A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto
Av 17 5760
August 18, 2000
Issue number 286
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef Clarifies Old Ruling
Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has clarified his famous 25-year-old ruling that portions of Eretz Yisrael may be given away in cases of "danger to life." In an interview with the religious magazine Mishpacha, Rabbi Yosef said that he was referring a) only to cities with hostile Arab populations, b) only when the transfer itself of the territories does not involve danger to life, and c) certainly not to the Old City of Jerusalem. Yossi Elituv, who interviewed Rabbi Yosef for Mishpacha, reviewed the relevant passages of the interview for Arutz-7 listeners today. Some excerpts from the interview:
Rabbi Yosef: "Barak is doing things that he should not do. He wants to give sections of the Old City of Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Who will live there - quiet, peaceful people? No! Murderers and Jew-haters will live there. This situation will bring about the spilling of innocent blood."
Mishpacha: "Do you, then, oppose concessions in Jerusalem?"
Rabbi Yosef: "I ask you - how can we take actions that will place us in danger, G-d forbid? The Prime Minister did not act wisely; if he had sat and thought for a few days, and had realized that he does not have a majority of the Knesset with him on this - he might have reconsidered before traveling [to Camp David] and thereby putting us in danger..."
Mishpacha: "Surely [you] know that the left-wing camp is making use of your halakhic decision that in cases of danger to life, we can make territorial concessions in the Land of Israel?"
Rabbi Yosef: "Cases of danger to life have no connection to my ruling... When they spoke of granting autonomy in Gaza - I supported it. Let them go to Gaza! That's a case in which my ruling applies. But to sign deals that will bring [the Arabs] into our homes, into our city, in the center of the Old City - how could Barak do this? He is using my ruling in a way that I did not intend. My ruling is inapplicable when the transfer of territories actually brings about a danger to life... It certainly does not apply to Jerusalem... Is it logical that we can engage in dangerous concessions in Jerusalem, and cite danger to life as the reason to do so?! This is absurd! The Barak government is actually bringing danger closer..." (arutzsheva.org Aug 14)
PA Official Indicates Ability to Blow up Israeli Cities
"We are capable of blowing up Israeli cities." So said Palestinian Authority Communications Minister Imad Faluji Wednesday. He added that the Palestinians will not be satisfied with attacking military targets, but would strike at "Israel's heart." Faluji made the comments in a mourner's tent set up in Kfar Surda north of Ramallah, in the wake of the death of village mayor Abu Mansour, who was killed by IDF gunfire Tuesday. The Arab man was killed when a contingent of IDF Duvdevan unit soldiers entered the village to carry out a mission. Soon after their entry, the soldiers were fired on from on top of a roof within the village. The soldiers returned fire, fatally wounding the gunman. Although local Arabs claim that Abu Mansour was afraid that someone was trying to break into his home - and Ha'aretz reported that they were attempting to arrest the man's son for suspected terrorist activity - IDF commander Col. Gal Hirsch told Voice of Israel Radio that the soldiers were not headed in the direction of the house at the time. "I have no idea why he fired on our men," said Col. Hirsch, "but when someone fires on us, we fire back." Knesset member and Arafat confidante Ahmed Tibi, also speaking on Voice of Israel, unequivocally blamed the IDF for the death. He called the incident a "cold-blooded killing and a provocation." (A7 Aug 16)
How Did the Two Lebanese Cross the Border?
