The biased news coverage on Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is frightening. It is therefore of vital importance to mention in discussions about the Middle East all relevant facts, in order to give the audience a full and balanced picture. I would like to illustrate this with two examples.
The Jerusalem issue
The Arabs deny the historic rights of the Jews in the Holy Land and the special link of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. And today, even the building in large parts of the Jerusalem area is heavily disputed! Let’s look into some facts of the Jerusalem issue:
Since thousands of years (see 1. Book of Kings, 8,48), Jews all over the world have prayed towards Jerusalem – not least for the good of their Holy City, and in the hope to soon be able to return in this “City of Peace” (uru-salem). At the closure of the High Holidays, it has ever since been a tradition to say the wish: “Next year in Jerusalem”.
For the Arabs, in turn, Jerusalem was no meaningful centre before 1967. The city is not mentioned in the Qur’an one single time, and during the around twenty years (1948 to 1967) of illegitimate Jordanian rule over it no Arab representative except the king of Jordan, Abdallah, paid her a visit. Only in 1967, when – after a renewed attack of the Arab states – Israel has taken over the administration of the city, the interest of the Arabs in Jerusalem all of a sudden has become enormously big. But also thereafter it has always been obvious that Jerusalem has no sincere significance to the Arabs: When the Egyptian president Saddat during his historical visit to Israel came to Jerusalem and prayed on the Temple Mount, he did so towards – Mecca.
Until 1967, Jews were absolutely prohibited to access the Western Wall. In total contrast, the State of Israel thereafter left the administration of the Temple Mount and its mosques to the Arab side, in order to create the grounds for a peaceful atmosphere in Jerusalem. This religion-minded act however has been rewarded badly: until today, it has been strictly forbidden to Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.
The opinion of the Palestinian Arabs is quite clear. A few weeks ago, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal literally announced: “Jerusalem is our eternal capital; we cling to it and will free it inch by inch… Israel has no rights to Jerusalem.”
Could this be a solid basis for co-existence in the Holy City?
The two state peace agreement
Israel is permanently reproached not to advance swiftly enough the talks for a two state solution with the Palestinian Arabs. But perhaps we should ask ourselves in all honesty why Israel hesitates, though after all the many years of insecurity, terror and wars an absolute majority of Israelis is ready to make large concessions in exchange for a peaceful coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors. Following are four reasons for this:
a) The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, consistently denies – directly and through his media – the Jewish State its historical rights in the Holy Land (not only in Jerusalem!). He is the same Mahmoud Abbas who in his dissertation denied the Holocaust, and he is also the same Mahmoud Abbas who shares in the responsibility for the terror attack during the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, in which eleven Israeli athletes were murdered. Does not each one have to acknowledge the basic right of existence of the other in peace talks and before one can start to look for solutions for the conflict?
b) Mahmoud Abbas accuses Israel of the worst of crimes and incites especially the youths against the Jewish State. In the official Palestinian TV programs for young people, aggressive slanders of Israel are spread, while the most violent terrorist are highly praised. Thus, the new generation of Palestinians is poisoned with hatred instead of being educated for peace and integrated in a peace process. And just as a side note: When an international committee examined the school books of the Palestinian Authority and Israel, they reported that the Palestinian school books contain a lot of agitational material, while in the Israeli ones there are no anti-Arab texts. This kind of double standard should not surprise us because we know well that the Muslim world reacts vehemently to any vilification of Mohammed, while Arab media do not shy away from publications of anti-Semitic, ‘Stuermer’ style caricatures.
c) Far more than a million Arabs live in Israel enjoying all civil rights. In the parliamentary elections they are represented with three parties, and they got 11 (!) Knesset seats in the recent elections in Israel. In contrast, Mahmoud Abbas claims that no Jews be allowed to live in the Palestinian state to be founded. It shall be a ‘judenrein’ state. To Israel, this inevitably is inacceptable.
d) In order to promote the peace in the Holy Land, Israel evacuated in 2005 – thereby incurring the biggest ideological, social and economical difficulties – 25 flourishing Jewish villages in the Gaza Strip, hoping that Palestinian refugees would be settled there in a humane manner and that the peace process would gain a big step forward by this measure. Instead of that, these “liberated” areas have become the point of origin of a permanent rocket bombardment of the civil population in Israel’s southern core lands by Palestinian terrorists. How could one, after this development, expect that Israel in a speed process surrenders areas just 18 kilometers from Tel Aviv to the Palestinians which thereafter most probably soon would be ruled, corresponding to the Gaza Strip, by the extreme, terrorist Hamas?
“Don’t judge your neighbor without putting yourself seriously into his position” is an old Talmudic wisdom. It is up to us to judge the complex facts in the Middle East in a realistic and fair-minded way and to refrain from arrogant, superficial and most of all totally biased counsel from afar.