The Will to Believe

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Throughout Jewish history, some of us have been prone to suspend our critical judgment and believe in false messiahs.  Many of us, after all, followed Shabtai Zvi, the 17th century rabbi and self-declared (and ultimately, false) messiah.

Unfortunately, our recent history is no better. So many of us suspended critical thinking and skepticism and believed in PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, the grand-daddy of 20th century terrorism whose great contribution to the world was the hijacking of airplanes — and please remember that the next time you are forced to wait on long lines in the airport.  Arafat’s deception of Israel and of the West, and our complicity in it, should finally disabuse people of the notion that Jews are a smart people.

The list of false messiahs does not end with Arafat, however.  After the unprecedented, generous peace offer that Israeli Prime Minister (now Defense Minister) Ehud Barak put on the table on July 25, 2000, which Arafat walked away from, and after the violence that Arafat instigated the following September, Arafat’s fig leaf tended to disappear in many Jews’ eyes. A shattering moment of truth in our view of Arafat and his Fatah movement occurred, finally, that October 12. That was when two Israeli reservists, Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, took a wrong turn, ended up in Palestinian-ruled Ramallah and were brutally murdered in a police station, with one killer proudly displaying his blood-drenched hands from the window.

However, that same capacity to suspend our critical judgment and to believe seems to never have left us. Exit stage right, Yasser Arafat; enter stage left, Mahmoud Abbas, whose nom de guerre is Abu Mazen. What sort of a so-called peaceful movement elects a leader with a nom de guerre, anyway? And for those with the capacity to believe without cause, the list will forever continue.

Early this month, for the first time in over 20 years, Fatah (the leading movement in the Palestine Liberation Organization, which itself evolved into the governing Palestinian Authority) convened a General Assembly, its sixth. Please note that the first one was held in 1965. That was two years before the June 1967 war, which leads to the question: Exactly which lands was the Palestine Liberation Organization trying to liberate?
We must remember that an earlier meeting of the General Assembly, in Tunis in 1974, adopted the “phased plan” for the elimination of the State of Israel. This occurred after the Arab world’s crushing defeat in the 1973 war by the Israeli army. The Fatah charter had been amended to say that any land ceded through either the “armed struggle” (meaning: terrorism) or through the process of negotiations should be used as a “base of operations” to “liberate all of the land of Palestine.”
In the General Assembly that was just convened in Bethlehem, Fatah’s old guard was brought together with its new one — but just because they are younger, we must not harbor the illusion that they are any less radical. A successor was chosen, as were 22 members of Fatah’s decision-making group, the Central Committee. The Central Committee includes at least five people who haven’t even accepted the Oslo accords, and 18 are old-style Arafat cronies and bureaucrats.

The most alarming development was that the future successor to Abu Mazen, Muhammad Ghaneim, was elected. Ghaneim is so opposed to any sort of a peace deal with Israel that he refused to participate in the Palestinian Authority as long as it was involved in the peace process. He also refused to enter the West Bank or Gaza with Arafat in 1994.

The resolutions that the council adopted were equally alarming: no negotiations until Israel releases all political prisoners, no division of Jerusalem, no deal with Israel unless it agrees to a “right of return” of all Palestinian refugees, and no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Fatah’s political plan, adopted at the convention, calls for the use of “peace as a strategic option,” but reserves “the right to resist the occupation by all legitimate means.” Meaning: Fatah did not give up the “armed struggle.” Instead, it is simply using its time-proven, successful game of double-speak and re-introducing, formally, the concepts of “armed struggle” and “resistance,” which it never had repudiated in practice, anyway.

The good news is that the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade was officially adopted as a part of Fatah. That means that there can be no more “good cop/bad cop” game that we Westerners, who want to suspend our critical judgment, engage in. You know the game: telling ourselves that it is not that Palestinian leaders — Arafat, then Abu Mazen and, in the future, Ghaneim — do not want to control the violent factions; it is just that they are unable to.

I know as I write these words that we are left with a very bleak option: Fatah or Hamas. However, that merely has been the distinction between those who want to destroy Israel today (the latter) and those who want to destroy Israel tomorrow (the former). Why negotiate at all if Israel is just engaging in an elaborate charade, pulling the wool over our own eyes and giving the Palestinians more time and international funds to regroup and succeed in the devastating plans of the PLO charter they have just voted upon?

Yet, I know that fairly soon, much ink will be spilled by Jewish analysts in an attempt to make Ghaneim into a Gandhi. So much for the touted, vast, intellectual capacities of our people.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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