Two Lebanese men succeeded in crossing the border near Har Dov into Israel on Wednesday. The infiltrators, who apparently were simply looking to live in Israel, were helped by a friendly IDF guard who mistook them for Israeli Druze, and were finally stopped while traveling in a taxi near Rosh Pina. The incident is seen "with grave concern" by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz. He said that the investigations have so far shown that a number of mishaps occurred. (A7 Aug 17)
Sneh Breaks it to Jordan Valley Residents
Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, meeting yesterday with the residents of the Jordan Valley, told them that the status of their towns would be the same as those in Judea and Samaria: Israeli sovereignty over the towns themselves, and not the areas in between. The residents said afterwards that the Labor party leaders had lied to them over the course of "years." (arutzsheva.org Aug 17)
Noted Anti-Israel Figure Addresses Democratic Convention
A speaker featured Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles - Maher Hathout - is a known supporter of terrorism and harbors clear anti-Israel views. Hathout is a senior official of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), an organization that has earned the criticism of leading Jewish organizations because of its sympathy for terrorist groups. The President of the American Jewish Congress wrote on June 30, 1999, that the MPAC "condones terrorist acts;" similarly, the Anti-Defamation League announced in December 1998 that it would not co-sign public statements with the MPAC because of the organization's refusal to issue "a clear-cut denunciation of terror." (Forward, Dec.4 ,1998) At the National Press Club on June 18, 1998, Maher Hathout stated that the Hizbullah terrorist organization "is fighting for freedom...This is legitimate." In response to America's attack on terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in August 1998, Hathout said: "Our country is committing an act of terrorism. What we did is illegal, immoral, unhuman, unacceptable, stupid and un-American." Specific examples of MPAC's antagonism towards Israel abound. The MPAC Affairs Council co-signed a public statement on September 17, 1993, which called for Israel's dissolution. It noted that "the establishment by force, violence, and terrorism of a Jewish state in Palestine in 1948" was "unjust" and "a crime." MPAC thereupon vowed to "work to overturn the injustice." Hathout is also a member of a six-man editorial board for the organization's paper, "The Minaret," which, in 1998 wrote: "Our pluralistic society has become prisoner to a country that follows racism and apartheid in its policies...The supporters of Israel have created a quiet reign of terror in the U.S. People cannot speak loudly against the apartheid policies of Israel." (arutzsheva.org Aug 16)
Legislation to Restrain Barak on the Agenda; Palestinian Cites "Improved Israeli Offer" on Jerusalem
The Likud is pressing on with its efforts to prevent Prime Minister Ehud Barak from attending another Camp David-like summit with Yasser Arafat. So far, the party has succeeded in signing 61 Knesset members to a bill that would prevent Barak from signing any further diplomatic deals as long as he does not enjoy a Knesset majority. Signatories of the bill include MK Chaim Katz (Am Echad) and MKs David and Maxim Levy (Gesher). Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Muhammad Bassiouny said Wednesday that his country is working towards securing a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, under the sponsorship of the United States. According to Bassiouny, the deliberations are already "at an advanced stage." PA official Nabil Sha'ath said Wednesday that the U.S. intends to soon host another summit. American mediator Dennis Ross arrived in Israel Thursday, with the goal of renewing the American efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian track. A senior Palestinian figure said Thursday that an "improved Israeli offer" on Jerusalem, as well as Arab willingness to defer the Jerusalem issue to a later date, make an agreement in the very near future "likely." Danny Yatom, Barak's security advisor, said Monday that another summit may well be convened in a month from now. The Likud responded that Barak has no "moral authority or political mandate" to participate in another summit, as his government represents only one-quarter of the Knesset. "Any agreement that he brings will not be approved by the Knesset," according to the Likud. The New York Times, quoting "a senior Administration official," reports today that the White House calculates the effective deadline for a final Middle East settlement during the Clinton presidency as the end of September. The narrow time frame is dictated by the Jewish holidays which will take up most of October, and by the perception that the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak will not be able to survive very long after the Knesset reconvenes in late October. (arutzsheva.org Aug 14,16,17)
Surprise Sales Tax Cuts
Finance Minister Avraham Shochat surprised Israelis Monday when he announced drastic cuts in the sales tax of over 600 (mostly imported) electrical appliances sold in Israel. His move will cost the government 1.3 billion shekels in lost taxes. Shochat cited a surplus of tax money as having prompted the cuts. MK Shalom Simchon, the coalition's coordinator in the Knesset Finance Committee told Arutz-7 later that the time had come "to serve the country's citizens, and to help young couples." (arutzsheva.org Aug 15)
