PMW op-ed: Norway and other European obstacles to peace
Norway and other European obstacles to peace
by Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Attacking PMW for exposing hatred, and not the PA for promoting hatred, is a failure that will postpone peace for another generation.
For two months, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide has been questioned by his parliament’s Scrutiny Committee because the Foreign Ministry has been giving false information to parliament since 2011. The Foreign Ministry had denied that the Palestinian Authority pays high monthly salaries to security prisoners, among them convicted terrorists. Palestinian Media Watch, where I am a senior analyst, exposed these PA salaries already in 2011. These salaries are paid from the PA’s general budget, which is funded in part by Norway and other international donors.
At the time, Norway’s Foreign Ministry refused to accept PMW’s reports, basing itself on false data supplied by the PA. Had the ministry seriously studied our reports, Norway would have learned in 2011 that the PA has a special program to give salaries to prisoners, including those convicted of multiple murders.
Finally, two months ago Eide acknowledged that the information the Foreign Ministry had been giving to parliament for two years was false. However, Eide’s public response since then has been a great disappointment.
In an interview to the Norwegian newspaper Dagen, he did not criticize the PA for lying to Norway, nor did he condemn it for using donor money to pay salaries to convicted terrorists. He did not challenge the PA’s ethical foundations as supporters and glorifiers of terrorists and murderers, nor did he explain his ministry’s so-called “imprecise” statements to parliament.
Instead, Minister Eide criticized the research institute where I work, saying that PMW is “against the two-state solution” and “considerably to the right of the Israeli government.”
These claims have no relevance to the PA’s transfer of Norwegian money to terrorists, and are also groundless. Instead of acknowledging that PMW correctly exposed the PA’s unethical behavior and unethical use of Norwegian funding, he chose to attack us, the research institute that was the messenger.
I write now not only as a representative of PMW but as a Scandinavian from Denmark, a non-Jew married to an Israeli. Exposing hatred and terror glorification, which are serious impediments to peace, is something all Scandinavians who hope for peace should support. PMW has documented that the PA is not only paying salaries to terrorists, but is also glorifying them, and promoting hatred through many different branches of government that receive donor money. In addition, money is fungible, so even if the PA says that international funding is not going into the bank accounts the prisoners have designated, funding the PA’s general budget facilitates these payments to terrorists as well as PA hate promotion and terror glorification.
Norway’s and other international donors’ continued unconditional funding of the PA’s general budget, enabling it to use donor money as it pleases, makes these international funders participants in this hate promotion and terror glorification. Notwithstanding Eide’s claim that the Israeli government wants Norway to keep supporting the PA so it does not collapse, this does not free Norway of its responsibility to check what its money is funding, and to publicly condemn the PA when its actions are unethical.
I came to PMW after my husband was present at a PMW lecture, which led me to examine PMW’s findings. When I saw the way the PA glorified terrorist murderers, I realized that Middle East reality was far from the simple Scandinavian narrative depicting a “peaceseeking PA” and an “uncompromising Israel” that I grew up hearing in Denmark.
Palestinian terrorist Ibrahim Hamed is serving 54 life sentences for planning at least five suicide bombings at the Hebrew University, in cafes and in a shopping mall, in which dozens of civilians were murdered. Terrorist Abbas al-Sayid is serving 35 life sentences for planning suicide bombings at a Passover celebration, killing 30 Israelis, and at a pedestrian mall, killing five and wounding 100.
These are just two examples of terrorists the PA calls “heroes.”
But they are no different than other terrorists around the globe, who likewise have slaughtered innocent people. Such killers should be universally condemned. But they and other Palestinian terrorists are lauded as heroes by the PA leadership, in addition to receiving high monthly salaries from the PA payroll, facilitated by donor countries like Norway.
I know that for many, PMW’s documentation is an inconvenient truth. Clearly, it is difficult to believe in the two-state solution’s potential for success when watching official PA TV broadcast songs depicting the Israeli cities Haifa, Acre and Jaffa as “Palestinian”; when seeing Palestinian kids recite poems that demonize Jews as “Satan” or “the enemies of Allah, the sons of pigs”; and when hearing senior PA leaders commemorate terrorist killers as “martyrs” and “heroes” whose “path” Palestinians are encouraged to follow.
Growing up in Denmark, the conflict was misrepresented to me. I am certain that only exposing the obstacles to peace on both sides – and they exist on the Israeli side as well – will ever eliminate them. For this reason, I have been a senior analyst at PMW for nearly five years, co-author all its publications, and speak in various parliaments exposing these impediments to peace.
What surprises and alarms me is that instead of joining me in condemning this hate promotion, Norway and other donors continue to ignore most of PMW’s findings.
They silently accept without condemnation the PA’s teaching hatred of Jews, glorification of terrorist murderers, and praising suicide bombers as “role models.” It’s as if they are saying: “Our mind is made up, please don’t confuse us with facts.”
Donors have been praising the PA for its successful preparations for statehood – its institutions and its infrastructure – but few seem to care about its ethical foundations. As funders, Norway and other countries have an opportunity and an obligation to demand the end of the PA hate and terror culture.
Attacking PMW for exposing the hatred, and not the PA for promoting the hatred, is a failure that will postpone peace for another generation.
The author is a senior analyst at Palestinian Media Watch ([email protected]). This was originally published as an op-ed response to Norwegian Foreign Minister Eide, “Obstacles on the road to peace” by Nan Jacques Zilberdik, in Dagen (Norway) May 22, 2013.