What Powers and Wehner Get Wrong About the Palestinians

Posted: Nov 28, 2012 2:09 PM
What Powers and  Wehner Get Wrong About the Palestinians

Editor's Note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.

Pete Wehner is a real gentleman. His reproofs are generally not caustic and are almost always intended to have his opponents listen to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” Thus, when he recently criticized Kirsten Powers, he provided a most useful sketch of the history of Arab-Israeli conflicts in recent times, at least since 1967. Wehner’s column should be required reading for anyone taking part in Mideast policy discussions.

In the main, we agree with his assessment of this good woman’s errors. But in gently rebuking Kirsten Powers, Pete Wehner compounds the errors of the past 24 years of U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

The late Jeane Kirkpatrick showed in her increasingly hard-to-find seminal article (“How the PLO was legitimized”) that the PLO was the precursor to this thing we call the Palestinian Authority (PA). All the same people who built the structure of the avowedly terrorist PLO are those who constituted the PA.

Amb. Kirkpatrick showed in her 8-page Commentary Magazine (Jul. 1989) article how the PLO worked through the UN to have its use of terror—its intentional targeting of civilians, its murders and assassinations—re-classified as justifiable under new understandings of international law.

These accommodations to terrorism were facilitated at every stage in the 1980s by the Soviet bloc. With Euro-communism on the rise, aided by violent red terror groups like Brigate Rosse (Italy), Action Direct (France), and the Baader-Meinhof Gang (W. Germany), the Soviets had every reason to make common cause with the PLO to alter historic understandings of crimes against humanity.

These killings would not count as murders if done in the course of “a war of national liberation.” The Soviet terminology was explicitly adopted by the UN in the course of the decade-long process of legitimizing the PLO. Thus, the inventors of airline hijacking for terror purposes were exonerated. Thus Yasser Arafat’s own orders to kill U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel in Khartoum in 1973 were whitewashed.

Israel by this reckoning was deemed a colonial power, and its actions in self-defense were considered repression--not unlike those of the South African apartheid regime.

The problem with this view, one so heartily embraced by the repudiated former President Jimmy Carter, for example, is that the Israelis were never colonists in Palestine. The Jews had never not been a major segment of the population of the Ottoman province, later the British Mandate in Palestine.

We take special umbrage at Pete Wehner’s use of “rejectionist” in describing those of us who do not believe in a Palestinian state. This is a departure from Wehner’s normally civil tone. A rejectionist, as generally defined, is one of those Arabs who reject any recognition or dealing with Israel. Applying it to us in America or in Israel who resist legitimizing the PLO is false and unjust.

To say a “two-state solution” is Israeli policy now is to ignore the fact that it would probably not be Israeli policy absent pressure from the Bush and Obama administrations. Pete Wehner is no longer in the Bush administration. He should be free to step away from the errors they committed.

As Americans, we need to ask ourselves what the Arabs in Palestine have done to deserve a state? Their only political expression has been to elevate the likes of Yasser Arafat or the avowedly terrorist Hamas organization to power.

Viewing the PA as an expression of the will of the Arabs of Palestine leads us to think that Mahmoud Abbas is some kind of democrat. He does not dare to hold an election on the West Bank. He knows he and his cronies would be ousted in favor of Hamas.

How can Pete Wehner hold out for a “two-state solution” and reject Mahmoud Abbas’s drive in the UN to have his PA declared a state now? If he persists, he will look as odd as the Obama administration’s Victoria Nuland denying that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Pete Wehner: If we are, or were, fighting a global war on terror, what sense does it make to give all the honors and perquisites of statehood to the PA?

We have not forgotten that when America was attacked on 9/11, the Palestinians danced in the streets, fired their rifles in the air, and gave candy to their children to celebrate. American taxpayers paid for that candy; we paid for those streets; and, truth be known, we probably paid for the bullets, too!