OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Symbols (and symbolism) reveal a bitter Mideast truth

It’s more than about a map. Entire generations of Palestinian-Arab children have been raised on an image with a powerful message: All of Palestine belongs to the Arabs. None of it belongs to the Jews.

Palestinian Authority textbooks. Credit: Matzav.com.
Palestinian Authority textbooks. Credit: Matzav.com.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

Partners for Progressive Israel, a left-of-center group that is part of the American Zionist Movement, is in the midst of a 12-session “digital excursion to Israel and Palestine.” Session No. 3, which was held this past week, consisted of virtual meetings with officials of the Palestinian Authority.

The Partners’ official program booklet, describing the contents of the sessions, includes a photo or illustration for each one. For the session with the P.A. meetings, the booklet reprinted the official logo of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the parent body of the P.A. The emblem features a map of all of Israel, emblazoned with the words “Palestine From the River to the Sea.”

Why does that matter?

Here’s why. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Israeli left-wing activists started pushing the idea called “the two-state solution.” The premise is that Israel would withdraw to the nine-mile-wide 1949 armistice lines, or “Auschwitz lines” in the memorable words of the diplomat Abba Eban, and a sovereign state of “Palestine” would be established in the vacated areas. The argument is that if the Palestinian Arabs are given their own state in those territories, then they will live in peace with Israel.

The major obstacle to the proposal is that Palestinian-Arab spokesman keeps saying that they will not be satisfied with a state in the territories, but will continue to regard all of Israel as “occupied Palestine” and will fight to “liberate” Palestine.

That’s what makes it so hard to convince a majority of Israelis to support creating a Palestinian state. Most Israelis see the evidence before their eyes, and they don’t believe that the Palestinian Arabs will live in peace. They see the bombings and the shootings—the way Palestinian society glorifies the bombers and the shooters. They hear the speeches calling for jihad and blood. Their blood.

And they see the maps.

By now, the Israeli news media has widely publicized images of the map that appears on the PLO’s letterhead, on the walls in P.A. offices and, most of all, in textbooks in P.A. schools. A map that shows all of Israel as “occupied Palestine.”

Entire generations of Palestinian Arab children have been raised on that image with its powerful message: All of Palestine belongs to the Arabs. None of it belongs to the Jews. A “two-state solution” is only a prelude to the final goal of destroying Israel altogether.

In the old days, Palestinian spokesmen were more blunt, and could not disguise their true feelings and goals. But over the years—with much coaching by Jewish “peace” activists and State Department officials—PLO and P.A. officials have gradually fine-tuned their message, emphasizing words that sound pleasant in English while never actually forsaking the goal of eliminating Israel. It’s not hard to do that when you reporters feed them softball questions that are intended to make the Palestinian officials look as moderate and reasonable as possible.

That’s why when President Barack Obama visited the P.A.-ruled city of Bethlehem in 2013, P.A. officials rushed to cart away a huge stone sculpture on the president’s route, which featured a map with all of Israel labeled “Palestine.” And that’s why when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited Gaza in 2016, officials at the Al-Zeitoun School quickly covered up a large Israel-as-“Palestine” map before he arrived.

They were savvy enough to know such images make a bad impression in the West. When the cameras departed, of course, the monument was put back up and the map uncovered.

Which brings me back to Partners for Progressive Israel and its decision to print the PLO emblem with the no-Israel map. I am not saying that nobody should print that image. True, it’s very offensive. But it’s also very revealing. What I am saying is that I wish the Partners for Progressive Israel would pause to look at the emblem that they have printed and consider its meaning.

Next to the emblem, in the text describing the session, the Partners write: “We will visit with some members of the current P.A. leadership in Ramallah, advocates for peace with Israel based on two viable sovereign states.” That’s right, “two sovereign states.” That’s the text that is directly adjacent to the map showing one sovereign state.

The Partners continue: “We will also meet with some of the PLO youth who will share how they envision the future of Palestine.”

Just glance at the image to the left, people! There you can see how they envision the future of Palestine. They’re saying it, loud and clear, in that map which is staring you straight in the face. It’s time for you to stop partnering with illusions and start partnering with reality.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is now available on Kindle.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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