Easily Manipulated People

by Heather Robinson

With the recent news from Israel, I can’t help but think about how easily manipulated some Palestinians are. And they’re not the only ones.

Most Palestinians are indoctrinated from childhood to hate Israelis and all Jews, Americans (who help to fund their existence) and even Christians. It’s been well documented over and over and over again. Year after year, the hotheads among them are stirred to violence in response to calls for such on the part of their “leadership.”

In the 1980’s, Yasir Arafat presided over this incitement, urging Palestinian children to go to the front lines and throw rocks at armed Israeli soldiers. This “strategy” sometimes resulted in the deaths of children – which Arafat acknowledged was part of the strategy. What was the world’s reaction? Generally, with the exception of some principled individuals in the United States, instead of condemning Palestinian “leadership” and placing responsibility for the deaths of these innocents where it belonged–on their so-called leaders who, with criminal irresponsibly, ordered them to the front lines in a war–the international community and much of the international media blamed Israel. And the United States and Europe continued to subsidize Palestinian life in the territories via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which administers schools where many Palestinian children receive anti-Israel indoctrination.

In this way, with the exception of some principled members of the United States Congress, the media and international community have largely been either complacent or actively reinforced the Palestinian “leaders'” strategy, and have helped to make it well worth Palestinian leadership’s while to continue urging their children to become “martyrs.” In this way, much of the international community and media have been easily manipulated right along with the  Palestinians themselves, some of whom have accepted their children’s turning themselves into human bombs.

With Arafat gone, for a while it looked like things might get a little better under Abbas, who has been credited with being a moderate.

Now, however, Abbas has joined the ignoble tradition of inciting Palestinian civilians to violence. In this case, he’s telling big lies in the tradition of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the World War II-era Palestinian leader and staunch Hitler ally whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced this week. In order to stir up the hotheads, Abbas has been spreading the rumor that Israel plans to change the status of the al-Aqsa mosque.  Very important to note here this is a lie: there is no such plan. But predictably, the incitement has done its trick; and as in the days of British Mandate Palestine right on throughout the stone-throwing ’80’s and suicide-bombing ’90’s, Palestinians have taken the bait and are out stabbing Israelis. (Update: King Abdullah of Jordan, one of precious few genuinely moderate Muslim leaders in the Mideast, has floated a practical suggestion for calming tensions: installing video cameras to prove to all concerned parties that there is no alteration of the status quo at al-Aqsa mosque. Netanyahu has accepted this idea, telling his cabinet, Israel “has an interest in cameras being deployed everywhere on the Temple Mount” to refute claims that it is changing the status quo. Netanyahu added that such surveillance on the plaza—where stone-throwing protests against Jews often break out—would also “show where the provocations are really coming from” and thwart them from the outset. But surprise, surprise, the Palestinian leaders have refused such surveillance. )

No doubt many Palestinians are traumatized from growing up in a state of war and chronic insecurity and fear (of course, the reason they are growing up this way stems from their own horrible leadership and self-destructive, hate-filled behavior on the part of some of their own people, but few will acknowledge this). Raised in a culture that exalts victimhood, they blame Israel for all their problems. In doing so, they are enabled by many other forces in the Arab world (including, now, ISIS, which this week has openly joined the fight) and historically, a complacent world media all too willing to obfuscate the truth by referring to the “cycle of violence” – as if Israelis are generally killing Palestinians just for the hell of it or out of hatred, rather than in self-defense.

Though not the fundamental cause of the conflict, nor are Israelis perfect or immune from mass hysteria, as we saw with events in Israel this past week. Even in decent circumstances, fear can distort reality (just consider any hypochondriacal or hysterical state – something many of us may have experienced at some time in our lives). Sadly, a state of protracted threat to one’s physical and psychological security can arouse monstrous behavior in even ordinary people, no matter their background.

Many, perhaps all, peoples, throughout history have been subject to the effects xenophobia (fear of foreigners). Palestinian hatred of the Israeli can be seen as an expression of this. Add demagoguery and religious fanaticism to the mix and some can be whipped up to blind hatred and violence with ease. They are not alone among the world’s people in this tendency; it does seem, though, that decade after decade, many of them fail to stop and think about it much or to exercise even the most basic critical thinking about their own so-called “leadership.” Are any reasonable Palestinians reading this? Do you really think all this violence will get your people the respect and security they deserve?

Having been to the West Bank myself, I know that it is not every Palestinian who subscribes to this hatred of all Israelis; some are not so easily whipped up. Unfortunately, the genuine moderates and decent, reasonable people among the Palestinians and those who can think for themselves are not the ones in power, thanks in part to the world’s tacit and no-so-tacit support of an irresponsible Palestinian leadership. And some are probably scared to speak up; as I experienced firsthand, there is no free speech in the territories and certain topics or lines of discussion – such as criticizing leadership – are taboo.

But as long as the United States continues to help subsidize the Palestinians, why aren’t we at least trying to identify and empower genuine moderates? Again, how easily, easily manipulated much of the world has been and continues to be by Islamist radicals and other power hungry types.

If the West truly cared about Palestinians, our leadership would seek to identify, protect, and strengthen the true moderates among the Palestinians, and help them begin the hard work of educating their people for peace based on tolerance of others’ rights alongside their own. But I wouldn’t expect that.

It’s easier, after all, to pressure Israel, as it always is easier to blame the more reasonable party in any dispute than to begin the hard work of helping the dysfunctional party deal with its overwhelming issues, especially when that party shows no inclination to do so.

So many easily manipulated followers in the world. And so few true leaders. Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat?

Probably languishing in an UNRWA school, or perhaps operating overseas in fear of losing his life.

And so, due to the willingness of a few to do evil and the willingness of many to be manipulated, the so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is virtually guaranteed to go on in perpetuity.

Then again, men like Musab Hassan Youssef make me think that, despite the mountain of propaganda that has inflamed a generation, there may yet be hope.