Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was interviewed in the
UK-based Jewish Chronicle this week (“PA shares Israel’s nuclear Iran fears” by
Stephen Pollard, January 12, 2012). “We are greatly harmed by [Iranian]
President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad projecting himself as a spokesman for the
Palestinians,” said Fayyad.
“He seeks the destruction of Israel. We do
not. We are deeply troubled by Iran’s interventions and we suffer from
I have known Fayyad for a long time, and this statement is
completely aligned with the work he has been doing over the past years to make
the Palestinian state a reality by tackling the nitty-gritty of state building.
He is not perfect, as no one is. He has his faults and everyone seems to enjoy
criticizing him these days. I am quite sure that this does not deter him from
seeking to accomplish his mission of seeing the healthy and rapid birth of the
Palestinian state. He has encountered serious problems along the way, no
shortage of them caused by Israel, and no doubt more are still ahead. But he
remains fully committed to seeing the Palestinian state born through the work
done by Palestinians for Palestinians on the ground.
Fayyad has often
reminded me of The Sermon (1942), a short story written by the Zionist author
Haim Hazaz in which the kibbutz philosopher Yudka says: “We didn’t make our own
history, the goyim made it for us.”
In a way, the statement could also be
made about Palestinian history – with the Palestinian Yudka complaining of the
corruption, as he sees it, of a passive political existence that turns
suffering, or victimhood, into a virtue.
These are Hazaz’s words (imagine
replacing the word Jewish with Palestinian): “Jewish history is dull,
uninteresting. It has no glory or action, no heroes and conquerors, no rulers
and masters of their fate, just a collection of wounded, hunted, groaning and
wailing wretches, always begging for mercy.... I would simply forbid teaching
our children Jewish history. Why the devil teach them about their ancestors’
shame?” I could easily hear Fayyad preaching the same words. He
would/could/should say: enough complaining, enough moaning about our victim
status; it’s time to roll up our sleeves and take control of our
Victimhood is a curse, one that has afflicted too many of us in
this region for far too long.
I HAVE spent far too many hours hearing
stories of victimhood from both Israelis and Palestinians. In the mid-1980s
there was a production of a wonderful play by Nola Chelton in which at one point
two boxers faced each other in a ring. They were dressed for the fight standing
in two corners, one dressed very obviously as a Jew and the other as an Arab. In
the center of the ring was the referee, who, after the bell rang and the two
boxers came out punching at the air, chanted the historical tragedies that had
befallen their respective peoples.
A score-keeper appeared at the back of
the stage with a huge chalkboard on which was written: “Tournament of
Suffering,” with points awarded for suffering and victimhood.
filled the blackboard, making it almost impossible to determine who the bigger
Even now when I think about it, so many years later, we all
seem to revel in our suffering and we certainly want the other side of the
conflict to know who the bigger victim here is. So much of what Haim Hazaz wrote
in 1942 continues to be pertinent today. We all continue to allow ourselves out
to be the victims of circumstance, as if we bear no responsibility for the
choices we (and/or our leaders) make. Oh, it’s so easy to place the blame on the
other side, across the conflict line. We want peace, it’s they who don’t. We are
a partner for peace, but we have no partner on the other side. We are ready to
negotiate, anytime, anyplace, but they won’t even come to the
Rather than rise up against the insanity of doing nothing to grab
what is perhaps the last real opportunity for peace, people on both sides of the
conflict are deflated with despair. We have become the people Hazaz despises in
his “Sermon.” Been there, tried it – what can I say, peace didn’t work. Look at
how many casualties of peace there have been – how many people have lost their
lives because of peace – how many victims! Wake up people! These are not
casualties of peace, they are causalities of the absence of peace. They are the
casualties of failed attempts to make peace, of the failure of our leaders to
make the right decisions, the tough decision, the decisions that they know they
must make. Both sides, both leaders – they know what they have to do to make
real peace. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas are
both smart enough and have been around long enough to know what the conditions
for real, comprehensive and lasting peace are.
There can be no trickery
here. There is no way to get a better deal than Abbas would have gotten with
Olmert, or even Rabin with Arafat. The cards are all on the table and the rules
of the game are known. We all know how to resolve this conflict.
one, do not want to be a victim of history.
I don’t want my people, the
Jewish people in the land of Israel, to fall victim to the curse of not taking
our lives in our own hands. I don’t believe the Palestinian people want to be
the eternal victims of history leaving them in the gutters of political
We have all been brainwashed for too long that we have no
partner and no chance. We are told that this conflict cannot be resolved; we
have to manage it, not end it.
Those who say so are wrong, they are lying
and they are dangerous to our future. Real leaders would know that. Real leaders
make history by making historical decisions that shape their nations and their
Netanyahu and Abbas both believe that they are historical
leaders. But history is not made by just talking about it and it certainly isn’t
made by claiming victimhood. History is made by doing – by taking our futures in
hand and making bold decisions that can and will resolve this
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine
Center for Research and Information and a radio host on All for Peace Radio.