About five years ago, I was invited by the Hoover Institution to lecture at Stanford University over the course of a week. Coincidentally, Israel's Independence Day fell during that week, so I was invited to speak at the celebration held by pro-Israel students. In my talk, I noted that the crux of the problem in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was that most Palestinians wanted Israel to cease to exist.
After my talk, a woman walked over to me and introduced herself as a peace activist. She told me that she could not agree with me because Palestinians, in her view, were quite willing to accept Israel's existence.
As it happened, about 50 feet behind the pro-Israel celebration was an anti-Israel demonstration led by Palestinian students. So I told the woman to go over and introduce herself to the Palestinian students as a peace activist -- that way they would immediately trust her -- and ask them if they were willing to acknowledge the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist. I told her that I would bet her $5 that they would not answer in the affirmative.
She accepted the bet and walked over the Palestinian students.
After about 10 minutes, she returned.
"So," I asked her, "who won the bet?"
"I don't know," she responded.
"I don't understand," I replied. "Didn't they answer you?"
"They asked me, 'What do you mean?'" she answered.
I told her she owed me $5 but that I wouldn't collect.
Earlier this month in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, I interviewed Ghassan Khatib, director of government media for the Palestinian Authority and the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I asked him the same question: Do the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state?
He was more direct than the Palestinians students at Stanford.
His long answer amounted to: "No."
There is no Jewish people, he told me, so how could there be a Jewish country? The Palestinian position is that there is a religion called Judaism, but there is no such thing as a Jewish people. (Interestingly, the Jews are referred to belonging to a religion only once in the entire Hebrew Bible -- in the Book of Esther, by the anti-Semite Haman.)
In other words, Palestinians -- people in a national group that never existed by the name "Palestine" until well into the 20th century -- deny the existence of the oldest continuous nation in the world, dating back over 3,000 years. Now, that's real chutzpah.