Sunday, March 08, 2009

Do Palestinian Arabs deserve a State of their own?

[Lenny Ben David below argues that they don't deserve it yet. There is no doubt that they haven't proven themselves capable of establishing or running a united people's nation-State.
The reality is that they weren't ready in '48 when the UN offered them one;and they haven't been ready to do anything other than fight to try to take over what the Jews have established with their hard-earned toil and tears. Whenever they were given a chance to prove themselves, such as in Gaza where everything was left for their economic infrastructure to succeed as did that of the previous settlers, all they were instructed to do, was to destroy it!
The virulent Islamic mentality of Hamas et al. made sure that no vestige of Jewish success will be utilised to help their own people! How on earth can such medieval hatred of a people towards other people ever succeed to become a worthy nation-State among the world community of enlightened nations, as Israel is? MM]

The Palestinians should get a State, but do they deserve one? Not yet!
by Lenny BEN-DAVID

March 8, 2009

Why Secretary Hillary Clinton Didn’t See What I Saw

I spent one day in 1996 in Ramallah visiting the nascent Palestinian state. I traveled the few miles from Jerusalem to Ramallah with a colleague to attend a session of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – the Palestinian parliament. It was soon after the Palestinian elections, and the scene in the Ramallah parliament was effervescent. Lobbyists were busy plying their trade in the hallways. MPs were jumping up to object to one point or another. And my translator – the daughter of a moderate PLO official stationed in Europe who was assassinated by radical Palestinians – was practically shaking with excitement. The elected body (yes, it was stacked with many of Arafat’s hand-picked candidates) was debating civil service reform, and members kept referring with approval to how things were done “over there.” It was understood by all they were talking about Israel.

Those were the days. And they may never return.

The language of the debate in the PLC was different but the sense of democracy at work reminded me of the debates in the Knesset or the discussions in the corridor outside of the House of Representatives cloakroom.

At that point in history, the close contact between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza was almost 30 years old. Palestinian women’s groups had learned feminist culture from their Israeli sisters. Palestinian newspapers were publishing uncensored stories out of Jerusalem. Agricultural extension experts from Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture were working with their Palestinian counterparts to improve Palestinian agricultural and livestock yields.

Palestinian bankers, businessmen, doctors and nurses were studying Hebrew in the Israeli language school, Ulpan Akiva, so that they could apprentice in Israeli institutions in order to improve skills and facilitate joint projects. Fundamentalist Palestinian Gazans at the ulpan complained to me once that Israeli television broadcasts in Arabic were featuring clips of naked women to entice male viewers, so I introduced them to Israeli feminists so that they could together challenge the broadcast authorities. At the ulpan in Netanya I first met Dr. Ezzeldin Abu Elaish, the Gazan doctor who tragically lost three children during the Hamas-Israeli war in January.

We met with several Palestinian legislators in the Ramallah parliament building, including a young firebrand, Marwan Barghouti, the Secretary-General of Fatah. He was determined to fight Palestinian corruption and to push for independent Palestinian statehood. We thought that it was a positive sign that Barghouti was channeling his passions in the legislative body. But in 2002 Barghouti was arrested by Israeli troops as the mastermind of terrorist attacks against Israelis. He was convicted for the murder of four Israelis and one Greek Orthodox priest and is currently sitting in Israeli prison.

When Secretary of State Clinton travelled to Ramallah from Jerusalem last week she undoubtedly asked herself, “What went wrong?” What turned Barghouti into a murderer, or was he always a terrorist masquerading as a legislator? What evil force dispatched Palestinian suicide bombers into Israeli streets just a few years later? Why did Palestinian security forces, often trained by the CIA and armed by Israel, turn their guns on Israeli civilians and soldiers? What generated the winds of war that could only be blocked by the building of fences and walls separating Arabs and Jews? And now the Katyushas, Grads and Kassams fly over the fences by the thousands. Today, my meetings at Ulpan Akiva seem like fantasies, and in all honesty, I would not venture into Ramallah today for fear of being lynched as a Jew. That was the fate of two Israeli reservists who accidentally wandered into Ramallah four years after my visit.

