Defining 'Peace' in the Middle East
When most Americans think about or speak of peace, we have in mind the relationship between America and Canada. For Europeans, it may be like the relationship between Belgium and France. But in the Middle East, at best it seems to be an absence of war and among the Arabs, it can be just a hudna, or a break in between wars -- or an even more dangerous notion of peace when it comes to their Jewish neighbors.
Some Arab leaders, including even Palestinian Authority president-for-life Mahmoud Abbas, have said that they support peace with Israel. United Nations officials and many other world leaders have also spoken out in support of peace in the Middle East and some have even been intimately involved in the peace process -- especially American leaders. And of course Jews and Israelis have prayed for peace for millennia. But are all of these people referring to the same thing?
It doesn’t seem to be the case.
We can tell when they get into the details about peace what they really mean, and it becomes even more revealing when one of them asserts what is supposedly preventing peace from breaking out.
I have lost count of how many times an official of a government somewhere, or a United Nations official or a leader at a related agency, or an NGO head, or some media pundit claimed that a Jewish community somewhere prevents peace between Arabs and Israelis.
How can that possibly be? How can homes that Jews live in hamper peace? Don’t Jews have rights, including the right to live where they choose? Isn’t opposing that right or treating Jews differently discrimination?
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, is just the latest to condemn plans for Jewish homes. By now a dozen others could have made the same condemnation. Mladenov issued an outrageous and ridiculous statement after Israel, which faces housing shortages and skyrocketing home prices, announced preliminary plans to permit the construction of a few thousand living quarters.
“’I am very concerned about Israel’s recent announcements regarding the advancement of settlement construction in Giv’at Hamatos and Har Homa [in East Jerusalem], as well as the worrying plans for 3,500 units in the controversial E1 area of the occupied West Bank,’” Mladenov said in a statement, according to a Times of Israel report.
Mladenov continued: “’All settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace. If the E1 plan were to be implemented, it would sever the connection between northern and southern West Bank, significantly undermining the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution… I urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from such unilateral actions that fuel instability and further erode the prospects for resuming Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.’”
A Jewish home in Judea or Samaria or a suburb of Jerusalem is an "obstacle to peace."
Here is a news flash for Mladenov and like-minded others: Before there were once again Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, there was no peace. In fact, in 1948 and 1967 the Arabs used those areas to invade Israel.
That does not sound very peaceful.
Even earlier there were small Jewish communities in Hebron and elsewhere. In 1929 scores of Jews were slaughtered there.
That does not seem very peaceful for Jews either.
After Jordan attacked Israel in June 1967 and Israel gained control over Judea and Samaria and permitted Jewish communities to once again be established in areas that the League of Nations set aside for a Jewish homeland in what was then the region of Palestine -- in fact, encouraging “close settlement by Jews on the land” as per the Mandate for Palestine -- Arabs again began to attack those communities and murder and maim Jews.
Such attacks continue to this day. Due to Israeli security and vigilance, including an effective security barrier, many of these attacks are thwarted. Yet the Arabs keep trying. Mladenov’s condemnation is quite an extreme case of blaming the victims. It also perverts international law.
Article 80 of the United Nations Charter perpetuates the rights of Jews to live in these areas that were granted by the League of Nations. Has Mladenov of the U.N. neglected to read his organization’s founding document?
Mladenov and most of the world calls these Jewish communities “settlements” rather than communities, villages, or towns. Arabs who live in areas immediately adjacent to these “settlements” are said to live in communities, villages, and towns. The news media repeats this prejudice.
In fact a large segment of the world considers all of Israel, including within "the Green Line," to be a "settlement" and illegitimate. The Palestinian Authority most certainly does, and reminds its people of this stance always. The Arab world and the Muslim world refuse to recognize the right of Jews to live in Judea or Samaria or even parts of Jerusalem. The UN, EU, and others routinely condemn even the thought of a Jewish home there. Many American administrations have as well – although not the current one.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas -- who also heads the terrorist groups Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization – has vowed repeatedly that no Jews will be allowed to live in Palestine if and when it becomes a nation. This does not sound very harmonious. Apparently this is not an “obstacle to peace” as per Mladenov and countless other “peacemakers.”
The bottom line: The next time someone speaks about peace with reference to the Middle East, be sure to ask them to explain exactly what they mean. The “peace” of a Jewish graveyard or the “peace” of a Jew-free zone is not acceptable.
Steve Feldman is executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Zionist Organization of America.