A newly-released report on terrorism by the US State Department so completely distorts the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority -- the areas it refers to as "the West Bank and Gaza, and Jerusalem" -- that one can assume the rest of its findings are equally inaccurate.
To set the stage for its unfounded and biased claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been engaged in a serious effort to combat terrorism, the report equates "extremist" Palestinians, who "continued to conduct acts of violence and terrorism in the West Bank and Jerusalem," with "[e]xtremist Israelis, including settlers, [who] continued to conduct acts of violence as well as 'price tag' attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed anti-settlement) in the West Bank and Jerusalem."
At the top of the list of supposed "continued drivers of violence" in the Palestinian Authority is an assertion even more fabricated:
"a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive."
It is not "lack of hope" that drives Palestinian violence. On the contrary, it is precisely the propping up of hope -- that intimidation and terrorism work and deliver concessions, such as UNESCO's fraudulent rulings that try to strip the Jews of their history, or Israel's recent removal of metal detectors and cameras from the Temple Mount -- that keeps the Palestinians on the offensive.
The metal detectors and cameras had been put there by the Israelis to provide security for the Muslims who worship there, as well as to prevent weapons being brought in with which to attack Jews, or so that the al-Aqsa mosque can be destroyed and the blame then falsely placed on Israel.
To arrive at this conclusion, which essentially holds Israel accountable for Palestinian violence, the report falsely describes Mahmoud Abbas as a leader who has been committed to counter-terrorism efforts and works tirelessly to thwart the "lone-wolf" stabbing attacks that were rampant from the end of 2015 and throughout 2016.
The report states:
"The PA has taken significant steps during President Abbas' tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence. While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence. Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it."
This is perceptibly false. The Palestinian Authority has absolute control over the content of school books, print and broadcast media pieces, and sermons in mosques, all of which are rife with blatant anti-Semitism and glorification of terrorism and terrorists. This means that the bombardment of incitement to spill Jewish blood is approved by the PA leadership, when not directly planted by it.
The only terrorism that Abbas actively tries to prevent is that committed by members of Hamas against the Fatah faction, which he heads. It is solely this security cooperation with Israel that Abbas seeks, participates in and boasts about before the international community -- although he repeatedly threatens to put a stop to it, as he did recently over the placement of metal detectors on the Temple Mount.
The State Department report turns this reality on its head, describing the incitement in the education system, mosques and the press as an aberration, at best, and Israel's fault when it does occur, at worst, as in the following excerpt:
"According to the PA's Palestinian Broadcasting Company's code of conduct, it does not allow programming that encourages 'violence against any person or institution on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, or sex.' In practice, however, some instances of incitement took place via official media. There were also some instances of inflammatory rhetoric and the posting of political cartoons glorifying violence on official Fatah Facebook pages. The PA maintains control over the content of Friday sermons delivered in approximately 1,800 West Bank mosques to ensure that they do not endorse incitement to violence. Weekly, the PA Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs distributes approved themes and prohibits incitement to violence. The PA's ability to enforce these guidelines varies depending upon the location of the Mosques and it had limited authority to control the content of sermons in Israeli-controlled Area C."
One of the more extraordinary "findings" of the report -- about the salaries paid to terrorists and the families of those perpetrators killed while committing terrorist attacks -- is presented as:
"financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli prisons in an effort to reintegrate them into society and prevent recruitment by hostile political factions."
It is both ironic and disturbing that the State Department report was released in July 2017, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to conduct hearings on the Taylor Force Act, a bill proposed by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Dan Coats and Roy Blunt.
If passed, the legislation -- named after Taylor Force, a U.S. Army veteran who was killed while on a trip to Israel in March 2016, by a Palestinian terrorist on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv -- would halt the transfer of American funds to the PA until it ceases its practice of paying stipends to "martyrs" and their families. The family of the terrorist who killed Force receives a monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority Martyr's Fund. The amount is several times greater than the average Palestinian wage.
In March 2106, West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, while visiting Israel, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. Since that time, the family of the terrorist who murdered Force receives a monthly salary from the Palestinian Authority Martyr's Fund. The amount is several times greater than the average Palestinian wage. (Image source: United States Military Academy)
In his testimony before the committee, Elliott Abrams -- who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration -- said:
"We need to send a clear message to the Palestinian people and leadership that we find the current system unacceptable and in fact repugnant. We need to be sure that our aid money does not even indirectly sustain that system. We should do this as a matter of principle..."
The State Department report does not even mention the murder of Taylor Force in its list of "terrorist incidents" in 2016. Yet it states that during the year, "Abbas reiterated his commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, and pursuit of an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means."
It is Abbas, however, who announced to his people that "Jews have no right to defile the Al-Aqsa Mosque with their filthy feet." It is Abbas, too, who continues to blame (and has threatened to sue) Britain for the Balfour Declaration -- a letter written 100 years ago supporting the Zionist endeavor. In May 2017, as Israel marked the 69th year of its independence, Abbas delivered a speech in India reiterating this sentiment and calling the Jewish state's establishment the nakba ("catastrophe").
Like Abbas and the PA, the State Department report deserves to be discredited, and sadly -- along with its promotion of the criminalization of freedom of speech and its own attempts at censorship -- the State Department holdovers along with it.
A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.