Since confrontations between Palestinian protesters and Israeli occupation forces surged at the onset of last month, Israel and allies in the US continue to blame Palestinian incitement: the encouragement of violent and unlawful action.
A widely covered partial translation of remarks by President Abbas on September 16 seemingly proves the point:
We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood. Clean Blood. Blood on its way to Allah.
At face value, one shouldn’t have been surprised to see a placard of President Abbas along these words at yet another congressional show of theatrics at a Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing on November 4 titled “Justice Forsaken: How the Federal Government Fails the American Victims of Iranian and Palestinian Terrorism.”
Presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) sponsored and chaired the hearing. Ironically, by the very same standards used to gauge Palestinian incitement, one could say that Senator Cruz, who slammed Palestinians as terrorists in a gross generalization, committed incitement while delivering “biased” and “inflammatory” remarks, according to a statement by the General Delegation of the PLO to the US.
Palestinians have grown accustomed to such congressional hearings, the purpose of which seems to slip through the cracks when talking about Palestine. Instead of collecting information from all relevant sources, not one Palestinian perspective is welcome– as is also the case with most mainstream media outlets in the US.
But nothing can be taken at face value when talking about Palestine and Israel.
Let’s assume for a second that Palestinian incitement is, indeed, the crux of the problem. It couldn’t have taken form in a vacuum, could it? After all, to incite is to provoke an action against something. Perhaps it’s the continued occupation of Palestinian land? Or maybe the vulgar treatment of Palestinians by occupation forces? Or probably the calls to kill Palestinians by alien settlers living in a land illegally? Or possibly Israel’s wholesale official denial of a people’s historical narrative and heritage? Where then are the statements, editorials, and hearings gauging incitement by any of these accounts?
The fact is, holding Palestine accountable to a standard that is not equally applied to Israel is not about justice or peace. It’s about maintaining a particular image of Palestinians. One without which many will have a difficult time pursuing certain goals– like running campaigns for President of the United States.
Incidentally, while many Israelis and allies in the US squarely blame these remarks for the violence throughout October, they forget that Abbas addressed an already brewing set of clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protesters dating back to September: President Abbas made these remarks during a meeting with a group of Palestinians from Jerusalem who were expressly concerned about the potential of escalation which, as the days that followed suit revealed, is exactly what happened.
Moving past this incitement-gridlock, which often devolves into Palestinians said vs. Israelis said marathons, requires not only a genuine commitment to justice and peace, but also an understanding that, given the circumstances, it is only natural to see remarks like these come to the surface because they serve to defend and honor a widely embraced effort to challenge Israel’s occupation. To be clear, violence is not a solution, but the expectation that a people under grave assault should be singing Kumbaya is absurd.
Palestinians are yet to see a single nation behave in the way the world expects them to behave. Whether leaders who are expected to unequivocally condemn what is happening, or people who are expected to simply submit to the “status quo” — an untenable reality filled with violations and humiliation. Meanwhile, Israel continues to defy not only what is expected of her as a supposedly western nation, but also binding commitments to honor established agreements with Palestinians and the laws which govern its occupation.
Palestinian fears and desperation are not rooted in an irrational hatred of Jews, but are in fact guided by a precedent, especially concerning the Holy Sites. In Hebron, a Palestinian town that has become the epicenter of the current confrontation and has been long know for Israel’s notorious segregated roads, buses, and access to religious sites stands such precedent: the Ibrahimi Mosque. This reality makes it particularly difficult for President Abbas to give in to American expectations because his already challenged credibility would suffer further.
To simply stage a placard of President Abbas’ remarks without the slightest hint of measuring them against the reality on the ground is dishonest, propagating misguided intents and information. Frankly, Congress would better serve justice and peace for Palestinians, Israelis, and above all Americans by pursuing hearings that invite balanced views which recognize this reality, even if different from their own. After all, it is at forums like these that American officials would have an opportunity to grill whoever they disagree with. Needless to say, dismissing a different view diminishes the integrity and credibility of such hearings because it makes them superficial, lacking nuance and sophistication in assessing the situation. Most certainly, it also diminishes the image of those behind it, especially when they running for the highest office in the land.