The Middle East Mindset
It is now clear why Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have refused negotiations with Israel for more than a year, even after Israel agreed to freeze Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem: they have been busy working behind the scenes with South American leaders to obtain a declaration of statehood for “Palestine.” Abbas has reason to gloat. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina recently recognized “Palestine as a free and independent state based on its pre-1967 borders,” and other South American countries have followed her lead.
Having failed to obtain an independence declaration at the U.N. Security Council, the PA is now preparing to bypass the Security Council and ask the General Assembly to invoke the precedent of the U.N. General Assembly’s “Uniting for Peace” Resolution 377 (passed in 1950), which could allow that body to recommend collective action “if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security”. Such action would not only preempt the authority of the Security Council, but would pressure Israel into accepting Palestinian statehood without the Palestinians being required to honor their international commitments or to make any compromises or concessions.
Forgotten are UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, both passed in the wake of the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973). These Resolutions acknowledged Israel’s need for secure and recognized boundaries prior to any Israeli withdrawals. They now appear, however, to be irrelevant, raising the question: Why should Israel honor its international commitments with the Palestinians (such as those enshrined in the Oslo Accords) if international commitments made with Israel by the Palestinians are not honored as well?
The fact that the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States requires a “state” to have a permanent population, a defined territory over which it has control, a stable government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states – and that “Palestine” does not qualify for statehood under any of these conditions is apparently unimportant to these countries in the General Assembly.
While most of the world ignored a similar declaration by the Palestinian National Council in Algeria in 1988, these new events are disturbing not simply because they contradict both the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords and bypass existing UN Security Council Resolutions designed to do justice to both Israelis and Palestinians, but because they reinforce the myth that the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza will satisfy the Palestinians and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no historical, political and religious basis to believe this will be the case.
The Arabs have initiated six wars to exterminate Israel, and have lost all of them. So intense is the fear of Arab leaders that their own people will target them as the true source of their misery (as appears to be happening today throughout the Arab world); so intense is their hatred of Israel incited as it is by Al-Jazeera, al-Manar and countless other outlets; so humiliating is Israel’s presence in their midst, that any compromise on core issues –such as settlements, borders, Jerusalem, a Palestinian right of return, and especially recognizing Israel as a Jewish state — would be seen by the Arab street as a betrayal of unbearable magnitude. Arab and Muslim leaders understand that any compromise on these core issues would threaten their power and their lives.
Sixty-three years after Israel’s establishment, Arabs who fled or left mandatory Palestine in 1948, and their descendants, who now number over five million, continue to live in the refugee camps of Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. There, they are enveloped with hatred for Israel, while being used by their Arab brethren, and given “permanent refugee status” by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA], where they are promised that one day they will return to their homes in “Palestine” [Israel]. At the entrance to the UNRWA-funded Aida Refugee Camp, established in Bethlehem in 1950, and where an estimated 3,000 Palestinians live, there is a gigantic key on which is written in English and Arabic: “Not for Sale.” What is not for sale is all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — that is, all of Israel — which, they unapologetically state in their “moderate” Palestinian Charter, must never be abandoned in any peace agreement. On almost every house one can see graffiti showing an undivided Palestine.
As no Israeli government could allow an influx of millions of hostile Palestinians into its country, Israel’s refusal to allow a complete “right of return” has become a useful pretext for continuing the conflict. The longer Israel can be used as a scapegoat, the better it serves Arab interests by re-directing their citizens’ rage away from their own oppressive, corrupt and crushing governance. For this reason, at Taba (2001) and at Annapolis (2007), the Palestinian leadership, supported by the Arab and Muslim world, and rejected Palestinian statehood on more than 95% of the West Bank and Gaza rather than recognize Israel as a Jewish state and forego its “right of return.” Even the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the ruling PLO Authority in the West Bank, has declared: “No to Israel as a Jewish state, no to interim borders, no to land swaps;” and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad refused to sign a meeting summary with the Israelis that accepted the concept of two-states-for-two-peoples.
