Jewish Leaders Applaud Trump’s Condemnation of Palestinian Incitement
JNS.org — American Jewish leaders enthusiastically applauded President Donald Trump’s call to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reject incitement and reform an education system that preaches violence to its children.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) were among those who welcomed Trump’s comments, made at his Wednesday press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that anti-Israel and anti-Jewish material must be removed from PA school books.
“[Palestinian children] are taught tremendous hate,” Trump said. “I’ve seen what they’re taught…it starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JNS.org it was “extremely important that President Trump’s immediate reaction was to recognize the problem for what it is.”
“If you inculcate children with hate, you will lose another generation — if you don’t get rid of the mindset of glorifying terrorism and using antisemitism and denying Jewish history in the Holy Land, there is zero chance for peace,” Cooper said,
Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, said Trump’s remarks were “a big step in the right direction” and “a welcome reversal of the previous administration’s policy,” and Rabbi Joel Meyers — executive vice president emeritus of Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly — told JNS.org that Trump deserves “to be praised for speak speaking out so forcefully against the continuing drumbeat of hatred toward Israel which emanates from the [PA].”
Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs, noted that the problem of incitement did not begin with the creation of the PA in 1994, rather it has been “an ongoing problem since before Israel became a state in 1948.”
But, while it was generally recognized by major Jewish leaders that Trump’s language was encouraging, some noted that the key issue is for the US to move beyond verbal warnings to the PA and take actual moves to end incitement.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS.org, “The US government should use all leverage at its disposal to do something about changing the Palestinian school books, especially when the US provides the Palestinians with over $350 million in aid each year. It’s an outrage that the incitement continues.”
Speaking from Morocco, where he received an award for fostering friendly relations between American Jewry and the Moroccan people, Hoenlein emphasized that “ending the incitement should not be a result of negotiations, but rather must be a prelude to negotiations.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt echoed that statement, and added that antisemitic rhetoric, stereotypes and outright incitement to violence against Jews in PA school curricula “certainly do not suggest that the Palestinians are preparing to make peace.”
Yet, one unresolved issue is what mechanism could be put in place to verify claims by the PA that it has revised the books. Sarah Stern — president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel think tank and policy center — pointed out that the Trilateral Committee to Monitor Incitement, established following the Oslo Accords, “turned out to be a miserable failure, because you can’t have the PA involved in the monitoring, when it’s the PA that is the problem.” She urged the Trump administration to establish a US commission to determine if the PA has changed the school books.
“A respected figure with substantial knowledge of the Middle East, such as [former US Ambassador to the United Nations] John Bolton, should chair the commission,” Stern said.
Conference of Presidents leader Hoenlein called the commission proposal “a valid idea.” He suggested that members of Congress and officials of the Department of Education be included in such a commission, “so they can reach hard conclusions about what is happening and whether they have changed the textbooks.”