Abu Mazen’s Jewish Problem
That’s the title of an article by Professor Shlomo Avineri in Ha’aretz (May 11, 2018). Avineri is one of the most significant political scientists in Israel with an enviable international reputation. He has also served as the director-general of Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The anti-Jewish rant by Abu Mazen, Yasser Arafat’s successor as chair of the Palestinian Authority, in his recent widely reported speech goes back to his 1982 PhD thesis that he submitted at the University of Moscow. The thesis, like the speech, is based on well-known distortions of historic truths prevalent among Muslim anti-Semites.
Abu Mazen repeated the old canard that the Jews have no legitimate connection to the Land of Israel and have been the willing tools of mainly British colonialism. He relates to Judaism as a religion but denies that the Jews are a people, which means that they’ve no claim to the land.
The “apology” which he issued after the international furore that his speech caused in no way seeks to correct the calculated lies. He’s sorry to have offended the Jewish faith – not the Jews as a people. He acknowledges that the Holocaust was a terrible crime – but not that the Jews were its innocent victims, because he wanted once again to lie to the world that the Jews brought it on themselves and many of them, notably the Zionists, cooperated with the Nazis.
Avineri, who appears to affirm the two-state solution, argues in his article that Abu Mazen’s speech makes that solution impossible. He implies that the real purpose of rehashing the lies of the Moscow thesis was a manifestation of Abu Mazen’s opposition to coming to terms with Israel and to send President Trump a message that the latter’s reported peace plan for the region is rejected even before it’s presented. Avineri concludes, therefore, that peace with the Palestinians is impossible as long as Abu Mazen is at the helm.
Trump, the allegedly consummate deal maker, is said to be about to make the Palestinians an offer they can’t refuse. Abu Mazen was telling the president that they will refuse it. His Jewish problem is the Palestinians’ problem.
Of course, in view of his age, if for no other reason, Abu Mazen won’t be around for much longer. But that doesn’t mean that his successor will have the vision and the authority to act in the interest of the Palestinians and accept a compromise that would give his people a state. And there’s nothing to suggest that other Muslim states – not only belligerent Iran but also ostensibly friendly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others – will put pressure on the Palestinians to make the deal. They’ve not shown much interest in the welfare of the Palestinians over the years and aren’t likely to change now.
All this is bad news for Israeli peaceniks and their supporters in the Diaspora. It is good news, alas, for the settlers and their many supporters in Israel and in the Diaspora. They seem to prefer the present situation to peaceful alternatives.
To end on a positive note: Trump the deal maker may yet surprise us all. If he manages to make a deal with North Korea, everything is possible, even peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Time to pray and hope, and to reflect that it’s perhaps too early to dismiss Trump, after all.
Jerusalem 13.5.18 (Jerusalem Day). Dow Marmur