Op-Ed: Rejectionism Makes Peace Unlikely, not Merely Elusive
The only honest message to come out of the latest round of diplomatic misdirection was the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize a Jewish state under any circumstances – and by extension Israel’s right to exist.
When Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed yet again that the Palestinians would never recognize a Jewish state or relinquish their unfounded “right of return,” he effectively denied Israel’s right to exist, demanded her demographic destruction, and indicated the pointlessness of negotiations.
Rather than chastise Abbas, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry admonished Israel for insisting on recognition in the first place, and thus validated Arab rejectionism and the revisionist Palestinian narrative.
While world tensions increase as a result of Barack Obama’s disastrous foreign policy in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran, Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere, it seems that he and Kerry can only respond by drawing meaningless redlines in response to aggression enabled by their weakness and falsely blaming Israel for regional turmoil.
The administration’s scolding of Israel for Abbas’s provocation is disturbing because it resembles a common strategy for dealing with political conflicts and power struggles in the Arab world, which is to deflect attention by inciting against the Jewish State whenever the status quo is threatened.
In light of the international fallout from Mr. Obama’s appeasement of Islamist regimes and obsequious deference to Vladimir Putin before the Ukrainian crisis, he would seem to have more pressing concerns than blaming Israel for Palestinian intransigence. One has to wonder what drives him and Kerry to chide Israel for refusing to facilitate her own demise. They clearly have little regard for Israel’s security and sovereignty, and any claims of their continuing support for her as an ally must be taken with a grain of salt.
The only honest message to come out of the latest round of diplomatic misdirection was the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize a Jewish state under any circumstances – and by extension Israel’s right to exist. Despite the taqiyya (religious dissimulation) and tawriya (deception) underlying dialogue with “infidels,” the Arab-Muslim world cannot even feign the pretense of interest in lasting peace with a Jewish state. Abbas’s statements only echo what Arab public opinion polls have shown for years and what doctrinal fundamentalism requires.
The lesson to be gleaned from such immutable rejectionism is that genuine peace will not be possible without a sea change in the way the Islamic world regards Jews. An essential constant in the field of conflict resolution is that reconciliation is impossible unless all sides commit to the process and agree to concessions. Fundamentalist Islam prohibits peace with Jews as sovereign equals, however, and the Palestinian narrative demands the denial of Jewish history. These circumstances militate against the prospects for true resolution.
Despite apologetic claims that Islamic culture is not inherently anti-Semitic, its religious scripture is full of hateful and unflattering pronouncements concerning Jews, whose status under Sharia is that of a dispossessed minority with few substantive rights. It is this doctrinal enmity that drives the Arab-Israeli conflict, not concern for the fate of Palestinians in a land that Islam tacitly concedes originally belonged to the Jews.
There is nothing in Islamic scripture to suggest that the Land of Israel was originally part of the ummah or that Jerusalem had any special significance for Muslims. Rather, the land was usurped through jihad during the era of Islamic expansionism specifically because it belonged to a non-Muslim people who were considered subjugated under Sharia – but who nevertheless maintained a continuous presence (albeit as dhimmis) in their own land.
Islamic tradition that recounts the subjugation of the Jews and their land constitutes an admission that it was neither Muslim nor Arab in origin. In fact, the most consistent cultural imprint is Jewish and dates back thousands of years.
The Arab population grew largely through immigration during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire and throughout the British Mandatory period. Though many Jews also immigrated during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they supplemented a native population that had been extant since before the Dispersion. In contrast, there was never a sovereign state of Palestine; and the Palestinians were never seen as a distinct people until the invention of a national identity in the late twentieth century.
The Jewish homeland was no more Islamic in origin than was Spain, which expelled the last of its Arab-Muslim invaders in 1492; or continental Europe, which repelled the last significant jihadi incursion at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Objective history, however, does not deter supremacists who assert that these lands remain Islamic to this day and who call for their liberation from the native peoples who succeeded in expelling their conquerors.
According to fundamentalist doctrine, lands conquered through jihad cannot revert to their original owners. This is one reason why mosques and shrines are built over the ruins of indigenous holy places, including Hindu temples in India, Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan, Christian churches in Istanbul, Spain, the Balkans and elsewhere, and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
History is inconvenient for those who advocate the creation of a state that never existed on behalf of a people whose ancient connection to Israel is no more grounded in reality than that of the Crusaders who descended on the Levant after repelling their Muslim conquerors from Europe.
The architects of the Oslo process were guided by the same revisionist delusion when they demanded recognition of Palestinian identity even as they disparaged historical Jewish claims. The conceit of Oslo is that it validated the political existence of a people with a sketchy history, but downplayed the legitimacy of the only people with documented ancestral roots going back millennia.
Israel made concessions throughout the Oslo Process, under George Bush’s roadmap, and during Bill Clinton’s push to pressure a two-state deal at Camp David. Over the years, Jewish ancestral rights were either sacrificed, as when Great Britain conveyed nearly eighty percent of the Mandate to the Hashemites after their expulsion from the Arabian Peninsula in 1922; or compromised, as when the Jews agreed to accept a partitioned state comprising only a fraction of their traditional homeland in 1947.
The Palestinians, in contrast, have never honored their obligations under any negotiating framework, minimal though they have been compared to those required of Israel. They failed to formally amend their charter calling for Israel’s destruction, recognize her right to exist, or renounce incitement and terror. Instead, they continue to support and engage in terrorism, incite against Jews in Israel and elsewhere, and teach genocidal anti-Semitism to school children. There is no incentive for them to act otherwise because their behavior is ignored, excused or enabled by the Obama administration and the European Union.
