In the “Hope springs eternal” department, few topics of public discourse display a wider chasm between hopes and reality than the so-called Israel-Palestinian peace process. For eighty-six years, diplomats have invested their hopes in a “two-state” solution to the conflict, with many now still clinging to the hope that with just a few tweaks here, a bit more pressure there, peace lies not too far around the corner. The historical record belies those naïve hopes.

A Century of Failed Peace Efforts

This near-century of failed efforts began in 1937, when Great Britain, exercising its League of Nations “Mandate” authority over Palestine, proposed a two-state partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which would have created both a Jewish state and a Palestinian-Arab state.

Up until then, the entirety of the land “from the river to the sea” had been recognized and designated by the League of Nations as the future national homeland of the Jewish people. The League had assigned to Great Britain the task of administering that land’s transition to an independent Jewish state.

Yet even that land area comprised just 20 percent of the original “Palestine Mandate.” Namely, in April 1920, the League of Nations declared the Palestine Mandate to include all the lands today known as Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan – which at that time were part of the vast former provinces of the recently-dismantled Ottoman Empire. But in response to violent Arab opposition, the British in March 1921 “severed the vast and sparsely populated territory east of the Jordan River (Transjordan) from the prospective Jewish national home and made Abdullah, the emir of Mecca, its effective ruler.”

In other words, a de facto two-state solution for Palestine was carried out in 1921, with the more populous Arabs of Palestine receiving nearly 80 percent of the land in what became Jordan, and the Jews of Palestine receiving the diminutive 20 percent remainder between “the river and the sea.”

But alas, four-fifths of the pie was not enough for the Arab leaders of Palestine. Despite extensive and amicable cooperation between Arabs and Jews “on the ground” in the early 20th century, the local Arab leadership under Haj Amin al-Husseini – appointed by the British as “Mufti,” or religious leader, in 1921 – rejected any and all proposals for Jewish sovereignty. Over the following three decades, the Mufti Husseini relentlessly indoctrinated the Palestinian Arab people in hatred and defamatory lies against Jews and led murderous campaigns to silence and eliminate the many Arab supporters of interfaith cooperation and mutual sovereignty for Jews and Arabs.

It was because of such murderous, uncompromising opposition to any Jewish sovereignty that the British in 1937, in the so-called “Peel Plan,” sought to appease the Palestinian leadership with its proposal to partition the remaining land west of the Jordan River into two separate states.

Hence what for decades has been called the “two state solution” is in fact, a debate about dividing up the last 20 percent of the original Palestine Mandate between, on the one hand, a second Palestinian-Arab state, and on the other hand, the Jewish-majority state known as Israel – in sum, a three-state solution.

As noted above, these efforts are now in their 86th year since the Peel Plan, all involving attempts or negotiations that could have led to the establishment of a second Palestinian-Arab state west of the Jordan River. And as happened with the Peel Plan, in each instance the Israeli leadership said “Yes,” but the Arab leadership said “No” – with the latter’s refusals often accompanied by renewed campaigns of murderous Palestinian terrorism. These include:

  • 1947:  The U.N. adopted Resolution 181, which proposed and delineated an Arab and a Jewish state west of the Jordan River. Jewish leaders accepted it; Palestinian leaders said No. As the British withdrew their troops, the Palestinian Arabs joined five Arab countries’ armies to wage an exterminatory war against the new State of Israel – which miraculously defeated the onslaught.
  • 1967:  After several Arab countries lost a second exterminatory war against Israel, Israeli leaders offered peace negotiations with Egypt and Syria, to include proposals for Israel’s land gains – which included the West Bank and Gaza. Meeting in Khartoum on September 2, 1967, all Arab leaders rejected this overture with the famous “three No’s” declaration, namely, “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, [and] no negotiations with it . . .”
  • 1979:  Amid President Jimmy Carter’s hosting of peace negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David, the Carter administration invited Yasir Arafat’s PLO to participate on condition that the PLO recognize Israel’s right to exist, consistent with U.N. resolution 242. Arafat refused.
  • 1993:  In a September ceremony hosted by President Bill Clinton at the White House, Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the so-called Oslo Accords, establishing the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) and listing a timeline to transfer sovereign governance to the PA.  But a large and continuing surge of PA-sponsored terrorism over the next several years –  bombings, shootings, and murders of Israelis – derailed the completion of that power transfer.
  • 2000:  In negotiations led by Pres. Bill Clinton at Camp David, Israel offered the PA a sovereign state on 92 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of Gaza, land swaps of Israeli territory to partly compensate for the other West Bank eight percent, a capital in Jerusalem, dismantling of most Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, plus an internationally-financed “massive aid program” for 1948 refugees and their descendants. The PA not only said no, but promptly launched a devastating multi-year terror war in which over a thousand Israelis were murdered, and thousands more permanently maimed.
  • 2001:  Despite the Camp David failure and the surge of Palestinian terror, Israel continued to negotiate, culminating in Israel’s making an even more generous statehood offer at Taba, Egypt in January 2001, including the removal of over 100 Jewish settlements from the West Bank. The PA again said No and continued their bloody terror war against Israel.
  • 2008:  After hundreds of preparatory negotiating sessions, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian leaders a statehood plan even more generous than those of Camp David and Taba, to include all of Gaza, 94 percent of the West Bank, Israeli land swaps equal to the other six percent, exclusive Palestinian sovereignty over the Arab portion of Jerusalem, transfer of Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount to an international commission, and reparations for 1948 refugees and their descendants. PA Prime Minister Abbas walked out of the meeting and never responded to the offer.
  • 2019:  US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a Palestinian state comprising 70 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza, additional territory from the south Negev, plus $50 billion in outside aid for the new state’s economic development. Again, the PA rejected the offer.

