Op-Ed: An Open Letter to the Arab League
To the Honorable Leaders of the Arab States,
We in Israel received with great pleasure your agreement to normalize relations with Israel on condition that we agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state and exchanges of territories between that state and Israel. The Palestinian state that you propose to establish in Judea and Samaria would be the second Palestinian state, since the first Palestinian state was established six years ago in the Gaza Strip, and you clearly recognize it as such in practice.
How else can the state visits of the Emir of Qatar and the secretary of the Arab League in Gaza be understood? Now you propose the establishment of a second Palestinian state? Perhaps a third!! Because Jordan is also a state with a Palestinian majority. And all of these states were established - as you know - on land that the League of Nations had designated for a Jewish state at the San Remo Conference, in April of 1920.
So why should we agree to exchange territories with any state or states that have been established or will be established on our land?
And if indeed a second Palestinian state will arise in Judea and Samaria (that which you call "the West Bank") can you promise us that this state will not at some time in the future become another Hamas state? Do you not recall that Hamas won a clear majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006? Did you not see how Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip with bombs, fire and kalashnikovs in June of 2007? Will you send a military force to get rid of Hamas after this terror organization also takes over - by means of elections or revolution - the new Palestinian state as well? Or perhaps you will leave us bleeding as a result of the problem that you have created?
We in Israel are very touched by the fact that you, as an Arab collective, not as individual states that have made a peace agreement with us, finally agree to accept us as an existing state in the Middle East. Indeed, it has taken you 65 years to understand that we are here, on the land of our fathers, that we have come back to stay in our land forever and ever until eternity.
But why do you call to displant Jerusalem, the historical capital of the Jewish people, from the Jewish state? Was Jerusalem ever a capital of something connected to the Arab world or Islam? Throughout all of history, did an Emir, Sultan Caliph or Arab or Islamic King rule in it even for one day? Do you not remember that since the Islamic conquest in 637, the capital of "Jund Filastin" (the region of Palestine) was called Ramle? Then why has Jerusalem suddenly emerged as a candidate for capital of the second Palestinian state? Just because it is our capital?
Just to remind you: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria were under Jordanian occupation for 7000 days, from May of 1948 until June of 1967. You had 7000 golden opportunities to establish a Palestinian state on this territory with Jerusalem as its capital. Why didn't you do it? Why did you think of it only after the Jewish people liberated the territory from the Jordanian occupation whose legality even you, the Arab League, never recognized? What did you know all those years about "the rights of the Palestinian people" that you don't know today? And why is Israeli "occupation" worse than Jordanian occupation?
Just imagine that we had made a peace agreement with Assad's Syria. Would the Saudi Arabian jihadists, followers of al-Qaeda who want to eliminate Assad, honor the peace agreement that he signed with the Zionists?
And what about the Palestinians in Jordan - if they rise up and overthrow the royal house that the British imported from Saudi Arabia, are you sure that they would honor the agreement that that royal house signed with us over the Palestinians' objections?
Are you willing to assure us that the Muslim Brotherhood, which has taken over Egypt, will always honor the peace agreement with Israel after all the years that they said that they would cancel it when they could?
Just to remind you, Israel has had agreements of mutual recognition on different levels with Qatar, the United Emirates and Tunisia. Why did they cancel these agreements and close the Israeli diplomatic missions? Is this what your signature is worth?
And in general, why should we, the citizens of Israel, believe you? Is your promise worth anything? Does the Arab League indeed function as a relevant and effective body?
In the covenant of the Arab League, which all of the Arab states have signed, there are articles that state principles of behavior among yourselves, but you behave in the totally opposite way!! Article 5 prohibits your states from using force against each other. Were there not wars between Egypt and Libya? Between Egypt and Sudan? Between Saudi Arabia and Yemen? Between Iraq and Kuwait? Between Syria and Iraq?
And while we're on the subject of Syria and Iraq, Article 6 of the League's covenant states that if a foreign state attacks an Arab state, the League must take measures against this attacker. What did you do when your brother, Saddam Hussein, was attacked in 2003 by foreign states? Not only did you not help him but you joined the attackers!!! So can anyone trust you?
And when Syria occupied Lebanon what did you do? And in August 1976, when Syria slaughtered Palestinians in the Tel al-Za'atar refugee camp in Lebanon, what did you do? and when Kuwait eliminated many thousands of Palestinians after it was liberated from Iraqi occupation, what did you do to your Palestinian brothers?
And what did you do in order to solve - not perpetuate - the problem of your brothers, the "Palestinian refugees" since 1948? Why have you not allowed those "refugees", who originally came to Israel from your countries before 1948, to return to their homes in your countries after they fled the wars that you started?
And when Qadaffi slaughtered 50,000 of his citizens, what did you do as an Arab collective besides calling on Europe to do your work for you, to rescue Arabs from the knife of the Arab butcher! When 'Ali abdAlla Salah, the former dictator of Yemen, slaughtered his citizens what did you do? And during the past two years, while your brother Bashar Assad, has been slaughtering 80,000 of his citizens, where have you been?
If this is the way you behave, allowing so very many thousands of Arabs, your brothers, to suffer and be killed in vain, only because they want to live the normative lifestyle of a human being, then why should we, citizens of Israel, think that you would care at all about us? Would you come to our aid if one of your countries decided to attack us?
The way you relate to one another is so terrible that we are not sure that we want anything to do with you. Can an Arab travel to another Arab state without a visa? How does any Arab state treat foreign workers who come from other Arab states?
And why do the Egyptians kill Sudanese living in Egypt when they demonstrate against the humiliating way they are treated by their Egyptian brothers? And what did the Iraqis do to the Palestinians who were in Iraq until 2003? Did they not persecute them and chase them with knives into refugee camps of Rawishad on the Iraqi-Jordanian border and al-Kaaam on the border of Iraq and Syria?
And why have Arab citizens of Lebanon been slaughtering Arab citizens of Syria for the past year? Only because the killers are Shi'ites and the victims are Sunnis? And why does Saudi Arabia send criminals to Syria in order to slaughter Assad's soldiers, who only wanted to slaughter Syrian citizens?
And why does the Sudanese government slaughter its citizens in Darfur? Is this any way for a nation that proposes peace to the citizens of Israel to behave?
And what has the Arab League ever done in order to bring a little calm to the Arab nation? Why do people say that the Arab League is like a frozen body in a morgue, that no one has the courage to declare as dead?
And even if we assume that there will be peace between us and all of the Arab states, what will that give us? Will you be able to buy our products? Do you think that we will allow tourists from your countries to visit us freely? We tried this in the nineties, when hordes of tourists came from Jordan, and more than a hundred thousand of them "disappeared" into Israel. We have learned the lesson, and many years will pass until we'll want to see your tourists in Israel again.
But the most important thing is the fact that despite the terrible Holocaust, in which the Palestinian Mufti - your brother, Hajj Amin al-Husseini - took an active part, and despite the wars and the terror between the wars that you have imposed upon us, we have established a democratic and developed country, and we have proven to the whole world that we need you, our dear neighbors, about as much as we need a headache.
We have managed very well without you, and according to all the signs, we will continue to manage not at all poorly without you. You have nothing to offer us besides the poverty, unemployment, corruption, backwardness, violence and neglect that characterizes your societies and countries. Believe us, nothing, absolutely nothing, makes us want to connect ourselves with you. Do you want peace with us? We're willing - but what do you offer us in return? What will you give to us in exchange for our agreement to get into the same picture frame with you and to sit around the same table with you?
Peace with you will come only after we see that you really want peace. As long as you encourage and arm terror organizations who act against us, incite against us in your media, erase the state of Israel from the geography books in your schools and act against us in international arenas, why should we believe that you indeed want peace?
A peace agreement should be a recognition of actual peace in the field, for one important reason: when we see how you act among yourselves, no one in Israel believes one word of yours, because you have no idea what peace is. If you want peace with us, show us that you have some concept of meaning of the term "peace". Begin with making peace within your countries, continue with peace between your countries and then perhaps we will believe that you know what peace is.
And if anyone thinks that our requirement is absurd, because there will never be peace in the Arab world, this is the proof that we are right. There is a saying in Arabic "Faqd a-Shay la y'atiha" - "He who has nothing, cannot give to someone else." How can a nation that has no notion of peace, give peace to others?
In conclusion, dear neighbors, we - citizens of Israel - want very much to live in Peace, in a region of peace where you and we enjoy it together. But we do not think that there is any point in signing an agreement with someone who is here today and is in a grave tomorrow, and whose successors won't honor his signature.
When the Middle East becomes a region of peace, give us a call, perhaps we will join the peace that you have created in the Middle East. Until then, please leave us alone.
Appeared in the Hebrew Makor Rishon newspaper, translated with the author's permission by Sally Zahav.