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Hostages to fear

To spend a week in Israel is to begin to understand that this country is generations away from peace with Palestinians. The people here talk about tahadiya: a period of calm. To an outsider, it is a week of alarming disquiet where each day reveals yet another culprit killing the prospect of peace. What you see and hear is disturbing enough. Even more destructive to peace is that which is hidden from you. This is how the week unfolds.

Sunday: A Qassam rocket is launched from northern Gaza into Sderot, an Israeli town within 3km of the Hamas stronghold.

Monday: Three more rockets are fired into this small town of 20,000 Israelis that has endured thousands of rocket attacks in recent years. I arrive in Sderot by helicopter just ahead of Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. 

I see some of the mangled Qassam rockets that have hit this town. The rockets proudly bear the brand of the terrorists who launch them, written in Hebrew so the Israelis know who is firing at them. The Israelis who later collect the rockets date each of them in white paint and pile them up at the local police station. More than a hundred rockets were launched after Israel destroyed a Hamas tunnel built to attack Israel, a tunnel like the one used in June 2006 by militants to kidnap Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from the edge of the Gaza strip. Shalit is the only Jew left in Gaza, a precious negotiating tool for Hamas. The Israeli Government has blocked access points to Gaza until the rockets stop.

Tuesday: A young Ethiopian woman, who has lost relatives to the rocket attacks from Gaza, tells me, “We don’t count the rockets anymore”. Three more qassam rockets slam into the fields of the Negev desert.

Wednesday: Two Qassam rockets land south of Ashkelon, a town well beyond the Gaza border, on the coast towards Tel Aviv.

Thursday: The Palestinian Authority runs advertisements in Israeli newspapers detailing in Hebrew Fatah’s commitment to a peace plan. It is a meaningless commitment. Analysts call this a virtual negotiation. How can Israel negotiate peace with Palestinian interlocutors in Fatah, who have no control over Gaza, where more than 40 per cent of Palestinians live? If elections were held in the West Bank today, predictions are that Hamas would win there, putting an end to the co-operation that has stopped the terrorism emanating from that Palestinian enclave.

Friday: Another rocket is launched from Gaza into the industrial zone of Ashkelon.

Put aside the rocket attacks by Hamas, the ineffectual leadership of Fatah, the Israeli settlements that poison relations and stymie solutions, the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the other intractable hurdles to peace. The real, long-term harm is happening quietly away from the prying eyes of what the locals here call Pali-wood: the Hollywood stars, the array of doe-eyed peace activists and the knaves at the UN who simplistically side with the Palestinians. That said, no one imagines Israel is free from fault. But its Government is not creating civil institutions that preach hatred and violence.

By contrast, an entire generation of Palestinian children is being raised on a full diet of hate education, on jihad and anti-Semitism. This is the long-term hurdle to peace in this generation, and the next. Look at the website of Palestinian Media Watch ( where analysts have long tracked what the Palestinian leadership under Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is doing. Not what is said to Westerners in English or what they tell Israelis in Hebrew.

Look at what Palestinians are teaching their children in Arabic. Look at the geography books for Palestinian children that encourage children to see no Israel, books that feature maps of Israel in the colours of the Palestinian flag, and described as Palestine. Learn about the May 2008 soccer championships for young boys in honour of terrorists such as Samir Quntar and Muhammad al-Mabhuh. Or the July 2008 summer camp held for young girls named in honour of female suicide bomber Dalal al-Mughrabi, who hijacked a holiday bus in 1978, murdering 12 children and 25 adults.

Listen to Fatah-funded children’s television where children are taught to continue the way of the shahids (the suicide bombers) and quizzed about Mughrabi. She is presented as “the beloved bride, child of Jaffa, jasmine flower”. Or quizzes where children routinely identify Israeli landmarks, towns and ports such as Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat as Palestinian. Where children are taught that “Palestine” covers 27,000sqkm; in fact Gaza and the West Bank total 6200sqm. When the next generation of leaders is taught from childhood that Israel does not exist, how is future negotiation possible?

The irony is that this hate education is funded by the West, by countries that pour money into the PA who use it to glorify terrorism and to twist young minds against Israel, and peace. Countries such as Australia. Last year in Ramallah, headquarters of Fatah, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith lauded one of the first acts of the new Labor Government as being a pledge of $45million to the Palestinian people and $7.5m going directly to the PA. Does the minister know how the PA is using Western money?

Hillary Clinton knows about the direct flow of Western money into Fatah’s sewer of hate education. Last year she launched PMW’s latest report and pointed out the consequences of the toxic indoctrination of children: “We cannot build a peaceful, stable, safe future on such a hate-filled violent and radical foundation.”

The other irony is obvious to anyone with any understanding of the Palestinian leadership. Fatah is a discredited, corrupt, ineffective political party filled with the remnants of the Arafat era that has lost support of its people. Hamas is a terrorist movement still committed to bloody violence against Jews. There is no two-state solution until Palestinians can agree on one voice to represent them in a genuine peace settlement.

Yet consider this. According to the PMW, more than half of the Palestinian educators in the teachers’ union are affiliated with Hamas. What hope the children? What hope is there emerging from the next generation a group of moderate Palestinian leaders capable of carving out peace for their people?

These are questions not simply for the present leadership of the Palestinian people. But also for the leaders of countries such as Australia, who talk in rhetorical flourishes about a renewed peace initiative, and yet must surely know that this money is used for propaganda that kills any chance of peace.

They call this a period of calm. Surely they mean the calm before the storm unless the hate education of the next generation of Palestinians ends.

Janet Albrechtsen travelled to Israel as the guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Who is this Janet Albrechtsen? Her article on the surface seems just dandy but the following comments are disturbing...\" the Israeli settlements that poison relations and stymie solutions, the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the other intractable hurdles to peace.\"

Posted by Moshe Elkman on 2008-11-27 18:14:35 GMT

One can only fear for all our safety with western leaders so willfully blind as to fund a future generation of hate filled suicidal bombers. It\

Posted on 2008-11-27 15:19:18 GMT

I am grateful for the initiative of the NSW B of D\

Posted by Gary Weisinger on 2008-11-27 05:39:10 GMT

I feel despair when I read this article. Is the world, including Australia deaf, blind and dumb not to see or want to see what is staring them in the face? There is such irrational hatred of Israel in particular and Jews in general that articles like this will be ignored and dismissed.

Posted by ella on 2008-11-26 06:36:27 GMT


Posted by EDWARD caulield on 2008-11-26 05:20:52 GMT

Marvellous article!! and she needs to be supported, (and immediately) via letters to the editor and on the Australian blogsite, which has already attracted hotile responses to this article from the usual suspects eg vitriolic Marilyn Shepard etc.

Posted by Mary on 2008-11-26 03:04:39 GMT