Searching for a Palestinian Moderate

On the surface, the Palestinian Authority appears moderate compared to Hamas. However, its objectives are identical.

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We are repeatedly told that Palestinian Authority (expired-term) President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA are our genuine peace partners and that we are unlikely to find more moderate Palestinians with whom to negotiate. Yet Abbas obtained his “Ph.D.” justifying Holocaust denial, and that just scratches the surface of his record:

• He refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, insisting that the “occupation” dates back to 1948, and even denies any Jewish link with the Holy Land.

• He sanctifies mass murderers of Israeli women and children by bestowing honor on the killers and granting state pensions to their families.

• He rules over an authority in which the controlled media, mosques and state educational system incite hatred against Jews and deny Israel’s right to exist.

• He endorses the execution of any Palestinian who sells land to a Jew.

• He assures his people that any future Palestinian state will be entirely cleansed of Jews.

• He is committed to reuniting with the genocidal Islamic Hamas, the charter of which calls for the murder of all Jews and the elimination of Israel.

Besides refusing to negotiate with Israel, Abbas effectively rejected offers made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to cede 95 percent of the territories conquered in response to Jordan’s offensive against Israel. Indeed, the more Israelis concede, the more Abbas demands. Today he has escalated the issue of so-called Arab right of return of refugees to Palestine as a non-negotiable demand, despite realizing that this would bring an end to Jewish sovereignty, which no Israeli government could contemplate.

On the surface, the Palestinian Authority appears moderate compared to Hamas. However, its objectives are identical. Abbas speaks with a forked tongue and is vague about his long-term goals when he addresses non-Arab audiences, whereas Hamas is completely honest and boasts that it will never negotiate and will continue to fight until the Jewish state is destroyed.

Some Palestinian Authority leaders are becoming less inhibited. Only a few weeks ago, a prominent Fatah leader explicitly proclaimed that a Palestinian state would merely represent the first steppingstone toward the ultimate objective of eliminating the Jewish state. Unfortunately, all opinion polls demonstrate that the Palestinian masses have been brainwashed and endorse these views.

Professor Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Birzeit University, was hailed by many naive Israelis as a Palestinian model of moderation. Dr. Yossi Beilin referred to him as a living testimony to the fact that Oslo was not a failure.

Nearly 10 years ago I challenged the bona fides of Nusseibeh, pointing out that he was appointed by, reported to, and accepted instructions from Yasser Arafat. I observed that political dissidents under Arafat’s authority had extraordinarily limited lifespans and suggested that Nusseibeh’s role was to provide the Palestinian Authority with a moderate face to the Western world. His amiable and soothing approach was obviously designed to revive Israel’s fond memories of the “irreversible peace process” and Arafat’s cynical “peace of the brave.”

Whereas Nusseibeh did, in fact, call for an end to violence and condemned boycotts, he was also recorded in a Palestinian television program expressing sympathy and praising the militant mother of a suicide bomber whom he referred to as “a soldier dying in battle.” He always took care not to pass judgment on suicide bombers, merely questioning the benefits of the strategy rather than its morality.

He was often bracketed with Arafat’s Jerusalem representative, the late Faisal Husseini, who was also considered a “moderate” throughout most of his life. Yet following his death, Husseini was quoted in an Egyptian newspaper interview as having said, “We must distinguish our strategies and long-term goals from the political phased goals which we are compelled to accept due to international pressures.” The “ultimate goal is the liberation of all historic Palestine … Oslo has to be viewed as a Trojan horse.”

In a lengthy article recently published on the Al-Jazeera website, Nusseibeh set aside his cloak of moderation and, like Faisal Hussein, demonstrated that despite the sophisticated chatter, he is no more moderate than any of his Palestinian counterparts. His article is a passionate opposition to the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The arguments he employs, arguing that Jews should be the only people denied the right to statehood, testify to the fact that his moderation is a sham. He warns that if Israel is recognized as a Jewish state, it would become an “apartheid” entity. Not only would Israel's Arabs be stripped of their citizenship and other rights, but they would also be killed as the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites were by the Israelites according to the Bible.

He conveniently ignores that Israel as a Jewish state was the rationale for its creation by the United Nations in 1947. He also overlooks the inconsistency that the new Palestinian entity would be governed by Sharia law and cleansed of any Jews, and that there is no Arab country that remotely extends similar rights to minorities comparable to Israel. Furthermore, he has the gall to condemn Jewish intolerance toward other faiths in Jerusalem, disregarding the fact that it was only when Jerusalem came under Jewish sovereignty in 1967 that freedom of religious association and worship were extended for the first time to all religions—in dramatic contrast to the manner in which the Jordanians ruled the city.

Adopting the Abbas U.N. approach, Nusseibeh also reneged on his previous call to Palestinians to cease promoting the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. He actually insisted—hold your breath—that seven million diaspora Palestinians are entitled to repatriation or compensation.

Nusseibeh’s turnaround reaffirms that there is not a single Palestinian leader who could be described as a moderate and who would be willing to support a negotiated settlement to achieve genuine peace deal with the Jewish state.

And in this insane Alice in Wonderland global environment, we are being told to deal with these bigots as though they are genuine peace partners.

The reality is that appeasing these hypocrites, far from bringing us closer to peace, merely emboldens the radicals who confront us with ever-escalating demands that few of the original architects of Oslo—certainly not Yitzhak Rabin—would ever have conceded. To the world and those calling on us to continue providing unilateral concessions—which without exception weakened our position and encouraged our adversaries—I issue one challenge: Please identify one single Palestinian leader or intellectual who genuinely advocated moderation and was not assassinated.

Isi Leibler is the former head of the Australian Jewish community and a former senior official at the World Jewish Congress. A veteran international leader with a distinguished record of contributions to the cause of human rights, he lives in Jerusalem and is a regular columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with permission from Isi Leibler.

Posted on November 21, 2011 and filed under Israel.