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Letter from London: A Palestinian Moral and Political Failure

8:01 AM, Sep 9, 2011 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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A related fundamental point, one that may seem esoteric but is in fact practical, is whether Palestinians are willing to acknowledge that Jews are a people. The assertion that Jews are "merely" a religious group is another way of saying that statehood is not deserved, for peoples or nations deserve a state, not religions. At recent conferences I have heard Palestinian spokesmen refer to their great respect for Judaism as a religion when asked about Jewish nationhood. This is a polite way of saying they continue to believe the existence of the state of Israel is wrong, just as insistence of the "right of return" suggests they are not reconciled to Israel's survival as a Jewish state.

One might say "relax, these are just negotiating positions. Why give them away until serious talks begin?" I wish I believed that. But so much of Palestinian (and wider Arab) political discourse continues to display anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel's existence that this view would be Pollyannaish—without even getting to the views of Hamas and similar terrorist groups.

This is in large part a failure of leadership, so long the Palestinian curse—from Haj Amin Al Husseini through Arafat to the Fatah crew today. Moderate views exist and moderate voices are heard. Those who understand the need to build their state from the bottom up do exist as well, have achieved a great deal, and do have serious popular backing. If the Fatah leaders took up the cause of building their own state instead of tearing down their neighbor's, peace could be achieved. All of which suggests that there is another failure of leadership, in the West. Not since President Bush frankly condemned Arafat in 2002 and said there would be no state until he was replaced by decent governance has any Western leader spoken with such candor. Instead, we have heard obsessive concern about real estate issues regarding construction and we have not heard much about the continued hate speech so widespread in Palestinian media. At a time when a broad consensus in Israel accepts the need for Palestinian statehood, this is a moral and political failure of historic proportions.  

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