Lebanon Pullout Sends Kibbutz "Underground"
Following the lead of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion regions, the northern community of Kibbutz Manara will be accessible only by a tunnel, stretching 700 meters in length. So decided the Israeli security establishment, in response to this spring's withdrawal from Lebanon, and the consequent proximity between the present road to the kibbutz and the Israel-Lebanon border. (A7 Aug 15)
Clinton Pledges to Continue to Work for the Division of Jerusalem
U.S. President Bill Clinton has apparently not internalized the objections of the Jewish community to his Jerusalem-dividing proposals. Mr. Clinton told four Jewish groups at a reception Sunday in Los Angeles that he will continue to work every day for the remainder of his term to try to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Such an agreement, if it comes to pass, will necessarily feature a form of Clinton's own "bridging" proposal involving the division of Jerusalem and some measure of sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinian entity. President Clinton sees not only the division of Jerusalem as a main feature of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but also the placing of an American Embassy in the "Palestinian" part of Jerusalem. This was strongly implied in remarks he made to the Arabic-language Al-Hayat of London last Friday. Clinton said, "I greatly hope that the Israeli and Palestinian parties will have reached solutions by [the end of the year], and, with our help, an agreement on Jerusalem that satisfies their demands. I will then be able to open a US embassy in the Palestinian state's capital. I strongly believe that the Jerusalem issue can be solved in a way that achieves the two parties' national aspirations." (arutzsheva.org Aug 14)
Palestinian State Pushed off
It's all but final: The Sept. 13 target date for the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state has been postponed - largely due to the lack of international support for such a move. Most European countries will not recognize a Palestinian state if it is established without Israeli consent. So reports acting-Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who is in the midst of a trip to various world capitals explaining Israel's post-Camp David positions. Russia and Germany are among those that specifically object to a unilateral declaration by the Palestinian Authority. Some observers say that a state will be declared on Nov. 15. (A7 Aug 13, 14)
"Since 1948, Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner... They have no plan or approach. They have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, criminal." - King Hussein of Jordan, January 1960, quoted by Hon. Terence Prittie and Bernard Dineen in "The Double Exodus" (arutzsheva.org Aug 11)
"But I promise you tonight that, even if Trent Lott and I and a lot of other like-members of Congress have to move it there ourselves, brick by brick, the American Embassy will open in Jerusalem by May of 1999."
- Democratic Vice President hopeful, Joseph Lieberman, speaking at an AIPAC convention April 29, 1996. (AIPAC Web Site Aug 8) (As Israel News goes to press, the embassy is currently located in Tel Aviv. Ed.)
"The political commentator for Israel Channel One on the day after Peres' defeat stated that the President should no longer be chosen from the ranks of Israel's politicians. Too bad, he didn't have that idea before the elections. In the minds of these people, democracy is a one-way street that only runs left."
- Rabbi Berel Wein, commenting on the reactions to the election of Moshe Katzav as Israeli President. (Arutz 7 Aug 7)
"Why divide the Old City? So that they can have another opportunity to kill us? Why do we even need them alongside us. The Ishmaelites [Arabs] are all cursed evil-doers, all enemies of Israel. The Holy One, blessed be He, regrets that he created these Ishmaelites." - Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in a recent lecture.(Jerusalem Post Aug 7)
"Governor Bush has said very much that he applauds what the president has tried to do at Camp David II...There will be other areas of difference in American foreign policy should Governor Bush be elected president, but the Middle East would not likely be one of them.'' - Condoleeza Rice, senior foreign policy advisor to Governor George Bush speaking to Israel army radio. (Reuters 8/14)
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered concessions unimaginable even several weeks ago; indeed, I believe he went too far. (Israel must have an agreement that leaves a defensible state; the borders contemplated at Camp David leave Israel vulnerable.)" - US Senator, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Jessy Helms, (R-North Carolina) in a recent letter to Americans For A Safe Israel. (Morasha News 8/14)
"Mr. Lieberman, as an Orthodox Jew, is also a dual citizen of Israel.'' - Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan Farrakhan. (LA Times/Reuters 8/12)
