The news that came out of Israel two weeks ago was all too familiar. Following a well-worn pattern, two young Palestinian men entered a Jewish neighborhood. They carried cleavers and a gun in their hands. The men attacked worshippers at a synagogue, killing five and wounding another seven.
It was the seventh Palestinian terror attack in a little under a month. Something has been going terribly wrong.
The way many see it, the primary source of conflict is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its program of settlement construction. This is in line with common thinking that Israel, as the vastly more powerful player in the conflict, must take the lion’s share of the responsibility for the lack of a resolution. The occupation’s role in stoking violence should not be understated. But often under-discussed is the role the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas are deliberately playing in promoting Palestinian terrorism.
The current bout of violence seems to have begun about a month ago, following an increase in tensions focused on the al-Aqsa Mosque, conveniently built on a holy site shared in the traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Many Palestinians refuse to acknowledge this shared heritage, decrying any Israeli involvement at al-Aqsa, which is currently administered under Israeli security control. Israel generally restricts non-Muslim access to the site in order to avoid raising tensions, but allowed some visits in October for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. These visits did indeed inflame Palestinian passions, and daily clashes were occurring by mid-October. At this critical moment of rising tension, a voice of leadership from Abbas was necessary. But he had other ideas.
Instead, on Oct. 17, Abbas gave a heavily televised speech calling for the defense of al-Aqsa “by any means whatsoever.” It took under a week for one Palestinian to “defend” al-Aqsa by deliberately driving his car into a crowd of pedestrians outside a Jerusalem light rail station, killing two. Abbas’ advisor Sultan Abu Al-Einein praised the terrorist as a “heroic martyr.” The official Fatah Facebook page added “Rest in peace! We are loyal to you.”
A few days later, on Oct. 29, another terrorist attempted to assassinate a right-wing Israeli activist pursuing equal rights to pray on the Temple Mount. The would-be assassin was killed the following day in a firefight with Israeli police. Once again, instead of trying to alleviate tension, the Palestinian leadership upped the ante. Rather than condemn the violence, Abbas wrote a letter of condolence to the Palestinian’s parents, saying their son “rose to Heaven while defending [the Palestinian] people’s rights and holy place.” Fatah called for a “Day of Rage.”
These events are just part of a broader sequence where Abbas encourages a continuation of this cycle of violence.
In addition to promoting violence in state-controlled media, the PA has been offering financial payments to Palestinians jailed by Israel on terror charges, and to the families of martyrs. This policy, initiated during the Second Intifada, offers a minimum monthly payment of $250 to terrorists jailed by Israel. Annually, that’s around 150 percent of the West Bank’s per capita GDP. Foreign backers of the Palestinian Authority, including the U.S., have repeatedly called for an end to this policy, but to no avail.
The key takeaway is that the actions of the PA are playing an essential role in the perpetuation of terror attacks on Israel. It took the recent synagogue massacre for Abbas to finally issue a condemnation in this latest wave of violence, but in light of the PA’s conduct, his statement should be regarded with extreme skepticism. In fact, Fatah itself said it “welcomed the Martyrdom seeking operation in Jerusalem,” and multiple PA officials have told their constituency that Abbas only issued a condemnation under pressure from the West.
All of this is focusing solely on Abbas and the “moderates” of the Palestinian political scene. He and his government need to recognize that if there is ever to be peace in the region, incitement to terror must cease. Worldwide supporters of Palestinian resistance, including those at Yale, need to make sure their message excludes violence, and be sure to condemn violent actions when they occur, rather than waiting to condemn an Israeli response. Else the Land of Milk and Honey will ever flow with blood and tears.
Bernard Stanford is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at email@example.com.