If one adds the 1937 Peel Plan, this list makes for a total of nine major international diplomatic efforts over the past 86 years either to give the Palestinians a second state in addition to Jordan, or to commence negotiations that could have culminated in a second Palestinian state. All were rejected by the Palestinian leaders; none were followed by any counteroffers; and several were followed by the Palestinians launching murderous terror wars against innocent Israelis.

But the “Experts” Blame Israel – Against All Evidence

This dismal history invites two intertwined questions, namely: Why the consistent record of failure? And why the belief among foreign policy “experts” that with just the right kind of pressure on Israel, peace with the Palestinians can be had? The so-called experts offer plenty of answers; but most if not all completely miss the mark.

The first and most common expert answer is, the obstacle to peace is Israel – Israel the alleged expropriator of Palestinian land and resources, Israel the harsh enforcer of counterterrorism measures, and Israel the illegal occupier.

The facts on the ground reveal the absurdity of those claims. As the above history makes clear, it is Israel, and only Israel, which has agreed to share and divide the small strip of land west of the Jordan River into two sovereign states of Israel and Palestine. In contrast, the Palestinian leaders have demonstrated time and time again that they will settle for nothing less than the complete annihilation of the Jewish state and the creation of a new Palestinian state in its place, and that they will keep mass murdering and maiming Israelis until those maximalist demands are achieved

As regards resources, contrary to the claims of Israel taking from the Palestinians, the truth is the opposite. After assuming control of the West Bank and Gaza in its 1967 defensive war for survival, Israel invested massively in the Palestinian territories, resulting by 1990 in a Palestinian GDP increase of more than one thousand percent, a rise in average life expectancy from 48 to 72 years, mortality rates dropping by two-thirds, electricity access rising from 20 to 92 percent of the population, and in-home access to running water up from 16 to 85 percent. This extraordinary progress in material flourishing stalled out only after Israel began transferring self-governing authority to the highly corrupt PA as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Israel’s counterterror measures are likewise no obstacle to peace – on the contrary, they are a protector of peace against a steady campaign of attempted murder and mayhem. To take one prominent example: Over the six years from 2000 to 2006, before Israel completed construction of its security fence along the West Bank boundary, Israel sustained “more than 3,000 [terrorist] attacks that originated from Judea and Samaria . . . result[ing] in the deaths of 1,622 people . . .” But after the fence’s construction, and over a stretch of 15 years from 2007 to 2022, Israel sustained a vastly lower total of “141 attacks from Judea and Samaria,” which killed a total of 100 people. Not only did this save thousands of Israeli lives, but also by extensively reducing the number of attacks, it diminished the frequency of needed counter-terror raids into Palestinian territory.

History also clearly shows that Israel’s so-called occupation of Palestinian lands is not the obstacle to peace. Not only was there never in history a sovereign entity of “Palestine” – even Palestinian Arabs themselves testified in both the 1937 Peel Commission hearings and the 1947 UN partition debate that there was no such nation as Palestine, and that they viewed their land as part of “South Syria.” Additionally, from 1948 to 1967 it was two Arab countries, Jordan and Egypt, that respectively “occupied” the West Bank and Gaza – yet throughout those same years the Palestinian leaders still targeted only Israel for attacks and hoped-for annihilation.

