A FREEMAN CENTER SPECIAL REPORT

The following is the translated lecture of the distinguished Professor of Islamic History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, delivered on September 16th at the 5th Forum of The Ariel Center for Policy Research.

"PALESTINIAN IDEOLOGY AND PRACTICE:
5 YEARS AFTER OSLO"

By Professor Moshe Sharon

The Oslo agreements were aimed, from the moment they were signed to end all acts of hostility, both physical and verbal, between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli leaders at home presented the agreements in almost Messianic terms, pointing to the "historic reconciliation between the Palestinians and the Israelis." It was clearly understood that the Palestinians would not only stop all acts of violence against Israel but would change the tone of their propaganda, and endeavor to disseminate messages of peace and good neighbourliness. The Israeli public was made to believe that similar to Israel, the Palestinian Authority would develop special educational programs for the schools to educate the young generation in the spirit of peace, and prepare it to live in a new era of no-war, just as Israel had been doing for years on all levels of education, and in the media. It was also hoped that the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic line of propaganda, common in the Palestinian press (and other sources of information), would at least be tempered if not completely changed.

The least that even those who were most skeptical about the agreements had hoped was that, on the official level the notorious symbols of the hatred for Israel, in the official documentation of the PLO would be modified, notwithstanding the Palestinian Covenant and the FATAH Charter. In reality none of these hopes were realized.

After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip and the "West Bank" the terrorist actions against Israeli citizens were intensified. Israel became more accessible, and the terrorists now have territories under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, in which they prepare their acts of murder, and to which they withdraw after perpetrating them and be safe. Israeli property also became easily accessible, and the stealing of Israeli vehicles and other property became a Palestinian national sport, causing Israel tremendous economic damage.

Over and above all this, the Palestinian Authority, from the minute of its establishment, did nothing to change the atmosphere of hatred among the Palestinians. On the contrary, the language of hatred, the incitement for war against the Jews, the belligerent speeches - the books in schools, the ideology of negating Israel's existence, and the Jewish right to a homeland remained the same as they had been even before World War II. Nothing has changed in the ideology but much has changed in the intensification of its dissemination, and the availability of the facilities to bring it to almost every individual: through the press, the electronic media and the internet.

Palestinian achievements in Oslo.

In the eyes of those who signed the Oslo agreements on the Palestinian side their major achievements were as follows:

1. Territories

The acquisition of real estate property, namely land ceded to the Palestinians by Israel, in return for a general, unbinding declaration "against terror." According to the Arab lexicon of the Arab-Israeli conflict, terror does not exist at all on the Palestinian side. When the Arabs condemn "terror" they mean, Israeli terror, represented by the sheer existence of the State of Israel. The Arab definition of the killing of Israeli citizens by Palestinian terrorists is: "Palestinian freedom fighting." For this reason any Palestinian or Arab declaration "against terror," means absolutely nothing, and if it can bring real profit, as in Oslo, the Palestinians, will concede to using it - at a price.

2. Army

The formation of an army, under the disguise of "a strong police force." The Palestinian Authority, brought the whole PLO fighting force which had been stationed in Tunisia and other Arab countries, into the territories which it received from Israel. This is a well trained army, indoctrinated for war against Israel. Its slogan is: "With our souls and blood we shall redeem thee O Palestine," which the soldiers, inflamed by 'Arafat's speeches, chant. Most of the members of this army are not even disguised as policemen. They wear army uniforms, are organized in military units, get military training, and none of them have any idea about police duties or police work. The agreements limit the number of "policemen" to 30,000, yet the actual size of the standing Palestinian army is double this number, and its arsenals constantly swell with arms strictly forbidden by the agreements, including artillery and rockets, smuggled by the agents of Palestinian Authority itself.