"In Middle East matters, in most cases over time, American policy has been quite similar to Israeli policy. But if they ever diverge, as they have occasionally, my record shows that I've supported obviously the U.S. position...My first and only loyalty is to the United States of America." - US Senator, and Democratic Vice Presidential hopeful, Joseph Lieberman. (A/P 8/15)
"Barak knows full well that should a referendum be held after a deal is signed, the central issue at stake will be whether we are prepared to pay the price of an accord's rejection, rather than whether we are willing to live with its provisions in the first place. His calls to hold such a "democratic" vote, then, ring hollow." - MK Natan Sharansky (Yisrael B'Aliya) in a recent op-ed piece. (Jerusalem Post 8/11)
"His house is on my land.'' - 84 year old Mustapha Dauod, an Arab resident of the West Bank village of Jammal - five km (three miles) east of Kochav Yair - claiming that Ehud Barak's house is on land owned by Daoud. (Reuters 8/16)
"We were privileged to be given the role of defending Jerusalem and freeing it and there is no one among us who has the right to give it up. Jerusalem does not belong to us. It belongs to the whole Jewish nation." - Likud leader, Ariel Sharon speaking to a special session of the Knesset. (Ha'aretz 8/15)
"[T]he Temple Mount is not a Muslim site. Part of it is connected to Islam. But the Temple Mount is first and foremost a Jewish site, as the its name testifies ... The Temple Mount is the holiest place to Jews, but only the third holiest to the Muslim world ... They don't just want the Temple Mount. They want all Jerusalem. Give them an inch and they want the whole mile." - Jerusalem Mayor, Ehud Olmert at a recent Tisha B'Av commemoration. (Ha'aretz 8/10)
"The irony is that when millions of Jews are commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem, our Jewish political leaders are planning another destruction of Jerusalem along with our enemies.'' - Nadia Matar, co-founder of Women in Green, at a recent Tisha B'av commemoration. (A/P 8/9)
"The Americans offered to give the Palestinians $30 billion for a compensation fund to tempt us to cede the rights of the refugees...The American pressure at Camp David took two forms -- threats and the gestures made by some Zionists in the American administration. President Arafat rejected the enticements and the threats.'' - Selim al-Zanoun, who heads the Palestine Liberation Organization's parliament-in-exile, commenting that a proposed $30 billion fund for Arab refugees was turned down by Arafat at the Camp David Summit. (Reuters 8/10)
"If secularism dominated in the past hundreds of years, we would have long ago disintegrated and dispersed...I say to all of the Tommy Lapids and Yossi Sarids to show respect for those who keep the Torah commandments."
- Israeli President Moshe Katzav (JTA 8/14)
Credibility Test in Jerusalem By Moshe Zak
I must apologize to a reader from Chicago, who wrote asking me what the future holds, and where Israel is going.
I can't answer his question.
Nobody can predict where Israel is going. The margin of error became unlimited after the disruption of the Israeli consensus on Jerusalem. Nobody predicted that Jerusalem would be on the table and this became a reality at Camp David. Because of an error in calculation we are now in the midst of a crisis that could have been avoided, or at least postponed to the next generation.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a mistake at Camp David when he assumed that it was possible to find a solution in our time to the centuries old inter-religious dispute on Jerusalem. He unintentionally rocked the boat of the existing situation in Jerusalem under Israeli jurisdiction. The compromise proposals aroused sleeping forces, both Moslem and Catholic, to go out and fight for what they perceive as their rights.
The move was completely unnecessary. It would have been preferable to postpone by a generation the "symposium" on which religion Jerusalem is holiest for, until after Jerusalem has grown, developed, and combined all its sections into one entity.
I know that US President Bill Clinton proposed to Arafat to postpone the debate on Jerusalem, but Arafat insisted, since he had promised his people a state with Jerusalem as its capital. But the compromise proposals couldn't mollify Arafat. On the contrary, this encouraged him to sharpen the cutting edge of the dispute.
From this point of view it's hard to predict where Israel is going.
Our Reliability is compromised when our chief negotiators treat lightly their public statements on Jerusalem in the Knesset, or ignore their commitments on Jerusalem in a treaty with a neighboring Arab country. The Palestinians also are liable to infer that Israel's proclamations are not to be taken seriously. If the government has deviated from its promise to the Knesset not to partition Jerusalem, the compromises it offered at Camp David won't be seen as the last word. In both cases the Israeli "flexibility" complimented by Clinton could bar the road to peace.
I am concerned, not because of Arafat's statements on his round-the-world trip, and not because of the forecasts of intelligence experts (which change on a daily basis) on the possibility of a renewal of terrorist attacks if an agreement isn't reached with the Palestinians. I am concerned because of the internal disputes within Israeli society which distract attention from the challenges awaiting us in the near future.