And in the more than half century since 1967, Israel has time and time again demonstrated its readiness to divest itself of those disputed territories, provided such a step would bring about a sustainable peace: in 1993, 2000, 2001, 2008, and 2019. It was the Palestinian leaders, not the Israelis, who each time rejected such an end to the so-called occupation.

What by now should be eminently obvious is that the obstacle to Israel-Palestinian peace is not resource claims, counter-terror policies, so-called occupation, or any other discrete policy or grievance regarding Israel’s conduct. Rather, the inconvenient and oft-neglected truth is that the obstacle to peace is and always has been annihilationist Palestinian maximalism. This non-negotiable maximalism is what drives the asymmetric and existential nature of the conflict, in which one side – Israel – is willing to make painful sacrifices about lands they hold dear in order to honor and accommodate the competing claims of the second party; while the other side – the Palestinian leaders – are absolutely unwilling to do that, and instead seek wholly to delegitimize, terrorize and wreak murder and mayhem across Israel until it is annihilated.

All of which invites this fundamental question: Why is the Palestinian leadership so unalterably committed to, and seemingly locked into, this maximal annihilationist position vis-à-vis Israel? Put another way, why after 86 years of failed efforts to demoralize, defeat, and destroy Israel – especially with Israel now more strong, more prosperous, and more populous than ever – do the Palestinian leaders remain stuck in this historical rabbit hole, which guarantees continued failure, immiserates their people, and inflicts death and mayhem upon both Israelis and Palestinians?

The Key is Annihilationist Ideology, Inculcated by Palestinian Leaders

Much of the answer can be found in the realm of ideology, specifically, a pathological ideology of annihilationist hatred that generations of Palestinian leaders have embraced and inculcated in both their governing institutions and the broader society. Most Westerners fail to understand the venomous intensity of this ideology, nor do they appreciate the depth and breadth of its dissemination across Palestinian society.

Glimpses of this ideology occasionally break through to mainstream Western media outlets. In August 2022 for instance, at a Berlin press conference with the German Chancellor, PA President Abbas shocked his audience by lashing out at a reporter’s inquiry about the 1972 Olympic kidnap-murders of Israeli athletes (orchestrated by Abbas and a PLO affiliate), declaring “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed . . . 50 massacres, 50 slaughters . . . 50 holocausts.”

Such episodes are but the tip of an enormous iceberg of PA-driven ideological propaganda indoctrination. This iceberg has been abundantly documented by online data collections such as Palestine Media Watch, IMPACT-se, and Middle East Media Research Institute, as well as in my own my 2021 book about the causes and prevention of terrorism and genocides, War on Hate. All the following examples are reported in those sources, except where otherwise linked.

Palestinian demonization of Jews and Israel starts in the schools. A 2007 study found that twelfth-grade Palestinian textbooks “teach their children to hate Israel and vilify Israel’s existence while they glorify terror.” A language and literature text includes phrases like: “[t]he Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled the inhabitants . . .”; “[b]anished the Palestinian nation into exile”; and “[m]assacred, and stole its land, its homes and its holy sites.” An 8th grade reading text states, “Your enemies have murdered your children, have sliced open the stomachs of your wives, have seized the beard of your honorable Sheiks and have driven them into the ditches of death.” A high school Arabic text directs the students to “Punctuate the [following] phrase: Do not view the occupier as human.”

The indoctrination continues after school lets out. Many PA summer camps are named after terrorists who planned or committed mass murders of Israelis, such as Dalal Mughrabi, perpetrator of the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, killing 37 including 12 children; Salah Khalaf, leader of the Black September terror group who orchestrated the murder of two American diplomats and the kidnap-murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; and Abu Ali Mustafa, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has conducted numerous terror-murders.

At a summer camp named after another Palestinian terrorist, the closing ceremony included a play by the campers that,

show[ed] the alleged “cruel attitude of the Zionist jailer towards our [Palestinian] heroic prisoners” . . . [with] children . . . playing the role of Palestinian prisoners, kneeling blindfolded and handcuffed in a row on the floor, while other children portraying Israeli prison guards stand aiming guns at them. In one [scene], three children are lying on the floor, after having been “executed” by the children playing “Zionist jailers.”

