By Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, president
of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on
April 29, 2004.
Consider what’s required to wear the label: “Pro-Palestinian.”
To start, you have to appear non-judgmental about innocent Palestinian children
being raised to become human bombs.
You must refer to those who send such children on suicide/mass murder
missions as “political leaders” or, even better, as “spiritual leaders.” Call them
militants if you must, but never terrorists.
To be thought of as pro-Palestinian, you must cite the plight of the Palestinian
refugees as a key motivation for violence, ignoring the fact that there would
have been no refugees had Israel’s Arab neighbors not launched a war to
destroy the tiny Jewish state immediately upon its birth.
Indeed, Arabs who chose to stay in Israel are today Israeli citizens, as
are their children, enjoying more freedoms than do the citizens of neighboring
Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia or even Jordan. Disregard all this if you want to be
seen as someone who cares about Palestinians.
Supporters of Palestinians must point to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the
West Bank as another root cause of violence. Avoid mentioning that it was a
second Arab war against Israel that led to the seizure of those territories which,
at that time, were not called Palestinian territories. Gaza was administered by
Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan and no one demanded that they be turned
them over to Palestinian sovereignty.
The Israelis captured the Sinai as well. That territory, several times larger than
all of Israel, was returned to Egypt in exchange for a piece of paper promising
peace. Forget these awkward details.
To burnish your pro-Palestinian credentials, even as you rail against the Israeli
occupation, say nothing positive about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to
end that occupation entirely in Gaza and to withdraw Israeli troops and
settlements from 85 percent of the West Bank. In Orwellian fashion, insist that
Mr. Sharon is giving up those lands as part of a “land grab.”
While it is true that at Camp David in 2000, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak offered about 95% of the West Bank and Gaza, Yassir Arafat turned that
offer down and initiated several years of terrorist attacks.
Even so, Mr. Sharon has said he’s willing to consider further withdrawal,
to discuss permanent borders, though he won’t negotiate with those
dispatching terrorists. Dismiss all that as irrelevant — if you want to be
described as someone who sympathizes with the Palestinians.
Also, continue to insist that Israelis eventually must agree to a “right to return”
– that they must let millions of Palestinians settle not just in an independent
Palestinian state next to Israel but in Israel itself.
Promote this idea even if you’re savvy enough to know it can never happen –
just as Hindus can never re-settle in what is today Muslim Pakistan, just as
Greek Christians can never re-settle in what is today Muslim Turkey, just as the
million Jews forced to flee from Arab countries after World War II can never
return to what were, for centuries, their homes.
In fact, Israelis with roots in Arab countries today comprise about half of
Israel’s population. They may understand better than anyone else that a
Palestinian “right to return” would mean the end of Israel as a homeland for the
Jewish people, that Jews would become a minority in what would no longer be
the world’s only predominately Jewish state.
And that’s a frightening thought because, sadly, few minorities living in
the 22 Arab countries and the more than 50 predominately Muslim nations
enjoy anything approaching freedom and equality. Such freedom and equality
may be achieved in Iraq in the years ahead — though not if the dictators of
Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia can help it, and not if the Palestinian “political and
spiritual leaders” who supported Saddam Hussein and who now oppose the
American “occupation” have anything to do with it.
Nor should Friends of Palestine plan for the opportunities that the Israeli
withdrawals will present. Don’t even think about the Israeli homes that will be
turned over to Palestinian families, the hotels that could be built along the
Mediterranean. Forget about foreign investors, new hospitals and schools. And
certainly don’t talk about cooperation with Israel.
On the contrary, shrug when Hamas terrorists bomb the checkpoints
through which Gazans pass on their way to work in Israeli factories. But should
the Israelis respond by closing those checkpoints, complain vehemently that the
Israelis are cutting off the livelihood of Palestinian workers.
The United Nations is very pro-Palestinian. That’s why UN experts are not hard
at work drafting a plan to give Palestinians more say over who governs them.
Arafat was elected Palestinian leader – he ran exactly one time in 35 years and
in that election he was opposed by a woman whose name few can recall and
who hadn’t a ghost of a chance. Surely, that’s as much democracy as any
reasonable person could desire for Palestinians.
Perhaps someday people will look back in astonishment on all this. Perhaps
someday the term pro-Palestinian will be redefined to include those who would
urge Palestinians to seek compromise and peaceful co-existence with their
neighbors, build a real economy, and discourage their children from suicide,
murder and mutilation.
Right now, however, these are wildly radical notions.