The recent coordinated terrorist attacks on Israel and the latest poll of
Palestinian public opinion offer insight into why Middle East peace remains so
elusive: The Palestinian public is simply unwilling to recognize the human
rights of Jews.
Consider Palestinians’ reactions to the grisly
coordinated attacks against Israel last Thursday. Terrorists assaulted travelers
and soldiers in the South with gunfire, mortars, anti-tank missiles and two
suicide bombers. Eight civilians – including two kindergarten teachers and their
husbands who were going to vacation in Eilat – and two soldiers were murdered;
30 were wounded. A four-year-old and a sevenyear- old child were among those
Officials from Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, denied direct
responsibility, but praised the coordinated attack. Hamas websites and some
websites associated with Fatah, the political group that governs the West Bank,
celebrated the assault.
During the weekend, over 70 rockets and mortars
were fired from Gaza into the South. One rocket wounded seven people in an
Ashdod industrial park. Another struck the courtyard of a yeshiva in the city,
wounding 10 people and leaving two in serious condition. The Palestinian
Authority has not yet condemned the assaults. If it does, it will likely simply
blame Israel for responding to the attacks.
Given these developments, PA
President Mahmoud Abbas’s plan to circumvent negotiations with Israel and
instead request that the UN recognize a Palestinian state is unrealistic,
inappropriate and symptomatic. Before being recognized as a state, the
Palestinian leaders must take on the responsibilities of statehood by enforcing
law and order and controlling terrorism, and recognize that Jews have rights,
too, such as the right to live and to negotiate about their state’s borders and
The most recent polls of Palestinian public opinion
reveal that Palestinians in general do not recognize those rights. The poll,
conducted by respected research organizations Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research
and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion on behalf of the Israel Project,
reveals that: • Over two-thirds of Palestinians reject the two-state solution,
favoring instead a temporary two-state arrangement that gradually becomes a
single Palestinian state.
• Over 73 percent approve the Muslim hadith
that says “judgment day will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill
• About 80% agree that Muslims should engage in jihad to eradicate
• Over 50% percent support their schools teaching children songs
and chants that promote hatred of Jews.
THESE POLLS should have received
widespread attention. Like the ongoing terrorism, they are clear evidence of the
core obstacle to peace: Palestinians at large reject Jewish rights. Yet these
polls are virtually ignored.
One reason may be that policy-makers in the
US, Europe and Israel don’t want to acknowledge that it is they, not the
Palestinians, who support a two-state compromise.
They have told the
Palestinians what they should want, and turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions
and beliefs that contradict their own vision of a peaceful
Another reason may be that many opinion- makers have begun to
accept the Palestinian narrative that blames Israel alone for the conflict,
denies that Jews are a nationality with historical rights to the land, and
believes that the reestablishment of Israel was itself an injustice to Arabs.
Many of them endlessly champion Palestinian rights and simultaneously denounce
Israel’s defensive actions as violations of those rights, in effect denying
Israel the right to protect its citizens. Paradoxically many discussions about
creating the first Palestinian Arab state in history have morphed into assaults
on the legitimacy of the thriving Jewish state.
This narrative is frankly
anti-Semitic. It denies Jews essential rights granted to other peoples – to
define themselves as a nation and to have self-determination in their ancestral
homeland. Like all human beings, Israeli Jews are also entitled to live in
peace, freedom and dignity.
The denial of Jewish history is based on the
kinds of distortions that fueled traditional anti-Semitism. The Jewish people
has been a nation for over 3,000 years.
Given our unique language,
culture, religion, history, and unbroken ties to our homeland, the claim to
nationhood is as strong as, if not stronger than, that of any other nation in
The Jews are the only people who ever had national
independence in this land.
Much of Judaism is rooted in the land, so
efforts to disconnect Israel and Judaism are an assault on the religion
In contrast, Palestinian Arab nationalism emerged only in
response to the 20th-century Jewish revival. Arabs have lived in the region for
centuries, but there has never been a Palestinian Arab state or unique
Palestinian Arab nationality. While Palestinian Arabs certainly have had a right
to create their own national movement, it is less than 100 years old. The term
“occupied Palestinian land” often used by Palestinian activists is a political
statement, not a fact. It represents the aspirations of a new people, but denies
the rights of an ancient people.
Unfortunately this latest poll
demonstrates that Palestinians at large still reject compromise and the Jewish
people’s basic rights. It also indicates that official anti-Israel
indoctrination and fundamentalist religious anti- Semitism pervade Palestinian
Israel has repeatedly accepted and offered compromises that
entail yielding parts of the Jews’ ancestral homeland in order to establish a
Palestinian state. Today, Israel remains committed to a negotiated settlement
that will fulfill the aspirations of both peoples. Peacemakers need to support
these efforts, acknowledge the fundamental obstacles to peace, and firmly
communicate to the Palestinians that only through compromise and acceptance of
the basic rights of all people, including the rights of the Jews, will peace
ever be realized.
Roz Rothstein is a co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs,
and Roberta Seid, PhD, is the SWU research-education director.