No conflict gets more attention in the UN and worldwide media than the one between Israel and the Palestinians. Diplomats from Israel, Palestine, the United States, and Europe have been unable to bridge the differences between the parties. Agreements have been negotiated, some even signed, but the parties remain as far apart as ever.
Israel is judged as the stronger so the world pressures them to be the one to make concessions necessary for peace. From its inception in 1948, Israel has agreed to numerous offers and concessions. All have been rejected without any Palestinian counter offer. Why is this so?
The issues are well known: Jerusalem, borders, security, settlements, and the right of return. Borders can be adjusted, security guaranteed, settlements moved, land swaps arranged, and the right of return compromised. Why has the situation remained unresolved over so many decades?
There is an 800-pound gorilla that influences everything yet is rarely addressed. It vetoes every attempt at compromise; it stops every diplomatic plan in its tracks. It dooms every peace negotiation to failure, yet is never blamed as the real obstacle to peace.
That obstacle is the Arab world’s hatred of Israel. This hatred overcomes any offers for peace.
Hatred results when Palestinians are taught the Jews have no historical connection and no right to the Land of Israel. Hatred results when Palestinians are taught Jews stole their land, Jews murder their children, Jews have spread aids and drug use to their people, and Jews are responsible for all the world’s conflicts. Palestinians are told Jews are a cancer on the earth and must be destroyed. These messages are taught in schools, reinforced in the media, and repeated in mosques.
Hatred is seen when Palestinians break into Jewish homes, kill Jewish women and children, and are hailed as heroes. Hatred is seen in Palestinian demands that their land be free of Jews, while Palestinian Arabs live freely in Israel. Hatred is seen in summer camps where children are taught to become fighters against Israel. Hatred explains how Palestinian mothers can express pride when their children blow themselves up while murdering Israelis.
What except hatred is behind Hizbullah in Lebanon, threatening war even with no territorial claims against Israel? What else but hatred would motivate Arabs in Gaza, in spite of chronic unemployment, to destroy extensive Israeli agricultural systems that employed hundreds of Arabs and was a source of significant income? When 9,000 Israelis left all of Gaza in 2005, hatred motivated Hamas to fire thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians for the seven years that followed.
Hizbullah and Hamas openly express their intent to kill Jews and destroy Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, is more indirect. He has refused peace offers that do not include the right of return for all Arab refugees. There were 550,000 to 650,000 Arabs who fled the new Jewish state in 1948 when it was attacked by seven Arab armies. These refugees and their descendants now number more than five million. Allowing these refugees to return to areas they and their ancestors left 65 years ago would achieve the same aim as Hizbullah and Hamas: the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel.
Acts motivated by Palestinian hatred have led to defensive actions by Israel. These include a strong military, separation barriers to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks, checkpoints to search for smuggled arms, and a military presence on the border between Jordan and any future Palestinian state.
What about Israeli homes built on land the Palestinians want for a future state? These are called settlements and stand on less than 3 percent of “Palestinian land.” Why is it acceptable for Arab villages to be in Israel, but Israeli villages in a state of Palestine are considered an obstacle to peace? How can anyone believe two peoples can live peacefully in neighboring countries, when one rejects having the other live in a neighboring village?
America and the international community have the power to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They can make continued financial support contingent on banning hatred and incitement in Palestinian schools, media, and mosques. They can see to it that Jewish history and the Jewish historical connection to the land be taught be in all Palestinian schools. People need to be prepared for peace rather than war.
History teaches many examples of reconciliation after overcoming hatred. Southern whites’ hatred of blacks was as virulent as Arab hatred of Jews. Then, in the 1960s, America established and enforced laws guaranteeing equal rights for all its citizens. Fifty years later it is not uncommon to see white people in the Deep South elect blacks to local offices and the White House.
Reeducating Palestinian society may sound overwhelming, but it is more achievable than getting people who are being taught to hate to agree to peace.