Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Bleak Prospects of Our Search for Palestinian Moderates

“Moderate” Palestinians.  Western voices attest to their existence any time that Palestinian aggression, anti-Semitism, and refusal to acknowledge Israeli sovereignty is cited.  They assert that somewhere, hidden in the streets bearing the names of murderous Palestinian terrorists and speckled in the throngs of shouting rabble calling for death and destruction in Israel, they exist in vast numbers, ready to emerge and assert their rational influence in the peace process.
Though one can't rationally argue that there are not singular examples of moderates within the populations of those who call themselves Palestinians, it's safe to say that the notion that they exist in large numbers is pure bunk.   
First of all, it has proven impossible to locate even a single moderate among Palestinian leadership.  Most often cited as the most convincing example of Palestinian moderation is Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.  To really believe he is a moderate, however, requires an incredible leap from reality.  Abbas earned his doctorate by justifying Holocaust denial.  He has offered generous pensions to the families of suicide bombers and endorsed the execution of Palestinians who sell property to Jews. And his position on the matter of Israeli sovereignty is entirely unilateral, not moderate. In past negotiations, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the generous offer to concede "95% of the land conquered in response to Jordan's offensive against Israel."  Abbas demanded it all.  Now, he is demanding all of it again, threatening "harsh measures" if Israel does not comply.
And as Isi Leibler laments in the Jerusalem Post, "Unfortunately, all opinion polls demonstrate that the Palestinian masses have been brainwashed and endorse these views."
And looking at the actions of the Palestinian general populace is truly disheartening, as the murderous overtones are much less subtle. Consider that last year, upon the savage murder of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, the common reaction among Palestinians was not horror, but celebration- complete with the distribution of candy to local Palestinian children. Or perhaps consider that while Israelis celebrated the release of Gilad Shalit, Palestinians celebrated the release of murderous prisoners and exalted them as heroes. Among these released Palestinian terrorists was the “mastermind of the 2001 bombing” of a Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed fifteen innocents. Also released was the ringleader of a lynch mob that, after brutally murdering an Israeli, was photographed presenting his bloodstained hands to a crowd of cheering Palestinians. This murderer, particularly, was lucky enough to collect a second round of accolades for this evil deed upon his release.
Jonathan S. Tobin offers a reason for this twisted behavior. He suggests that during the Second Intifada, “mass slaughter became not only a tool of war but the touchstone of a people’s identity.” And that identity is not only well-evidenced in Palestinian actions, but also in their cultural and intellectual mediums.
In their new book, “Deception: Betraying the Peace Process,” Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Ziberdik relate that the Palestinian magazine Zayzafuna is a generally “positive and educational” publication that enjoys funding by the Palestinian Authority. However:
These positive messages are directed at Palestinian society, Muslims, Christians and Druze. When it comes to portraying Israel and Jews, Zayzafuna changes its tone and includes items glorifying Jihad against Israel and praising Martyrdom death for Allah, and the Martyrs themselves.
Indicative of this anti-Semitic slant is a selected essay published by the magazine, written by a teenage girl. The essay describes a dream the child had, where she was visited by such Islamic icons as Al-Khwarizmi, who stressed the importance of “Islamic sciences,” Naguib Mahfouz, who stressed the importance of making use of one’s time, Saladin, who unsurprisingly suggested a new liberation of Jerusalem, and a rather oddly included bedfellow, Adolf Hitler.
Upon meeting Hitler in her dream, she asks him, “You’re the one who killed the Jews?” Hitler responds, “Yes. I killed them so that you would all know that they are a nation that spreads destruction all over the world. And what I ask of you is to be resilient and patient, concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.” She thanks Hitler for the advice, which she finds sound, and her rationalization of the Holocaust is something that the Palestinian Authority and the magazine’s editors find suitable for publication in their educational endeavors.

To call such things "moderate" is an absolute travesty.
I truly hope that moderate Palestinian voices can be found and heard, and I hope they will be instrumental in crafting a peace where Palestine and Israel can coexist.  But all of the evidence our search has uncovered thus far has made optimism difficult to muster.

William Sullivan

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