Consequently, from the Arab perspective, there is no basis for compromise and nothing to negotiate with Israel except its demise. Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would be the ultimate humiliation for the Arab world: any compromise by any Arab or Muslim leader on that subject would likely prove fatal, as it did with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
This uncompromising mindset also pervaded the Oslo “Peace Process.” Despite eight years of direct negotiations with the Israelis, Arafat could not bring himself to make peace with Israel. As Richard Landes writes in “Augean Stables”, Arafat acted with enormous reluctance, pocketing all he could, using the ceiling of Israel’s last concession as the floor for the next; offering no concessions in return, and assuring the Arab street that signing the Oslo Agreement was merely a Trojan Horse, through which he planned to continue his 1974 Phased Plan for the dismantling and ultimate destruction of the Jewish state. For Arafat, the concessions were never real. In response to virtually universal condemnation from the Arab/Muslim world, he justified making the Agreements by stating: “I am hammering the first nail into the Zionist coffin.” He equated the Accords with Mohammed’s Treaty of Hudabiya with the Koreish tribe, which Mohammed maintained for only two years instead of the promised ten — until his forces grew strong enough to crush the Koreish. Speaking in Johannesburg in 1993, after signing the Accords, Arafat assured his audience that Jerusalem, in the end, would be exclusively Muslim; that the only permanent state in present-day Israel would be the Arab state of Palestine, and that the “peace process” would end in the Palestinian conquest of Israel — no surprise given that Fatah’s constitution maintains to this day that “the struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine.”
Similarly, Mahmoud Zahar, co-founder of Hamas, took pains to explain to Gazans that his commitment to an unofficial ceasefire with Israel should not be seen as an act of weakness, but as a tactic that would allow Hamas time to re-arm and re-organize for the coming war.
Intertwined with these overriding feelings of humiliation, hatred and fear should any compromise be reached on Israel’s right to exist, are the principles of Islamic Shari’a law which provide for the subordination of women, the subordination of “unbelievers,” death for apostasy, homosexuality, alleged adultery, cartoons …,” and so forth — principles that flow through this conflict and that are downplayed by Western leaders as mere rhetoric. Recently, the Palestinian Authority’s religious affairs official praised Palestinians who carry out ribat (religious war) against Israel; and the coordinator of the National Committee on Summer Camps told his local media that Palestinian summer camps instill in children the Palestinian culture “which unites the culture of resistance, the culture of stones and guns … and the culture of shahada (martyrdom).”
Professor Robert Wistrich in his book, A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad leaves no doubt that the Arab and Muslim rejection of Israel is based in large measure on Islamic principles that permeate their societies. The treatment of Jews in Muslim lands throughout the centuries further confirms that this hostility toward Jews — and the genocidal rhetoric and suicide bombers that flow from it — cannot be separated from an enmity that began with Mohammed; was later encouraged by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (infatuated as he was with the Nazis and their propaganda); and is now aimed at Israel as a Jewish state.
Whatever points of ideology and tactics may divide the nominally secular Palestinian Authority from the religiously orthodox Hamas, both agree that Zionism is a “criminal conspiracy” against the Palestinian people; that Israel’s creation is a satanic, imperialist plot that must be reversed, and that Palestine is, was, and always will be, indivisible Islamic land. Sermons urge believers to “Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them. Whenever you meet them, kill them.” These are broadcast live, day-in and day-out on the PA’s official TV channel. [see www.palwatch.org and www.MEMRI.org for documentation].
When Jews are discussed in PA textbooks, it is only to recite the same litany of their supposedly negative traits from the days of the Prophet to the present. On maps, Israel is portrayed as Palestine; Israeli cities are portrayed as Palestinian; and Zionism continues to be portrayed as a modern-day expression of the Jews’ essential evil — all of which raises the question: Can generations of Palestinians force-fed such beliefs ever set them aside to make a stable, long-lasting peace with Israel as a Jewish state within any borders?
These religious imperatives are, additionally, woven into the PLO Covenant (Charter) which sees Judaism as a religion, not a nationality. Although Israel, with all its flaws, represents the realization of a 3,800-year vision of Jewish nationalism, the Palestinian Charter alleges that Jews are not a nation, and it repudiates any claim Jews have to national self-determination or national sovereignty. Instead, it confers upon them the inferior religious status of second-class citizens under Islamic law.
Thus, from a theological perspective, the Arab street cannot accept the right of Jews to sovereignty on even one centimeter of land which, according to Islamic law, forms part of the Islamic waqf, or holy endowment. This law holds that any land that was ever under Muslim control must forever remain so, whether al-Andalus in Spain, or Israel under the Ottoman Turks.
What is also clear is that the Arab and Muslim narrative is focused on Jews, not just Israelis. Jonathan Kay writing in the National Post observes that “When Israeli planes smashed Egyptian airfields in the opening hours of the Six-Day War announcers on Radio Cairo took to the airwaves, calling on Arabs in neighboring countries to attack any Jews they could find. In the Libyan capital of Tripoli, then home to about 5,000 Jews, rioters responded with an orgy of murder, arson and looting that lasted three days. Even after the survivors had fled to Israel and the West, leaving Libya virtually free of Jews, the anti-Semitic bloodlust remained. It was “the unavoidable duty of the city councils,” stated one Libyan newspaper, “to remove [Jewish] cemeteries immediately, and throw the bodies of the dead, which even in their eternal rest soil our country, into the depths of the sea … Only then can the hatred of the Libyan people toward the Jews be satiated.” Carrying this pathology forward, the idea of any compromise that would lead to a sovereign, independent Jewish state in the Islamic Middle East would seem a sweet, misguided wish.