PA state television also targets children for indoctrination. A typical children’s play broadcast on PA TV in 2004 accused Israel of both perpetrating the Nazi Holocaust and conducting a Holocaust against the Palestinians, declaring: “They opened the ovens for us . . . destroyed the villages and burnt the cities . . . Their hands are covered with the blood of our children.” Another children’s play on PA TV claimed that the Jews crucified Jesus and poisoned the then-recently deceased Yasir Arafat.

For Palestinian adults, the incitement continues unabated in all variety of state-run media. The PA’s daily newspaper publishes a steady diet of defamations, such as: “[m]assacre is the basis of the State of Israel”; “[c]orruption is the nature of the Jews”; the Jew is “the disease of the century”; Israelis “are the new Nazis upon the earth” whose crimes are “worse than . . . [the] gas chambers”; Israel is “the oppressive occupier [who] drives his nails into our living flesh and murders in cold blood”; “Israel . . . is . . . a cunning Satan . . . carr[ying] out the ugliest forms of racism and torture”; and Jews are “‘Shylocks of the land, busily emptying Palestinian pockets.”

In December 2000, a Palestinian newspaper filled its front page with a representation of “Palestine” as a crucified woman, bleeding and nailed to a cross by a spear displaying the Star of David and an American flag; her gushing blood rains down onto a group of “caricatured Oriental Jews” looking on.

PA government agencies routinely publish false accusations of Israel conducting gruesome tortures and medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners. Among other slanders, PA TV has produced and broadcast false images of Israeli prison guards burning a prisoner with a soldering iron, crushing a prisoner’s head in a vise, and chopping off a prisoner’s arm.

In addition, the PA’s state-controlled media regularly incite and glorify acts of mass violence against Israel and Jews – including explicit advocacy of suicide bombing. As the late Robert Wistrich described in his book A Lethal Obsession:

Islamic scholars constantly praise shahada [martyrdom] on Palestinian TV, calling for relentless jihad against Israel . . . [Yasir] Arafat personally encouraged the incessant incitement of children in the PA to hatred, violence, and shahada . . . [M]usic videos . . . broadcast hundreds of times over by the PA . . . [promise that] suicide bombers go to Paradise where each will receive seventy-two dark-eyed maidens . . .

Journalists in the Gaza Strip report that “suicide bombers have . . . become icons of Palestinian society,” glorified by Palestinian student groups, charities, academics, and journalists. Accordingly,

at one Hamas-run Islamic school in Gaza City, an eleven-year-old Palestinian student solemnly declared, “I will make my body a bomb that will blast the flesh of Zionists, the sons of pigs and monkeys.” “Allahu Akbar,” his classmates shout in response, “God is great.” “May the virgins give you pleasure,” his teacher yells . . .

As reported in the book The Road to Martyrs Square, this indoctrination in violence begins in kindergarten, with lessons like the following:

The teacher stands at the head of the class. ‘What is the name of our country?’ she asks. ‘Palestine!’ the children reply in unison. ‘Who is the enemy who stole our country? She asks. ‘The Jews!’ exclaim the children.  What shall we do to them?’ she asks. ‘Strike them with stones!’ the children scream.

The Road to Martyrs Square, written and published when the PA still ruled the Gaza Strip, describes the day-to-day experience of Gazans living under this ideological onslaught:

Support for suicide bombings went far beyond the military wings of the nationalist and Islamist movements. Parents dressed their babies and toddlers as suicide bombers and had them photographed in local photography studios. Children marched with suicide belts around their chests. University exhibitions included one that recreated an actual suicide bombing carried out in the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, replete with pizza slices and bloody body parts.

Hence in Gaza’s public spaces, “[e]very wall is awash with slogans . . . ‘Strike, strike by Molotov . . . after the stone, the Kalishnikov!’ ‘Yes to martyrdom and immolation . . . no to disgrace.’ ‘Kill . . . blow up . . . destroy.’”

In sum, Palestinian society has been for decades flooded from top to bottom by a non-stop tsunami of Jew-hating propaganda that explicitly indoctrinates children to become mass-murdering suicide bombers – a propaganda onslaught that at least equals and probably exceeds that of Nazi Germany. How did this pathological state of affairs come to be?

The Point of No Return: The Mufti’s Nazification of Palestinian Society

The transformation of Palestinian Arab civil society toward annihilationist Jew-hatred is in large measure the legacy of the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini. Notably, when the British appointed him Mufti in 1921, they spurned two other more moderate candidates for the position, from the Nashishibi and al-Khalidi families of Jerusalem.

