A chat I recently had with an Arab university student studying in Israel throws much light on why there is no peace between Israel and her neighbors. Our chat is especially relevant to these days, unfortunately, when Muslim terror organizations are firing rockets into Israeli towns.
I must emphasize that the person I met was not illiterate. She was a young, “educated” woman taking a master’s degree at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in the Israeli city of Beer Sheva, one of the best universities in the region. We began chatting while waiting for a bus. She told me she came from eastern Jerusalem, an area that she called "Palestine". She opened her heart to me, sharing her uncensored thoughts about Israel, when I told her I was Turkish and not Jewish, because the government of Turkey is against Israel.
She had had taken classes at an Israeli college where Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinian Arabs talked politics with each other regularly. This made me assume her to be a liberal, open-minded person who was friendly towards Jews. I then asked her about the economy and corruption in the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the 'West Bank' or Judea and Samaria.
“There are very few job opportunities and a lot of corruption in the PA government,” she responded. A part of our dialogue proceeded as follows:
I: "Why don’t you vote for a different political party? Don’t you have free elections there?"
She: "Mahmoud Abbas is Israel’s man. We cannot hold free elections, and people in the 'West Bank' are too scared to speak up against the government".
I: "Why don’t Palestinian Arabs in the diaspora speak out against Abbas and his government then? Where is their criticism of the treatment of Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon and other places?"
She: "I know some people who speak out".
I: "I have seen none. At least, not in the media. And don’t you think you should take a little responsibility for the situation you are in?"
She: "It’s the Israeli occupation".
Then, she mentioned the Oslo Accords and called them a “mistake.” I agreed and explained my stance: “After those accords, Arabs committed even more terrorism against Jewish civilians.”
That was when she shocked me. When I mentioned Palestinian Arab terrorism, her response was: “You call it terrorism,” which means she does not think killing Jewish civilians constitutes terrorism.
I further challenged her by asking: “Exploding bombs, killing civilians... Aren’t these things terrorism?”
She said: “Look, I am a very peaceful person, but you need to understand them”.
When I said Arabs have such deep hatred towards Jews, she gave a similar response: “You need to understand their situation.”
Then I asked her if she has ever heard of persecuted, stateless peoples in the region such as Yazidis and Assyrians. I said that no one has asked these peoples if they want a piece of land as big as a tablecloth and that they’ve been suffering for centuries.
She responded: “I don’t want a tablecloth!” to which, I responded:
“I’m not telling you to get a tablecloth, but you want the whole land.”
At one point, she said: “Israelis are not angels.”
I said: “What is an angel? That is not our topic. The thing is you don’t want Jews to have a state of their own.”
To explain why Jews should not have a state in the Middle East, she said: “Jews were in Palestine thousands of years ago, but they later left.”
I said: “And why do you think Armenians had to leave their ancient homeland in Turkey? Plus, not all Jews left their homeland. There has always been a Jewish community in Israel even before the establishment of the state. And Arabs came there only in the seventh century with their invading armies while the prophets and ancestors of Jews were in Israel long before a single Arab set foot on that land. So why can’t you share that land with Jewish people?”
She answered: “Why should I give up on some of my land?”
My response was: “You want the entire land. That’s why you’re stateless; you’ve turned yourselves into victims. If you think you’re a victim, blame your own Palestinian leaders and politicians. You need to take responsibility for your situation.”
She ended the conversation by saying: “I don’t want you to be on my side. You are not objective.”
Then the bus arrived, and we parted ways.
For me, it was both dreadful and sad to hear an Arab woman who is privileged enough to study at a prestigious Israeli university talking about the people with whom she lives - the Jews - with such hostility, hatred, and ignorance.
But the conversation was also enlightening in many ways. It demonstrated why Israel keeps getting targeted by murderous terror groups and individuals and why there is no peaceful coexistence between Israel and its many neighbors.
"Why Isn't There a Palestinian State?" is the title of a video by David Brog, Director of Strategic Affairs for Christians United for Israel. In it, he details the history of Palestinian Arabs rejecting the offers to establish a state of their own: Israel, Britain and the UN have offered Palestinian Arabs the opportunity to build their own state on five separate occasions -- in 1936, 1947, 1967, 2000, and 2008.
In 2005, Israel also "unilaterally left Gaza, giving the Palestinians complete control there," says Brog.
"Instead of developing this territory for the good of its citizens, the Palestinians turned Gaza into a terrorist base, from which they have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
"Each time Israel has agreed to a Palestinian state, the Palestinians have rejected the offer, often violently. So, if you're interested in peace in the Middle East, maybe the answer is not to pressure Israel to make yet another offer of a state to the Palestinians. Maybe the answer is to pressure the Palestinians to finally accept the existence of a Jewish State."
The ability to self-criticize – as individuals and nations - is a major part of political and cultural progress. A community – such as Palestinian Arabs –can make no progress in politics, democratization, or peace-building as long as they do not hold themselves responsible for their failures. After all, in their opinion, everything bad is Israel’s fault.
More importantly, it seems that for too many Palestinian Arabs, a two-state solution is an unacceptable offer. They want the entire land and Jews – in the best-case scenario – could only be a minority there ruled by the Arabs.
Apparently, the most "educated" Palestinian Arabs are the most hostile because the "education" in Arab schools is just propaganda. One would think by now they would have a Judaic or Israel studies program at one of their universities, but they do not. Not just Palestinian Arab universities -- in no university in a Muslim country. One could get a PhD in Arabic or Islamic History in any Israeli university, but most Muslims do not seem to understand the intellectual need to learn about their “enemy” on a scholarly level. Instead, Arab children are brainwashed with hate and falsehoods concerning history.
The Israeli media reported on October 8:
“The Palestinian Authority has removed information about agreements signed with Israel from its textbooks, according to an organization that monitors Palestinian educational material…
“The 2019 textbooks do not include the PLO statement calling for ‘coexistence,’ ‘peace’ and nonviolence with Israel, which appeared in the old version of the curriculum, according to the report.
“The new curriculum also removes the substantial amount of information provided to Palestinian students about the ancient Jewish history of ‘Palestine’ and the Jewish presence and connection to Jerusalem.”
A community that does not take responsibility for any of its actions and that even excuses terrorism deserves no political or financial support until it makes major changes in its actions. I wrote in 2015:
“Recognizing Hamas or a Palestinian state does not mean protecting Palestinians. Palestinian Arabs can only be protected by stopping their incitement. That can be done in one minute and with no money. Europe and the West can also insist that all future funding be linked to Palestinians educating their children for peace instead of war. The funding first needs to be linked to changes, as worked so well in the Soviet Union with the Jackson-Vannick Amendment, which predicated all grain to the Soviet Union on allowing its people to leave. The funding then needs to be paid out in installments, after the changes have been made -- and maintained. No education for peace: no funding. The only way to actually build a Palestine mature enough to have a state is by changing the expectations of Palestinian Arabs about what is acceptable -- and by staying committed to those changes over time -- in addition to the direct negotiations with Israel, to which the Palestinians are committed under international law."