No Springtime for Palestinians

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And yet, despite its horrific human-rights record, the Hamas regime in Gaza has received nothing like the disapprobation and pressure for democratic reform directed by Washington against the far more moderate governments of Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain. Nor has President Obama ever suggested to its leader, Ismael Haniya, that he either move toward reform or move out. To the contrary: even as the administration hectors Israel to loosen its economic and military sanctions, it  props up radical Islamist rule in Gaza by contributing hundreds of millions of dollars toward the salaries of Hamas officials. When it comes to the region’s most totalitarian and war-obsessed regime, the President’s newfound grasp of the linkage between political freedom and a more peaceful Middle East is nowhere to be seen.

Then there are the Palestinians living on the West Bank under the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA). There, the picture is undeniably somewhat brighter. President Mahmoud Abbas’s efforts to build, with the generous help of outside donors, some of the economic and political infrastructure of a future independent state have brought an expansion of civic institutions and the emergence of a Westernized entrepreneurial and professional class. To that extent, the prospect of further and genuinely democratic reforms has been enhanced.

But only to that extent. The ruling Fatah party, for instance, has still not relaxed its near-absolute control of political speech, the very touchstone of a free society. Not only are supporters of Hamas regularly imprisoned without any judicial process but, more significantly, there are no independent media and certainly no public debate regarding peace negotiations and future relations with a Jewish state.

On the problem of the 1948 Arab refugees and their descendants, the single most important issue affecting the future of all Palestinians, the West Bank under President Abbas might as well be a one-party state. No dissent is tolerated from the official line, promulgated by Abbas time and again: the absolute “right of return” to Israel of the surviving refugees and their millions of descendants. To the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians confined to camps in the West Bank itself, the PA’s propaganda apparatus continues to pledge an imminent day of deliverance—as if Abbas did not have it within his writ to tear down the walls of those camps tomorrow and help their wretched inmates integrate themselves into the surrounding society.

On May 15 of this year, commemorating the Palestinian nakba (the “catastrophe” of Israel’s independence), PA television played songs and presented pageants about the imminent return of the refugees to Jaffa and Haifa. The following day, just prior to the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, Abbas published an op-ed in the New York Times repeating the lie at the heart of the nakba “narrative”: that in 1947-48, the Jews of Palestine launched unprovoked attacks against defenseless Arabs, forcing them to flee their own country, and that not until after these acts of aggression did five foreign Arab armies intervene to save what could be saved.

No one living under Palestinian rule dares publicly question this lie. No historian dares offer his people a balanced account of the 1948 war, of who attacked whom, and of the reasons for the flight of the refugees. As long as this remains the case, the “right of return,” far more than any question of borders, will remain the principal roadblock to successful peace negotiations.

Open debate in Israel’s vibrant political democracy has led to significant reconsiderations of its policies in the territories won in the 1967 Six-Day war, culminating in a consensus for a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. We will know that Israel has a partner for peace negotiations when, with or without his help, President Obama’s six principles will have struck roots among the Palestinians themselves and drawn them into the light of freedom.

Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute.

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  • Dispozovdaburka

    If the Muslim countries were truly concerned about the Palestinians they would help them.
    They have plenty of money.
    So much for taking care of their muslim brothers.
    It's all about draining our economy so we can't support Israel.

    • Guest

      Shut up you tool. Maybe we should stop hemorrhaging money into debt for Israel. I don't care of the Palestinians or the Egyptians kill them! One less thing WE have to pay for!

    • guest

      That's like paying attention to a pinhole in a bucket full of water and ignoring the giant gaping hole on the other end…

      Federal Banks keep us in dept, ALL OF US, every citizen of every country!

  • StephenD

    They should have a two state program granted to them. One part "Palestinian" ~ if they want to maintain this lie, and the other part Jordan from whence they came and are still 70% of the population. Why isn't the world harping on Jordan to resolve this issue? Why is it that only Israel doesn't have them as refugees but as citizens? I am so sick of the B.S. surrounding this “make believe” problem the Arab Middle East has created out of whole cloth. This is Jordan's problem and NOT Israel.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Obama's opposition to represive government, just who do we think he is talking
    about, he is supporting Hamas, supporting their founding Muslim Brotherhood
    and is against Israel. It sounds nice but it will be directed against Israel.
    Obama can not be trusted as he is and has been Islam's guy in DC.

    There is no potential no matter what anyone says for peace with Palestinians.
    Look at the picture, think "seig heil", as it is said a picture is worth a thousand
    words. The best actions that can be taken is to send financial support to every
    support organization in Israel, if our government will not do the will of the people
    we must act over it and change it to do our will and helping Israel win the
    coming war is crucial in fighting world and Islamist totalitarianism………………..

  • tanstaafl

    Oh Palestine was having trouble
    Such a sad, sad story
    Needed a new leader to build phony glory
    Where o where was he?
    We looked around and then we found
    The man for you and me

    And now its
    Springtime for Hamas and Mahoud
    Palestine is happy and gay
    We're marching to a faster pace
    Say hello to that master race!
    Springtime for Hamas and Mahoud
    Islam Land's a fine land once more!
    Springtime for Hamas and Mahoud
    Look out Israel!
    We're going on tour!

  • Guest

    These Israeli's piss me off. Our forefathers had to die to save there asses in WW2 and now were expected to give them all our money and DIE fighting the Arabs, Palestinians, Persians and whoever the hell else!??? Screw Israel! I don't care HOW Anti-Semitic it makes me!!

  • ben

    Israel gave democracy to the Gazans. They freely voted for Hamas, and everything they represent. When given democracy, the Arabs vote for tyranny and terrorism. Same thing in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be enjoying the support of the majority. The problem is not the lack of democracy in the Middle East, it is the existence of Islam which instructs adherents to subjugate the world. While there may be numerous examples throughout history of moderate Islam that could coexist with different religions, this was always a fleeting aberration. Any belief system based on the Koran can never tolerate other religions for long. From the Muslim Yugoslavians that butchered Serbs and Jews during WWII, to the Muslim Philippinos that are now massacring Christians to establish a minority Muslim state, wherever there are Muslims there is no peace and no freedom.