3. Legitimacy

The legitimization of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which was, and still is, defined as a terrorist organization. This legitimization is a particularly important achievement, because it has been conceded by the very victims of this organization's acts of terror. In this way Israel, the major victim of the PLO, accepted it as a legitimate freedom-fighter body, exactly as this organization had been claiming, and gave up its demand that the PLO should account for the atrocities which it had perpetrated for more than a quarter of a century.

4. Legal precedent

The setting of a precedent, according to which a sovereign state negotiates, officially, with a body of no legal or political standing whose declared aim is to obliterate it. Israel did this without demanding the obvious: the abolishment, and rejection of all the official documents calling for the destruction of Israel as a precondition for even meeting for negotiations.

5. Avoidance of cardinal issues

The creation of a situation by which the Palestinian side acquired meaningful, and real achievements without having to enter into any commitment regarding the major issues which are the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Borders, Refugees, Jerusalem.

The Israelis, so eager to have the Palestinians as partners, regarded the sheer act of the negotiations as a great achievement, and interpreted them as amounting to Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel. For propaganda purposes, especially in the West, official Palestinian bodies, adopted this Israeli interpretation, but they left out the geographical definition of "Israel", namely, they refrained from speaking about Israel within any borders, not even the armistice lines of 1949. Similarly Israel is completely absent from the Palestinian maps: there is no such country in the Palestinian atlas (as well as in any other Arab atlas).

The voice of Palestinian rejection

The Palestinians who rejected Oslo, whether these were independent Islamic bodies such as the HAMAS, or elements inside the PLO, claimed that by recognizing Israel, even in an indirect fashion, and within any borders, no matter how diminished they may be, negated fundamental principals of the Palestinian Covenant. These principals forbid the division of Palestine, do not recognize the Jews as a people, reject Jewish history altogether, reject any form of recognition of the Jews' right to have a state of their own, and regard Zionism as a terrorist, racial and colonialist movement, which should be rooted out together with Israel - its creation.

The Muslim elements, endorsing each one of these ideas, emphasized also the fact that Jihad, the Holy War against the Jews, the historical enemies of Islam, could not, and should not, be stopped. The Qur'an decided that the Jews must forever be demeaned and degraded, and it follows that they may never rule, especially over an Islamic land. It goes without saying that the Muslims should not even post factum accept a situation in which Jews rule over Muslims, or that they abolish the principle which prescribes that only Muslims should govern their own holy places and the holy places of others. In other words, it is impossible that the Muslims, willingly, give up the cardinal idea that Jews, and Christians, can only be dhimmis: they may live under Islamic rule only as an inferior class of "protected people." As far as Muslim organizations led by the HAMAS are concerned: "Islam is the solution, and jihad is the way."

Those who signed the Oslo Agreements, 'Arafat included, though not defined as "Muslim fundamentalists," do not oppose this Islamic ideology. Moreover, in essence they even support it spreading it in every possible manner. Their argument, however, is that this Islamic ideology may be implemented at anytime. Meanwhile, all efforts must concentrate on the achievement of real gains (acquiring territory, building a fighting force, receiving international support), which in the right time, will enable implementation of the Islamic ideology successfully.

'Arafat's policy of free gains

The father of this line of thought is Yassir 'Arafat, and these are its major components:

1. The Palestinian covenant is not, and will not be, abolished. However, it is important to present the world, from time to time with a formula which sounds like its abolishment, taking advantage of the ignorance of the other side, and of the sympathy as well as the ignorance of the Israeli and international media. For example, 'Arafat declares in Paris that the Covenant is "caduc," or the Palestinian National Council takes a decision to nominate a committee to decide which of the articles of the Covenant should be amended, or 'Arafat announces that Israel herself should adopt a constitution prior to the amendment of the Covenant. The basic idea behind these arguments is that the world, and the media in general would accept, adopt, and give currency even to the most outrageous absurdity, if it is repeated long enough.

