Marching to one drummer

Posted: Apr 17, 2002 12:00 AM
If you doubt that the entire international Arab community is in lockstep with Arafat and the Palestinians against Israel, you should review recent statements of Arab leaders and spokespersons. On ABC’s "This Week," the reputedly moderate King Abdullah II of Jordan might as well have been reading from a scripted list of Arab talking points. Referring to Israel’s insistence that it needs certain of the disputed territories to ensure its own security, Abdullah said, "The Palestinian problem is a political one for Israel, not a security one." No reasonable person can deny that Israel has legitimate security concerns with any land-for-peace deal. For Abdullah to casually dismiss those concerns requires a willful disregard of the history of Arab aggression in the area -- including before Israel occupied the disputed territories. Regarding the latest Arab conference, Abdullah said, "We have to remind the world that only three weeks ago, the Arab world unanimously offered an olive branch to Israel for a comprehensive peace, normalization with Israel, as well as, obviously, freedom and a future state for the Palestinians." The Arab world’s so-called olive branch was its endorsement of the Saudi Peace plan, which, in addition to placing the complete onus on Israel for establishing peace -- through unilateral surrender of the disputed territories -- was silent on the Palestinians’ right of return. An unfettered right of return would virtually guarantee the elimination of the state of Israel. And, addressing the repeated Palestinian "suicide" bombing of civilians, Abdullah said that the real issue is "people under occupation for 35 years that want to have their rights, their dignity, their future and ability to decide their fate." Isn’t it amazing that an Arab leader could, with a straight face, talk about the Palestinians’ dignity and right of self-determination when no Arab state offers its people freedom? Indeed, Abdullah is merely parroting the Arab party line. At this celebrated olive-branch conference, not a single Arab leader denounced the bombings. And I’ve yet to see a single Arab or Muslim spokesperson condemn the bombings without qualification and without asserting moral equivalence between the bombings and Israel’s response to them. No, Arab leaders refuse to acknowledge the horror of these killings of innocent civilians and even take umbrage at the suggestion that they are better described as homicide bombings. They keep hewing to the message that the bombers are motivated by despair and hopelessness. But is despair what is causing 3- and 7-year-old children to sacrifice themselves? These bombings are not primarily about despair, but are goal-oriented, specifically to advance the Palestinian cause -- not of self-determination, but of the hatred of Jews and the extermination of the Jewish state of Israel -- a cause to which their leaders have indoctrinated them. International Arab solidarity is also shown by -- Iraq’s monetary rewards to the bombers’ families; -- Saudi Arabia’s $One Hundred Million telethon in support of the "martyrs" and its recent embracing of Iraq; and -- The Arab street’s approval of the bombings. In light of all this evidence, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Arab solidarity is based not so much on what Israel has done, but who she is. Translation: The cause of this Arab unity must be based on their enmity for the Jews. Otherwise, wouldn’t at least one of the "moderate" Arab leaders or spokespersons call Arafat on his contradictions? How can they all let slide, for example, his denial of sponsoring terrorism in one breath while promising to stop it (if Israel withdraws from its recent military occupation) on the other? And why won’t any Arab leader point out that Arafat didn’t need this excuse when he began this intifada -- there was no such military incursion in 2000 when he stormed out on Clinton and Barak after they acceded to almost all of his land demands. The reason they won’t call him on it is that they share his sentiments. That should sober up anyone who believes that the Arab world can be diplomatically persuaded to permit this tiny little country they surround to live in peace. It should also serve as a reality check for any who are optimistic about appreciable Arab support for our imminent action against Iraq. If America’s war on terrorism was not necessarily interlocked with Israel’s struggle against the Palestinians a few short months ago -- which I believe it clearly was -- it certainly is today. Since the Arab world is speaking with one voice in this struggle, shouldn’t America and Israel be doing the same?