Even before his 1921 appointment, al-Husseini had gained notoriety for helping to incite and lead a day of anti-Jewish rioting in Jerusalem that left five Jews dead and 211 more injured. Yet before his appointment, there had been extensive Jewish-Arab cooperation across Palestine, and even into the early 1930s, three of the five leading Palestine-Arab political parties dealt with their Jewish counterparts in a spirit of cooperation and negotiations.

But al-Husseini was determined to break this emerging interfaith consensus. Starting in November 1928, al-Husseini launched a year-long campaign of incendiary falsehoods, claiming that the Jews of Palestine were planning to take over the so-called “Temple Mount” in Jerusalem and destroy the mosques on top of it. This culminated in August 1929 with several days of rioting and pogroms across Palestine. Six kibbutzim were destroyed, several Jewish towns were attacked, and the thousands-year-old Jewish community of Hebron was wiped out. Hen Mazzig describes the Hebron massacre:

Palestinians turned on their Jewish neighbors in Hebron, unleashing a pogrom. The peaceful leaders of the Jewish community refused to fire at their Arab neighbors, even though they were armed with guns, and pleaded instead for reconciliation. The Arabs responded by smashing skulls, castrating men, beheading babies, and tossing one Jewish man into an oven more than a decade before the Nazis would have the same idea, slaughtering 67 Jewish men, women, and children.

But the Mufti’s two most impactful actions as leader of the Palestine Arabs were yet to come. These consist of the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, and the Arab-Nazi alliance of World War II, formalized in 1941.

The Mufti-led Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 is conventionally understood as a Palestinian-Arab uprising against both the British Mandate authorities and the growing Jewish population in historic Palestine – which framing is accurate as far as it goes. But the Mufti’s militias also targeted a third group with equal if not greater ferocity, namely, moderate Palestinian Arabs who failed to toe the extremist line laid down by al-Husseini. Many Arab Mayors and community leaders opposed the Mufti’s “extremism and brutal tactics, . . . were weary of the revolt and openly supported partition [with the Jews].” The Mufti’s rebel militias hunted down and killed such Arabs as traitors. As described by a German diplomat in Palestine in 1938:

The insurgent Arabs . . . were . . . often downright barbarous . . . [they] had no qualms about killing their own people . . . Anyone who did not place himself wholeheartedly on the side of the Palestinian [rebels] – whether he was an official in the service of the mandate government, or a Muslim cleric or a simple peasant – and was under suspicion of collaboration with the English was sentenced to death . . . and murdered.

Those not killed were subject to terrifying tortures, such as being kidnapped, confined for days in pits filled with snakes and scorpions, then being brought before a rebel court to be mercilessly flogged. As a result of all this, by 1939 the Mufti’s “massive internally directed terror campaign . . . abolished the rule of law,” causing “the last remnants of freedom and open dissent [to] vanish[], making way for extortion and intimidation, censorship and mental terror.” Historian David Pryce-Jones aptly sums up the results of this carnage: “The uprising . . . gave [al-Husseini] the opportunity to eliminate all opponents within his own camp – those Palestinians who supported a two-state solution and who wanted to negotiate with the Jews rather than shoot them.”

Then, having emptied his community of moderate voices by 1939, al-Husseini proceeded to fill the void with the ideology of Europe’s rising Nazi empire. Several historians have documented the Mufti’s leading role in bringing about an Arab-Nazi alliance during World War II, including among others Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cuppers’s Nazi Palestine, Barry Rubin and Wolfgang Schwanitz’s Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, and Jeffrey Herf’s Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.

As these histories make clear, Al-Husseini had long sought an alliance with Hitler, having approached Germany’s Jerusalem consulate in 1933 to offer cooperation. During the 1936-1939 revolt, al-Husseini received shipments of weapons from the Nazi government. In 1937 al-Husseini offered Hitler the support of the Arabs in exchange for a German promise to “destroy the Jewish home in Palestine.” That same year the Mufti commanded Muslims “to kill all the Jews living in Muslim lands,” whom he described as “scum and germs.”

In November 1941, at the invitation of the Nazi government, al-Husseini flew to Berlin, where on November 28 he was granted a ninety-minute audience with Adolph Hitler. At the time, Hitler’s North African army was pushing eastward toward Egypt and planning a Nazi conquest of Palestine. Hitler pledged to make al-Husseini the leader of the Arabs and promised that “[a]ll Jews in the Middle East would be killed.”

