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Scribblings: Mazen Tov

Anyone still unconvinced about Arafat should also look at the recent improvements on the critical issue of incitement.
As I have written before, I believe the overwhelming prevalence of incitement to hatred of and violence against Israel and Israelis in the Palestinian media is one of the most important barriers to the achievement of peace. A whole new generation of Palestinians has been raised on two messages sent out continually in the news, in music videos, in sermons, in dramas, and by their leaders and in schools. Firstly, Israelis are simply cold-blooded murderers and schemers who have launched an unprovoked effort to kill all Palestinians by various open and covert means. And secondly, that to fight and kill Israelis is the primary and highest expression of Palestinian-ness.
If accepted, these two beliefs make peace literally inconceivable. What sort of agreement is possible with someone whose primary underlying agenda is simply to kill you? And if Palestinian-ness is mostly about fighting Israel, what use are Palestinian statehood and the instruments of self-government if not to continue the fight?
Israeli PM Ariel Sharon has now made incitement a litmus test for the new Palestinian leadership. Sharon had previously demanded that, before serious political negotiations resume, the Palestinians first begin carrying out their primary first-stage obligation under the Roadmap, the dismantling of terror infrastructure. But in late November, Sharon announced that he wanted only an end to incitement before efforts were made to negotiate a coordinated, as opposed to unilateral, disengagement from Gaza.
According to reports, within two days new acting PLO chairman Abu Mazen spoke to the head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority, and asked him to check for inciting material. And according to the people who monitor the Palestinian media, the result was a marked change. Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch said that incitement to violence and encouragement to suicide bombings appeared to be well down, though incitement to anti-Israel hatred continued. Examples of the latter he cited included a program where refugee children danced with keys and sang how they would return to Haifa and Jaffa and Acre (all inside pre-1967 Israel), and an interview with a Palestinian professor who compared Israel to a parasitic worm which kills a snail and lives in its shell. Marcus compared the new situation in the media to that which existed before the outbreak of violence in 2000.
Sharon also said on Dec. 3 that incitement to violence had dropped markedly since his call.
While it is apparent that the situation in the Palestinian media is still not good enough, Abu Mazen did show he was trying to create pre-conditions for diplomacy. He was able to do in two days what Arafat never did over the past decade, despite the fact that he has far less power than Arafat did. It is clearly not true, as some claimed, that Arafat could not end the incitement. He simply did not want to.