This piece was written by Alisa Rudy and first published in “The Ticker” on April 7th. Alisa is a junior majoring in Middle East Studies at Baruch College, is the current President of the CCAP group Youth Organization For Israel, Baruch’s student pro-Israel club.
Peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leadership are yet again at a standstill. It seems that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, does not see a real partner in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and John Kerry agrees. The U.S. Secretary of State was quoted recently as citing Israeli actions as “disruptive to the [peace] process,” and predicting that if the peace talks fail, there will be a third intifada.
But is the real problem Israeli leadership? Let’s remember exactly how the second intifada had started—Yasser Arafat. That was the same man who shook hands with Ehud Barak in 1993, and who was hailed as the official, trustworthy leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) during the Oslo Accords. The same man promised that the PLO “commits itself to the Middle East peace process” and “recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.”
Palestinian President Abu Mazen took over the PA after Arafat.When the second intifada began in 2000 in a succession of suicide bombings, it appeared as though the Palestinian people were erupting with a burst of unforeseen nationalism. What was later discovered, and verified by Arafat himself, was that the Intifada, the so-called grassroots uprising, was not very popular at all. In fact, the movement was initiated by the same man who shook hands with Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak for peace.
The peace process will never be successful as long as the current Palestinian leadership stands. Mahmoud Abbas continues to follow the pattern set by his predecessor Arafat, whose insincere “efforts for peace” were eclipsed by an ongoing campaign featuring the glorification of the single most petrifying terrorist movement to sweep modern-day Israel.
Israeli efforts for security are constantly seen as a “roadblock” to peace. How can Israel claim to offer equal rights to the Palestinians when they are forced to go through security checkpoints?
On Jan 27, 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, a Red Crescent emergency volunteer named Wafa Idris was permitted to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint in an ambulance into Israel without investigation. She later committed a suicide bombing that killed one person in addition to herself and injured more than 100 people, thereby becoming the first female Palestinian suicide bomber.
Even though Abbas wills to have “tranquility and quiet,” his party praises radical terrorism. Palestinian Media Watch reports that the official Fatah Facebook page posted a memorial on the anniversary of Idris’ suicide bombing, hailing her as a hero to the Palestinian people: “This is the hero whose name the Zionists will remember well, and so will Palestinians; the hero who sacrificed herself and her body for Palestine … through one of the most honorable Martyrdom-seeking operations in recent years … the name of Wafa Idris is still a lesson that terrifies the Jews.”
In March of 2011, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, together with Fatah-affiliated Al-Amari Palestinian youth center, held a memorial soccer tournament named after Wafa Idris. In 2002, Al-Quds newspaper reported that Fatah had created a women’s brigade for attacking Israeli civilians “in honor of the Martyr Wafa Idris.”
Unfortunately, the conflicted two-faced leadership of Abbas and Fatah is not limited to Wafa Idris.
A Palestinian children’s show features alarming sing-alongs, one in which a caller from Holland then sings a song that begins, “When we get martyred we will go to Paradise … No, don’t say we are too small.” The song concludes, “I am willing to sacrifice my blood for my country. Without Palestine, our childhood means nothing.”
Additionally, the Palestinian Authority receives enormous amounts of aid each year. Instead of using this aid to help the Palestinian people and make improvements on Palestinian social works programs, Palestinian leaders are dedicating $74 million to the families of terrorists, the “martyrs for the Palestinian cause,” effectively incentivizing terrorism.
The alarming rhetoric from Palestinian leadership is extremely unsettling for the sake of Palestinians who are constantly taught that martyrdom and self-sacrifice for their country is the ideal. It is doubly concerning because the same figures who hold martyrdom to such a high standard are the ones who are calling for Israel to make peace concessions, claiming they hope to achieve it within their time.
The future of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations lies in the hands of the Israeli leadership, but it is important that Palestinian leadership recognize themselves as equally responsible.
If Abbas and the Palestinian Authority do not relinquish their set of violent ideals for something more conducive to peace, it is unlikely that any step made by the Israelis will be enough to cover for what Palestinians lack in the peacemaking process.
For more by Alisa Rudy, check out her piece A Tough Legacy for a Tougher Man.