While Iran plans a pan-Islamic conference to create a plan to destroy Jewish rights to Jerusalem, some rabbis are occupied with questions of reincarnation.
While the Palestinian Authority prepares for the special assembly of the UN, which will convene in three weeks time, where they plan to raise proposals for showcase resolution against Israel, even on the issue of Israel withdrawing to the Partition borders, the attention of the foreign ministry is distracted by personal dismissals.
While the Hizbullah stockpiles weapons and strengthens its ranks with organized outings to throw stones at the Fatma gate, we applaud the quiet currently prevailing on the Israel-Lebanon border, so that we have spare time for idiotic disputes over whether Zionists saved Orthodox Jews from the Holocaust.
Israel isn't heading towards peace; it is running towards it. In its eagerness to reach its objective it sometimes exaggerates and pushes peace further away. The classic example is the Jerusalem question. This question isn't yet ripe for negotiation. It is too overflowing with emotions. Its historical roots are deep and strong and can't be turned aside.
"Any compromise in Jerusalem will lead to an explosion in the whole region and cause a fresh outburst of terrorism," said President Mubarak this week.
In effect, this warning was an ultimatum to surrender to the Arab demands that oppose any compromise. That's why Barak must not agree. When two trains, Barak's and Arafat's, are running straight at each other on the single track to Jerusalem, a collision is inevitable. So it's essential to divert them from the Jerusalem track.
The government, then, must decide whether it's willing to forego a agreement that will include a commitment to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, in return for preserving the status quo in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post Aug 16)
The behavior of the media both before and after the abject failure of their efforts to crown Shimon Peres as president is a sign of their professional decline.
If the majority of the journalists and commentators mislead the public with disinformation regarding a subject as close to home as Peres's chances, how much truth is there to most of the political reports and analyses put out by the media? Perhaps their continued assertion that Prime Minister Ehud Barak has only to continue his policy of concessions with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in order to present a "peace agreement" to the Knesset is completely unfounded.
Over the last few decades the professionalism of the press has sunk to the level of political propaganda. In other words, instead of uncovering information and facts and reporting them to the public, these correspondents and commentators report their own feelings, and are enslaved by their political conceptions.
Only yesterday the press announced that Barak was on the point of achieving a peace agreement with Syria. A tremendous brainwashing campaign was organized by the Prime Minister's Office in order to uproot the Golan settlements up to the shores of the Kinneret.
The same media and virtually the same reporters and commentators gave Peres a "5-10 percent" lead over Netanyahu in the 1996 elections - with a slap in the face for Peres on election day.
Countries claiming to be democratic do not boast commentators and correspondents who deliberately ignore or hide information merely because it conflicts with their leftist political cravings. Democratic countries do not allow their media to be involved in political prostitution.
It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that even if war were imminent they would feed the public with disinformation that "the chances of peace are improving."
It was our prime minister who employed a personal PR man, Moshe Gaon, to direct a government team to spread a smoke screen about his concessions to Arafat on the Temple Mount, the very heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was a rare event for the media when the manager of the radio, Amnon Nadav, sent a reprimand to Yaron Dekel and Hanan Crystal, the duo who worked overtime on behalf of Peres's election. Their failure, Nadav writes, can be blamed "primarily on Kol Yisrael. Your commentaries, positions and forecasts, up until the last minute, failed." Nadav demanded greater care and balance in the future.
However, there are others, such as Gideon Levi from Ha'aretz and Ron Myberg from Ma'ariv, who could not calm down even after their hero, Peres, had already lost. They compared the event to nothing less than the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.
Asa Kasher, who prides himself on being a professor, informed Moshe Katsav in Ma'ariv that he does not recognize him as his president.
In the chaotic and anarchic situation in which Barak does not give a damn about the Knesset ("I shall go to the people"), in which "the systems of government have collapsed" (in the words of Avraham Burg - which, for a change, are right), the media clowns will inform us tomorrow that they do not recognize the next prime minister either.
In light of the anti-democratic behavior of Barak and the dictatorial media supporting him, there is a real danger that our media won't agree to the imminent change of government. (Jerusalem Post Aug 14)
The writer is an author of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.
