Israel

Week in Review: A New and Improved Abbas? A New and Improved Hamas?

A New and Improved Abbas?

When President Donald Trump met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House last week, Trump expressed his hope that Abbas—who signed the Oslo Accords nearly 24 years ago—could also be “the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, and prosperity to both peoples and to the region.”

Beyond these encouraging words, there was a clear exhortation. Trump told Abbas that “no lasting peace” can be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians “unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violence.” The Palestinian Authority and its ruling party Fatah, both of which are headed by Abbas and often described as “moderate,” have long been accused by the Israeli government and monitoring groups like Palestinian Media Watch and IMPACT-SE of inciting violence against Israelis.

Abbas responded to the president by claiming “that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”

However, in a survey last year of 78 Palestinian Authority textbooks covering grades 1 through 12, IMPACT-SE found that ” the word “peace” hardly appears at all.” A recent IMPACT-SE survey on new Palestinian textbooks used during the 2016 school year similarly showed that “despite assurances from the PA Education Ministry, these new books are actually more radical than we have previously seen.”

When Trump called on Palestinian leaders to reject terror against Israelis, he was giving Abbas an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to peace. Instead, the Palestinian leader lied to the president’s face.

A New and Improved Hamas?

Ahead of Abbas’ meeting with Trump, Hamas also sought to remake its image. The terror group on Monday issued a new policy document suggesting that it would accept a Palestinian state along the 1949 armistice lines and obscuring its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. (Blogger “Elder of Ziyon” noted that Hamas never called the document a new charter, meaning that the old one—which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and plays up Hamas’ ties to the Muslim Brotherhood—is still operative.)

As The New York Times pointed out, Hamas “has still in no way recognized Israel or renounced violence,” and recently chose the “hardliner” Yahya Sinwar to head the group’s activities in Gaza.

This isn’t the first time that Hamas falsely tried to present a more moderate face to the world. Dore Gold, the former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted in 2014 that despite these efforts, many “Hamas activities and statements point in the exact opposite direction of those analyses that try to soften the image of Hamas.”

We see that dynamic playing out again, with recent statements and actions by Hamas underscoring its ironclad support for terror.

The Islamist group thanked North Korea last month for supporting “the Palestinian’s struggle and rejected the continuation of occupation,” while a Hamas-linked news organization mocked Israel’s observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day and called Tel Aviv a “settlement.”

Also last month, two sisters from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, one of whom was being treated for cancer in Israel, were caught attempting to smuggle explosives into the country; a terror tunnel collapsed, killing one member of Hamas; thousands of teens graduated from an armed training program that calls for conquering Israel by force; and Israeli authorities intercepted wetsuits believed to be destined for Hamas naval commandos.

Despite the media blitz over Hamas’ new policy document, the terror group’s actions show that it has not changed.

The Same Bad Old UNESCO

UNESCO, the cultural agency of the United Nations, chose to pass another resolution ignoring the historical connection between Jews and Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israel’s 69th Independence Day. The timing of the vote on the Arab-sponsored resolution appears to be a cynical way of questioning the Jewish state’s legitimacy.

Two similar UNESCO resolutions were passed last year in October, just as several discoveries demonstrating Jews’ millennia-old connection to Jerusalem were announced. That month, Israeli archaeologists identified the location where Roman troops breached the walls of Jerusalem before destroying the Jewish Temple nearly 2,000 years ago, and unveiled a 2,700-year-old ancient manuscript with the oldest non-Biblical reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew. Both discoveries, among others last year, further attest to the extensive historical ties between Jews and Jerusalem.

Last week’s UNESCO resolution came in the wake of a letter written to UN Secretary-General António Guterres and signed by all one hundred United States senators demanding that the UN end its bias against Israel. The lawmakers specifically called on Guterres to stop UNESCO from approving resolutions that “target Israel and deny the Jewish and Christian connections to Jerusalem.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) defended his decision to sign the letter in an interview last week with the Qatari network Al Jazeera. Sanders affirmed that he recognized Israel’s right to exist and pointed out the UN was hypocritical for condemning Israel while ignoring many allegations of severe human rights violations worldwide.

Feature: Who Is Behind Anti-Semitic Attacks in the U.S.?

There has been upward trend in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the U.S. in recent years—but we don’t know who the perpetrators are, Johanna Markind reports.

According to the FBI, 695 anti-Semitic hate crimes were committed in the U.S. in 2015. Authorities didn’t identify the race of the offender in 77 percent of those cases. While whites were documented to have committed the most anti-Semitic crimes that year, they still only accounted for 17 percent of the total.

Part of the problem, Markind observes, is that a sector of the population that has sometimes been involved in anti-Semitic incidents isn’t included in the statistics:

There is anecdotal evidence that many recent anti-Semitic hate crimes were committed by Muslims and/or Arabs. A recently-published study by the Community Security Service reviewed 104 serious attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions from 1969-2016, and concluded that “white supremacist and radical Islamist ideologies were a central influencing factor” in “incidents where motivation can be ascertained.”

While the FBI now includes Arabs when documenting the ethnicities that experience hate crimes, “Arab ethnicity is not listed or identified on the offender list,” Markind writes.

“Is there a problem with anti-Semitic violence in Arab-American and Muslim communities?” she asks. As of yet, there is no good answer to that question. But it will be impossible to address the situation effectively until the data is properly gathered and analyzed.

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Three Big Questions

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that Trump had asked Abbas to stop paying stipends to the families of terrorists. Nabil Shaath, an advisor to Abbas, said Thursday that it would be “insane” for the PA to stop these payments. That day, it was also reported that Trump deleted a friendly tweet about his meeting with Abbas. (A Facebook post with the same message, however, remained intact.) Was the tweet removed because Abbas rebuffed Trump?

In reporting on Abbas’ meeting with Trump on Wednesday, The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Abbas insisted that Palestinians were not preaching hatred. ‘I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace,’ he said, a contention Israeli officials would reject.'” Given the extent and well-documented nature of the problem, shouldn’t it be a lot more than just “Israeli officials” who reject Abbas’ lies?

Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said this week that Iran is trying “to take over the Islamic world.” In response, Iran’s ambassador to the UN charged Riyadh with promoting terrorism and said that Tehran is “ready for dialogue and accommodation to promote regional stability.” However, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor of the U.S., said last Sunday that Iran is using the “Hezbollah model” to destabilize the Middle East — targeting weak governments and funding armed groups that challenge them. How does Iran define “promote regional stability?”

[Photo: White House / YouTube]