WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department issued an explicit condemnation of the naming of a square in a West Bank town for a Palestinian terrorist.
"We condemn this commemoration of terrorism and have conveyed our deep concern about this incident to senior officials in the Palestinian Authority and have urged them to address it," Mark Toner, the State Department’s spokesman, said March 17. "We underscore that all parties have an obligation to end any form of incitement."
The statement was more definitive than one issued earlier in the week by a State Department official who said the Obama administration was seeking clarification on the matter.
Jewish groups, including the foreign policy umbrella body of the Jewish community, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, had complained that the earlier statement did not go far enough.
Toner’s statement appeared to be a response to those complaints: Toner is the most senior spokesman at the State Department, and he led his briefing with the statement instead of reserving it as a response to a reporter’s question — a signal that the State Department uses to convey priority.
In a statement issued later in the day, the Presidents Conference noted Toner’s remarks.
"We hope that the U.S. Administration will demand that the Palestinian leadership live up to its commitment to end incitement of all kinds and will hold them to account for the failure to do so," the statement said. "Progress toward peace will be impossible as long as people, especially youth, are indoctrinated with hate in schools, mosques and in the public square."
The statement went on to say that "The international community not only must condemn acts of inhumanity and brutality, but also must express unequivocal outrage at the ongoing incitement to hatred and violence. Mere words are insufficient; there must be real action and follow-up."
The Palestinian Authority in recent years says it has fired some mosque imams and teachers who have incited against Israel, but Israeli officials say the incitement is ongoing and widespread.
Palestinians in an official March 13 ceremony named a town square in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, for Dalal Mughrabi. Members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction were on hand for the unveiling of the plaque in her memory. No PA government officials attended the ceremony, according to Reuters.
Mughrabi was killed in a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel’s coastal road. She had directed the hijacking of two buses on the coastal road between Haifa and Tel Aviv, which led to the murder of 37 Israelis, including 13 children.