This hatred is also reflected in constant Palestinian attempts to negate Jewish history by denying the Jewish people’s ancient historical connection to the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and Jewish historical sites in Judea and Samaria (including, but not limited to, Rachel’s Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs at Machpelah and even the city of Hebron); the ludicrous claim that Abraham and Jesus were Palestinians; the claim that Islam represents the final and one true faith (Christianity and Judaism presumably being flawed precursors), and the utilization of the Palestinian Authority’s educational system and media to deny Israeli legitimacy to any land at all — not only by falsifying maps, but also by falsifying or destroying any archeological evidence of that history, such as the recent vandalism of Joshua’s Tomb in the Samarian village of Timnat Heres. By vandalizing Jewish historical sites, they are making credible the myth they themselves have created that Israelis are mere “foreign occupiers,” “modern-day Crusaders” and “imperialists,” who have no legal or historical claim to “Palestine.”
Then, of course, there is Palestinian and Arab television, such as Qatar’s Al-Jazeera and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar that continue to flood the Arab and Muslim world with a new variant of anti-Semitism in the form of fables that masquerade as reality. These fables not only include libels from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the notion that Jews use the blood of Arab children to make their Passover matzoh – but now also speak of plagues of vicious Israeli attack dogs descending upon Jericho to harass poor Palestinian Arabs; wild boars released by Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and destroy their plants and crops in the northern West Bank during prayers; the use of Israeli trained rats to drive Arab residents from Jerusalem; and sharks released by the Israelis that attack tourists swimming off Egypt’s Red Sea coast in order to weaken Egypt’s thriving tourist industry. Of course, as Khaled Abu Toameh dryly writes, “it is still unclear” how these animals are trained to distinguish Arab victims from Jewish ones; but while people in the West might laugh at these libels, they are taken seriously in the Arab world where the media is tightly controlled by Arab governments — the same governments that have declared that Israelis are responsible for the civil war in Lebanon; the division of Sudan; civil strife in Yemen, and the massacre of Christians and the persecution of Palestinians in Iraq.
Western journalists and non-governmental organizations who repeat and give weight to these lies do no honor to the values of their trade, their countries or those Arabs trying to rid their societies of such damage. Perhaps the ultimate source of Arab backwardness lies in the Arab and Muslim leaders’ debasement of the minds of their own citizens by diagnosing every problem as caused by the Jews.
Under such circumstances, how can there be a lasting peace until this mindset changes? Thus, the paradigm floated by the U.S. and the Europeans of “two states for two peoples” is not only naive but dangerous: it not only fails to acknowledge that the Arabs will refuse to make peace with a sovereign Jewish state in their midst, but it also refuse to take into account that any Palestinian state established on the West Bank and Gaza will be a subterfuge for the outspoken Palestinian plan for the extermination of Israel — phased or otherwise.
A 2009 poll showed that 71% of the Palestinians continue to consider it essential that their state consist of all Israel and the territories. More recently, a poll of Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank and Gaza, released by the Arab World for Research and Development in Ramallah, asked: “If Palestinian negotiators delivered a peace settlement that includes a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, but had to make compromises on key issues (right of return, Jerusalem, borders, settlements) to do so, would you support the result?” 12% responded “Yes,” while 85% responded “No.” 65% said it was “essential” that any peace agreement include historic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
This is what the Arab-Israeli conflict was about in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973; this is what the conflict is about today. Are we to believe that U.S., South American and European leaders are ignorant of these facts or willfully blind to them due to their own domestic and foreign agendas? The dispute is, was and always has been about the destruction of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state in the midst of the Islamic world. As such, Israel’s return to the 1949 armistice lines (euphemistically referred to as “borders”) will not mark the end of this conflict. On the contrary, a Palestinian state established on the West Bank and Gaza will serve as the staging area for even further aggression and destabilization in the region — as promised in the Palestinian and Hamas Charters; in the Arab media, schools, summer camps, textbooks, and even crossword puzzles [www.palwatch.org and www.MEMRI.org].
The reality is that the Arab-Muslim world cannot openly acknowledge even the most basic facts underlying any two-state solution: the existence of a Jewish people; that Jewish temples have historically existed under independent Jewish sovereignty on that land for millenia, and that all Jewish rights to sovereignty — legal, historical and moral — are in no way inferior to those of the Palestinians. The establishment of a Palestinian state will not resolve these issues. It will only guarantee future wars.