Let us Honor Our Own
It’s a never ending struggle, this uphill battle with Israel’s mighty propaganda machine. But as they say, no rest for the weary.
Over the past few months, Israel has been sullying the reputation of yet another aspect of Palestinian governance. In late May, the Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli watchdog organization that tracks Palestinian media for incitement against Israel released a report claiming that the Palestinian Authority is paying salaries to Palestinian prisoners in accordance with a newly published law.
The PMW spread the news as quickly and with as much venom as possible. “In other words, all Palestinians in Israeli prisons for terror crimes officially join the PA payroll. According to the definition in the PA law, Palestinian car thieves in Israeli prisons will not receive a salary, but Hamas and Fatah terrorist murderers will,” the report read.
“The PA also gives a salary to Israeli Arabs convicted of terror crimes against Israel - the country of which they are citizens. PA benefits to Israeli Arab terrorists, in fact, are greater than the ones extended to Palestinian terrorists.”
Since then, the slandering has taken hold, especially since the PMW called on donor countries to cut aid to the PA altogether since, according to their logic, the money will go to “terrorists” and their families.
This is not the first time the Palestinians have been accused of supporting terrorism and incitement towards Israel. After the PA came to power in 2004 and devised its own school curriculum, Israel immediately began tearing the books apart, page at a time and claiming they were full of anti-Israeli sentiments. An excellent article published earlier this month by The Guardian notes that Israeli textbooks, which are rarely in the spotlight, are far more inciting and racist than that of the Palestinians. The article points out that the word “Palestinians” is only used when in reference to “terrorists.” Otherwise, Palestinians are referred to as Arabs – uneducated, deviant, camel riders.
Claims of incitement are not limited to schoolbooks, unfortunately. When Palestinians named a square after Dalal Al Mughrabi, a Palestinian fighter who was killed during a military operation against Israel in 1978, Israel was up in arms, claiming the Palestinians should not be allowed to name streets or squares after “terrorists.” Israeli watchdog groups and the Israeli government play on the fact that Palestinians have named streets after Abu Jihad (Khalil Al Wazir) and Yehya Ayash. The prisoner stipends are just the latest episode in the drama.
What Israelis should know is that any country in the world with a welfare system is responsible for its citizens, including the families of prisoners. There is nothing out of the ordinary in this. Actually, the PA has been doing it for years. The United States does not punish the family of a murderer nor would Israel cut government benefits from the family of Yigal Amir. Neither should the Palestinians abandon their own people.
Additionally, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are a whole other ballgame. These men and women are not imprisoned for stealing cars, or for selling drugs. They are there because they are resisting a belligerent military occupation of their land, which has oppressed them and their people for decades. The PA’s allocations to prisoners and their families is in no way an endorsement of “terrorism and violence” but rather a means of helping mostly young men and women and their families to resume a life that has been interrupted by an occupying authority. Any other country would have done the same.
Besides, countries should not interfere in the internal affairs of others. If the Palestinians want to name a street after one of their national heroes, regardless of how this person is perceived by Israel, that is their business. The Palestinians have never objected to the fact that Israel named its international airport after David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father and a man who advocated the transfer of Palestinians after the 1948 war. “We should prevent Arab return at any cost," he said in June, a month after Israel’s declaration of independence and 800,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes virtually overnight.
For the Palestinians, Ben Gurion is no hero. The thousands of political prisoners in Israeli jails, on the other hand, certainly are.
Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com.