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Middle East Issues





Brookings’ ‘Takeaway’ on the ‘Stabbing Intifada’ Leaves Little


The Brookings Institution is a Washington D.C. based think-tank whose analysts are frequently quoted by the press and policymakers and are invited to testify in congressional hearings. Brookings' current president is Strobe Talbott, the former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and the institution's employment of former U.S. administration officials as a sort of “court-in-exile” has allowed analysts to stay informed about issues while out of government. Given this level of influence, it is noteworthy when the think tank writes and recirculates a brief that may misinform readers.

“A view from the West Bank: Three key takeaways” (March 21, 2016) by Khaled Elgindy, a Brookings Center for Middle East Policy fellow and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority (PA), while making some important observations about internal rivalries within the authority, misleads through omissions and easily disprovable assertions.

In his first “takeaway,” Elgindy claims that the wave of Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks, ongoing since September 2015 is “largely despair-driven, but remains individualistic and politically directionless.” However, the so-called “stabbing intifada” in which Arabs have attacked and tried to murder Israelis—sometimes successfully—with rocks, vehicles, axes, knives and guns is primarily none of those things.

As CAMERA has noted (“Hamas: ‘Despair' is Not the Reason for Palestinian Violence,” Jan. 26, 2016), Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, stated in a Jan. 19, 2016 speech, “This intifada is not the result of despair. This intifada is a jihad, a holy war fought by the Palestinian people against the Zionist occupation. Only a holy war will drive the occupier out of Palestine.” Hamas' definition of “Palestine” encompasses all of Israel—a definition shared by the Fatah movement which dominates the PA and regularly echoes Hamas in its official media and education, calling for a Palestine “from the river to the sea.”
 
Omitting Palestinian Incitement

Elgindy erroneously claimed that “Israeli settlement expansion, home demolitions, land confiscations, and movement restrictions continue to rob Palestinians of their land, livelihoods, and dignity.” This chain of accusations fails to mention that the latter three items—demolitions, confiscations and restrictions—target terrorists and those who support them, not Palestinian Arabs in general. In fact, as CAMERA has noted (“U.N. School Celebrates Palestinian Stabbing of Jews,” March 8, 2016), many Palestinian terrorists have cited the “al-Aqsa libel” as motive. That more-than-80-year-old charge consists of Palestinian leaders falsely claiming that Jews are somehow endangering Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, often called Islam's third-holiest-shrine. Among other instances, it has been used in 1929, 1996, 2000 and more recently on Sept. 16, 2015 when Abbas claimed on official PA TV: “The al-Aqsa is ours…and they [Jews] have no right to defile it…We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem…”

As far as the claims of “settlement expansion,” CAMERA has reported that (“Fact-Checking a Fact Check: ThinkProgress Fails on Netanyahu ‘Falsehoods,'” Nov. 17, 2015), Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria)—although having internal growth—have not expanded outwardly and no new settlements have been built for two decades. Elgindy also omits that in the last two decades, Israel has withdrawn its troops from most of Hebron, southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and settlers also from the latter—only to be rewarded with increased Palestinian terrorist attacks.

Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist in peace and as a Jewish state—implicitly agreed to by Palestinian leaders as part of the 1990s Oslo peace accords that created the PA—goes unmentioned by the Brookings fellow. So does PA rejection of offers for a “two-state” solution in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. In 2014, PA President Mahmoud Abbas turned down U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's offer to restart negotiations, potentially leading to such an outcome.

Incredibly, Elgindy failed to mention that Abbas rejected another “U.S. peace proposal” on March 9, 2016—twelve days before his Brookings article was published (“Abbas Rejects U.S. Peace Proposal, Again,” The Tower, March 11, 2016). If the lack of a Palestinian state and presence of Jewish “settlements” were really the drivers of anti-Jewish violence, the PA repeatedly has rejected opportunities to resolve the situation.
 
PA Officials Beg to Differ
 
Elgindy's claim that Palestinian anti-Jewish violence is “politically directionless” does not pass muster either. In addition to Abbas employing the “al-Aqsa libel,” the PA has glorified those killed while attempting to murder Jews by planting trees in their names, bringing soil from al-Aqsa to their graves and paying and hosting their families.
 
Statements by PA officials also contradict Elgindy's assertion.

According to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a non-profit organization that monitors Arab media in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem, examples of Palestinian leaders supporting anti-Israeli terrorist attacks are plentiful: PMW reports, for example, that on Dec. 30, 2015, Abbas Zaki, the Fatah central committee member and commissioner of Arab relations and relations with China, claimed that Fatah “is currently leading the mass uprising [terrorist attacks].”

As CAMERA has noted (“Where's the Coverage? Palestinian Official Calls to ‘Intensify and Develop' Anti-Israel Violence,” Feb. 9, 2016), Fatah's spokesman, Fayez Abu Aita, called to “intensify and develop this popular uprising.”
 
Poll Picking and Choosing?

Majorities of the Palestinian public have supported their leaders' calls for anti-Jewish violence. A Sept. 2015 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that 57 percent of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip support an intifada (violent uprising). Only 30 percent supported a one-state solution in which Arabs and Israelis “enjoy equal rights” and 58 percent oppose mutual recognition of Israel as a state for Jewish people and Palestine as a second state for Palestinian Arab people.

Elgindy was aware of this poll; he cited the same survey to show West Bank Arab dissatisfaction with Abbas. One wonders why he didn't see fit to mention the above data on Palestinian support for terrorism.

As a widely cited think-tank, the Brookings Institution seeks to “help policymakers and the public address critical issues of freedom, prosperity and security in the 21st century.” Yet, the “view from the West Bank” depicted in Elgindy's brief leaves readers with critically little to takeaway regarding the “stabbing intifada.”


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