This is an opinion piece by Thomas Fretwell, M.A.

It has long been the mantra of much of the Western media, along with their fellow leftist ideologues, that Israel is the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The verbal (not to mention physical) assault against Israel seemingly never ends.

These vitriolic attacks constantly accuse Israel of such atrocities as apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and as if that isn’t enough, when innocent Israeli civilians are stabbed in the supermarket or massacred by a Palestinian terrorist who enters their home during a Shabbat meal , the banal response from the Western world is one of indifference and blame. Somehow, when Jews are killed these acts of terror are not worthy of international rebuke or even a show of solidarity from world leaders.

Why? Do they think the Jews simply deserve what they are getting? After all, isn’t it they who stole Palestinian land, who keep the Palestinians living in refugee camps, and oppress them with a superior heavy-handed military? So, if a “freedom fighter” rises up and out of “desperation” commits such an act, then it is their own fault! There seems to be an underlying belief that somehow when terror strikes in Israel it is to be treated differently than when terror is inflicted upon any of the other Western-style democracies. One is to be condemned unequivocally and will surely elicit the indignation of world leaders; the other is, for some reason, considered more difficult to judge – there are “extenuating circumstances” that mean the murder of innocent civilians is not equally deserving of international opprobrium, because after all, haven’t “they” contributed to Palestinian suffering? And on it goes.

This seems to be the underlying attitude that motivates Western news agencies such as the BBC to skew their reporting to the extent that when three Palestinian terrorists stabbed and killed an Israeli police officer and attempted to kill others, only to be finally neutralised by security forces, their headline read; “3 Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem”.

Although such an attitude is disgustingly two-faced and factually inaccurate, it is nonetheless the prevailing view of many in our culture. It is a huge obstacle to peace because it requires turning a blind eye to the wilful promotion and celebration of murder by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. It is the reason why when 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, from a village near Ramallah, forcibly entered a Jewish home one Friday evening and began stabbing the family while they ate their Shabbat meal, leaving 3 dead, including 2 children, that the only response from Hamas was to praise the attack as “heroic”. Even worse is that under the PA’s “pay-to-slay” program, this murderer will receive a monthly stipend from the PA equalling approximately $3500 (£2700), as well as receiving additional funding if the Israeli authorities destroy the family home, or if any family are jailed along with him.

This blood money, or “martyrs’ fund” as it is known, was first set up with the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1964 and continues to be very popular in the West Bank today. To put this shocking practice in perspective, the monthly salary paid to Omar al-Abed far exceeds the monthly salary paid to doctors or civil servants in the PA. Simply put, it is far more prosperous to choose a path that takes lives than one that saves lives. We need to ask ourselves, regardless of our view towards Israel, is there any point seeking “peaceful solutions” without addressing this culture of rewarding murder first? We also need to ask why people in the West are not nearly as concerned about this practice as they are about Israel erecting a security wall in an attempt to protect lives. How many UK taxpayers even realise that they are partly funding the despicable “pay-to-slay” program through foreign aid donations to the PA?

The recent release of the 2017 PA budget shows that over $344 (£265) million was spent on salaries and benefits to those involved in the “struggle against Zionism”. Although this sum only amounts to 7% of the total budget, it accounts for almost 50% of foreign aid received by the PA. That means that roughly half of its foreign aid budget is spent on supporting terrorists’ salaries. We need to call this what it is – nothing less than incentivising terrorism, involving the deliberate targeting of innocent non-combatants outside of conflict zones. What’s more, we need to lose the mind-set that says this is something happening “over there” in a distant land that we observe from our comfortable homes. We are directly connected to the issue: the UK Government gave £25.5 million to the PA in 2016, part of a bigger £72 million package, and continues to do so.

The fact that UK taxpayers’ money is being used to incentivise terrorism is a scandalous misuse of funds that needs to be addressed. It is high time that discussions concerning the problems and solutions of the ever-elusive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement begin addressing the incitement in the Palestinian territories and move away from the reductionist “blame Israel” mentality that is so pervasive in our culture.