Monday, December 10, 2012

The Palestinian Worldview: Through the Looking Glass, Mendacity & Threats (Part 1)

Last week, I reposted some older thoughts on Palestinian statehood (with a few bonus new ideas, too). Then, over the weekend, I read what Hamas’ leader said during a massive open air rally in Gaza (more on that in part 2, hopefully a bit later this week). I realized then that I’d never taken the time to read Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly and so I took some time to do so. Wow. I think a few parts of his speech are worth reading and deserve some comment. If you want to read the entire speech, you can find it on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Note that the excerpts of the speech below are in order, but I have omitted those paragraphs that I chose not to discuss; you can read the whole think at the above link.) But by and large I think that I can safely say that the world and worldview that Abbas describes in his address to the UN reflects nothing so much as a mirror universe in which right is wrong, up is down, the sun rises in the West, and … well, you get the point. Read on and see what I mean.

So here is how Abbas began his address:

Palestine comes today to the United Nations General Assembly at a time when it is still tending to its wounds and still burying its beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression, still searching for remnants of life amid the ruins of homes destroyed by Israeli bombs on the Gaza Strip, wiping out entire families, their men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace.

Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace and because its people, as proven in past days, are in desperate need of it.

Note a few things: First, the West Bank is relatively peaceful. Rockets haven’t been launched from the West Bank and Israel hasn’t sent airstrikes into the West Bank. The violence Abbas talks about was all in Gaza. And though he may say that Palestine “believes in peace” the unabated rain of missiles upon Israel would seem to bring that belief into question. And note further that in a speech, supposedly about peace, there is talk about Israeli bombs “murdering” families, but no comment at all about Hamas’ aggression towards Israel or about Israelis killed or wounded. Do the Israelis who live in fear of Hamas rockets not want peace, too?

The Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip has confirmed once again the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation and for our people to gain their freedom and independence. This aggression also confirms the Israeli Government's adherence to the policy of occupation, brute force and war, which in turn obliges the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people and towards peace.

This is why we are here today.

I say with great pain and sorrow… there was certainly no one in the world that required that tens of Palestinian children lose their lives in order to reaffirm the above-mentioned facts. There was no need for thousands of deadly raids and tons of explosives for the world to be reminded that there is an occupation that must come to an end and that there are a people that must be liberated. And, there was no need for a new, devastating war in order for us to be aware of the absence of peace.

Again, note how he frames things entirely as Israeli aggression, as if there was no cause whatsoever for Israel to institute its action against Hamas in Gaza. If you were to just read Abbas, without having followed any news, you’d think that Israel decided one fine fall afternoon that it was bored and felt like murdering some Palestinians for fun. Note too that he talks about the “occupation” without noting that there is no occupation of Gaza! Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and only instituted a blockade when Hamas came to power. Had Hamas not launched those rockets, Gaza would have peace and there wouldn’t be a blockade. And there is no occupation of Gaza!

Abbas is right that there was “no need for thousands of deadly raids and tons of explosives”; however, I think that he was referring to the Israeli effort to destroy Hamas’ rockets rather than the terrorist raids and indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel. Had Hamas not launched rockets, there wouldn’t have been either raids or explosives.

And here is the paragraph that I found to be the most galling:

The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence, which was rooted in the depths of their land and depths of history. In those dark days, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were torn from their homes and displaced within and outside of their homeland, thrown from their beautiful, embracing, prosperous country to refugee camps in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history. In those dark days, our people had looked to the United Nations as a beacon of hope and appealed for ending the injustice and for achieving justice and peace, the realization of our rights, and our people still believe in this and continue to wait.

I’ll forgive the use of the term Al-Nakba (though referring to the creation of Israel with the Arabic term “the Catastrophe” isn’t exactly a peace-seeking olive branch). But look at the next thing Abbas claims about Israeli independence: He says it “was intended to extinguish [the Palestinian people’s] being and expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence…” Really? Is that why the United Nations adopted a partition that called for two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian? Is that why Israel accepted the partition and the Arab states invaded? Is that why Jordan and Egypt captured and did not relinquish the land set aside for the Palestinians? Is that why the Israeli declaration of independence called for peace with all of its neighbors?

Note next the casual reference to the “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians … torn from their homes and displaced” from their “prosperous country to refugee camps” in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”. That would all be great if it was, you know, true. Yes, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, and yes, some by the acts of Israelis (or Jews prior to the declaration of statehood). But many of those displaced left of their own accord or at the behest of the invading Arab armies. Unfortunately, Palestinian leadership has repeated this part-truth/part-lie so many times over the last 65 years that their own populace now believes the myth in its entirety. As to those refugee camps, ask yourself why the Palestinian Authority, which has controlled the West Bank since 1993 or so, still maintains refugee camps? Ethnic cleansing? Go back to my prior post and read what the Palestinians have to say about Jews living in the West Bank. Oh, and don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries after the formation of Israel.

