Albert Kuhel ’18 – Inside Politics Program
The Royal Society is a fellowship of the most eminent scientists in the world. It’s motto, Nullius in verba (Take nobody’s word for it) – adopted in 1663 – is an expression of the determination of its members to withstand the domination of authority – and to verify all statements by direct observation.
So what does the motto of the world’s preeminent scientific society have to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Let me provide some background first and then I’ll explain.
For decades, the goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy. On March 16th, two days before the most recent Israeli election, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, made a controversial comment about the prospects for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
These are his remarks as translated from Hebrew and printed in the New York Times: “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to radical Islam against the state of Israel.”
Several days later, after the election, Netanyahu went to great lengths to clarify that his comments were a reflection of the current state of affairs, in which the Palestinian Authority (PA) is committe5d to forming a unity government with Hamas (Israel, the US, and most European countries consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization) – and the entire region is engulfed in chaos and violence. Nonetheless, the press overwhelmingly trumpeted the accepted wisdom that Netanyahu was the primary obstacle to a peaceful settlement – and President Obama asserted that the U.S. would have to reassess its relationship with Israel based on Netanyahu’s statement.
Contrast the reaction to Netanyahu’s rhetoric with the level of scrutiny afforded to Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, who is invariably referred to in the mainstream media as a “moderate.”
This is from a New York Times editorial that was published on October 10th, 2014: “Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the last six years. Ending this depressing cycle will require…imaginative diplomacy…designed in a way that strengthens the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate committed to peace with Israel, while weakening Hamas, Israel’s implacable enemy.”
So should we take the word of the Editorial Board of the New York Times that Abbas is a moderate who is committed to peace?
I vote for, Nullius in verba.
Consider, for example, these words that President Abbas spoke on October 30st, 2013 while personally welcoming Palestinian prisoners released by Israel as a concession for renewing peace talks: “We welcome our heroic brothers who come from behind bars to the world of freedom. We congratulate ourselves and we congratulate all of you in this great celebration that unifies and returns our sons to us” (PMW). Among those released was Issa Abd Rabbo, who was serving a life sentence for the murder of two Israeli university students, Ron Levi and Revital Seri. Mr. Rabbo abducted the students while they were hiking south of Jerusalem on Oct. 22, 1984, tied them up, put bags over their heads and then shot them to death. President Abbas held up Abd Rabbo’s hand in front of a cheering crowd while Abd Rabbo made the V sign of victory.
Or consider the condolence letter that President Abbas sent to the parents of Moataz Hejazi who was killed after he shot an American-born Israeli rabbi, Yehuda Glick, five times on October 29th, 2014. In his letter, President Abbas referred to Mr. Hejazi as “a Martyr who rose to Heaven while defending our people’s rights and holy places” (PMW).
Because President Abbas is in control of the official PA media (Ma’an News, Feb. 17, 2006) it is also important to examine PA radio and television broadcasts and it’s publications
For example, consider suicide bomber Izz Al-Din Al-Masri who detonated himself in a Sbarro pizza shop in Jerusalem on August 9th, 2001 killing eight adults (including a pregnant American woman) and seven children, and injuring 130. On May 5th, 2014 Israel returned Mr. Al-Masri’s body to the Palestinian Authority who honored him with a military funeral. Mr. Al-Masri was lauded as “Martyr,” the highest religious level a Muslim can reach, on PA TV news. PA TV News also reported that Izz Al-Din Al-Masri “gave his soul for the struggle of a nation that strives for freedom,” and described Al-Masri’s funeral as his “wedding to the 72 Virgins in Paradise, the great reward Islam promises to those who die as Martyrs for Allah” (Official PA TV, April 30, 2014). The Secretary General of Mahmoud Abbas’ office, Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim, commented: “We will never forget them, and we will always remain faithful to their vow… Oh brothers (Martyrs), your souls now hover above us and say to us: ‘Follow in our path, stick to the obligation that is incumbent upon us.” (PMW).
Unfortunately, the examples cited above are typical of the behavior and rhetoric of President Abbas and the PA. And it is also unfortunate that virtually none of this is reported in the mainstream media and unless you are fluent in Arabic and listen to PA radio and television and read their press releases, or you monitor internet sites such as PMW and MEMRI, which translate Palestinian media into English, you might actually believe that Benjamin Netanyahu is the primary obstacle to the two-state solution.