The issue of incitement returned to the debate recently when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon downgraded Israeli conditions for resuming negotiations from stopping Palestinian attacks on Israelis to stopping Palestinian incitement.
This was not perceived as a dramatic development nor did it attract much attention from either the Israeli or the Palestinian media, both of whom seem to be judging Sharon on what he does rather than what he says due to the rather large gap between the two. But it is also because incitement is an accusation leveled at the Palestinian Authority that has no substance.
The Palestinian public does not need incitement from the Palestinian Authority, media or school curricula. The reality we live–whether we choose to focus on the extensive killing especially of civilians, our increasing poverty or the daily humiliations we are exposed to–are causing enough hostility, anger and desire for revenge among Palestinians whatever words may be bandied about.
In fact, Palestinians, living under a direct, foreign, and belligerent military occupation, feel it is a duty, indeed an honor, to fight for their liberty and independence. This is a well-trodden path that all peoples before them who have lost their freedom have pursued.
Nor do Palestinians feel that this hostility toward the Israeli occupation is in any way wrong. There is a clearly stated objective to their struggle, an objective based on international legality: recognizing Israel within its legal borders and demanding an end to the illegal occupation.
It is also worth mentioning that much of the noise made on the issue of incitement has already proven to be pure propaganda lacking any basis in fact. One example is the vicious and unjustified campaign by Israel and friends of Israel in the US and Europe that the Palestinian school curriculum is full of incitement against Israel. In fact, the curriculum contains no kind of incitement against Israel or the Jewish people. It is, in fact, so passive and neutral on the issue that is not acceptable to many Palestinians.
It is true that in geography classes the Palestinian books do not show a map of Israel. Palestinian educators, however, have promised all and sundry that on the day Israel, in its school textbooks, includes a map of the Palestinian state, they will start showing a map of Israel to their students. Their position is straightforward: the two states, Israel and Palestine, are two faces of the same coin and the recognition of Israel and acceptance of Israel is tied to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.
Every time the issue of incitement is raised Palestinians have extended an invitation to any neutral specialized agency to thoroughly and systematically investigate the way the official media and educational systems of Israel and Palestine portray the other. I fully expect the Palestinian side will be willing to look seriously into any changes suggested by such a commission provided the other side shows a reciprocal attitude. Until then, and as long as there is an oppressive occupation and the Palestinian people are denied their basic rights of freedom, independence and self determination, people will inevitably do what they can to end this occupation.