Editor's Note: Given the pressures within the Arab and Moslem world for conformity in monolithic hatred for Israel, it is rare indeed for individuals to speak out for genuine acceptance of Israel or in protest against the perversion of Islam in the Arab war on Israel. Few people are aware such voices exist at all, making AFSI particularly pleased to present, for the second time, the perspective of Lebanese Christian Joseph Farah, and for the first time, that of Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi. Following is a summary by Jonathan Schanzer of a talk Farah gave at the Middle East Forum on May 18 and excerpts from an interview with Sheikh Palazzi by Helen Freedman and Charlie Bernhaut on their weekly TV program Israel Update. AFSI salutes both Joseph Farah and Sheikh Palazzi for serving as true Profiles in Courage.
It is a sad statement about the Arab-American community that I find myself virtually alone publicly denouncing the violence of the Palestinian Arabs. It is sad because it shows how little diversity of opinion exists among Arabs in America, where we have the freedom to speak out without repercussion. In the Arab world, by contrast, there is less freedom to state opinions. With more freedom here than anywhere in the Arab world, more Arab Americans should speak out.
I published a column titled "Myths of the Middle East" on October 31, 2000. I received in response 15,000 e-mails from just Israel, and thousands from the United States as well. The Jerusalem Post reprinted the piece and told me that it evoked more reaction than anything the paper had ever printed.
But the reaction was not all positive. I received death threats that were turned over to the FBI. Indeed, many Arab-Americans were quite distressed over the things I had written. But 10 to 20 percent of the Arab-Americans who responded said that my message was long overdue.
The column was designed to debunk two central myths about the Middle East. Myth-shattering is important to a journalist like me. Interestingly, I have two specialties as a reporter: the Middle East and Hollywood. The two fields have a lot in common, for both are characterized by myths.
The first myth is that the conflict in the Middle East today is about the struggle for a Palestinian state because Palestinian Arabs were displaced by the creation of Israel, and the world is now responsible to assist in the establishment of a Palestinian homeland. Regarding Palestinians as a distinct people, however, is a notion that must be reconsidered. There is no distinct Palestinian culture or language. Further, there has never been a Palestinian state governed by Palestinians in history, nor was there ever a Palestinian national movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War,when Israel seized Judea and Samaria.
The Palestinian national movement has one primary goal: the destruction of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state to supplant Israel, withYasir Arafat as its leader.
A second myth deals with the issue of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The myth is that Jerusalem is really an Arab city, and that the Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam, and a central focus of Islam. The truth is that the Palestinians expressed very limited interest in the Temple Mount before 1967. Further, Jerusalem has always been a city with a substantial Jewish population, even during the period of Ottoman rule, 1517-1917.
There are other myths which I explored in subsequent columns. If you believe the Western media, Arafat is a Nobel Prize peacemaker who is central to any settlement. He is portrayed as the place where the peace process begins and ends. But this is not the truth about Yasir Arafat.
I recently interviewed an analyst who worked for the National Security Agency in 1973. This man intercepted communications between Arafat and his murderous Black September organization in Khartoum, capital of Sudan. The communication involved the 1973 kidnapping of two U.S. diplomats and one Belgian diplomat. In the end, Arafat gave the order to kill all three. Why do the American people not know about this incident? Where are the investigative journalists? And why has the U.S. government not charged this man with the deaths of two U.S. diplomats? Because Arafat is thought to be Israel's "partner for peace." The charade continues.
There is only one country in the region with
an acceptable level of freedom, and that is Israel. When
I go to the Middle East and visit Syria or Lebanon or
Egypt, there is no question that I am in a police state. And
believe me, working as a journalist in a police state is
no fun. By contrast, when I am in Israel, I feel that I am in a
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June-July 2001 - 7 - Outpost