In January 1942, the Nazis held their infamous Wannsee conference, where they finalized plans for the extermination of all European Jews. The day after the conference, the Nazi Foreign Ministry gave al-Husseini a personal briefing on the proceedings. An aide to Nazi SS leader Adolph Eichmann later reported that al-Husseini was so impressed with the Nazis’ plans that he requested Eichmann to “send an expert . . . to Jerusalem” to instruct the Arabs on “setting up death camps and gas chambers,” which the Nazis later agreed to do. The Mufti also directed his aides to attend Nazi training sessions on how to commit “mass murder.”

This history leaves no doubt that had the Allies not defeated the German army in North Africa, the Middle East would have been the scene of a second Holocaust, with the Palestinian Arabs’ leader Haj Amin al-Husseini playing a lead role in recruiting, inciting, and directing the killers.

But even after the defeat of the German Army in North Africa, al-Husseini continued his efforts to Nazify the Middle East. From 1941 to 1945, al-Husseini served as a leading advisor and participant in a massive Nazi propaganda campaign across the region, churning out and saturating the region with “leaflets . . . distributed in the millions, and hundreds of thousands of hours of radio broadcasts.” Al-Husseini personally delivered several of those Arabic-language broadcasts, with words and themes like this genocidal 1942 rant:

You must kill the Jews . . . who have appropriated your wealth and are plotting against you . . . The Jews are planning to violate your women, to kill your children and to destroy you . . . [G]et rid of this dirty race . . . Kill the Jews, burn their property, destroy their stores, [and] annihilate the[m].

Al-Husseini’s efforts were effective: An American intelligence dispatch from August 1942 reported that “upwards of three-fourths of the Moslem world are in favor of the Axis,” noting that this trend “has been intensified by radio talks from the Grand Mufti and [others] urging the Arabs to rise, murder the Jews and seize their property.”

All this explains why al-Husseini – still lionized today as the founder of Palestinian Arab nationalism – was given a hero’s welcome across the Middle East upon his 1945 return from Germany. He had successfully implanted the Nazi ideological virus across the region and had acquired an extensive following among the region’s leadership ranks. And at ground zero of that ideological project, the locus of its most toxic variant was the Palestinian-Arab population west of the Jordan River.

To be clear, the Mufti’s Nazification project was not the only toxic source of ideology driving the region’s Jew-hatred. The centuries-old jihadist variant of Islam played a part, as did the extensive postwar Soviet influence across the region (as my book discusses at some length). But as regards the Palestinian Arab populace, and thanks to al-Husseini, this Nazification project came to play a central role in the Palestinians’ emerging sense of peoplehood and continues to drive the profound political dysfunction of Palestinian society today. Its ideological framework now dominates the discourse in Palestinian schools, media, government, mosques, and cultural affairs, and as such constitutes by far, the overwhelming obstacle to any kind of peace with Israel.

What is To Be Done?

Insofar as the foregoing analysis is accurate, the most important remedy is manifestly clear. Namely, before there can be any kind of sustainable peace between the Palestinians and Israel, and if the Palestinians are ever to develop a vibrant, flourishing society, the first thing needing to be done is a top to bottom de-Nazification of all leading Palestinian institutions. Government agencies, schools, mosques, media, and other cultural institutions all need to be cleansed of their Nazified, Jew-hating ideology, and refashioned as participants in an ecumenical, equal-rights-respecting cultural context.

Unless and until this is done, the Palestinians will have no sustainable peace with their Israeli neighbors; and opportunities for the flourishing of the Palestinian people will remain needlessly scarce and constricted. To borrow a framework of analysis from the late British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Palestinian society is greatly in need of a wholesale cultural reset. It needs to stop functioning principally as a blame-vengeance culture, which when confronted by problems asks, “Who did this to us?” It needs to start functioning instead as a penitential-repair culture, which addresses its challenges by asking, “Given that we have a problem, how can we ourselves fix it?”

This is of course a very tall order, and at best will take several years to accomplish. But it remains the Palestinians’ sole successful pathway to peace and flourishing. Hence if the world’s leaders, diplomats, and international donors truly seek those aspirations for the Palestinian people as they claim to do, then they must refocus their enormous political and financial leverage toward this essential reformation of Palestinian culture. Anything less just guarantees another century of continued failure.

Mark Kopel headshot

Henry Kopel is a former U.S. federal prosecutor and the author of the book War on Hate: How to Stop Genocide, Fight Terrorism, and Defend Freedom. Kopel is an honors graduate of Brandeis University, Oxford University, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is an annual guest lecturer on prosecuting hate crimes at the University of Connecticut Law School. He serves on the global advisory board for the Abraham Global Peace Initiative.