By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, December 16, 2009.
Palestinian antisemitism has long been recognized as a vehicle of hatred. From
academics teaching that Judaism permits murder and rape of non-Jews, to
religious leaders teaching that Islam demands the extermination of Jews,
Palestinian antisemitism is a compelling force driving hatred and terror.
The Palestinian Authority depicts Jews as the archetypal force of evil
throughout history. Jews are said to be responsible for all the world’s problems:
wars, financial crises, even the spreading of AIDS. Jews are a danger to
Whereas this paradigm has been used before, the Palestinians take it a step
further, turning demonization of Jews into the basis for Palestinian denial of
Israel’s right to exist and a central component of Palestinian national identity.
Because of Jews’ evil nature, according to this Palestinian principle, nations of
the world have been involved in continuous defensive actions to protect
themselves. The antisemitic oppression, persecution and expulsions suffered by
Jews throughout history are presented as the legitimate self-defense responses
Ibrahim Mudayris, a PA religious official, delineated this ideology: “The Jews
are a virus similar to AIDS, from which the entire world is suffering. This has
been proven in history… Ask Britain!… Ask France!… Ask Portugal… Ask
czarist Russia – who invited the Jews and they plotted to murder the czar!…
Don’t ask Germany what it did to the Jews, since the Jews are the ones who
provoked Nazism to fight the entire world” (PA TV, May 13, 2005).
The apex of this Palestinian ideology, and possibly its purpose, is to use this
demonization of Jews as the basis for denying Israel legitimacy and to present
Palestinians as the ultimate victims. According to this Palestinian model, the
Jews, who are said to have no history in the land, would never have considered
coming to “Palestine”: Europeans created Zionism as the final act in the long
series of self-defense measures, to rid themselves of the “burden” of the Jews.
Political commentator Fathi Buzia recently explained this on official PA
television: “Europe, led by Britain, founded Israel… The Jews in the time of
Herzl caused European societies to lose sleep. They wanted to be rid of them,
and implanted them in Palestine” (PA TV, June 17).
Dr Riad al-Astal, a history lecturer at Al Azhar University in Gaza,
explained it this way: “In aiding Zionism, Britain’s first aim was to be rid of the
Jews, who were known to provoke disputes and disturbances and financial
crises in Germany, France and other European states” (PA TV, December 28,
This demonization of Jews as the reason for delegitimizing Israel has been an
integral part of Palestinian ideology, voiced by political, academic and religious
leaders since the establishment of the PA. Already in 1998 the official PA daily
described both Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jews and British support for
Zionism as defensive measures:
“Hitler did not have colonies to send the Jews so he destroyed them,
whereas Balfour… Palestine into his colony and sent the Jews. Balfour
is Hitler with colonies, while Hitler is Balfour without colonies. They both
wanted to get rid of the Jews… Zionism was crucial to the defense of the
West’s interests in the region, ridding Europe of the burden of its Jews.”
(Al-Hayat al-Jadida , June 12, 1998).
This is not merely incitement; this is the foundation of Palestinian ideology.
Israel is denied legitimacy and Palestinian victimhood becomes the foundation
upon which a Palestinian national identity is created. Therefore, the Palestinian
antisemitism construct is so problematic and hard to dislodge. Since the aim of
Palestinian antisemitism is not merely to promote hatred, but part of a
systematic demonization of Jews to deny Israel’s right to exist, proving that
Jews are evil has become an element of the ongoing Palestinian narrative.
Indeed, even in the period of the Annapolis Conference, the PA has never
stopped disseminating a steady diet of hatred of Jews and Israelis. It has
accused Jews and Israel of spreading AIDS among Palestinians, causing drug
addiction among youth, planning to destroy the Aksa Mosque, and murdering
Yasser Arafat. Jews are said to have lived in ghettos not because of European
hatred, but because they see themselves as superior and do not want to mix
with non-Jews, while the Palestinian chief religious justice recently said that the
Koran warns of the Jews’ inherently evil traits.
Zionists are said to have forced Palestinians to undergo “selections”
during the War of Independence, whereby the fit were put in labor camps and
the unfit killed – some even burned alive.
All this and much more, since the renewal of the peace process.
The tragic reality is that this Palestinian antisemitism and its conclusions may
already be ingrained in Palestinian society. During a talk show for teens on
official PA TV, a young girl explained the reason Jews live in Israel: “About the
problem of the Jewish presence: You’d agree that the Jewish presence in the
land of Palestine was nothing but the liberation of all the countries of the world
from the source of evil. The evil that is found in the Jews has become a germ
among us, which is a cancer that buried us and is still burying. And we are the
ones who suffer from this cancer” (PA TV, June 23, 2002). The adult
moderator did not correct her. And why should he? She was merely reiterating
the basis of Palestinian national identity.
In other countries, antisemitism has been a tool to promote hatred for a variety
of internal reasons. As such, when hatred was no longer necessary,
antisemitism as a government policy could be eradicated, as in post-Nazi
Germany. But the goal of PA demonization of Jews transcends mere hatred.
Antisemitism is its political tool to defame Zionism, deny Israel’s right to exist
and create victimhood as the glue that cements Palestinian national identity.
Because this political goal will exist as long as Israel exists, Palestinian
antisemitism will be much harder to uproot.
If there is ever to be peace in the region, Palestinians must define a new
Palestinian national identity – one that doesn’t rely on antisemitism and the
eradication of Israel’s legitimacy as its foundation.