What went wrong? Critics of Israel quickly respond that Ariel Sharon’s 2000 visit to the Temple Mount (Haram el Sharif to the Arabs) was the catalyst. But we know today that Arafat was planning the second “Intifada” months before Sharon’s visit, even as he met with President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak at Camp David in the summer of 2000. Some of Israel’s detractors would argue that the Israeli settlements led to Palestinian despair and violence. But settlements had existed since 1968; and already in 1997 Palestinian diplomats with whom I dealt were willing to cede 10 percent of the territories, including the settlements, to Israel.

The blame falls primarily on Arafat for poisoning the tentative but promising ties that were developing between Israel and the Palestinians. All cooperation was stopped after he arrived in Gaza in 1994. Local Palestinian leaders and heads of Palestinian government agencies were replaced by Arafat’s minions who accompanied him from Tunis. The “multilateral talks” established in the 1991 Madrid Conference to discuss the vital issues of water, environment, arms control, refugees and economic development were permanently shelved.

It became clear to American negotiators that Arafat was opposed to the two-state solution. “He was not interested or capable of doing an agreement that ended the conflict,” American negotiator Dennis Ross explained before Arafat’s departure from this world. “As long as [Arafat] didn’t have to make an irrevocable commitment, he was quite prepared to sign up to any agreement. Arafat is someone who will never close a door, never foreclose an option. He has to be able to say that he still has claims, still has grievances, and in light of that, the conflict at a certain level goes on....He doesn’t want to be the one that goes down in Palestinian history as the one who precluded a one-state solution [emphasis added].”

Frankly, the U.S. and Israel share some of the blame for covering up Arafat’s aggression. Palestinian newspapers, radio and TV amplified Arafat’s anti-Israeli line. The preachers in Palestinian mosques were appointed by Arafat and spewed forth anti-Semitism. And Palestinian children were poisoned by a toxic, anti-Semitic, bellicose curriculum even before Hamas gained its political power. While serving as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington in the late 1990s, I was instructed by Israel’s leaders not to circulate a video called Jihad for Kids, a frightening collection of anti-Semitic TV broadcasts recorded off of Palestinian TV. Israeli and American leaders did not want to endanger what remained of the peace process and chose to ignore the venomous pollution of the Palestinian grassroots.

Hillary Clinton came to realize the danger of the Palestinian incitement. While serving as Senator, she reviewed Palestinian propaganda and concluded in a Palestinian Media Watch press conference two years ago: “This propaganda is dangerous. You know, words really matter. Some people sort of downplay the importance of words. But words really matter. Because in idealizing for children a world without Israel, children are taught never to accept the reality of the State of Israel, never to strive for a better future that would hold out the promise of peace and security to them, and is basically a message of pessimism and fatalism that undermines the possibility for these children living lives of fulfillment and productivity.”

The United Nations Charter declared in 1945 that “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” That declaration is the basis for many nations’ claim to statehood, including the Kurds, Chechens, Basques and the Palestinians.

Many Israelis believe that right of self-determination should apply to the Palestinians, and Israel proved itself ready to help the development of the Palestinians’ civil society toward that goal. But, after the Palestinians retreated from all forms of cooperation with Israel, choosing a path of confrontation leading to a judenrein one state solution, it was not surprising that a majority of Israelis signaled at the polls last month that they wanted leadership to put the brakes on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the near term. The UN Charter is applicable to “all people” as long as they do not seek the destruction of another. As long as the genocidal Hamas rules a large part of the Palestinian population and threatens to capture control of even more Palestinians in the West Bank and the teeming refugee camps of Lebanon, the Palestinian people will not deserve statehood.

The writer's visit to Ramallah took place when he headed the Jerusalem office of an American Jewish organization, not as an Israeli diplomatic official.

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