In Plain Language: Do the Palestinians deserve a state?
09/15/2011 15:12 By STEWART WEISS
Photo by: Reuters
In my estimation, there are three primary considerations before us:
Will this state be free and viable?
Pundits like to refer to the Palestinians as “the Jews of the Arab world,” but cute slogans aside, there isn’t a whole lot of similarity between us.
The Jewish people faced staggering challenges in the early years of building this country. Our ranks had been decimated by the Holocaust, we were surrounded by hostile neighbors, and oddsmakers gave us little if any chance of carving out a new republic in the arid sands of the Middle East.
Yet we refused to be deterred by the prophets of doom. We put our nose to the proverbial grindstone, worked our collective backsides off and slowly but surely made our little piece of the desert bloom. We worked the fields while guarding against Arab marauders, cleared the swamps and reclaimed the land by working 12-hour days in intolerable conditions. We welcomed millions of our brethren into our midst, willing to share what little we had with them. We were happy to have help from abroad, when it was offered, but we pretty much did it all by ourselves. In a land virtually devoid of natural resources – save the Dead Sea – we combined ingenuity, creativity and resolve to create a world-class economy and elevated quality of life.
In the process, we fashioned a vibrant and vocal – some would say too vocal – democracy, where squabbles were settled civilly and elections held peacefully. Freedoms were safeguarded and the rule of law enforced.
Can “Palestine” claim the same? Will this new nation stand on its own two feet and do what it takes to support itself? Having taken tens of billions of dollars over the years from well-meaning donors, can the Palestinians learn to be self-sufficient, or are they entrenched in a welfare state, where someone else is always expected to pay the bills? And will they use the massive amounts of money thrown at them wisely? In the course of the last six decades, they have built no new hospitals or medical centers, no great universities, no respectable housing projects to relocate their poor who suffer in squalid refugee camps. Instead, after all their hierarchies of henchmen stole their share, the bulk of what was left was used for weapons and training for war.
As for basic freedoms and human rights, there is no indication that “Palestine” will be any less of a repressive, sadistic police state than Iran. Hamas – the full and legal partner of the Palestinian Authority in this gambit – has already shown the world its disdain for democracy and all that it implies. Whether by executing supposed “collaborators” without trial or by banning free press, free assembly, free elections and free speech, Hamas has essentially restricted all basic human freedoms.
The PA, while presenting a somewhat more modern face, is hardly more tolerant or enlightened. “Honor killings” – the murder of women who express too much independence – go largely unpunished; the press is strictly controlled so that any negative comments vis-àvis the ruling powers are deemed “harmful to the state” and severely punished; and suicide bombers and terrorists are still glorified and exalted. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s declaration that the new state will be Judenrein certainly does not inspire confidence.
Freedom and democracy will come to Palestine when someone can stand in the public square and proclaim, “I love Israel!” without being stoned to death.
Will the state respect its neighbors and international law?
While “Palestine” will have limited access to advanced weaponry – at least in the initial stages – what will its posture be toward its neighbors, specifically Israel and Jordan? Will it promote good relations and reliable security for all the countries around it, especially the bordering Jewish State? Or will it follow the example of its partner Hamas and use its newfound territory to create more terror bases to bomb those around them? Will it be willing – or able – to wage civil war against Hamas when that terrorist entity seeks to take over the West Bank, as it did Gaza? The signs so far are not encouraging. The Palestinians have worked overtime trying to defame and dismiss Israel at every opportunity, instituting anti-Israel boycotts around the world and blaming us for all their ills and woes. Even while our own president was appealing to international donors to support the fledgling Palestinian economy, our neighbors were fomenting the harassment of Israel on university campuses and pressuring other countries to limit or dissolve their ties with us.
As for respecting international and bilateral agreements, a prerequisite for joining the community of nations, the Palestinian track record is dismal. Just last week, the PA condemned the United Nations-backed Palmer Report, which affirmed Israel’s right to maintain the blockade of Gaza, calling it “illegal and immoral.”
Indeed, the very act of seeking statehood at the UN is a direct violation of the Oslo accords, which explicitly prohibit such unilateral actions.
If they blithely ignore these agreements, what will they do about future agreements with us?
Does this new state have a vision for the future?
Of course, the Palestinians seek to legitimize a homeland for their people, in much the same way Israel considers this land the natural home of the Jewish people. (Not to compare the two, of course; Israel is our ancestral home, the seat of our language, culture and history dating back 3000 years, while any longtime Palestinian connection to the land is an audacious fabrication of fact.) But beyond being a homeland, what aspirations do the Palestinians have for their state? We see this land not only as an integral part of our peoplehood, but also as a proving ground for promoting the vision of a just and moral society, spreading the truth and wisdom of God’s Torah and the words of our ancient prophets, ushering in a model society that is not only a home for its inhabitants, but a beacon to the nations. While we may often fall short of these noble ideals, at least we have a utopia to strive for.
What is the Palestinian utopia? What does it seek to add to the betterment of the planet? Does it aspire to promote peace and good will, create a better life for its citizens and lessen strife and suffering? Or does it see statehood as Step 1 in an ongoing land-grab, claiming more and more holy soil for Islam? If its reason for living includes our dying, then why should we contribute to our own execution? If the answer to the above questions forms the proverbial “Three Noes,” then we had better stand strong against the coming tsunami. The recent events in Egypt and Turkey should be a clear warning to every Israeli who loves this country about the danger of wishful thinking. We have more than enough threats from the countries that already surround us; why create yet another that is bent on our destruction?
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana; firstname.lastname@example.org