Written by Jamie Glazov
By Jamie Glazov
Friday, March 28, 2008
Frontpage Interview guest today is Kenneth Levin, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Princeton-trained historian, and a commentator on Israeli politics. He is the author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.
FP: Kenneth Levin, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Levin: Thank you, Jamie. Glad to be with you.
FP: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is often portrayed as some kind of "moderate," the great alternative to Hamas that can help bring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The U.S. is banking on him. But what kind of moderate is he really? First and foremost, isn’t this a terrorist who rejects the Jewishness of Israel?
Levin: You're certainly right that by no coherent definition is Abbas a moderate. He has refused to acknowledge the basic tenet of the 1947 United Nations resolution calling for establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state in the British Mandate territory west of the Jordan. He has refused to endorse America's formulation of the goal of negotiations being a Jewish state and Arab state living side by side in peace. He has refused to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in any part of the former Mandate. He continues to insist on the so-called "right of return" of Palestinian Arabs whose forebearers had lived in what is now Israel; that is, he insists Palestinians should have a right to move to and live in the Palestinian state established beside Israel and also have the right to move to Israel.
Some of those eager to cast Abbas as a "moderate" point to his criticism of the terror war launched by Arafat in September, 2000, and of current Palestinian terror. But Abbas's criticism has consistently been that the terror has not been a successful tactic; he has not criticized either its immorality or its goals. At the same time he has on various occasions praised those engaged in the terror. And he rejects Israel's right of self-defense against the terror. Virtually every time Israel has responded by targeting rocket-launching crews or those involved in recruiting, training and dispatching suicide bombers, Abbas has not only condemned the Israeli response, but characterized it in the most extreme, hyperbolic terms, as "mass murder" or "crimes against humanity."
Nor is that the extent of Abbas's ugly anti-Israel calumnies. Just recently, he claimed that Israel was seeking to ethnically cleanse eastern Jerusalem of Arabs. In fact, the Arab population of Jerusalem is growing faster than the Jewish population, and Arabs have been pouring into the eastern sections of the city to escape the chaos into which areas under the PA's control have descended and to avail themselves of Israeli services. Far from Israel preventing Arab construction in the eastern part of the city, as Abbas likewise claims, there has for many years been an Arab building boom, as anyone familiar with the city can easily see.
In a similar vein, Abbas characterizes Israel's separation fence as "racist," even though it was constructed to defend Israelis against the terror that he ostensibly opposes. The fence did not exist and was not contemplated before the terror war.
In addition, Abbas continues to use the media, mosques and schools under the control of his Palestinian Authority to convey the message of Israel's illegitimacy, of Jews having no historical connection to the land but being merely rapacious usurpers, and of the need for Palestinians to dedicate themselves to Israel's destruction.
Also, of course, Fatah, which Abbas heads as Arafat's successor, continues to engage in anti-Israel terror.
FP: Abbas has stated several times that he doesn't rule out armed conflict against Israel. He has boasted, with great pride, that he fired the first bullet of the Fatah terror organization in 1965. He has made no secret of the fact that he taught terror tactics to terror groups, including to Hezbollah.
What kind of peacemaker is this and why are the U.S. and Israeli administrations dealing with him? Because he is the lesser of all evils?
Levin: Abbas was an early companion of Arafat, a leader of Fatah as the organization pioneered modern Middle East terror. Now it is certainly possible for someone to reform and break from his past, and some former Fatah terrorists have genuinely done so. But that has not been Abbas's course. On the contrary, as you note, Abbas has recently bragged about his role in blazing the path of Palestinian terror and about how he and his companions showed the way to others, indeed trained others, including Hezbollah. And he has spoken recently of "armed struggle" being at present counterproductive but a path that might meet his approval in the future. He intimated that the key factor would be an improvement in the Palestinians' ability to conduct a terror war more effectively.
Abbas is no peacemaker. Our own government has anointed him as such in part because, as you suggest, he is perceived as the lesser evil. Also, the Bush administration clearly feels compelled to embrace some Palestinian leader and to promote some movement toward winning concessions for the Palestinians in order to appease Arab leaders.