By their intellectual arrogance, Prime Minister Barak and his Camp David entourage have not only managed to confuse long-range goals with short-term goals but have also failed to distinguish between the doable and the utopian. Social, demographic, economic and political projections for the Middle East are far from presenting a rosy picture, and they do not promise stability in our region. Indeed, as any serious analysis of the long-term trends in the Middle East indicates, stable peace in this region is unlikely.
The truth is that for the next 20 years, at least, the Arab world, and the Palestinians in particular, cannot deliver a stable peace. They cannot provide peaceful coexistence, i.e. a state of relations where the use of force is not considered. The rules of the game in the Middle East still include violence on the menu of policy options. This is precisely why Mideastern countries continue to invest in their armed forces. As Barak himself acknowledged, when his better judgment prevailed, the best Israel can aspire to is an armed peace.
Moreover, the education systems in the countries that have concluded peace agreements with Israel continue to raise new generations of Arabs to hate Jews and Zionists. The Palestinian Authority is no different in its approach to educating young Palestinians. Its atlases omit Israel and its textbooks are full of anti-Semitic motifs and rabid anti-Israeli stereotypes. Palestinian summer camps teach youngsters to kidnap and/or kill Israelis. Only serious changes in the Arab curriculum now might bring about an end to the conflict in the next generations.
Beyond the lack of Palestinian education for reconciliation with Israel, Palestinian society is particularly resistant to coexistence. According to various polls conducted by Palestinian research institutes, about 40 percent of the Palestinians in the territories support violence against Israeli targets, civilian or military. While the appeal of radical Islam oscillates over time, a fourth of the population consistently lends support to such groups. The Palestinian Diaspora that has yet to be fully marginalized in political terms is unquestionably more militant. The current moods within the Palestinian national movement indicate that it still has enough energy to fight for more.
Every decent social scientist can tell our prime minister that protracted ethnic conflict does not end by declarations. Social processes that fuel de-escalation of conflict take generations and are often characterized by temporary setbacks. Moreover, such historic trends are not necessarily irreversible.
Furthermore, the attempt to secure Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's signature on a binding document is very strange, if his past record at keeping agreements is any indication for future behavior. Did the Palestinians under Arafat keep their agreements with Jordan? With Lebanon? As a matter of fact, they did their best to destabilize the countries hosting them. Haven't the Palestinians betrayed Kuwaiti hospitality by allying themselves with the Iraqi military occupation in 1990?
The record of Palestinian compliance with the 1993 Oslo accords is not more encouraging. Did the PA collect illegal weapons? Did the PA stop smuggling arms? Did the PA soldiers refrain from shooting at Israeli soldiers in September 1996 and in May 2000? Unfortunately, all Israeli governments did a very bad job at clarifying to the PA that violations of agreements would be intolerable. This is an additional reason for not expecting Arafat to abide by his signature.
Concessions to the Palestinians can be justified for buying time or for avoiding acerbating relations with the Arab world. The need to reduce unnecessary frictions with the PA may also warrant measured Israeli withdrawals. Concessions can be considered even for convincing a large part of the Israeli Left that Israel has made great efforts to reach peace. Social cohesion is extremely important in the event that Israeli society has to mobilize for a next war. Yet, making concessions for the purpose of "ending the conflict" amounts to trading important bargaining cards for castles in the air. Such a goal is a mirage.
The writer is the Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post Aug 14)
Hanan Ashrawi is back.
While Israeli, Palestinian and American officials met at Camp David, she made the rounds of American television and radio as official spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation. Her familiar bulldozer denunciations of Israel, filled with gross misrepresentations of fact and history, are strikingly unchanged from a decade ago. And, as in previous US appearances, Ashrawi enjoyed unique indulgence in journalistic quarters, often being greeted by her first name and rarely being challenged.
For unschooled interviewers, Ashrawi's barrage of quasi-Marxist lingo, distorted legal references and mangled Middle East history is surely daunting. Thus, National Public Radio's John Ydstie offered no objection to the PA representative's mischaracterization of UN Resolution 194 which, she claimed, "very clearly states that the Palestinian refugees have the right to return and for compensation."
