Abbas: Stop the Gratuitous Slander

If the whole thing wasn’t so incredibly tragic, it might be humorous.  In Syria, over 100,000 people have died over the last two years in a civil war that experienced observers were sure would be over in a few months. There is yet no end in sight. Elsewhere, some otherwise intelligent people celebrated the arrival of democracy in Egypt following an election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power. The death toll from the breakout of democracy there is now over 1,000 with 25 Egyptian policeman cruelly murdered just today in a terrorist attack. The U.S. administration is stymied; its Middle-East foreign policy is disintegrating like wet tissue.  Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, the citizens of Libya are still living under the gun and the future of the Hussein regime in Jordan (yes, a regime, not a true parliamentary democracy) is sketchy; its stability depending largely on what happens to the countries around it.

And what about Israel, the U.S.’s only stable, democratic and dependable ally in the region?  Israel has recently been pressured by the Obama Administration, with Secretary of State John Kerry serving as point man, into tacitly accepting a number of far-reaching and significant concessions as a means of getting the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.  The first, the release of Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands, was made just to get the talks going.  What lies ahead for Israel, what further “painful concessions” over land, the uprooting of communities, the displacement of entire families and communities, cemeteries, commercial centers, industrial areas, military bases, etc. lay in store?   How far back does Israel have to bend to prove its commitment to the peace process?

And yet, I open today’s newspaper to see that the same people with whom Israel is now negotiating are accusing her of “war crimes, anti-human, racist acts and violations of international laws.”  And this charge of “war crimes” refers to what exactly?  Perhaps it refers to the hundreds of Syrian civilians that have fled to Israel and found shelter, food and medical aid?  Or maybe it refers to the thousands of non-Israeli citizen Palestinians who receive medical treatment in Israel on a daily basis.  Or maybe these war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel refer to the hundreds of Palestinians enrolled in Israel’s institutions of higher education?  Or perhaps Palestinian leaders have in mind the 80,000 Palestinians who are employed by Jews throughout the state, not counting those working in Judea and in Samaria?

Apparently these are not the Israeli war crimes to which they refer.  They refer to Israel’s recent announcement of plans to build new housing units in settlements and in east Jerusalem neighborhoods that realists recognize will never be turned over to the Palestinian Authority under any future peace arrangements.  Truly a “war crime.”

Said the Palestinian spokesman, “The PLO Executive Committee (under the chairmanship of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) considers the unprecedented settler decisions which were announced by the occupation government as conclusive proof that Israel’s first and last option remains expansionism, Judaization and the theft of Palestinian land, and not ending the occupation and implementing the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders.”

Such rhetoric may be expected from the Palestinian side.  This we know from two decades of trying to do business with these people.  However, their histrionics, believe it or not, influence various third parties, not the least of whom are the Americans and Europeans.   I am certain that the concessions we have made and will be making are in no small part due to the result of more recent Palestinian political tantrums.

However, apart from whatever practical influence such exaggerated language has on the political process, seeing it in print insults me.   Applying such phrases as “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” to the construction of housing units abuses and devalues language.   It reminds me of Palestinians referring to the casualties following Israel’s incursion into the terrorist’s lair of Jenin during the height of the Second Intifada as a “Holocaust.”  Dumb, perhaps, but maybe not so.  How many news feeds picked up on this utterly outlandish language and made sure to reference it in broadcasts and in print?

What is currently taking place in some of the Arab countries that border on Israel are surely “war crimes.”   Syria’s confirmed use of chemical weapons is one example.  The shooting in cold blood in recent days of some 500 of Egypt’s pro-Morsi citizens by police and army for protesting in Cairo’s streets is another.  Israel building homes, even on disputed land, is not.

Mutual trust is crucial for any type of negotiations.   Resorting to such inappropriate and inflammatory language is a clear indication that the Palestinian leadership prefers to incite rather than make progress.

You guys ever want to get to peace?  Start by cutting out the gratuitous slander.

About the Author
Ardie Geldman is a fundraiser and philanthropic consultant who also writes about Israel and diaspora Jewish issues. He lives in Efrat.