With the Palestinians taking Israel to the International Criminal Court and trying to kick Israel out of the international soccer league, FIFA, while still boycotting normal, constructive, personal, economic or cultural ties with Israel, their war against the Jews continues. Even if Pope Francis – whom I respect – has been seduced by Palestinian self-pity to recognize the “state of Palestine,” even if much of the world continues to blame Israel exclusively, the fact remains. Palestinian rhetoric and behavior reflect their honest intentions: their official organs and most of their leaders seek Israel’s destruction and hate the Jewish people – not just “Zionists” – so much, they keep their people miserable rather than make any accommodation with the Jewish state. The Palestinians’ self-destructive commitment to delegitimizing Israel rather than building their state or improving their lives proves they are motivated by bigotry.
Pope Francis ignored those realities, added to the Jewish people’s collective anguish, and showed he believed in ghosts by recognizing “the state of Palestine” – a phantom entity. Whether or not he called the BDS bully, stalemate king and terrorist cheerleader Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” is irrelevant. The pope’s recognition discourages peace by encouraging Palestinian intransigence and extremism without encouraging Palestinian compromise and realism.
I understand the pope’s need to mollify Palestinians.
Palestinian Christians and churches are vulnerable to the whims of cruel neighbors, who have destroyed Christian religious sites, raped young Christian girls, brutalized Christian families. Flattering the Palestinian Authority is an attempt to help oppressed Christians, who are suffering en masse and leaving in droves.
Unfortunately, mollifying bullies encourages them, denying crimes legitimizes them and coddling Palestinians only feeds their all-or-nothing rigidity. Although it is fun to blame Israel’s “occupation” for all Palestinian Christians’ troubles, a 2012 report by the nonpartisan Gatestone Institute on “The Disquieting Treatment of Christians by the Palestinians” noted that the Christian Arab population plummeted between 1949 and 1967. When Jordan and Egypt illegally controlled the West Bank and Gaza, two-thirds of Palestinian Christians fled. The situation stabilized when Israel fully controlled the areas, then deteriorated with increased Palestinian autonomy since the 1990s’ Oslo Peace Accords.
“In 1995,” the report notes, “the number of Christians in Bethlehem was two-thirds of the population; ...it is now less than 20 percent...By contrast, the number of Christians in Israel has increased from 34,000 in 1949...to over 150,000.”
Boy, those pesky facts are annoying. Could it be that Palestinian Christians thrive under the allegedly “oppressive” Jewish state, while suffering under “noble” Palestinian rule? Perhaps the Palestinians aren’t “angels of peace?” In joining the pile-on against Israel, Pope Francis joined today’s two most anti-Christian forces – the anti-religious far Left rooted in godless Communism and Islamism.
Targeting Israel is their ideological glue, overriding many clashing beliefs. The Catholic Church should resist this unholy red-green alliance.
Holding Palestinians accountable reflects respect. By contrast, this whole statehood dance perpetuates the Palestinian desire to dodge responsibility and live in a world of one-way streets, without reality checks or mutual obligations.
Declaring statehood is a powerful, revolutionary act. It tells the world: “We are ready to run our country, control our national destiny, and take responsibility for our citizens.”
Asking for recognition without declaring statehood is like hoping to become a famous actor without memorizing any lines; you want the glory without working hard or taking risks.
The Palestinians won’t declare statehood because it would violate the Oslo agreement under which the Palestinian Authority functions. It would derail the Palestinian gravy train, from Israel, the United States, and Europe, which has made Palestinians “the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid,” a recent Congressional Research Service report observed. Moreover, statehood might complicate the Palestinians’ simplistic “whodunit” narrative, blaming the Jewish state for everything.
If Abbas were an “angel of peace,” he would stop honoring terrorists as “martyrs,” would stop boycotting or delegitimizing Israel, and start building the Palestinian economy. Whenever Abbas celebrates terrorists and bashes Israel, he lessens the chances of a Palestinian state.
Whenever a Palestinian rejects healthy economic, cultural, or political ties with Israelis or Jews, perpetuating this self-destructive, anti-normalization drive, the chances of a Palestinian state diminish.
If Palestinians want a state, let them build one. Rather than turning their people into the world’s most greedy welfare kings and queens, let them tap the entrepreneurial genius reflected in the Palestinian diaspora and build the Palestinian economy. The situation would look different if first-class hotels welcomed tourists to the Gaza seacoast and to historic Bethlehem and Hebron. Imagine how much trust would develop if more Israeli and Palestinian economic ventures flourished. Imagine what would have happened if the Palestinians had accepted Secretary of State John Kerry’s $4 billion plan to double the Palestinian economy. A thriving, safe, prosperous pre-state of Palestine would be great for the Palestinians – and reassure Israelis, most of whom would happily cooperate, eagerly compromise, and enjoy living next to a neighbor that wishes to outdo them economically not destroy them militarily or humiliate them diplomatically.
Instead, anti-normalization continues, and Palestinians rejected Kerry’s plan. The PA’s economic adviser, Mohammad Mustafa, said the “PA’s priorities are not economic.”
They could achieve more politically through financial power rather than violence. The Palestinians are like the cowboy in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, who escapes the bad guys by putting a gun to his own neck and taking himself hostage.
The Palestinians have been holding themselves hostage for too long. The Vatican, the ICC, FIFA, and the rest of the world should be smarter than Blazing Saddles’ idiot townsfolk.
Call the Palestinian bluff and challenge Abbas, the “angel of peace,” to become an engine of prosperity, then peace, for his people and the region.
The author is a professor of History at McGill University and is teaching this semester at Hebrew University’s Rothberg School. His next book, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, will be published by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press this October.
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