The current Israeli government has no strategic vision of its own and this in itself leaves it more inclined simply to follow the path urged by our own administration. But in addition, instead of a strategic vision focused on the security of Israel, Olmert is focused solely on the survival of his government, and the charade of a "peace process" serves that end.
In particular, Olmert has been the object of several investigations concerning illegal activities. But Israel's criminal justice system is tainted by political bias, with a record of pursuing crimes differently according to the politics of the accused; specifically, being less aggressive in going after political figures affiliated with the Left. In addition, the media likewise is much less aggressive in covering the transgressions of those on the political left. David Landau, the recently deposed editor of Haaretz, the newspaper of Israel's elites, explicitly stated that his paper would curb coverage of the malfeasance of politicians when those politicians were pursuing leftist policies of which the paper approved. Olmert may well calculate that the best way for him to stave off criminal prosecution and maintain his grip on power is to embrace Abbas and make concessions for "peace," however dangerous for Israel's well-being his current policies may be.
Indeed, the American and Israeli embrace of Abbas and his Palestinian Authority makes genuine peace more remote. Before Oslo there was a growing Palestinian middle class in the territories that could have provided the foundation for a stable, peace-seeking civil society. Yitzhak Rabin, both before and after his 1992 election as prime minister, proposed holding internationally supervised elections in the territories for a domestic leadership that would then negotiate with Israel over establishment of a Palestinian government and disposition of the territories. But local Palestinian leaders, despite their interest in Rabin's offer, were intimated PLO threats; while Israel's Peace Movement demonstrated against Rabin and insisted he deal with Arafat as the only legitimate leader of the Palestinians.
Rabin capitulated and, via the initial Oslo agreements, allowed Arafat and his associates to come from Tunis and establish the Palestinian Authority. Very rapidly, members of what had been a growing middle class, faced now with Fatah corruption, shakedowns that undermined their businesses, political intimidation, and casual violence, began to leave the territories. Those who remained, still hoping to build a future for their families in the territories, soon saw their children brainwashed, through Arafat's schools, mosques and media, into believing that the best future was to die fighting to destroy Israel. Abbas's message to his people, through the PA's vehicles of indoctrination, continues to be what it was under Arafat and differs little from that of Hamas.
Only by supporting the development of civil institutions that provide a foundation for a nation at peace and that educate the population, particularly the young, to desire peace rather than martyrdom, can there be movement toward a resolution of the conflict. The U.S. pays lip-service to this essential truth, but its embrace of Abbas, as well as Israel's engagement with him, ignores that truth and can only drive events further from peace.
FP: If the so-called "right of return" was actually put into place, what would happen to Israel? Isn’t this a death sentence to the Jewish state? And who is it exactly that has a "right" to return? Moreover, how about the "right of return" to Jews who had to flee Arab states because of fears for their physical safety?
Levin: The whole intent of the so-called "right of return" is to destroy the Jewish state. The Palestinians claim the right for those who fled what became Israel during the 1947-48 war and for all their descendants. The idea is to overwhelm the Jewish population and demolish Israel.
There is a disingenuous sleight of hand about the entire concept of "right of return." Palestinians, the broader Arab world, and their supporters who have asserted this "right" have invoked, in particular, UN General Assembly resolution 194, passed in December, 1948, in the wake of the Arab-initiated 1947-48 war. The resolution states, among its other provisions, "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so..." But the central provision of 194 is its call for creation of a Conciliation Commission and "establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date... to seek agreement by negotiations [and thereby reach] a final settlement of all questions between them."
The point about repatriation is made in the context of calls for broader agreement. In addition, the passage referring to repatriation also cites alternative possible dispositions for refugees, specifically resettlement and payment of compensation. Further, since resolution 194 was a General Assembly resolution, it has the force simply of a recommendation, not a "requirement," and so cannot be construed as establishing a "right of return." Finally, all Arab states voted against Resolution 194, precisely because, in its call for conciliation, it entailed implicit recognition of Israel. Supporters of the "right of return" are thus claiming a "right" not only not established in the document they cite but also referring to a single, corollary provision of the document and, in any case, contained in a document the Arabs universally rejected.
