About five years ago, I was invited by the Hoover Institution to lecture at Stanford University over the course of a week. Coincidentally, Israel’s Independence Day fell during that week, and so I was invited to speak at the celebration held by pro-Israel students. In my talk, I noted that the crux of the problem in the Palestinian–Israeli conflict was that most Palestinians wanted Israel to cease to exist.
After my talk, a woman walked over to me and introduced herself as a “peace activist.” She told me that she could not agree with me, because Palestinians, in her view, were quite willing to accept Israel’s existence.
As it happened, about 50 feet behind the pro-Israel celebration was an anti-Israel demonstration led by Palestinian students. So, I told the woman to go over and introduce herself to the Palestinian students as a peace activist — that way they would immediately trust her — and ask them if they were willing to acknowledge the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist. I told her that I would bet her five dollars that they would not answer in the affirmative.
She accepted the bet and went to the Palestinian students.
After about ten minutes, she returned.
“So,” I asked her, “who won the bet?”
“I don’t know,” she responded.
“I don’t understand,” I replied. “Didn’t they answer you?”
“They asked me, ‘What do you mean?’” she answered.
I told her she owed me five dollars, but that I wouldn’t collect.
Earlier this month in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority, I interviewed Ghassan Khatib, director of government media for the Palestinian Authority, and the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I asked him the same question: Do the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state?
He was more direct than the Palestinians students at Stanford.
His long answer amounted to, “No.”
There is no Jewish people, he told me, so how could there be a Jewish country? The Palestinian position is that there is a religion called Judaism, but there is no such thing as a Jewish people. (Interestingly, the Jews are only referred to as a religion once in the entire Hebrew Bible — in the Book of Esther, by the anti-Semite Haman.)
In other words, Palestinians, a national group that never existed by that name until well into the twentieth century, deny the existence of the oldest continuous nation in the world, dating back over 3,000 years. Now, that’s chutzpah.
Indeed, the Palestinians deny that the Jews ever lived in Israel. That is why Yasser Arafat could not even admit that Jesus was a Jew; rather, according to Arafat, “Jesus was a Palestinian.” To acknowledge that Jesus was a Jew would mean that Jews lived in Israel thousands of years ago — in a Jewish state moreover — long before Muslims existed, long before Arabs moved there, and millennia before anyone called themselves Palestinian.
In the Palestinian president’s speech to the United Nations last week, this denial of Jewish history was reaffirmed. Thus, in a speech about Israel and the Palestinians, he never once uttered the words “Jew” or “Jewish.”
Here is an example of Abbas’s Jew-free view of the history of Israel/Palestine:
“I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) . . . ”