by Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman
PA president needs to explain his duplicitous behavior
n conjunction with his appearance at the U.N. General Assembly and meeting with President Obama, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is launching a charm offensive in the American media, on Capitol Hill - where the Palestinian Authority (PA) and support groups have netted nearly $2 billion since 2007 - and among American Jews, with whom he has scheduled two dinners.
At our most important annual dinner, the Passover Seder, we Jews ask four questions. Not having made Mr. Abbas' A list, we share here four questions we would ask the Palestinian president:
1. Mr. President, you sure have a funny way of courting Israelis. Why do you refuse to recognize your neighbor as a Jewish state? The Jerusalem Post recently referenced your interview in the East Jerusalem newspaper Al-Quds. You repeatedly told the interviewer: no compromises on settlements, refugees, Jerusalem or anything; nothing but a return by Israel to its 1967 borders. When asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's insistence that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state, you replied, "Israel can call itself whatever it wants. We don't have to recognize those definitions." Yet, President Abbas, your Palestinian National Charter insists that a Palestinian state will be a Muslim state.
Coupled with the demand that Israel accept "the right of return" of millions of Palestinians who never set foot in Israel, why should Israelis - left, center and right - hold out any hope for peace?
2. Why the continued denial of the 3,500-year Jewish narrative in the Holy Land? Why does the Palestinian Authority continue to teach its children that Jews don't have any historic connection to the Holy Land? In 2002, the independent Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information was commissioned by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to review the PA's textbooks. A 2004 supplement of the report concluded that fourth-grade and ninth-grade Palestinian textbooks were guilty of "appropriating" sites, areas, localities, geographic regions, etc. inside the territory of the State of Israel" to make it appear that "The Palestinian Authority did not in fact recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. ... The Jewish connection to the region, in general, and the Holy Land, in particular, is virtually missing." Hamas aside, how can your PA be entrusted to safeguard the holy sites of others when the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus has been virtually destroyed twice while under PA control and while Palestinian political, media and religious leaders of all stripes deny that Solomon's Temple was even located in Jerusalem?
3. When will you use the power of your office to put an end to the denial and inversion of the Nazi Holocaust? Years ago, after the Simon Wiesenthal Center exposed your doctoral paper, "The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism," you told an Israeli newspaper that you've backed away from its central thesis, which describes Nazi persecution of the Jews as a "Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed." But apparently no one got the memo, evidenced most recently by Ghazi Hussein, former Palestine Liberation Organization ambassador to Austria, who charges in Al-Ba'th, the daily newspaper of the Syrian ruling party, that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis, exaggerated the persecution suffered by European Jews, inflated the number of victims in order to blackmail the West and justify crimes against the Palestinians, and that "Since its establishment, Israel has been perpetrating against our Palestinian Arab people [crimes] far worse than those allegedly committed by Nazi Germany. ... This is perfectly clear from the Holocaust perpetrated by Israel in Gaza in 2008-2009, from the oppressive siege, [on] the [Gaza] Strip ... from the Judaization of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi [the Cave of the Patriarchs] in Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabbah mosque [Rachel's Tomb] in Bethlehem, from the construction of 62 synagogues, including the Hurva Synagogue, around the al-Aqsa mosque in order to Judaize it and build over its ruins the false [Jewish] temple... ." (Translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.)
4. Why do you and your team say one thing in English while simultaneously contradicting it in Arabic? Take the speech of your ambassador to Lebanon, who, on the eve of your U.S. arrival, told an audience - including many Palestinians - that peace is "not a goal." He described the "peace talks" as part of a broader process to isolate Israel, "threaten its legitimacy" and present it as a "rebellious, racist state."
Will the real Palestinian Authority please stand up?
We can only hope that current talks will somehow rekindle the path toward a peaceful two-state solution. But may we respectfully suggest that next year, Mr. Abbas, you save the airfare, hotel and catering bills and skip the black-tie New York dinners. Instead, put out some humus and pita bread and start talking straight with Israelis from both sides of the 1967 Green Line. In the end, it is your children and theirs - not Americans' - who will have to live or die with the consequences of your decisions.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and historian Harold Brackman is a consultant to the center.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.