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West hears only one of the two Palestinian languages

Allan Sorensen, Middle East correspondent  |
The Israeli organization "Palestinian Media Watch" is on tour in Scandinavia to present its view on why the Palestinians do not talk about peace, and why the Europeans have still not grasped what their taxes pay for.

The art of speaking with two tongues was often attributed to the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. When he spoke in English, he said that the Palestinians sought a peaceful solution to the conflict, while in Arabic he indirectly and directly did all he could to encourage terrorist attacks against Israel.

This ambiguity never prevented Western countries from providing Arafat’s authority with massive support. In Western eyes, it is only the Islamic movement Hamas in Gaza which deserves financial boycott. The Fatah movement and the Palestinian Authority, to which Arafat belonged, was - and remains - a more moderate body that deserves financial and political support.

Since this is the way we in North view the aid to the Palestinians, it is no wonder that Itamar Marcus, director of "Palestinian Media Watch" in Jerusalem, is currently traveling around Scandinavia to present his knowledge and arguments to the enthusiastic, but in his eyes naive, donors. His specialty is to give those with a one-sided sympathy towards the weaker party an intellectual slap in the face by confronting them with the facts which they miss unless they understand Arabic.

Itamar Marcus and his Danish analyst, Nan Jacques Zilberdik, came to Denmark last week. Kristeligt Dagblad met them both in Jerusalem prior to their departure.

The main message from Itamar Marcus' office in Jerusalem, which translates Palestinian media and educational material on a daily basis, is that there is absolutely nothing new under the sun in terms of the tone Arafat used to employ when he spoke Arabic.

- "President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority continue actively, in Arabic, to deny Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. They continue to foment violence and glorify violent deeds and mass murderers," says Itamar Marcus.

That tone is typically attributed to Hamas, but Itamar Marcus believes that the voice of Hamas in Gaza is virtually the same as that of the PA in the West Bank when it comes to Israel and incitement to violence. Even the role of religion in the conflict has been given a much more central position by Fatah and the PA in recent years.

- "Today Fatah in the West Bank also refers to the conflict with Israel as an eternal and uncompromising war for Allah and Islam," says Itamar Marcus.

He is anxious to explain that these messages are deliberately only conveyed in Arabic to the local population, but never in English, so that donor countries are unable to understand them. And that is the reason why he has a bulging folder with many examples on hand, so that during his tour he can also dismiss possible counter-arguments: that these are just some very isolated and unusual examples.

- "That is not the case," says Itamar Marcus.

He offers numerous examples from newspapers, speeches, interviews and all sorts of other statements from leading and ordinary citizens in the Palestinian Authority.

"Palestinian Media Watch" has existed since 1996, and throughout this time, according to Itamar Marcus, the Palestinian tone towards Israel in certain respects has become more severe, while the glorification of violence is as widespread as it always was.

It does not really surprise him, because he knows what’s in the school books and newspapers. What does surprise him, however, is that neither the U.S. nor Europe demands that these things be changed, for example, in exchange for the millions of dollars that they transfer to the PA.

According to Itamar Marcus the West has adopted a less critical approach to the Palestinians when it comes to money transfers.

"Western countries that continue to give money to the Palestinian Authority are supporting the glorification of violence and the problems that are to be found in the Palestinian schoolbooks,” he says.

Itamar Marcus is not impressed when Western countries say that their money is earmarked for specific projects.

- "Each transfer of funds that is not accompanied by a very clear requirement for the Palestinians to stop the hate campaigns and the incitement to violence, helps keep this whole project afloat," he says.

Danish Nan Jacques Zilberdik adds:
- "Many donor countries hide behind the claim that they are contributing only towards specific humanitarian projects, but this just means that the money is thus freed up elsewhere in the PA's budget to continue the promotion of hatred, rejection of Israel's right to exist, and glorification of terror and terrorists," she says.

Itamar Marcus does not think the Western governments are too stupid to understand this connection. But he criticizes many of the factors involved in allowing a situation in which Western countries consider it a moral duty to support a society which preaches hatred, death and destruction, and which even passes this on to the next generation too. One of these factors is the way the West views the Palestinian society.

- "In the West, many people tend to look at the world in relation to their own values. This means that when a Palestinian blows himself up on a bus, or calls for the destruction of Israel, the conclusion is that he must really have suffered horribly," says Itamar Marcus.

But after listening to Palestinian adults, adolescents and children declaring that "Martyrdom" is the highest form of death, and that death is better than life, Itamar Marcus is convinced that the issue here is not suffering alone.

- "'Your enemies seek life while you seek death'. This is a quote from an 8th-grade school book currently in use in the Palestinian Authority.

- "Here is something ingrained, a culture, which we in the West have difficulties understanding," he says, and gives another of his many examples. This time less dramatic, but perhaps very telling.

On a children's TV show, a character is caught cheating during an examination. He breaks out in tears, explaining that he had no time to revise before the test because the Israelis bombed his neighborhood.

- "What is the point here?" asks Itamar Marcus.
"If you are caught cheating, then blame someone else. Instead of teaching moral values, the idea of victimhood is continually kept alive."

He believes that change will be possible only when Western donors start to demand of the Palestinian Authority to take a active approach without always descending into a world of guilt, Martyrdom, violence, and demonization of Israel.

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