The American Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, created a stir last week in a speech he delivered at an evangelical group-sponsored celebration marking the anniversary of the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He said Israel grows stronger by the day because “Israel has one secret weapon that not too many countries have: Israel is on the side of G-d.”
Predictably, the New York Times had a fit. In an article by David Halbfinger, its Jerusalem bureau chief, Friedman was excoriated, but there was nary a mention of the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has made comments in the past about Allah’s relationship with the Palestinians. And therein lies an important tale about the prospects for the long-anticipated Middle East “deal of the century” being fashioned by the Trump Administration.
Halbfinger said that the Friedman comment “was the latest sign of an anything but evenhanded approach to the conflict by the Trump administration.” He went on to list the embassy move, deep cuts in aid to the Palestinians, ending the use of the word “occupied” when referring to the West Bank, closing the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, and merging the Jerusalem consulate with the embassy, which until then had dealt only with the Palestinians.
Halbfinger quotes Hanan Ashwari, a senior Palestinian official: “Where does that [Friedman’s remarks] place the rest of the world?…. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this extreme fundamentalist ideologue is an ambassador…. The last time we had people thinking that way in Palestine was in the Middle Ages and look at what happened.”
So let’s see what PA President Mahmoud Abbas has had to say about this topic. The following is from an address Abbas gave to Arab leaders at the March 27, 2010 Arab League summit in Libya:
I say to the leaders of our Arab nation and to its peoples: Jerusalem and its environs are a trust that Allah entrusted to us. Saving it [Jerusalem] from the settlement monster and the danger of Judaization and [land-]confiscation, is a personal [Islamic] commandment incumbent on all of us. Therefore, I call all of you to the serious and urgent action to save [Jerusalem] and to make available all possibilities in order to strengthen our resolve and to maintain its historical, cultural and religious character.
And more particularly to Ashwari’s point, Abbas said on Palestinian television on September 16, 2015, in the midst of an intifada, “We welcome every drop of blood that has been spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”
Yet we have found no expressions of dismay in the media over these invocations of divine imprimatur – not even over the murderous rampages they glorify.
To be sure, we believe that Friedman’s remarks are accurate and do not require validation – certainly not by comparing them to Palestinian excesses. But what we find troubling is the reflexive media hostility toward even the suggestion that Israel is pursuing a Biblical mission and the unremarked acquiescence to the Palestinian religious justification of even outright murder. This has and will continue to have an impact on whether Trump’s efforts to come up with a viable peace plan for the Middle East can be successful.
Israel has successfully defended itself in several wars designed to destroy it and, in the process, has become a military, economic and technological superpower. The media must accept that Israel can hardly be expected to ignore the new reality and that the Palestinians should not be encouraged to do so either. Reasoned analysis, not wooden reactions, must become the order of the day.