Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In an incendiary speech to the UN General Assembly last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of conducting a genocide against the Palestinian people.
Abbas was referring to Operation Protective Edge, which Israel carried out this summer against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip following the terrorist group’s abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers as well as its incessant rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians.
Abbas conveniently omitted the real goals of the operation, which had nothing to do with genocide.
The primary objective was to destroy a network of Hamas attack tunnels stretching into Israel. These tunnels were meant to be used for terrorist strikes on kibbutzim and towns near Gaza, to kill innocent men, women and children simply because they were Israelis.
Another goal of Operation Protective Edge was to destroy as many mortar shells and rockets as possible. These are the same projectiles that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Islamic terrorist organizations operating in Gaza have repeatedly fired at Israeli civilians.
In the process of locating and destroying these tunnels and arms, a large number of Palestinian civilians were unfortunately killed or wounded. Israeli officials estimate that about half of the more than 2,000 Gazans killed in the conflict were civilians. Often this was the direct result of Hamas’s strategy, which was geared toward maximizing civilian casualties on both sides.
For instance, Hamas embedded terrorists and rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods. Hamas terrorists coerced Palestinian civilians to remain in the areas even after the IDF issued warnings to evacuate. Hamas used schools, mosques and hospitals, including UN institutions, as launching pads for its rockets and as hiding places for arms and terrorists. While Hamas has spent tens of millions of dollars to build a vast network of tunnels to attack Israelis, it has not built bomb shelters for Gazans.
Israel and the IDF, meanwhile, went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. People in areas thought to have tunnels were notified in advance that they would be bombed. Leaflets were dropped, phone calls were made, and the “knock on roof” procedure was used in which a missile with no explosive head was fired at the roofs of buildings slated to be attacked so as to give occupants time to leave.
None of this has prevented a swathe of Palestinians from being convinced that Israel tried to stage a genocide in Gaza. Abbas was simply feeding into this despicable lie. A man who wrote a doctoral dissertation denying a real genocide, the Holocaust, stood before the UN General Assembly representing 193 nations and made spurious claims that were left unchallenged.
Needless to say, Abbas’s speech makes it difficult to imagine moving forward in negotiations with the Palestinians over a two-state settlement. It is precisely the sort of incitement and slander leveled against Israel by Abbas from the UN podium last week that is preventing even a modicum of reconciliation. As long as even the most “moderate” Palestinian leaders continue to portray Israelis as perpetrators of genocide, there is no hope for resolution of the conflict.
There can be no hope for peace as long as popular Palestinian politicians such as Abbas continue to view the creation of the State of Israel as a crime, and not the misguided decision by Palestinian leaders in 1948 to destroy it.
And there can be no hope for peace as long as Abbas points to the “occupation” as the cause – and justification – for Islamic terrorism, while ignoring the fact that the fedayeen, whom he also mentioned in his speech, began their attacks on Israeli civilians in 1964, years before there ever was an “occupation.”
Toward the end of his speech, Abbas talked of an endeavor to introduce a “draft resolution... on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to push forward the efforts to achieve peace.” This draft resolution calls for the creation of a State of Palestine on “the entire territory occupied in 1967” with east Jerusalem as its capital and a just and agreed upon solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees.
Apparently, Abbas seeks to force these conditions on Israel, which no Israeli government past or present could possibly accept. His speech before the UN last week dashed any hopes or trust that might have existed between Palestinian and Israeli political leaders.
This should be the time to rebuild bilateral relations rather than to destroy them.