In the course of our long national struggle, our people have always strived to ensure harmony and conformity between the goals and means of their struggle and international law and spirit of the era in accordance with prevailing realities and changes. And, our people always have strived not to lose their humanity, their highest, deeply-held moral values and their innovative abilities for survival, steadfastness, creativity and hope, despite the horrors that befell them and continue befall them today as a consequence of Al-Nakba and its horrors.

Stop! Go back and read that again. I’ll wait. OK. You done yet? Picked your jaw up off the floor? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. But I can’t seem to find the citation to international law that says that it was cool to attack and murder athletes at the Olympics. Or to hijack airplanes and cruise ships. Or to bomb airplanes. Or schools. Or pizza parlors and discotheques. Or to create suicide vests with ball bearings laced with rat poison. To have women pretend that they were pregnant to smuggle explosives. To teach children that the highest aspiration is to grow up to be a shaheed (martyr, often as a suicide bomber). And when I remember that it is the Palestinians who have had a children’s television show (loosely based on Sesame Street) that advocates martyrdom and espouses outright racism towards Jews, it’s hard to square with the notion that the Palestinians have done much not to lose their “deeply-held” moral values. Remind me which moral value names a soccer tournament after a terrorist? Which deeply-held moral value causes a man to grab a child and smash her head against a rock? Which deeply-held moral value leads to throwing a disabled man (in a wheelchair, no less) over the side of a hijacked cruise ship. Which moral value repeats, almost ad nauseum that Jews use the blood of Muslim children to bake Passover matzah, argues that the Holocaust was a myth (have I reminded you that Abbas’ doctoral dissertation was a Holocaust denial screed?), or that Judaism has no attachment to Jerusalem. Need I go on? I’ll give him one point though: Palestinians have certainly been creative in their ability to think up new ways to try to kill Israelis and Jews.

We have not heard one word from any Israeli official expressing any sincere concern to save the peace process.

Hmm. So I guess Abbas never listened to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN just 60 days before Abbas’ speech, in which Netanyahu said:

We won't solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN. That's not the way to solve it. We won't solve our conflict with unilateral declarations of statehood.

We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State.

Israel wants to see a Middle East of progress and peace. We want to see the three great religions that sprang forth from our region — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — coexist in peace and in mutual respect.

Or perhaps Abbas forget the following comments from Netanyahu, issued in response to Abbas’ own refusal to negotiate until Israel freezes settlement construction:

In the UN I said to President Abbas, “Look, we’re in the same city. We’re in the same building, for God’s sake, the UN. Let’s just sit down and begin to talk peace.” Why are we talking about talking? Why negotiating about negotiating? It’s very simple. If you want to get to peace put all your preconditions on the side. Sit down opposite a table.

But in Abbas’ black is white, inside out, topsy-turvy world, those statements by Netanyahu apparently don’t show a sincere concern to save the peace process while Abbas’ refusal to negotiate does show such a concern. Huh?

Anyway, back to Abbas:

However, above all and after all, I affirm that our people will not relinquish their inalienable national rights, as defined by United Nations resolutions. And our people cling to the right to defend themselves against aggression and occupation and they will continue their popular, peaceful resistance and their epic steadfastness and will continue to build on their land. And, they will end the division and strengthen their national unity. We will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, to live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and a solution for the refugee issue on the basis of resolution 194 (III), as per the operative part of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Peaceful resistance, huh? I’m not sure that rockets from Gaza or suicide bombers count as “peaceful resistance”. And note the formulation that Abbas uses before negotiations even begin: “We will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967…”. (For a discussion on the importance of this phrase, see my post Palestinian Statehood (repost plus a few new thoughts), in particular the discussion toward the end of that post.) If the Palestinians will accept no less than that, then what, pray tell, is the point of negotiation? If you will accept no less than everything that you want (wait, has Abbas been listening to Congressional Republicans?), then what is does Israel gain by “negotiation”? An end to the “peaceful resistance”?

Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two States and became the birth certificate for Israel.

Sixty-five years later and on the same day, which your esteemed body has designated as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the General Assembly stands before a moral duty, which it must not hesitate to undertake, and stands before a historic duty, which cannot endure further delay, and before a practical duty to salvage the chances for peace, which is urgent and cannot be postponed.

The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.

Of course, had the Palestinians accepted their own birth certificate back in 1947, then we might have had 65 years of peace instead of 65 years of war. The UN has already issued the birth certificate that Abbas wants, but his people took it, ripped it up, and commenced a half-century of warfare and terror. And now the Palestinians want the world to forget that they rejected the chance for peace; they want to be rewarded for their “peaceful resistance” of war and terror.

(In Part 2 of this post, I’ll look at this past weekend’s Hamas rally in Gaza. If you haven’t heard what Hamas’ leaders had to say… well, stay tuned. Oh, and just wait for some of the pictures!)

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