Jews have rights too
Until Palestinians recognize this, we will never have peace.
The recent coordinated terrorist attacks on Israel and the latest poll of Palestinian public opinion offer insight into why Middle East peace remains so elusive: The Palestinian public is simply unwilling to recognize the human rights of Jews.
Consider Palestinians’ reactions to the grisly coordinated attacks against Israel last Thursday. Terrorists assaulted travelers and soldiers in the South with gunfire, mortars, anti-tank missiles and two suicide bombers. Eight civilians – including two kindergarten teachers and their husbands who were going to vacation in Eilat – and two soldiers were murdered; 30 were wounded. A four-year-old and a sevenyear- old child were among those hurt.
Officials from Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, denied direct responsibility, but praised the coordinated attack. Hamas websites and some websites associated with Fatah, the political group that governs the West Bank, celebrated the assault.
During the weekend, over 70 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza into the South. One rocket wounded seven people in an Ashdod industrial park. Another struck the courtyard of a yeshiva in the city, wounding 10 people and leaving two in serious condition. The Palestinian Authority has not yet condemned the assaults. If it does, it will likely simply blame Israel for responding to the attacks.
Given these developments, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to circumvent negotiations with Israel and instead request that the UN recognize a Palestinian state is unrealistic, inappropriate and symptomatic. Before being recognized as a state, the Palestinian leaders must take on the responsibilities of statehood by enforcing law and order and controlling terrorism, and recognize that Jews have rights, too, such as the right to live and to negotiate about their state’s borders and security needs.
The most recent polls of Palestinian public opinion reveal that Palestinians in general do not recognize those rights. The poll, conducted by respected research organizations Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion on behalf of the Israel Project, reveals that: • Over two-thirds of Palestinians reject the two-state solution, favoring instead a temporary two-state arrangement that gradually becomes a single Palestinian state.
• Over 73 percent approve the Muslim hadith that says “judgment day will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”
• About 80% agree that Muslims should engage in jihad to eradicate Israel.
• Over 50% percent support their schools teaching children songs and chants that promote hatred of Jews.
THESE POLLS should have received widespread attention. Like the ongoing terrorism, they are clear evidence of the core obstacle to peace: Palestinians at large reject Jewish rights. Yet these polls are virtually ignored.
One reason may be that policy-makers in the US, Europe and Israel don’t want to acknowledge that it is they, not the Palestinians, who support a two-state compromise.
They have told the Palestinians what they should want, and turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions and beliefs that contradict their own vision of a peaceful solution.
Another reason may be that many opinion- makers have begun to accept the Palestinian narrative that blames Israel alone for the conflict, denies that Jews are a nationality with historical rights to the land, and believes that the reestablishment of Israel was itself an injustice to Arabs. Many of them endlessly champion Palestinian rights and simultaneously denounce Israel’s defensive actions as violations of those rights, in effect denying Israel the right to protect its citizens. Paradoxically many discussions about creating the first Palestinian Arab state in history have morphed into assaults on the legitimacy of the thriving Jewish state.
This narrative is frankly anti-Semitic. It denies Jews essential rights granted to other peoples – to define themselves as a nation and to have self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Like all human beings, Israeli Jews are also entitled to live in peace, freedom and dignity.
The denial of Jewish history is based on the kinds of distortions that fueled traditional anti-Semitism. The Jewish people has been a nation for over 3,000 years.
Given our unique language, culture, religion, history, and unbroken ties to our homeland, the claim to nationhood is as strong as, if not stronger than, that of any other nation in the world.
The Jews are the only people who ever had national independence in this land.
Much of Judaism is rooted in the land, so efforts to disconnect Israel and Judaism are an assault on the religion itself.
In contrast, Palestinian Arab nationalism emerged only in response to the 20th-century Jewish revival. Arabs have lived in the region for centuries, but there has never been a Palestinian Arab state or unique Palestinian Arab nationality. While Palestinian Arabs certainly have had a right to create their own national movement, it is less than 100 years old. The term “occupied Palestinian land” often used by Palestinian activists is a political statement, not a fact. It represents the aspirations of a new people, but denies the rights of an ancient people.
Unfortunately this latest poll demonstrates that Palestinians at large still reject compromise and the Jewish people’s basic rights. It also indicates that official anti-Israel indoctrination and fundamentalist religious anti- Semitism pervade Palestinian society.
Israel has repeatedly accepted and offered compromises that entail yielding parts of the Jews’ ancestral homeland in order to establish a Palestinian state. Today, Israel remains committed to a negotiated settlement that will fulfill the aspirations of both peoples. Peacemakers need to support these efforts, acknowledge the fundamental obstacles to peace, and firmly communicate to the Palestinians that only through compromise and acceptance of the basic rights of all people, including the rights of the Jews, will peace ever be realized.
Roz Rothstein is a co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, and Roberta Seid, PhD, is the SWU research-education director.