Are the Palestinians going to seize the opportunity created by disengagement to advance toward their national goals by demonstrating that they are a responsible peace partner? If there are going to be further peace negotiations, the Palestinians are going to have to create a viable polity that features the rule of law and a government monopoly on force. Unfortunately, there are many bad signs appearing already.
The worst is that there was reportedly a promise made by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to Hamas and Islamic Jihad during talks in Syria on August 22 that the PA would not try to disarm them. This is not only terrible for hopes of a normal Palestinian state, where the army and police are the only armed forces allowed, but is in direct contradiction to the primary Palestinian obligation under the Roadmap peace plan.
Almost as worrying is some of the rhetoric coming out of official Palestinian sources. In August, the Palestinian Ministry of Culture released a book of poetry as its official “book of the month” and distributed it as a special supplement to every reader of the major Palestinian daily al-Ayyam. Among the poems it contained was one dedicated to Hanadi Jaradat, a suicide bomber who killed 21 people in a Haifa restaurant in October 2003. The poem not only glorified her act, but appeared to call such suicide terror “the highest goal” in one line which stated:
“O Hanadi! Shake the earth under the feet of the enemies! Blow it up! It is the wedding of Hanadi the day when death as a Martyr for Allah, becomes the highest goal, that liberates my land.”
The poem also attacked Arab nations for not waging a Jihad war against Israel, saying
“Where is the [Arab] nation..? The armies hid, nothing left in the field … not the sound of Jihad, all of them, at the moment of decision, surrender, obey the enemies…O Hanadi..! The flag of the nation is not flying in the fields of Jihad.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently stated, “I was and I am working on planting the culture of peace among the Palestinian people.” His own Ministry of Culture, among others, appears not to have heard the message.
Everyone agrees that Gaza after disengagement has a heap of problems — from unemployment, to poverty, to transportation, to sanitation, and so on. Moreover, everyone agrees that international aid is needed to help solve them, and this aid will have to be very well targeted to address Gaza’s very real needs.
Well, the UN, in its infinite wisdom, has decided Gaza has a priority need – more and better banners to taunt Israel with. That’s right, according to the New York Times (August 15), there are banners all over Gaza hung up by the Palestinian Authority to mark Disengagement which state “‘Today Gaza, Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem.” These banners state on them that they were paid for by the UN Development Program.
The New York Sun (August 18) contained further allegations that the UNDP had funded not only banners but also “bumper stickers, mugs, and T-shirts bearing the provocative slogan as well as UNDP logos.”
After controversial new US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton attacked the funding as “inappropriate and unacceptable,” a UNDP official agreed that he was correct, the funding of the banners (and other materials) was “not at all acceptable.” Given the UN’s past record on Israeli-Palestinians issues, even this admission of an obvious mistake is a somewhat surprisingly positive sign. Now if there can be a genuine recognition from the UN that the Palestinians need state-building and social services, and emphatically do not need more political slogans, and fuelling of conflict with Israel, the UN might actually be able to do some good.
Irfan Yusuf, Sydney lawyer and Muslim community figure, had a very interesting allegation on his weblog, Madhab al-Irfy. Mr Yusuf claimed that in 1985 at an Islamic camp organised by a mainstream Muslim organisation, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), he and other attendees were given copies of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a prize for one of the camp competitions. Moreover, this antisemitic forgery which has been used to justify so much anti-Jewish violence had the official stamp of AFIC inside it. Then, a couple of years later, he claims an elderly Sydney Imam who ran the “advanced” group at the same camp sent Yusuf a copy of the Protocols. The Imam told him, “You must read this book. You must learn what the Jews are doing to Muslims and to the world. You are a young man and an educated man. You should learn to be careful about the Jews.”
Later still, Yusuf says he was organising a camp out of the AFIC headquarters, and agreed to help the CEO of AFIC, Mr Amjad Mehboob, clean out a storeroom, where they came across a whole box of the Protocols. Mr Mehboob, Yusuf says, suggested that they should use them as prizes for the camp.
According to Yusuf, his mother took away the copy of the Protocols he was sent by the Imam, and the main camp organiser rejected the books from Mehboob and told Yusuf to destroy them.
Mr Yusuf’s weblog also had a go at AIJAC recently, accusing us, among other things, of “demonising Muslim sentiments” and “giving terrorists legitimacy by attributing their acts to a religion [Islam] which resembles Judaism more than any other,” and claiming “AIJAC and similarly-minded people present terrorism as an Islamic phenomenon.”
Well, we do not believe terrorism is an exclusively Islamic phenomenon. However, we do believe that, given that the most threatening and widespread terrorism in the world today is by people claiming to be acting on behalf of Islam, it is to Islam and Muslims that we need to look to take a special role in doing something about it. We believe that to the extent that radical Islamism is the problem, moderate Islam is the answer. After all, the terrorists and the extremists who support them aren’t going to listen to us Jews.
Moreover, given his own allegations about the past spread of virulent antisemitic propaganda by probably the most mainstream Muslim body in Australia, why is Mr Yusuf surprised that Jews are somewhat concerned by aspects of what is occurring in elements of the Muslim community?