Joel R. Schwartzman

A Response to the Palestinian Narrative

For far too long, the world press has let the voices of the Palestinian narrative go unchallenged.  Most Americans see the holes in the Palestinian arguments and understand where the responsibility for the Palestinian predicament lies.  It lies squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinians themselves.

For over 70 years, the Palestinians have been claiming victim-hood for themselves.  It is a sad and tragic truth that were Palestinian leadership under Asir Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and any number of others to have been more interested in creating a state for their people than in lining their own pockets with the billions of dollars and euros that the U.S. and Europe have donated to that effort, the Palestinians and Israelis might have long since been living in peace for all these decades.  Instead, time after time, the Palestinians turned down offers of land-for-peace in the hope that eventually they would achieve their dream of having the land “between the river (Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean)” entirely to themselves, free of Jews whom they would either exile or annihilate.   Why do I say this?  Because there isn’t a single Jew living under the Palestinian Authority or in Gaza which Israel evacuated back in 2005.  Where is that will to co-existence expressed anywhere in Palestinian writings?  Is it to found in Hamas’ charter or in Abbas’ “Pay-for-Slay” policy?  Look for it.  You won’t find it because there is no Palestinian leader who is expressly interested in peace with Israel.

What did Israel get in return for their land-for-peace offer by removing themselves from Gaza?  Did the PA or Hamas even attempt to develop the Gaza Strip into the Riviera of the Med that it could have been and still could be?  No.  Did they repair or build new infrastructure?  Did they invest in hydroponics like Israeli farmers had?  Did they even put in proper sewage systems so that their human waste didn’t foul the Mediterranean coastline?  No.  They turned Gaza into a hostile entity from which thousands and thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired into Israel. But their stated dream repeated by their supporters in American streets is “from the river to the sea.”  We Jews and the majority of Americans understand what that really means.

As for the latest war between Israel and Hamas, those who truly understand the facts of warfare and aren’t sucked into the numbers game that Hamas has played in the media realize that never before has an army or air force taken such pains to avoid civilian casualties as Israel.  Compared with any other force, the Israelis took human life more, not less, into account.  Square this with civilian casualty numbers by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan or Iraq.  Then also understand that some of the deaths of what Hamas claimed were faked and others Hamas caused itself by firing errant rockets into their own territory, killing their own children but then blaming Israel.  One would think that after several of these wars, the media would wake up as to just how Hamas operates, using human shields and then crying over deaths for which they themselves are responsible.

Let the Palestinians understand that Israel isn’t going anywhere and that the longer they obfuscate and stall, the less leverage they will have in creating a state of their own. Then maybe there will be hope for a two-state solution.

Until Hamas fired its 4300 projectiles into Israel, many ties had been created between individual Palestinians and Israelis.  These were becoming harbingers of a different future.  Perhaps, the media ought to have taken those into account and written some astute pieces about those, but, instead, it has chosen to concentrate more on the divisions than the possibilities.  The Abraham Accords put the lie to the idea that peace in the Middle East depends on there being a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Given all that has happened between the Gulf states of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Israel and even Saudi Arabia in such a short time, the future of a peaceful and fruitful Arab-Jewish world looks to be brightening and infinitely more hopeful.  Would that the Palestinians put aside their aspirations of wiping out all Israeli Jews and set about changing their leadership, cease teaching their children Jew hatred and create the structures necessary for a state of their own in place of the kleptocracy under which they have been living for decades on.

There are pathways to peace.  One would hope that with the changes that are taking place in the government of Israel that Palestinian leaders would take more interest in the needs and aspirations of their people.  But, if the doors to fruitful negotiations remained locked because of intransigence and hate, then the status quo will continue.  This brings no joy to Israelis.  They would sooner extend their hands in peace and work through the differences; but there must be a partner in this process, a partner less interested in claiming victimhood and more intent on bringing a hopeful future to its people.

About the Author
After twenty-three years of military service, Rabbi Schwartzman retired at the rank of Colonel in September 1998. From July 1999 to July 2000, Rabbi Schwartzman was Associate Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Denver, Colorado. For a decade thereafter he served as the Rabbi of both Congregation B’nai Chaim in Morrison, Colorado, and the Synagogue of the Summit in Summit County, Colorado.