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June 19, 2009

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PAGE 2A Will fighting Palestinian incitement be a focus of U.S. peace efforts? By Eric Fingerhut WASHINGTON (JTA)--Lost in the hoopla over the U.S. de- mands foran Israeli settlement freeze has been the Obama administration's stepped-up emphasis on the issue of Pal- estinian incitement. While it is unclear now if the focus is anything more than an effort to rhetorically balance out the recent flurry of talk about settlements, Jewish leaders welcomed the words and said stopping Pales- tinian incitement is a crucial element before any peace deal can be successful. The term "incitement" refers generally to the promo- tion of hatred and violence against Israel in government- controlled entities, from Palestinian media to schools and textbooks to mosques. Activists on the issue say that can include everything from children's television programs that use familiar characters to teach hatred of Israel, to anti- Semitic political cartoons in Palestinian newspapers, to naming streets and schools after deceased terrorists, to maps that don't include Israel. While the word was not mentioned by Obama in his Cairo speech last week, he did allude to it by condemning Holocaust denial and hatred of Jews. And the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have brought up the issue frequently in interviews and public state- ments in the past two weeks. After his meeting with Pal- estinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month, Obama said the two lead- ers had engaged in a "frank exchange" about making progress on the issue. Before his tour of the Buchenwald concentration camp June 5, Obama noted the degree to which many observers have been picking up only on his comments about settlements, with "less attention focused on the insistence on my part that the Palestinians and the Arab states have to take very concrete actions." In addition to security issues, he said the Palestinians "have to deal with incitement issues." "There's still a tendency, even.., among Palestinians who say they are interested in peace with Israel," he added, "to engage in statements that are--that incite a hatred of Israel or are not constructive to the peace process." Even one of the Obama ad- ministration's strongest critics so far among Jewish organiza- tional leaders, Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, praised the president's comments on incitement. "I'm pleased that he's men- tioning it" because it is "the most serious issue that makes peace impossible," Klein said. "As long as you teach hate," he added, it doesn't matter what concessions Israel makes. Klein has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the issue for more than 15 years, since the signing of the Oslo Ac- cords, but says other admin- istrations, and even others in the Jewish community, have not taken it seriously enough. In his book about the peace process, looking back at his stint as the Clinton administration's Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross called failing to deal with Palestinian incitement a big mistake. Klein said he brought up the issue in a meeting of Jew- ish leaders with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, as well as in talks with Netanyahu advisers, and has been told that the Israeli governmentwill make it a focus in the weeks and months ahead. The Israel Project also has made the issue a priority. "This is the only game changer you can bring to the table,"said Jennifer LaszloMiz- rahi, its founder and president. Mizrahi noted that while Palestinians on the Fatah side There's no place like Have you ever wondered how the Wizard of Oz seemed to know everything? Well, the secret's out and it's You can find everything from student loans to government auctions and government benefits to, well, almost anything. So go to the official source of federal and state government information, It can make you as all-knowing as the Wizard of Oz. i (800) FED-INFO A public service message from the U.S. General Services Administration, HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 19, 2009 are doing a much better job on security issues, incitement has not been addressed. "If they really went after this, it would be a break- through of historic impor- tance," she said. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defama- tion League, said the recent emphasis on incitement and other Palestinian obligations did seem partly a response to the appearance that the administration was leaning "too heavily on one side," but "the good news is they listened to the criticism." Jewish leaders pointed out that Clinton is well equipped to deal with this issue, having been a leader in calling atten- tion to Palestinian incitement during her eight years in the U.S. Senate. And the U.S. Congress would likely welcome a push on incitement. One staffer said that while he wasn't yet aware of a new focus on the issue, the administrationwould find a "receptive audience." An AIPAC-backed House of Representatives letter to President Obama, which gar- nered 329 signatures, insisted on an "absolute commitment to end terror, violence and incitement." A similar Sen- ate letter did not specifically mention incitement. Some observers who have focused on the incitement issue in the past say it's not clear yet if the administration is serious. Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in In- ternational Affairs Center of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said that Obama has "put a very different level of demand" on the two sides. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas May 28 to the Oval Office. "The issue is what did he say," said Rubin, who has fre- quently written on the issue of incitement. "He said Israel must stop settlements. He said he'd like the Palestinians to stop incitement." Left-wing pro-Israel groups that had been pressing for an Israeli settlement freeze said they also backed measures to combat incitement. J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami said the ad- ministration should be bring- ing up incitement because it is part of the "road map" peace plan and "we support the notion that both sides have actual obligations to fulfill." Americans for Peace Now spokesman Ori Nir also said it was a "legitimate concern," but pointed to some complica- tions because certain things are"in the eye of the beholder." For instance, Muslims may define Arabic terms differently than non-Muslims. And Nir points out that while Pales- tinians may name roads or schools after terrorists that they consider to be martyrs, roads in the Jewish state are named after Israeli heroes from the 1948 war who Palestinians would consider terrorists. So how does one fairly monitor incitement? Both Nir and Ben-Ami said that Abbas told those with whom he met last month in Washington that he was interested in reviving a tri- partite committee to monitor both Palestinian and Israeli incitement. The committee was established as part of the 1998 Wye Accords. That kind of set-up would be fine with Klein, who said any committee needs both Israelis and Palestinians so it can be seen as non-biased. Inquiries to the State De- partment for more informa- tion on how it intended to handle incitement were not answered. "There have been refer- ences" to itby administrations in the past, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of MajorAmerican Jewish Organizations. "The question is how sustained" will the effort be and "how will they follow up." Iranian unrest prompts calls for more U.S. pressure on regime WASHINGTON (JTA)-- With unrest mounting in Iran over official claims of Presi- dent Mahmoud Ahmadine- jad's reelection, U.S. Jewish organizational leaders were calling for more American support for the protesters and more international action to stop the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Since Ahmadinejad was declared a landslide winner June 13, hundreds of thou- sands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in protest. As the first signs of a violent crackdown came June 14, some Jewish communal officials-- including Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of MajorAmerican Jewish Organi- zations-questioned whether the United States should be doing more to show solidarity with the demonstrators. Foxman said he had "not heard America embrace" Ah- madinejad's main challenger, former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Moussavi. Hoenlein said he understood why the United States "doesn't want to become a factor" in the process, but added, '~Vhen do the young people feel they've been abandoned" by the West? Talking to reporters June 14, President Barack Obama said "it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be" and the United States wants to avoid "being the issue inside of Iran." "What I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process," he added, "I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their par- ticipation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was." The protests and crack- downs in Iran are likely to reignite the debate over the best way to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and support of international terrorism: Negotiate a deal with the country's current Islamic rulers that helps pro- long their political survival, or ramp up support for forces seeking to topple the regime? While Israeli officials and Jewish organizations have yet to weigh in strongly on the question, for weeks they have been asserting that it doesn't matter whether Ahmadinejad or Moussavi is president because the final decision-maker is the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei--and by most ac- counts he is a strong backer of Iran's current nuclear policies and support for ter- rorist proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But in recent days Mous- savi, the prime minister dur- ing the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, has sided unabashedly with the demonstrators, even as they have appeared to be challenging the legitimacy of the regime. This, coupled with his calls for better rela- tions with the West and less support for Hamas and Hez- bollah, has many portraying Moussavi as a true reformist candidate who could po- tentially trigger significant changes on some fronts. But Dan Mariaschin, international executive director of B'nai B'rith International, cautioned against losing sight of the fact that Moussavi was the prime minister when Iran's nuclear program launched. "Those who think there are sharp differences" between Moussavi and Ahmadinejad are "certainly taking a leap of faith," Mariaschin said. In the end, said David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, in astatement,"The re-election of Ahmadinejad underscores whythe international commu- nity must do all it can to deny the Iranian regime the means to carry out its dangerous and destabilizing ambitions." ,J