Topic | Choose topic/s and define your search
Affiliations / Personalities
Date Range

Death is a prominent part of Palestinian culture, as documented by PMW

Steven Emerson  |
On Death and Palestinian Culture

by Steven Emerson

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is taking criticism for remarks about culture in explaining Israel’s economic success compared to Palestinians’ during a speech in Jerusalem Monday.

“Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said.

While Romney denied on Tuesday that his reference was a criticism about Palestinian culture, Palestinian leaders immediately slammed the comment. Palestinian Authority spokesman called it “a racist statement” that ignores the effect occupation has on the Palestinian economy...

Political pundits are free to debate the wisdom of Romney’s statement as a candidate for president, but abundant examples exist to show that Palestinian culture has embraced a celebration of violence and death in its educational and civic programs.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is credited for working to reverse this tide, building a growing economy on the West Bank and countering the Islamists’ violent and extreme agenda. But the PA continues to undermine this effort by glorifying suicide bombers and naming schools, camps and sporting events after terrorists. For example, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) listed more than a dozen West Bank institutions in 2010 that are named for Dalal Mughrabi, who led a team that hijacked a bus packed with tourists in 1978, killing 37 people – 12 of them children – as the terrorists shot passengers and lobbed grenades at passing cars in what is known as the Coastal Road Massacre, one of the worst terrorist attacks in Israel’s history.

Another PMW report in December showed how a youth magazine underwritten by the Palestinian Authority offset a generally positive message by publishing a student’s praise for Adolph Hitler for killing Jews. Another article hailed a “mighty Jihad fighter [who] died as a Martyr and Jerusalem is proud of its heroes… Victory, victory, victory…” ...

This is not to say all Palestinians agree with the message, or that it is the sole cause of Palestinian economic problems. But it is a theme consistently set by elected leaders of both Hamas in Gaza and of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

In response to Romney’s statement, Palestinians blamed Israeli occupation. But after Hamas took over Gaza after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal, the group opted to rain thousands of rockets on civilian communities in Israel, drawing both retaliation and an embargo aimed at keeping Hamas from importing materials to make more weapons.

A United Nations report found that the embargo is legal and rooted in “a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza stopping weapons from being smuggled.”

And despite actions by the West in shutting down the airing of programs such as these, the incitement and spreading of conspiracy theories continue.

Leaders in both territories gave heroes’ welcomes to terrorists freed last fall in an exchange with Israel. More than 1,000 terrorists, many with blood on their hands, were set free in exchange for Hamas’ release of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who had been kidnapped five years earlier.

Throngs of cheering people turned out to welcome the prisoners amid celebratory gunfire and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh greeted many of them personally.

Hamas deputy chief Mousa Abu Marzook hinted darkly that more kidnappings would follow. “The rest of the prisoners must be released because if they are not released in a normal way they will be released in other ways.”

There is more to Palestinian culture than this. But the celebration of death and violence is far from isolated...

Palestinian leaders need to find the courage to admit that glorification of violence is rampant in their society and do more to root it out. It’s the right thing to do, and it may help build their economy.