The historical fantasies of Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the UN, November 29, 2012

Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the UN, November 29, 2012

In my post yesterday, I mentioned Mahmoud Abbas’ ugly speech to the UN. Of course the votes of all the representatives were predetermined, but the juxtaposition of Abbas’ remarks to the affirmative votes points up the international hypocrisy surrounding Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a striking ignorance of history.

Abbas began by describing the recent operation in Gaza, whose purpose was to end the missile bombardment of southern Israel and which was carried out with care and precision unprecedented in military history — certainly with far more care than has been employed by NATO in its operations in Libya and elsewhere — as “Israeli aggression,” and referred to “men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace.”

He does not, of course, mention the hundreds of short and long-range missiles aimed at the civilian population of Israel before and during the war, a war crime which would have become a bloody atrocity as well had it not been for Israel’s ability to protect its people (albeit at great expense). Later he even suggests that the operation was in response to his UN initiative, and not to the rockets falling on Israeli towns!

He refers several times to Palestinian children, while he well knows that rockets were launched at Israel from residential locations in Gaza and near to schools, thus making human shields out of them.

Then he turns to the primal source of Palestinian resentment, the nakba, in full historical revisionist mode:

The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence, which was rooted in the depths of their land and depths of history. In those dark days, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were torn from their homes and displaced within and outside of their homeland, thrown from their beautiful, embracing, prosperous country to refugee camps in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.

An account closer to the truth would be that the Palestinian Arabs viciously attacked the Jewish pre-state communities, because the prospect of Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine was unacceptable to them. Anti-Jewish pogroms inspired by Nazi collaborator al-Husseini escalated into war, at which point much of the educated and wealthy Arab leadership left Palestine for the duration, leaving the rest of the population to their own devices. After the end of the British Mandate and the declaration of the Jewish state in May 1948, the Palestinian Arabs were joined by their ‘friends’ from the neighboring Arab nations.

The Arab nations had no interest in an independent Palestinian state — they wanted to dismember Palestine and annex the territory. To this end, they encouraged Palestinians to leave their homes, adding to those who fled to avoid fighting or were frightened by atrocity propaganda. When they lost the war, the Arab nations forced Palestinian refugees on their territory into refugee camps, and ever since have prohibited them and their descendants from being repatriated to anywhere but Israel.

It is true that there were cases — in particular some hostile villages located above the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — where Arab residents were forced out of their homes by Jewish forces. But the numbers were small compared to those that left of their own accord.

Regarding the “depths of history,” the majority of today’s ‘Palestinian people’ is descended from Arabs that migrated to Palestine between about 1830, with the Egyptian Muhammad Ali’s campaign to conquer Syria, through the Mandate period, when they were recruited to work on construction projects by the  British, emigrated from Syria due to political unrest or drought, or were attracted by the economic development wrought by the Zionists.

Again it is true that there are some Arab families whose history in the region went back much farther. But it wasn’t a “beautiful, embracing, prosperous country.” As Mark Twain described it in 1869, it was a desperately poor and disease-ridden place, heavily taxed by its Ottoman Turk rulers.

Let me get back to Abbas. He continues,

In the course of our long national struggle, our people have always strived [sic] to ensure harmony and conformity between the goals and means of their struggle and international law and spirit of the era in accordance with prevailing realities and changes. And, our people always have strived not to lose their humanity, their highest, deeply-held moral values and their innovative abilities for survival, steadfastness, creativity and hope, despite the horrors that befell them and continue befall them today as a consequence of Al-Nakba and its horrors.

Could anything be more fantastic? Since 1948, the Palestinian cause has been pursued primarily by terrorism against civilian targets, including numerous attacks aimed at children. Palestinians popularized airline hijacking and suicide bombing; even their partisans admit that their struggle has been characterized by violence. Both the PLO and Hamas have developed educational systems that glorify martyrdom, and continually broadcast racist antisemitic propaganda against Israel and Jews. “Deeply-held moral values” indeed!

He finds it necessary to refer to Israel — three times — as a racist, colonialist apartheid state. This is untrue — viz. the 20% of Israel’s population that consists of Palestinian Arabs with full rights — and is in contrast with Abbas’ expressed desire to establish a state that will not contain Jews. But it is de rigeur in order to appeal to the international Left, which might otherwise notice that Palestinian society is deeply racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

He asserts that he wants reinvigorate the ‘peace process’, but he makes a maximalist demand that can’t possibly be acceptable to Israel:

We will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, to live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and a solution for the refugee issue on the basis of resolution 194 (III), as per the operative part of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Neither UN resolution 242 or the Oslo accords envisions a Palestinian state on all territory occupied in 1967 — indeed, 242 calls for secure borders, which are definitely not pre-1967 lines. The Oslo accords require that borders be negotiated between the parties, and the expectation was that Israel would keep settlements close to the 1967 line. Finally, the Arab interpretation of 194 is that all refugees and their descendents will have a right to ‘return to their homes’ in Israel. Rather than reinvigorate it, this demand repudiates all of the ideas of the ‘peace process’, from 242 to the present.

A commenter on yesterday’s post said that nevertheless, Abbas “did speak openly about recognizing Israel, about two states, not about rejecting Partition.” I disagree. There is nothing about recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, or as the formulation has been made, “two states for two peoples.” As a matter of fact Abbas has categorically denied this, and there is nothing in this speech that suggests that he has changed his position. The only ‘recognition’ suggested here is that he is admitting that a state called Israel will exist — for now —  alongside Palestine.

Add to all of this the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s public statements have recently become more, not less, extreme.

I don’t see any reason to change my opinion that the likelihood of a negotiated end to the conflict is close to zero.

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