Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs was first established in 2006 to provide a consolation prize to Avigdor Lieberman, who wanted the Internal Security Ministry, but was unfortunately the subject of several investigations by that ministry at the time. It was phased out in 2008, only to be revived in 2009, this time to provide a portfolio to Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon, number two in the Likud Party, since the important ministries were reserved for Likud’s coalition partners. But what does this political artifact of a ministry actually do? It is supposed to be responsible for coordinating strategic affairs, but it has no authority over any other ministry.
On August 12 we discovered what Ya’alon’s superfluous ministry has been up to, when it revealed its Palestinian Authority “incitement index.” The index records and tabulates public statements by PA officials and their media outlets that do not conform to the Israeli establishment’s idea of proper political behavior. This includes not only statements maligning Jews collectively, which exist, but anything that does not imply a capitulation to Israel’s terms for “peace.”
So any hint that Palestinians are collectively engaged in a struggle for national rights is termed “incitement.” The examples provided reveal a Palestinian society that indeed sees itself as engaged in a struggle against the occupier. It is a society ideologically mobilized to fight for its legitimate rights. This is what the incitement index calls “the ethos of struggle” that is encouraged by Palestinian leadership and media. Calling this incitement is to suggest that Palestinians accept the alternative, the Israeli vision of peace through division of the remaining 20% of Palestine based on a configuration of settlements that Israel imposed by force, mostly while “peace negotiations” were taking place.
The index also takes offense and labels as incitement any reference to the entire territory that was Mandatory Palestine in 1947 as “Palestine.” Photos of Mahmoud Abbas next to maps of Palestine thus delineated, the map of said territory on official PA documents, and as traced by children on television, these are all said to be instances of incitement and an obstacle to peace. If you have visited the West Bank, you will also see the same familiar shape of historic Palestine on dashboards of taxis, on living room walls. It is a graphic representation of the Palestinian narrative.
But calling this “incitement,” and claiming that it is “the primary obstacle to peace,” as the index does, requires a badly atrophied sense of irony. Israel daily uses not only incitement to violence, but real violence, and the threat of violence, to take Palestinian lands. The former IDF chief of staff who runs the office that produced this pseudoscientific index has openly supported accelerated settlement activity. He has declared that Jews should be allowed to colonize all of “the land of Israel.” Not only are there countless instances of Israeli government officials and politicians denying the validity of Palestinian national existence, let alone the right to self-determination, but Israel is actively implementing their vision.
It could not have helped the cause of this “incitement” awareness campaign, that a few days after the index was released, Israel’s media had forgotten all about this document, and were instead preoccupied with the vicious attacks of Palestinian teenagers in Jerusalem at the hands of Israeli gangs.