broadcasts from March and July this year praising, for instance, 18-year-old female suicide bomber Ayyat al-Akhras, who in 2002 detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing a security guard and a 17-year-old girl in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, a school textbook issued by the Palestinian Authority, "History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century," calls the insurgency in Iraq a "brave resistance." Another schoolbook, "Reading and Texts," tells students that "your enemies seek life while you seek death."

All this is particularly worrying given the demographics of the Palestinian population—some 42% are under 15 years old. The choices that young population makes will determine the future of the region. Western governments may not be able to stop Hamas or the regime in Tehran from calling on Palestinians to keep fighting. Nor can our countries eliminate the history and reasons for animosity between Israelis and Palestinians. But there is no reason we have to subsidize actions intended to deepen these wounds.

Peace depends on Palestinians rejecting the idea that only an impossible, violent victory and the destruction of Israel is an acceptable outcome. That repudiation of war will get harder and harder if the official media—supported by Western donations—continues to promote hatred and undermine any possible spirit of compromise.

John F. Kennedy said that "peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people.

" Donor countries can put pressure on the Palestinian Authority, but right now they are focused on the behavior of the Authority at the negotiating table. More attention needs to be paid to their actions at home, foremost the radicalization of the Palestinian people."

Messrs Kassam and Sinclair lead the international "Coalition Against Hate Education" through the TaxPayers' Alliance in the United Kingdom.

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