Provocative Words Undermine Mutual Trust

If there is ever to be real peace between Israel and the Palestinians, both sides will be obliged to make painful concessions and compromises with respect to a whole host of prickly issues. But to reach that point, the Israeli government and its Palestinian interlocutor will have to establish a measure of mutual trust, of which there is none or precious little today.

One of the reasons for its virtual absence is bound up in an obnoxious and revealing speech delivered recently by the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Chile, Imad Nabil Jadaa. Speaking to a “Conference for Peace in Palestine” in Santiago, he quoted from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — a notorious  antisemitic czarist forgery — to back up his ludicrous claim that Israel was created to ensure that Jews can manipulate and control “all the financial, economic and industrial apparatus of the entire world.”

If that was not insulting enough, Jadaa said, “We don’t recognize the existence of the Jewish people — there is no Jewish people.”

To its credit, the PA recalled Jadaa, while PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that Jadaa’s comments do not reflect official PA policy. Nonetheless, the damage was done, reinforcing the belief among some Israelis that the Palestinians cling to anti-Jewish myths and do not recognize Israel’s historically legitimate claim to statehood.

A procession of Palestinian leaders, from the Mufti of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat, have made similar remarks in the past. Though such declarations satisfy Palestinian rejectionists, they inflame Israeli public opinion, hardening the perception that Israel has no Palestinian negotiating partner. The prospect of peace thus recedes farther into the distance.

Nor are the chances of peace promoted when Israeli Arabs — the descendants of Palestinians who remained in Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war broke out — engage in antisemitism.

Earlier this month, in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, an Israeli Arab imam, Mohammad abd al-Ghani, lashed out at Jews in a vitriolic sermon while expressing support for Islamic State, the Sunni jihadist organization.

Claiming that Jews are behind the ills that afflict the Muslim world, he said, “Behind all the catastrophes, all the bloodshed, all the countries that have been invaded and their governments brought down, all the countries that have been burned down, along with their people, and all the blood that is shed in the streets … behind all these is an accursed Jew.”

For good measure, he branded Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, as a “Jewish dog.”

Such invective, born of hatred and ignorance and redolent of Nazi rhetoric, only sows mistrust between Jews and Muslims in Israel and engenders further suspicion of the Palestinians in the minds of Israeli Jews.

At a time when the peace process is bogged down and in dire need of resuscitation, verbal provocations such as these only add fuel to the fire.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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