If outside intercessors truly wanted to assist in resolving the conflict, they would acknowledge the Jewish connection to Israel instead of blindly promoting incompatible claims as articles of faith. Unfortunately, the EU’s treatment of Israel is colored by a pernicious anti-Semitism that has been part of European culture ever since the Jews began their long sojourn in lands of Ashkenaz. It is also influenced by the EU’s deference to the growing Arab and Muslim populations within its midst and its collusion with Islamists.
Just as unfortunately, the United States has lost its way as a credible broker, succumbing to the progressive obsession with “evenhandedness,” by which its partisans really mean Palestinian favoritism. Although conflict resolution does not preclude the involvement of representative advocates, the pretense of neutrality should not be used to bias the proceedings against one party or to elevate claims lacking in foundation over those that are historically cognizable. If a skewed vision of neutrality is used to undermine the legitimacy of a single party, as it is against Israel, it is not truly neutral and should have no place in the process.
The problem with all incarnations of the peace process since Oslo is that they have presumed a sacrosanct Palestinian right of self-determination based on revisionist history, and elevated it over authentic Jewish claims that are part of the historical record. When George Bush stated his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state in 2007, he inadvertently lent credence to a narrative that undercuts Jewish claims and delegitimizes Israel.
The Oslo process went further by demanding that Israel embrace Palestinian authenticity, regardless of the absence of a chronicled presence as measured by language, culture, societal institutions or indigeneity. Israel’s acquiescence constituted acceptance of a narrative that repudiates Jewish history, claims that the Temple never stood in Jerusalem, and considers the Jews colonial occupiers – despite an abundance of archeological, ethnographic and literary proof of their continuous presence since antiquity. Thus, as a negotiating strategy, this concession was a serious miscalculation.
The pressure on Israel to affirm Palestinian nationality must be contrasted against the refusal of the Palestinians – and indeed of the entire Arab-Muslim world – to recognize the Jews’ right to self-determination in their homeland. This refusal was expressed before Judea and Samaria were liberated from Jordan in 1967, before the existence of settlements, and indeed long before Israel declared her independence in 1948.
The reality is that Arab-Jewish relations have always been dictated by the refusal to accept Jews as sovereign equals. Jews were treated as dhimmis under Ottoman rule and were attacked throughout the Mandate period, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. Whereas Jews accepted the U.N. partition plan in 1947, the Arab nations unanimously rejected it before launching the first war of attempted extermination in 1948, followed by wars in 1967 and 1973. A perpetual state of hostility existed between these conflicts and precipitated later wars in Lebanon and Gaza.
Abbas’s pledge of non-recognition and his unity pact with Hamas are perfectly consistent with this long pattern of rejection. Accordingly, John Kerry was disingenuous when he told Congress that the breakdown in talks was caused by Israel’s announcement of plans to build 700 new apartments in a traditionally Jewish section of Jerusalem. The truth is that Palestinian leadership does not want Jews to build anywhere in Israel – not in Jewish enclaves in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Golan or the Negev. The term “occupation” is not limited to settlements in Judea and Samaria (to which Israel actually has more valid claims than the Palestinians), but instead refers to the entire state of Israel.
The cold hard fact is that the Arab-Israeli conflict has never been about Palestinian claims. Rather, it is about the refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state, to treat Jews as sovereign equals and to acknowledge the pedigree of lands that were historically neither Arab nor Muslim. It is also about the vilification of Israel by foreign governments who enable Arab rejectionism, who condemn lawful Jewish construction, who ignore illegal Arab building and the destruction of Jewish artifacts, and who shut their eyes to continuing incitement and terrorism against Israel, Jews and the West.
Despite all these provocations, the progressive west continues to demand that Israel retreat to the suicidal 1949 armistice lines, relinquish control of Jerusalem, and cede historically Jewish lands in Judea and Samaria. Based on the belligerent conduct of Israel’s adversaries and the duplicity of their allies, however, she has every reason to be skeptical of any negotiating framework. She should be particularly wary in light of Kerry’s threat that her refusal to submit will subject her to European boycotts. This is all the more troubling given reports of Kerry’s collusion with the boycotters and his recent ill-informed comments to the Trilateral Commission that Israel is in danger of becoming “an apartheid state with second-class citizens.”
Now that talks have broken down again, Israel should not attempt to revive them, particularly in view of the PA’s unity pact with Hamas and continuing refusal to accept a Jewish state. For every pronouncement of non-recognition, for every day the PA charter continues to call for Israel’s destruction and Hamas cries “death to the Jews,” and for every sermon by Waqf authorities denying that the Temple ever stood in Jerusalem, Israel should say “enough” and reject the Oslo process for the charade it is.
Israel has no legal or moral obligation to continue participating in a moribund process that disparages her national integrity. She should not even consider reengaging in talks unless her legitimacy and right to exist are recognized unconditionally. Or, given the unlikeliness of concessions on these points, she should abandon the concept altogether and act unilaterally to consolidate her presence in Judea and Samaria.
The Arab League declared at its 1967 summit in Khartoum that there would be “no recognition, no negotiations and no peace” with a Jewish State. When all deception is peeled away, it seems that this position has not changed very much; and the Arab nations have strained to justify their inflexibility with a persistent campaign of slander. They have disseminated false stories of Jewish conspiracies, Israeli atrocities, and counterfeit claims to ancestral Jewish lands. But there is one subject about which they have always been honest. It seems that not even taqiyya justifies lying about their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
The truth that western progressives refuse to accept is that the Arab-Israeli conflict is driven by the dogmatic perception of Jews as subjugated and subservient with no right to autonomy in their homeland. This perception makes genuine peace unlikely, and the prospects will not be improved by criticizing Israel for insisting on recognition while demanding that she endorse a competing myth that undermines her legitimacy.