OPINION: MISSING WORDS OF PEACE

(by Jeff Jacoby, BOSTON GLOBE, Dec 9, used with permission)

The Institute for Peace Education, an organisation based in Tel Aviv, has been up and running for a year. So far its founder has only failure to report.

David Bedein, an Israeli media analyst, created the institute in the wake of a meeting he had with Yasser Arafat last November in Bethlehem. Why, he asked the PLO chairman, do you regularly invoke peace and the ''peace process'' when you speak to foreign audiences in English, but never say the same things to your own people in Arabic?

''I say such things all the time,'' Arafat told him. Bedein replied that he had never heard Arafat -- or the Palestinian Authority -- issue even one peaceable sentiment in Arabic. Arafat assured him he was wrong.

On its face, Bedein's charge would seem ludicrous.

The very premise of the 1993 Oslo accord - and the Nobel Prize that Arafat shared with Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin - was ''land for peace". In exchange for territory and autonomy, Arafat and the PLO offered to make peace with their enemies, abandoning the path of terrorism and Jew-hatred. Arafat pledged, in writing, that the PLO would revoke its charter, the Palestine National Covenant, which calls explicitly for Israel's destruction. He signed an international document vowing to end all anti-Israel propaganda. Before the eyes of the world, he shook Rabin's hand and solemnly agreed to exhort all Palestinians to reject terrorism and violence. Speak peace to his people? That was the least of Arafat's obligations.

But four years after that famous handshake, those obligations remain unfulfilled. Even the least of them.

For the past 12 months, the Institute for Peace Education has scrutinised every broadcast of the Palestinian Authority's radio and television network. It has reviewed every statement released in Arabic from the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Information. It has scrutinised Palestinian newspapers, which answer to Arafat. So far it has found no words of peace.

Bedein sent a request to the Palestinian Authority, describing his research and asking to be made aware of any official, Arabic-language expressions of peace. He was invited to the authority's offices in Ram'Allah and presented with a sheaf of statements. ''But these are all in English,'' he said. ''I'm looking for material in Arabic.'' They had none to show him.

The institute communicated with every Israeli and Palestinian academic institution and with an array of media outlets. It contacted Israeli peace activists known for their support of Oslo or their defence of Arafat. None could supply any Arabic statements from the Palestinian Authority promoting, defending, or embracing peace with Israel.

The PLO's failure to abide by the terms of the Oslo accord has been comprehensive. It has not repealed its noxious covenant. It has not outlawed terror groups. It has refused either to extradite terrorists to Israel or to punish them itself. It has sanctioned the murder of Arabs who sell land to Jews. ''Land for peace'' has proved a hoax: Israel surrendered the land -- all of Gaza and every major town on the West Bank, including Hebron -- but the Palestinians never came through with the peace.

For peace is not what the Palestinians want. Victory is. Which is why, as Bedein has confirmed, to his regret, you can listen intently for 12 months and never hear the word ''peace'' escape the lips of any Palestinian leader when he speaks to Arabs in Arabic. What you can hear is an endless stream of anti-Israel incitement, celebration of terror attacks, and calls for ''liberating'' Israel from its Jews:

''All options are open, including the armed struggle if necessary'' - Amin Maqbul, PLO official, at a Nablus rally, March 30, 1997.

''The presence of Hamas on Palestinian territory is very important for building the Palestinian homeland'' - Muhammad Dahlan, head of Arafat's Preventive Security Service, in Gaza, June 14, 1997.

''O Allah, destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews.... Allah shall take revenge on behalf of his prophet against the colonialist settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs'' - Sheikh Ikrama Sabri, the Arafat-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, July 11, 1997.

''Our war with Israel and the Jews has not ended and will not end until a Palestinian state is established on the entire land of Palestine'' - Sa'adi al-Karnaz, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dec. 2, 1997. In Israel, children are enrolled in mandatory ''peace education'' classes.

In Gaza, they are taught to revere suicide bombers who blow up commuter buses and cafes.

On Israeli TV, entertainers for years have sung wistful songs about peace. On Palestinian TV, the pop songs are about the coming conquest of Jaffa and the Galilee.

Israel's former prime minister, Shimon Peres, preaches about a ''New Middle East'' of cross-border economic cooperation and harmony. The Palestinian Authority's justice minister, Freih Abu Meddein, declares: ''The greatest enemy of the Palestinian people, now and always, is the Israelis.''

The Oslo accords notwithstanding, the Arab war against Israel continues unabated. And anyone who understands Arabic knows it.


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