Following his demand for a crackdown, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently remarked that anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian Authority media had indeed lessened.

The incitement issue has generated significant interest and optimism worldwide. Unfortunately, both Sharon's satisfaction and the resulting optimism demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding about Palestinian society.

Media incitement is a tool used by Palestinian leaders to provoke violent attitudes and behavior toward Israel. While even a limited reduction in incitement would be welcome, it hardly begins to address the depth of the problem.

Palestinian Authority religious and academic leaders have been teaching for four and a half years that Allah demands the killing of Jews; and for 10 years that Israel has no right to exist, its destruction being inevitable.

Moreover, hate messages expressed through the media mimic the messages the PA espouses through schoolbooks, summer camps, religious lessons, culture, poetry, and more.

Just look at this reflection on Israel's eventual destruction. It won first place in a PA Ministry of Education letter-writing competition:

I am Lara from Lod, and I am an 11-year-old girl living in the city of Ramallah. I used to accept that Ramallah is a substitute for Lod, and that the large [Mediterranean] sea has been exchanged for a small pool... you [Israel] do not deserve Lod, and after this day I will no longer accept the small pool. I will dream of the sea at Jaffa and the sunshine in Lod.

It's no coincidence that PA educators emphasize this powerful message to children. Denial of Israel's right to exist and the anticipation of its destruction are among the fundamental principles of PA ideology and education.

A fundamental theological tenet inculcated by the PA media is that Jews -- even as individuals -- have no right to exist.

Sadly, the PA doesn't even wait for children to reach school to inculcate violence as a value. An October 2004 PA television program for preschoolers featured a talking puppet chick who was asked how he would respond if "a little boy cut down his tree."

"I'll fight him and make a big riot," he answered. "I'll bring AK-47s [assault rifles]... I'll commit a massacre in front of the house."

A fundamental theological tenet inculcated by the PA media is that Jews -- even as individuals -- have no right to exist.

"The Prophet said: The Resurrection will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims kill them. [R]ejoice in Allah's Victory... Everything wants vengeance on the Jews... these pigs on the face of the earth. And the day of our victory, Allah willing, will come." (PA TV, Sept 10, 2004)

Another senior Islamic scholar spoke of Jews as "the brothers of the monkeys and pigs." (PA TV, Sept. 12, 2004).

For more than four years PA religious and academic leaders have repeatedly promoted the murder of Jews along these theological lines.

We can delude ourselves that this is merely temporary incitement -- or we can face the harsh reality that such indoctrination has convinced a significant portion of Palestinian society that murdering Jews is an act of worship.

At any rate, Sharon's talk about reduced incitement is premature.

Just last week, PA TV rebroadcast -- for the 11th time -- an hour-long hate-promotion film that indoctrinates viewers, especially youth, with the message that Israel has no right to exist.

The program stresses that Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre are occupied "Palestine," stolen from the "refugees." It even features a child vowing -- with his "blood" -- to "return" to west Jerusalem.

Yet another recent rebroadcast featured a senior Palestinian historian calling for Israel's destruction:

"Let the intruders be erased," taught Dr. Issam Sissalem. He said Israel is a like the "parasitic worms in the ocean that eat a snail, and then live in its shell," and vowed: "We will not let anyone live in our shell."

Palestinian leaders need to go to their people and systematically -- repeatedly -- renounce years of hate promotion.

All this explains why a tactical reduction in media incitement isn't enough. We face a political, religious, educational and popular culture which in its entirety promotes hatred of Israelis and Jews and teaches that violence is the preferred means of achieving political goals.

Media incitement per se is not the problem. The problem is Palestinian aspirations for Israel's destruction -- and the Palestinian media are merely our window to these twisted hopes and dreams.

If the new Palestinian leaders are serious about peace with Israel they will have to do more than just mask their beliefs with politically acceptable facades. They will have to fundamentally change their world view and then detoxify their society with messages that actively promote peace.

Palestinian leaders need to go to their people and systematically -- repeatedly -- renounce years of hate promotion.

They need to emphatically acknowledge both Israel's right to exist as a nation and the Jews' right to live as individuals. They need to reject violence against Israel -- not because it's politically ineffective, which is the current rationale, but because it is morally wrong.

The day we start seeing educational and religious messages promoting peace on PA TV is the day we'll know a peace process has begun.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.