2. The presentation of the agreements with Israel as temporary ones. It follows that it is permissible, even desirable to sign them, especially since they come cheap, even free, and are useful. Their usefulness is important. In this context 'Arafat speaks the language of the Islamic HAMAS, relying on a historical precedent established by no less a person than the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Muhammad made a treaty with the tribe of Quraysh, his enemy, because he thought that the agreement was beneficial for the Muslims.

The agreement did not abolish the state of war, only postponed it.

The agreement brought great benefits to the Muslims, enabling them to build their military power, weakened their enemy, and anaesthetized it to such a degree that it lost its defensive instincts.

The agreement was breached by Muhammad at the first opportunity, once he was ready with his army.

Those who opposed the agreement at the time of Muhammad, said that it was a shameful agreement, but Muhammad proved that in the long run it was a great strategic move, which led to the ultimate victory of Islam.

The programme of Israel's gradual elimination

Following Muhammad's precedent which 'Arafat loves to quote, the Oslo agreements are therefore presented as a temporary treaty, a mere phase in the overall strategy of destroying Israel in stages. The theoretical foundation of this strategy was formulated already in 1975. It is based on a principal which says: use every opportunity to secure territorial acquisitions at the cheapest price. Oslo, 'Arafat explains, established this principal of cheap acquisition, without giving up the option of war.

Following this line of thought, the Palestinian authorities are developing and spreading the ideas which existed in the various Palestinian movements, the PLO notwithstanding, already long before Oslo. These ideas touch on three major, cardinal issues which were discussed neither in Oslo, nor since Oslo in spite of the fact that they should have been the first to be put on the negotiations agenda. These are the problems on which the final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict depends. (In a side note it must be emphasized that the Palestinians have no interest in discussing the final settlement, because such negotiations would, by their nature, prevent them from making the maximal use of the Oslo agreements which enable them, as has already been emphasized, to acquire maximum property for almost no price).

The Palestinians have a very clear ideas regarding the three (avoided) main problems of the final settlement: Borders, Refugees and Jerusalem, which may be summed-up are as follows:

1. Borders.

Palestine, between the Jordan and the Mediterranean is indivisible. It belongs only to the Palestinians. It follows that Israel's existence, is just a temporary presence. The final aim is to replace it with an Arab-Palestinian state which would comprise the whole Palestinian territory as it was during the British Mandate.

For this purpose the Arab citizens of Israel must be recruited too, and they should take part in the national Palestinian struggle from within the State of Israel, making use of Israel's democracy, the Israeli media, and the Israeli legal institutions. The aim of replacing Israel with an Arab-Palestinian State can be achieved in two ways.

(a) War. This option involves the recruitment of all, or most of the Arab countries, notably Egypt, Syria, and Iraq at a convenient moment, preferably after Israel is contained at least within the 1967 borders.

(b) Changing Israel's character. This is a plan which aims at the cancellation of Israel as a Jewish state by bringing it to forsake its national Jewish symbols, to abolish the "Law of Return" enabling free Jewish immigration, and to open its borders for free influx of Arabs. In the long run, having been ethnically changed, Israel will be defeated by its own democracy. All agree that this option demands a longer breath, but its implementation is possible, especially since it does not involve bloodshed, and is likely to gain the support of many Israelis too.

It is possible to shorten the last mentioned process, if the Palestinians begin the negotiations about the borders not from the 1949 armistice lines ("The 1967 Green line") but from the 1947 UN "Partition Plan," according to which they can demand most of the Galilee and the major part of the Negev. It should be pointed out that already following the Oslo agreements the Palestinians developed a plan to take over parts of the Negev through the establishment of a corridor, under Palestinian jurisdiction, which connects the Gaza Strip with the "West Bank," and which cuts Israel in half. Both sides of this planned corridor are populated by ever increasing Bedouin tribes, Arab-citizens of Israel, who have undergone in the last decade a sharp process of Palestinization, and are destined to take an active part in this plan.

