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By Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman
Simon Wiesenthal Center
It may not be fashionable, but just for a moment look through the eyes of ordinary Israelis to understand their deep skepticism over demands they make sweeping new concessions for “peace”–on top of those they have already made by turning over administrative control of much of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority and unilaterally withdrawing from Hamas-run Gaza. After 3,300 rockets were fired from Hamas into Israeli communities during 2008 alone, the IDF belatedly responded with a military operation last winter targeting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure. Confronted by an enemy that dressed its fighters in street clothes while deploying “human shields” on rooftops to protect terrorist assets, Israel’s soldiers tried but sometimes failed to prevent civilians from being caught in the crossfire. Every innocent death is a tragedy, but compared to the thousands of French killed during the Allied breakout from Normandy or the hundreds upon hundreds of civilians killed as “collateral damage” during current U.S. predator drone attacks in the Af-Pak region, the IDF clearly succeeded in minimizing civilian deaths in terrorist-controlled Gaza.
Yet what has been the reaction to Israel’s defense of itself against Hamas whose founding Charter cites the genocidal Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a blueprint for wiping the Jewish state from the map? Not sympathy for Israeli families living in hamlets and towns rendered unlivable by incessant bombardment. Not understanding for the survival imperative of defeating terrorism. Not praise for a military operation that, among other things, freed Fatah prisoners from probable execution in Hamas’ torture chambers. Instead, Israel suffers the fast-tracking by the United Nations of the so-called Goldstone Commission Report whose precooked conclusions condemn the Jewish state for “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes” while intentionally turning a blind eye to Hamas’ genocidal intent against Israel and its You Tube boasts of deploying women and children civilians as “human shields.” To add injury to insult, the UN and the anti-Israel chorus of NGOs remain mum as Hamas–with Iran’s help–sets the stage for the next conflict by rearming with missiles that can now easily reach Tel Aviv.
Israelis listen carefully to their designated “peace partner” President Mahmoud Abbas’ pronouncements in Arabic as he bids up Palestinian extremists to see who can scream loudest demanding Israel’s leaders be tried as “war criminals” by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Meanwhile, they tune in to Palestinian Television as it abets a culture of denial against their Jewish neighbors. Elite Palestinian intellectuals like PLO Executive Council Member Saleh Rafat take to the airwaves and publications to serially deny that Jews have any historic link with Jerusalem and accuse them of stealing Palestinian “cuisine, clothing, and architecture” while allegedly plotting to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque by tunneling under the Temple Mount–a sacred piece of real estate currently controlled by the Muslim Religious Authority, the Wakf. These phony accusations climax with stone throwing, Mololtov cocktails, and threats of a new Intifada to thwart a non-existent plot by Jews to defile Islam’s third holiest site.
It wasn’t always like this. In 1165, Judaism’s greatest philosopher, physician Moses Maimonides, managed to pay a visit to the Temple Mount and pray at the Western Wall–an event commemorated by Jews and remembered till this day. But it would be another twenty years , until Sultan Saladin could promise that he would end for all time the policy of the Christian Crusaders to exclude Jews from the Holy City. Rooted in the Koran, Moslem recognition of the Jews’ sacred connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites dates back to the Caliph Omar in the seventh century and extends all the way up to 1924 when the Supreme Muslim Council’s guide to Al-Haram Al- Sharif (The Temple Mount) declared: “It’s identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” This declaration would be repeated annually until 1953! Israelis can only hope that–someday soon–Palestinians will accept and absorb the real history of Jerusalem: not the new fabricated fantasy.
A few days ago, Israelis– Left, Right, and Center–could only shake their heads at the firestorm that greeted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the unforgivable sin of rejecting the conventional wisdom that Israel, and Israel alone, is responsible for obstructing Mideast peace. She instead publicly praised Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unprecedented decision to issue a moratorium of building permits as a good will gesture meant to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to implementation of “the two state solution.”
Having none of it was Palestinian President Abbas whose spokesman indignantly declared that both President Obama and Secretary Clinton had been “unmasked” as puppets of Israel.
Jerusalem may yet re-emerge as the venue for the three great Abrahamic religions to discover common ground. But this won’t happen until Christians, Jews, and decent Muslims stand up to the current politicizing and perversion of its history. Current Palestinian falsifications of the past–including fantasies about a Judenrein Jerusalem–are no foundation to renew David’s–and Saladin’s–vision of the Holy City as a beacon of peace and tolerance.
Until Palestinians teach their children to respect the permanent and legitimate presence of their Jewish neighbors, no bullying from UN-approved kangaroo courts or arm twisting from “friends of peace” can create the facts on the ground for Israel’s (not so) silent majority to make any more of those one-sided “painful concessions for peace.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant to the Center.