There is another sleight of hand here that is typically ignored. At the time of the United Nations resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state and Arab state in the land west of the Jordan, the territories that the UN proposed assigning to each state had members of both communities living in them; that is, Arabs living in the areas that were to be part of the Jewish state and Jews living in the areas assigned to the Arabs. The Palestinian Arabs, and the Arab nations, launched a war to destroy the Jewish community in the Mandate and prevent its securing its state. In the course of the ensuing battles, an estimated 600,000 Arabs fled the areas over which the Jews gained control.
Indeed, tens of thousands among the Palestinian Arab elite fled before the start of hostilities, eager to escape the anticipated fighting. Of those who left during the fighting, most simply sought to avoid the hostilities. In various locations, most notably Haifa, from which about 15% of the refugees originated, they fled despite well-documented appeals by the local Jewish leadership that they stay. Some, perhaps another 15% of the refugee total, were forced to leave, from areas such as the villages that prevented Jewish access to Jerusalem and were part of the blockade and siege of city. About 120,000 Arabs remained in the areas controlled by the Jews, constituting about 16% of the state's early population. The Israeli Arab community has grown to constitute currently more than 20% of the population.
But what of the Jews living in areas that fell under Arab control? Every one of them was either killed or expelled. Not one remained. You ask about a right of return of Jews forced then and in subsequent years to flee the Arab states, in fear for their lives. Few presumably would want to return to those states. But what about a "right of return" of Jews pushed out of those Mandate areas that fell to the Arabs? Not only do the Palestinians not recognize such a right, but they insist that every Jew currently living in the territories taken in the 1967 war must leave, including descendants of those forced out in 1947-48. Nor does it speak well of the broader world community that it so widely endorses the Palestinian leadership's insistence that what it claims as its territory must be Judenrein.
FP: Tell us a bit about what Palestinian media, mosques and schools say and teach about Jews.
Levin: Even putting aside Hamas organs and looking only at the media, mosques and schools under Mahmoud Abbas's control, their message is consistently one of demonization of Jews and delegitimization of Israel along with calls for its destruction.
For example, in the weeks leading up to last fall's Annapolis conference, Fatah-TV, the television outlet of Abbas's party, broadcast many times daily a song whose lyrics claimed that all of Palestine belongs to the Arabs by "history and identity" and explicitly named cities and regions of pre-1967 Israel as part of the territorial patrimony of the Arabs, again "by history and identity." While Abbas was talking compromise and peace, the song was clearly intended to convey the illegitimacy of the Jewish presence and of Israel. It was one more strand in the incessant indoctrination of Palestinians to regard Israel's Jews as alien usurpers whose state must be destroyed.
In the wake of the massacre of Israeli seminary students in Jerusalem earlier this month, Abbas released for Western and Israeli consumption a condemnation of the terror attack. But Al Hayat Al Jadida, official daily newspaper of Abbas's Palestinian Authority, praised the killer as a "holy martyr." In recent days, the paper has promoted a week-long "wedding celebration" for the killer, to mark his reception into heaven and his marriage to the 72 virgins promised holy martyrs.
Sheikh Ikrema Sabri, who as the Fatah-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem regularly engaged in anti-Jewish diatribes from his pulpit, recently reiterated his assertions that Jewish claims of a historical connection to Jerusalem are lies meant to dispossess Arabs and usurp Arab and Muslim rights. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, he insisted there never was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount and that the area's history and religious significance are exclusively Arab and Muslim.
With regard to the schools, Palestinian Media Watch cites, for example, a new 12th grade Palestinian textbook introduced last year which describes Israel's founding as a "catastrophe unprecedented in history" in which "racist" and "imperialist" Jewish Zionist gangs stole Palestine, dispossessing its rightful, Arab owners. The conflict is presented as a religious war and the text conveys to students that Israel's existence and the actions of its Jewish creators are crimes which must be undone.
Pursuit of Israel's destruction and creation of an exclusively Arab and Muslim entity in its place are the goals to which Palestinians, particularly Palestinian youth, have been indoctrinated since establishment of the Palestinian Authority, not only by Hamas's vehicles of indoctrination and those of Arafat but by those of Mahmoud Abbas as well.
And yet our government continues to embrace Abbas as a viable "peace partner," and Israel's present leaders go along with this unconscionable charade.
FP: Dr. Kenneth Levin, thank you for joining us.
Levin: Thank you, Jamie
SOURCE:Front Page Magazine
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