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The True Litmus Test for Peace

Posted by: admin
October 11, 2011 at 8:08 AM

The October 9, 2011, edition of the New York Times had two interesting articles. The first, by Ronan Bergman, described the behind-the-scenes machinations by which the United Nations approved partitioning Palestine under the British Mandate into a Jewish and Palestinian State on November 29, 1947, almost 64 years ago.


Egyptian Coptic demonstrators carry Christian crosses and chant anti- army slogans during a Copts demonstration that developed into clashes with army soldiers in Cairo on Oct. 9. The second was about demonstrations by Coptic Christians in Cairo against their persecution, which resulted in the deaths of over 20 individuals. This followed the burning of Coptic churches over the summer. Coptic Christians constitute about 10 percent of the population of Egypt or about seven million individuals.


So the Arab Spring is encountering significant issues with minorities and not just with Jews. But why after 64 years of UN recognition of a Jewish State would the Palestinian Authority not recognize Israel as a Jewish State? 


If this recognition is being used as a bargaining chip, then the Palestinians have no right to set their own pre-conditions before entering negotiations with the Israelis. If not a key factor, then we must consider how Arab countries treat their minorities, particularly Jews.


It has been 18 years since the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords. One of its hallmarks was the teaching of tolerance of Jews by the Palestinians and vice-versa. This has largely been breached by anti-Semitic canards in Palestinian textbooks and the omission of Israel in their maps. Unfortunately, hating Jews is part of the political culture of much of the Arab world.


For example, during Cairo’s historic Arab Spring, Lara Logan, the American journalist sexually molested in the middle of Tahrir Square, was called a Jew, even though she is not Jewish. The word “Jew” has become an accepted insult in the public square. Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Hadassa Ben-Itto, author of The Lie That Wouldn’t Die, wrote that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery, has been used by anti-Semitic political leaders, including Hitler, to prove that there is a world-wide Jewish conspiracy against the world.


The Protocols is everywhere, in every Arab book fair. It is in public discourse, in newspapers and even in TV soap operas,” she writes. A perennial best-seller, The Protocols has newer editions in Arabic almost every year accusing Jews of the latest atrocities.


Unfortunately, many have become true believers of the myth perpetrated in The Protocols. When Ben-Itto’s book was translated into Arabic, the translator and publisher, a Christian Arab and Muslim Arab who both graduated from Hebrew University, told the author that until they read her book, they did not know that The Protocols was a forgery.

This travesty was more recently highlighted in an October 3 article by Eric Justin in The Harvard Crimson. Recently returned from Jordan, the Jewish undergraduate heard countless arguments about politics. But they inevitably turned to “those Jews,” and conspiracy theories “wafted comfortably through a room like cigarette smoke.”

“After all, I was a demon, of sorts. Belief of my damning existence was everywhere, but I was definitely not supposed to actually be there. In Jordan, every day and nearly every facet of society was a reminder that I was dirty — the very embodiment of an ‘Other.’ A whole genre of anti-Semitic ‘history’ and literature mocked me in every bookshop, a whole field of anti-Semitic media from historical documentaries to music videos followed me on every television, and an interpretation of Islam that demonizes Judaism frequently bewildered me in conversations. I anticipated encountering anti-Semitism, but I expected it to be avoidable. I could not anticipate, nor could I have truly imagined, its systemic nature.”


Is it any wonder that according to the Pew Research Center, almost 80 percent of the population of Egypt and the Palestinian territory agrees with the statement that Palestinian rights can’t be taken care of if Israel exists.


Political leaders must prepare their publics for the sacrifices that must be made for genuine peace: What they tell their own people, rather than what they convey to the Western press, is the litmus test.


Israelis accepted the Gaza withdrawal and would have accepted the peace proposals offered by its previous two prime ministers, even if elements of them were unpopular. If they’re sincere and truly believe in peace, Palestinian leaders must overcome this culture of hatred among their people fueled by the omnipresent Protocols. Or, is this one of the reasons why accepting the Jewish State is such an anathema to them?


The Mufti, The Nazis, and Anti-Semitism in Today's WorldOur own Holocaust Council of MetroWest is sponsoring an exhibition at the Gaelen Gallery on the Aidekman Campus in Whippany on “The Mufti, The Nazis, and AntiSemitism in Today’s World.” On Thursday, October 27, at 7 p.m., the Council will sponsor a lecture on Nazi propaganda in the Arab world featuring Dr. Jeffrey Herf, a professor of History at the University of Maryland.


If you want the overall context as to why the Arab-Israeli conflict is so complicated, be sure to attend.

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