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End the incitement

As Congress ponders the $350 million in aid that President Bush has asked for the Palestinian Authority, it might want to call Itamar Marcus in to testify at a hearing. Mr. Marcus is the director of a group called Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors the press in the West Bank and Gaza. Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in that press is by now old news. But it’s worth noting that even as Mr. Bush puts political capital at risk by embracing the PLO leadership in the form of longtime Arafat aide Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Abbas’s state-controlled press is propagandizing the Palestinian Arab population with the worst kind of anti-American poison.
On April 15, according to Palestinian Media Watch, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudayris offered a Friday sermon on Palestinian Authority-controlled television. He made the outrageous and false claim that Muslim prisoners are being forced to convert to Christianity. “In the name of Allah, what Caesar did, dipping Muslims in boiling oil, was one hundred thousand times lighter than what their soldiers are doing today to our wives and daughters in Iraq, in Palestine, in Guantanamo and in Abu Gharib,” he said.
On April 16, according to Palestinian Media Watch, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, Al Hayat Al Jadida, followed up with an article: “Seventeen years (since the assassination of the fighter Abu Jihad) that the murderous millstones of America have been turning, grinding the bones of our children and devouring their eyes. Not Israel! It is America repeating upon us, the Arabs, the tragedy of the Indians from the dawn of her history that began with this first crime of genocide.”
We wouldn’t get particularly worked up about such anti-American libels if they had appeared in a genuinely free press. You can read worse in Greenwich Village. What offends us is that this hared is being bred by a regime that the Bush administration wants to reward with funding. The more we see of Mr. Abbas, the more it looks to us like the Bush administration made a mistake in backing him rather than insisting on a free Palestinian press and a genuinely free election that would lead to the emergence of pro-American, non-Arafat Palestinians.