That resolution did not guarantee the right of return; it included as well alternatives of "resettlement" and "compensation," options that had equal weight in the resolution's wording.
Notably, all the Arab states voted against Resolution 194, precisely because it did not establish a "right of return" and because it implicitly recognized Israel.
Similarly, CNN desk anchor Daryn Kagan offered only tentative inquiries as the PA representative condemned Israel's policy of giving safe haven to any Jew while opposing the influx of millions of Palestinians. Nor did Kagan challenge Ashrawi's declaration that "all refugees throughout the world have the right to return, according to law."
In fact, the opposite is true. About eight million ethnic Germans, for example, were expelled from Poland and from German lands acquired by Poland at the end of World War II. In recent years, as a condition of German reunification, the WW II allies, including the United States, insisted that the German nation give up all claims against Poland for losses that had resulted from Germany's aggression.
Ashrawi's longest interview was heard on The Connection, a national talk radio show based in Boston. Host Christopher Lydon was ostensibly balancing her with Israeli Yoram Perri, but the Palestinian's uninterrupted monologues dominated the broadcast. Nor did Lydon, a sympathizer with Arab perspectives, challenge the string of absurdities uttered.
First came the history in which Arabs are blameless and victimized. As though the events occurred in a vacuum, Ashrawi declared, "And then with the Partition Plan and Resolution 181, then Israel occupied 22% of Palestine and it ended up with 78% of Palestine."
The Arab rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan - a blunder of historic proportions for them - was followed by the failed war of attempted annihilation against the Jews, but in all of Ashrawi's windy rhetoric there is not a note of the truth about Arab responsibility in this.
Nor is there any indication that six thousand Jews were killed countering the first Arab attempt to obliterate Israel. Ashrawi fills in another gaping problem of history with fiction, claiming: "There was a Palestinian state... Just because we were under occupation. Just because we were placed under the British Mandate. Palestine existed.... My birth certificate says Palestine.... Anything before 1947 said Palestine."
To this nonsense Lydon says nothing.
Of course, there was a Palestine, carved out of the Turkish empire and given in trust to Britain by the League of Nations for the reconstitution of the Jewish national home. There was not, and never has been, an Arab nation of Palestine.
Ashrawi also claimed that Palestinians own 70% of West Jerusalem, a number taken out of thin air, and that East Jerusalem is "predominantly Palestinian, its culture, its life, its institutions, its inhabitants. They're all Palestinian."
In fact, Jewish and Arab population numbers in eastern Jerusalem are almost equal and such important Jewish institutions as Hebrew University and Hadassah hospital, along with ancient and modern Jewish religious sites and cemeteries, are located there. Ashrawi also ignores the truth that Jerusalem - the entire city - has had a Jewish majority since the middle of the 19th century.
Lydon was uninterested in the facts.
Frequently Ashrawi inverts reality regarding Israelis and Palestinians. Thus she repeatedly claims that Arafat has "prepared his constituency for peace." Few assertions can be more outlandish. Arafat has done the opposite, constantly exhorting his people via official statements, the PA media and the education system to hew to maximal goals and view Israel as an enemy ultimately to be expunged.
On the other hand, Israel teaches peace in its schools, and its populace has accepted many concessions to the Palestinians, with its Prime Minister encouraging additional accommodation.
One exception from some years ago to the journalistic fawning over Ashrawi was Barbara Amiel's remarkable 1993 profile of the Palestinian spokeswoman in the London Sunday Times. Amiel was struck by the "lies and distortions" in Ashrawi's retelling of events. Then, too, the Palestinian spokeswoman blamed Israel not only for such epic events as the Palestinians' flight in 1948 and the 1967 war, but for myriad fictitious policies related to the Intifada.
Amiel concluded after considerable time with Ashrawi that she "probes the questioner's areas of knowledge. If she senses ignorance, she will let total untruths stand. If it seems that one may be able to contradict her, by knowing for example about the rejection by the Arabs of the Peel partition plan in 1936... she will say that such a decision was an Arab 'mistake.' She won't even argue."
Ignorance is no doubt part of the problem of Ashrawi's interviewers, but so, unfortunately, is a willing bias.
The writer is Executive Director of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.