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John Kerry’s plan: still missing a peace

The US Secretary of State is reportedly plugging a rehash of the Saudi plan, which fails the test of ensuring Israel's safety

Press reports hint that Secretary of State John Kerry is in Israel with a rewarmed version of the Saudi peace plan. His visit started at Yad Vashem, where, perhaps, he had the opportunity to ponder the catastrophic effects of the kind of incitement now pandemic in the entire Islamic world, including Saudi Arabia. The Holocaust, as we all should know, began with words.

Until proven otherwise, The Saudi Plan – or ultimatum – offers 100 years of dhimmitude, the term for the protected but inferior and vulnerable status of non-Moslem religious and ethnic groupings in Islamic society. It purports to offer normal diplomatic and political relations between Israel and the entire Islamic world if Israel goes back to its 1948 borders and accepts the principle of repatriation of the Palestinian refugees. If Israel does not accept these terms, the subtext is quite clear: The Islamic world retains the option of remaining hostile to our existence.

This subtext rejects a self-evident principle: that Israel’s existence and security are, as Barack Obama has declared, sacrosanct. That principle derives from the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1967, and not any decision by our neighbors. Israel is the national home of a first nation returning to its native land. Its existence and security are not negotiable At best, the overseer of the Saudi Peace Plan would be Erdogan of Turkey, whose Ottomania frames us as one more dhimmi among subordinated ex-dhimmis.

To its credit, the Saudi plan when put forth, implicitly recognized that the conflict is not between Israel and the Palestinians, but the entire Islamic world. In this respect it appears to have come a long way since the Three No’s of the Arab League’s Khartoum summit in 1968: No recognition, no negotiation, no peace. Thirty-four years went by between Khartoum and 2002, when the document was first prepared, and another six to the presentation of the plan in full to the Israeli public in 2008-2009, and now, four more years before it has re-appeared, repackaged as a US draft plan. During this time, much blood has been shed in eight wars.

Israelis have good reason to be skeptical about peace plans – but at the same time, to learn from the lessons of past failures and successes and go forward. While there is a cold peace with Egypt – now so fragile – and Jordan, more Israelis have been killed in the 15 years following the Oslo Accords than in the two previous decades of undeclared wars. Therefore the burden of proof is on those who deny that the Saudi plan offers something between dhimmitude at best and a staged dismantling of Israel as the Jewish national home – and turning a blind eye to genocidal terror and incitement to genocidal terror.

Here are the reasons for this conclusion:

The plan contains no commitment to ending state sponsored incitement and hate language. The flag of Iran, now more powerful than any of the Arab countries, is one of 29 framing the PA announcement. But Iran’s promotion of genocidal motifs straight out of Mein Kampf, along with its terror directed at world Jewry and Israel, goes back to 1979, 35 years, or almost threefold the life span of the Nazi regime, a sign of intergenerational perpetuation. Even though there is no love lost between the Saudis and the Iranians, the Saudi plan ignores the existential dangers posed by Iran’s moving toward nuclear capacity, its support of terror organizations committed to Israel’s destruction and its ever increasing bullying of its neighbors

Yet Iran, with its incitement and hate language, is merely one of several epicenters for state sanctioned, sponsored and supported anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism throughout the Arab and Islamic world. Since 2002, when the plan was first published, the Arab regimes, notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt, seem neither able nor willing to curb this toxic incitement in their media, mosques, school texts and Internet – a precondition for preparing their publics for a new era of mutual respect, tolerance and dignity. Saudi Arabia itself is a major producer of such vicious incitement and hate language in its mosques, political rhetoric, and official media. Because such incitement and hate language ensures the intergenerational transmission of hate, it means that diplomatic and political agreements the regimes will sign will not be sustainable.

Since 2002, the Arab League’s and League of Islamic Countries’ message to Israel refers to “normal relations between states.” But the messages to its own populations are still permeated with hate and incitement. None of the Arab states have banned distribution of Mein Kampf and they continue to spread propaganda based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They also continue to use UN diplomatic forums for delegitimizing Israel. Arab diplomats still engage in crude public attempts at delegitimization, such as at the Annapolis “peace summit,” where they refused to enter through the same door with Israeli diplomats. Lawfare and wordfare, not gunfare, are now the methods for promoting agendas explicitly deriving from Mein Kampf.

Such gestures, if anything, delegitimize their practitioners. State sanctioned incitement has been repackaged as anti-Zionism. Even the newly “moderate” West Bank PA still engages in varieties of soft incitement, such as omitting Israel from its maps and referring to tolerance in terms of the Islamic-Christian tradition, thus implicitly rendering Israel Judenrein.

The plan says nothing about non-state actors, notably Hezbollah – for all practical purposes, an agent of Iran – and Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, and what they will do, no matter what the leaders of Arab countries decide to sign on.

The plan refers to rights to repatriation of the descendants of approximately 600,000 Palestinian refugees from 1949, but ignores the rights of some 870,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands and their descendants. Nor is there any reference to the effect of Arab pressures on the British Mandate in bringing about the White Paper, which was, for all practical purposes, a death sentence for millions of Jews caught in Hitler’s Europe. The harsh truth is that neither Palestinian nor Jewish survivors or descendants can return to the homes of their parents.

The appalling treatment of religious minorities by many Arab regimes is another reason for skepticism concerning the Saudi plan. Coptic and Assyrian Christians, Baha’is, Armenians, Yazdis and other minority religious group have experienced persecution, expulsions and genocidal mass atrocities in many of the 29 countries, notably Egypt, Iraq, Sudan and Iran. In the PA itself, since the Oslo Accords, the Christian population is rapidly diminishing. Here would be the elements of an Israeli answer to the billion or so people in the Arab and Islamic world.

The first requirement of any peace plan has to be respect for life and human dignity of all minorities in the region. This means respecting the sacrosanct status of Israel’s existence and security, and in parallel, stopping the persecution, overt and covert, of religious minorities and eliminating incitement and hate language in school texts, mosques and media. It means fostering more open and direct contacts based on respect for life, and promoting such contacts in matters which promote and protect life, not death: water technology, agriculture, renewable energy, public health and medicine.

Secretary Kerry, your first mission is to work to eradicate the state sponsored incitement and hate language pandemic in the Islamic world. Israelis expect respect for human life and dignity, not dhimmitude.

About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention