Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Setting Back Arab-Israeli Peace

February 11, 2013 2:26 am 0 comments

Jimmy Carter with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at the White House for the 1979 Peace Treaty signing Between Egypt and Israel. Photo:

To understand the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict, look no further than two recent sets of events.

First, there were the comments of two Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders.

In a speech broadcast to supporters in Gaza, PA President Mahmoud Abbas invoked the names of the “martyred’ in the pantheon of Palestinian history.

Among those mentioned were convicted terrorists with the blood of innocent victims, including Israeli children, on their hands. But most troubling of all was his reference to Haj Amin al-Husseini.

He was the mufti of Jerusalem during World War II, who became notorious for his collaboration with Adolf Hitler. History records the meetings they held, the photos they took, and the plots they hatched. Indeed, al-Husseini helped recruit Muslims for the infamous Nazi Waffen-SS.

If the goal was to widen still further the gap with Israel, Abbas could not have cited a more despicable figure than al-Husseini.

Moreover, in the same speech, Abbas spoke again of the Palestinian “right of return.’ This is a non-starter, as every reasonable observer of the conflict understands. It would flood Israel with millions of Palestinians and end the Jewish state. Apropos, Palestinian “refugees’ are defined differently than all other refugee populations in the world. The designation not only applies to the original refugees from the 1948 war – triggered by an Arab invasion against Israel – but also, astonishingly, to all their descendants in perpetuity.

To add insult to injury, the PA’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, recently repeated another Palestinian claim – that the Jewish people have no historical link to Jerusalem. The late Yasser Arafat said the very same thing, to the consternation of U.S. President Bill Clinton, during the 2000-1 Camp David talks. At that time, the Palestinians could have achieved an historic two-state accord but, as documented by the American leader, Arafat was unwilling to do so.

Jerusalem and the Jewish people have been intimately connected – metaphysically, spiritually, and geographically – for literally thousands of years. To deny this link is to ignore history, undermine trust, and insult intelligence.

Peace is made between the parties to a conflict committed to a settlement. Four consecutive Israeli governments have publicly supported a two-state deal. The PA, unlike the terrorist group Hamas, is meant to be the partner in that process.

But how can it be if its leaders laud the legacy of Nazi collaborators, insist on solutions that would destroy Israel, and pretend no Jewish connection to their ancestral land?

Then there were the comments of Mohamed Morsi in 2010, only now brought to light. In a speech and a television interview, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, who became Egypt’s president in 2012, railed against Israel, Zionism, and Jews.

As reported by The New York Times, Morsi declared “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.’ Egyptian children, he said, “must feed on hatred; hatred must continue.’ “These bloodsuckers,’ he went on, “who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs… They have been fanning the flames of civil strife wherever they were throughout their history. They are hostile by nature.’

This is not the first vile anti-Semitic tirade from an Arab leader, though Western media have paid far too little attention to this unadulterated hostility. But coming from an individual who today is the leader of the Arab world’s most populous country, and who is charged with maintaining the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, it carries special weight.

Since these comments were first reported, Egyptian spokesmen have claimed the quotes were taken out of context, but were they? Looking at the entirety of both the speech and the television interview does not change their thrust one iota.

We have also been told the Arab world employs hyperbole, so the literal meaning should not be taken too seriously. But what Morsi said is what the Muslim Brotherhood, his long-time political base, has preached for decades.

Some Egyptians claim that Jewish leaders say the same insulting things about Arabs, but if there are such people, they do not occupy the presidency of a country or remain for a single moment unchallenged.

And finally, the flimsy assertion has been floated that anti-Semitism is, in fact, alien to Egyptian society. If so, why has virtually every Jew from Egypt left the country, part of the mass exodus of Jewish refugees from the Arab world?

Arab-Israeli peace is a vital goal, but it demands a climate conducive to the building of trust. Inflammatory, insulting language and bigoted beliefs, tragically, take the region in precisely the opposite direction. And countries like Spain, which wish to have a voice in the Middle East peace process, would do well to remind Presidents Morsi, Abbas and other Arab leaders to remember this fact.

David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). This article was originally published by El Pais.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Was Shia LaBeouf’s performance art piece at Manhattan’s Angelica Film Center (where he spent three days watching his own films) a sign of madness or genius? Judging from the lines and the fans, it was the latter. Shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday, approximately 140 people were on line for the last day of the live-streamed event at Angelica Film Center. Fans who waited were happy to give their opinions. “I don’t think he’s crazy,” said Elliot Quartz, an 18-year-old student at the New School, who waited […]

    Read more →