By Rabbi Joshua Gerstein
A recent article published in The Jewish Press (Abbas: Palestine will be Judenrein), quoting the remarks of Mahmud Abbas: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands,” must compel us to honestly ask the question, is this really the partner for peace that we have been waiting for?
Since the inception of the modern day State of Israel, peace with its Arab neighbors has always been one of its highest priorities. Though true peace is a great and noble ideal, we must not become blinded by its “siren song” and refuse to see the reality as it exists in front of our eyes. Peace is not a one sided decision or state of mind; rather peace is the state of affairs that exists between two individuals or societies when they live harmoniously with mutual understanding and respect.
We must remember that peace needs to start from the ground up and cannot and will not be successful with grand slogans coming from pontificating politicians. I believe that if we take an objective look at what is happening in the Palestinian Authority and in the character of its leader Mahmud Abbas, we will see that the basic foundation for peace, i.e. mutual understanding and respect, is far from being in place.
In addition to glorify terrorists by according them official military funerals, and proudly listing their murderous activities, the Palestinian Authority continues to educate its youth to hate and demonize both Jews and the State of Israel. The next generation of children is being taught in PA schools about their “right of return “to all of Palestine,” completely negating any Jewish right to the Land of Israel.
The tragedies of the holocaust are being distorted and a glowing admiration is expressed for the exploits of Hitler in PA literature and school books. Coupled with the PLO Charter which calls for the “armed liberation of all of Palestine,” and the “elimination of Zionism in Palestine,” leads me to believe that mutual respect and understanding is considerably lacking there.
The character of Mahmud Abbas, the man who is supposed to be “our partner” in peace, should be seriously questioned. This is the man who wrote his thesis on “The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement, 1933 – 1945,” claiming that the Zionists “created the myth of six million murdered Jews,” which he then went on to call a “fantastic lie” ( Morris, Benny, Exposing Abbas. The National Interest. May 19, 2011).
Abbas repeatedly refuses to recognize Israel as the Jewish State, going as far as to say on a live television broadcast: “You can call yourselves whatever you want, but I will not accept it.” Is such a person really capable of mutual understanding and respect with a nation and a people which he constantly vilifies?
Since before the signing of the Oslo accords, the political establishment in the State of Israel seems to be suffering from the “battered spouse syndrome” when dealing with the issue of peace in the region. Just like in an abusive relationship where when a person is abused for a long period of time they actually come to believe that they are responsible for their own abuse, so to the political establishment believes that the conflict in the region is intrinsically its fault.
But we need to remember that the Arab riots of 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1936-1939 all occurred before the establishment of the State of Israel. The political establishment in Israel needs to realize that it’s never a good option to stay in an abusive relationship, and giving the abuser 20% of your home so he’d leave you alone would not engender mutual understanding and respect, it would only encourage the abuser to continue their actions.
Peace must start from the ground up, not with grand slogans coming from pontificating politicians.
The writer serves as the Jerusalem Campus Rabbi for the Aardvark Israel Immersion Program. Previously, he served as Av Bayit and Talmud Instructor at Yeshivat Orayta, a post High School Yeshiva in the Old City. Originally from Lancaster, PA, Rav Josh came to Israel in 2007 and lives with his wife in Jerusalem.