Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2001 / 5 Kislev, 5762
So far the president has moved with deftness and alacrity to apply leveraged force on the world for the good of mankind, but at each movement of the lever there is accompanying danger that the forces unleashed could ratchet back and crush the chances of global success. This is especially so in the Middle East.
Bush violated some old taboos when he said it was America's "vision" that there be a Palestinian state and called that state Palestine. These audacious nudges on the lever of power were calculated risks that must be balanced with equal and opposing applications of leverage against the Palestinians and the Muslim world in general.
Bush articulated his "vision" only days after Osama bin Laden claimed that America's support of Israel justified his massacre of thousands of innocent civilians, and Palestinians literally danced in the street celebrating those barbarous acts of war.
The president's statement was, at best, "untimely" because it gives the appearance of rewarding supporters of terrorism. The comments jolted Israeli sensibilities and led Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to warn that Israel would not play Czechoslovakia at Munich, for which he later apologized.
It would now behoove the president to insist that Yasser Arafat and other Muslim leaders also discard their false taboos that stand in the way of peace in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world.
First, accept the reality and legitimacy of a sovereign state of Israel. There can be no Palestinian entity that does not fully respect the human rights of Jewish people to their homeland.
Second, Muslim leaders must denounce religious intolerance. The right to freely practice the religion of one's choosing is a human right that every nation must protect and defend. It is unacceptable to cloak religious bigotry in theological dogma, and Arafat and Muslim clerics must eliminate the practice of official state-practiced religious intolerance.
The president must also demand that Arafat guarantee that a Palestinian state will be a democratic state with provision made for Jews living in the settlements. Second-class citizenship status is unacceptable, and universal suffrage for citizens of all religious persuasions must exist in any new entity we help create.
Third, the president should publicly tell Arafat and the entire Muslim world that no longer will we overlook their abusive and threatening language toward Jews and the state of Israel. We can rightly demand, for example, that he fire any member of the Palestinian organization who says such incendiary things as Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the Fatwa Council, said recently: "Have no mercy on the Jews. Wherever you meet them, kill them."
Likewise, there must be an end to racist talk on Palestinian television, where just a couple of months ago a Muslim cleric called Jews pigs and idol-worshippers. This is a dangerous form of infantile "potty talk," and if Palestine is to be taken seriously as a mature civilized member of the world community, it must begin speaking like an adult and showing respect to its neighbors.
In the United States, we demand language that puts an end to the overt racism that has plagued much of our history. Muslims must demand no less of themselves with respect to Jews. We do not tolerate calling a black man the "N word," and neither can we tolerate gutter talk from Muslims, or any other people, especially when it is cloaked with a religious cover.
It is time we held the leaders in the Muslim world to the same standard to which we hold ourselves. How can Israel be expected to negotiate with a leader who will not demand removal of lethal phases concerning Israel from the Palestinian National Covenant or renounce the goal of the "Pha
sed Plan" that calls for the elimination of the state of Israel incrementally? Recognition of Israel, not just by Arafat but by the PLO and the Arab League, should be a prerequisite for any negotiation.
Finally, members of the Arab League, including the PLO, must renounce once and for all the idea that Zionism equals racism. If they are not willing to meet even one of these basic requirements, peace cannot and will not be maintained by any negotiated agreement.
Palestinians must be free to realize their legitimate desires to improve
their lives, educate the children, farm their lands and increase their
wealth and prosperity on contiguous lands. Israel, too, must look forward to
a free and democratic Palestinian neighbor - after all, democracies don't
start wars with democracies. Ultimately, a thriving and prosperous
democratic Gaza connected by trade and commerce to both Israel and the West
Bank is the only hope for peace with justice for
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