Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Often I asked whether there is chance for a real peace between the Israelis and Arab Palestinians. My answer is always a sad “no”, and the reason is that when there is so much hatred , resentment and blame among the Palestinians against Israel and the Jews that there can never be peace – even if the Israeli government will withdraw as the Arabs desire from all the so called “occupied territories.”
Prime Minister Rabin repeatedly states that the government line, that there are two kinds of Palestinians , the extremists who want to derail the peace process and the others who constitute the majority who want to turn over a new page in relations with Israel. However, the many exhibitions of hatred since the treaty with Yasser Arafat was signed , leave many Israelis wondering whether the problem is not with a few Palestinians extremists but with a “community of extremists.”
After the terrorist attack in Beit Lid in which 19 young Israeli soldiers were murdered, Palestinians celebrated in Gaza , reenacting on stage the suicide bombing while thousands of men, women and children spectators cheered. Just as the bombings have shaken Israel , they have also sent currents of admiration through young men in Gaza, who declare to reporters that they too , are eager to go to “ paradise killing Jews”. The pictures of suicide bombers of Islamic Holy war, and its militant twin, Hamas, are hung in Gaza homes and are carried in wallets and on key chains of Palestinians . Walls are covered with graffiti saluting them and with bold drawings of the attacks. The brother of one of the suicide bombers told a reporter, “when I saw the flesh and blood of the Jews, I was happy”. The suicide bomber was praised by loud speaker in the Gaza streets as a ‘heroic martyr of Islam who had gone to paradise while inflicting misery on the sons of Zion.”
In another incident after the kidnapped Israeli soldier Nachshon Waxman was murdered, there were reenactments of the kidnapping and killing on the stage in Gaza while thousands of Palestinians laughed and cheered. Just recently, a few hours after suicide bomb in Gaza killed six soldiers and one American student, there were witness accounts of buses filled with Arab passengers passing by the explosion site shouting joyfully and holding up their fingers in a “V for victory” sign.
In December, an Israeli soldier lost his way in a car and ended up in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank . Without provocation, he was beaten repeatedly by a mob of men, women and children while he screamed for mercy in Arabic. But, there was not even one righteous person in Ramallah to stop the madness. Luckily he was rescued by an Israeli army patrol passing by.
Repeatedly Arafat explains that only Israeli concessions and withdrawal from the West Bank will lower the frustration level among Palestinians and bring about a decline in terrorist attacks. Yet the Israeli army withdrew from Gaza over a year ago , and still in recent months support for anti – Israeli attacks grew. In the late 1980s, the reason for the anti- Israeli attacks was the presence of the Israeli army. But now Palestinian resentment is fueled by frustration at the incompetence and corruption of Arafat and luck of change in their living conditions, which are no fault of Israel.
However, even now Palestinians, show great sympathy for their leader, blaming Israel for his failures. In many newspaper interviews, Palestinians see Arafat as a victim, just like them, who can’t do better since he is also under Israeli control and rule. As one street peddler said, “what can he do? He is trapped with the sea behind him and the enemy in front.”
And this is the essence of the problem. The Palestinians still see Israel as their enemy, and the PLO is helping perpetuate this belief among the people by words and deeds.
On one hand, Arafat calls for peace with Israel, but on the other hand he calls for Jihad. On one hand, he calls the Oslo agreement “ The peace of the brave” but on the other, he refuses to revoke the clause in the Palestinian charter calling for the destruction of Israel and the reclaiming of whole “ Palestine” with Jerusalem as the capital. Of course, Arafat has been unwilling and unable to fight the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who murdered more than 130 Israelis and wounded hundreds more since the Oslo agreement, a number much higher than ever before.
Therefore, when people ask me about the possibility of real peace, I am afraid the Arab Palestinians are not ready for one,. It seems that the tactics of their leadership have changed , but the goal remains the same. By his own words and deeds, it is clear that Arafat hasn’t abandoned his old agenda of a step- by- step plan to destroy Israel with Gaza and Jericho first and then the rest of the West Bank serving as a springboard for further confrontation with Israel.