2. Refugees.

Appended to the definition of Israel's borders is the thesis which has long acquired international approval, namely that unlike all the refugees in the world which have always been rehabilitated after wars, the Arab refugees are kept, as a permanent problem fully supported by the international community. Moreover, the Arabs have succeeded in imprinting on the international mind the idea that a Palestinian refugee is not a temporary condition, but a status bequeathed, and inherited, from generation to generation. A Palestinian refugee is always a refugee, and so also are his descendants. The "Palestinian refugees" therefore are always on the increase, and a whole UN machinery has been established to support, and directly encourage this anomaly and human suffering. By now the Arab refugees are as permanent as the weather on the UN agenda. The Palestinians understand the tremendous advantage of the refugees tool in their plan to destroy Israel, emphasizing that all the refugees, and their millions of offspring, belong to the original places in which they had lived before the 1948 war. Their right to return to these places, most of which have long ceased to exist, has been the cornerstone in the Arab-Palestinian policy towards Israel. There is no attempt to disguise the reason behind this demand. Flooding Israel proper even with a few hundreds of thousands of Palestinian-Arab, means the end of the Jewish state within a few years. On the other hand however, the refugee camps, are a great asset for the Arabs which they will endeavour to keep even if an agreement on reparations to the refugees is reached some time in the future.

3. Jerusalem.

According to the Arabs, Jerusalem belongs only to the Muslims, the Jews do not have, and did not have any right to it. In many of his speeches 'Arafat repeats the absurdity that since the destruction of the First Temple the Jews have not been in Jerusalem, and that they have only recently been brought to it by the British. Arafat is only repeating the false "facts" which are part of the intensive re-writing of "Palestinian history," which has been taking place for more than seventy years, similar to the rewriting of the history of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and other Arab states which were born after World War I. In their re-writing of history the Palestinians aim at obliterating any memory of the Jews from Jerusalem in particular, and from the historical map of the Holy Land in general. This they do by presenting the whole history of ancient Israel as an insignificant episode between the Canaanites - who are identified as "Palestinians" - and the Islamic conquests, which are presented as just another wave of Arabs coming to historically Arab lands.

The Islamic conquests in the 7th century are introduced as the key to the special position of the Muslim-Arabs in Palestine, since these conquests established the legal relations between the Muslim rulers and the Christian dhimmis, the Jews being of no consequence, and possessing no holy places. Only through this twisting of history was it possible to present the Muslim conquests as the legal source for the establishment of a system of protection bestowed by the Muslims on the Christians, who were made to possess the only non-Muslim holy places.

Following this reasoning 'Arafat hammers repeatedly the idea that the Jews not only are not in possession of the holy places in the Holy Land, these being either Muslim or Christian, but that Israel as a state has no legal right even to offer protection to the Christian holy places, since it was caliph 'Umar (CE 634-644) who established the system of protection which only Muslims may benevolently bestow on the Christians.

The Palestinian-Arab-Muslim ideology regarding the Jews, which followed the Oslo agreements, is the same as the one prior to them. It prescribes the total negation of any connection between the Jews and their historic homeland including all the Jewish historical holy places. All the holy places to which the Jews lay claim are accordingly presented as Muslim-holy places with Arab names: The Western Wall is al-Burq, The Temple Mount is al-Haram al-Quds, Hebron is al-Khal. Classical Islamic texts already Islamized the major figures of Jewish history from Abraham to Solomon - they are all Muslim personalities, mainly prophets. All the holy places connected with them are therefore, by definition, Muslim holy places. The re-writers of Palestinian history are making maximum use of these old texts.

The Palestinian program as seen in the current policies, the educational system, the media, and literature is clear: The eye, the ear, and the heart of the future generations of Palestinians should be recruited to the one and only aim - the removal of Israel. For external consumption this ideological bundle is covered in the necessary verbal wrapping, pleasant to the western eye, and this the meal of deceit is spiced to suit the European and American palate.


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