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Palestinian Arabs' goal remains the destruction of Israel

By Sidney Laibson

Objective and factual reporting by the news media is crucial to understanding the complexities of the Middle East peace process. If news and opinion are distorted, or if the news media neglect to mention critical statements made by political leaders, we will fail in our search for truth.

Throughout history, mankind has yearned for peace. In the Middle East, a peace process was developed, and there was hope that peace might come at last. However, peace and the peace process are not synonymous. Many who had sought peace are alarmed by the escalation of terror. They believe that the foundation for a genuine peace is trust, credibility and caution, not timetables or a specific process.

Open debate on the peace process should be encouraged. Stifling opposing views with condemnation and distortion only nurtures distrust and hostility. Unfortunately, those who express reservations with the peace process are all too frequently mischaracterized as "opponents of peace" if:

The Beit Lid massacre earlier this year, when 21 Israelis were killed and 60 injured, established a benchmark of anger and mistrust. The president of Israel, Ezer Weizman, a political dove, reacted with shock, saying: "Right now it's a bloody process, and with a bloody process we don't achieve peace." Weizman again urged a reassessment of the peace process in the aftermath of the July terrorist attack in Ramat Gan.

It is informative to compare the Arab reaction to acts of terrorism with that of Israelis. After the Beit Lid massacre, hundreds of Palestinian Arabs gathered around the home of the suicide bomber. A Palestinian, speaking over a loudspeaker, declared: "The Islamic movement offers condolences to the hero of the attack that led to the killing of 20 pigs and the injuring of 60 monkeys." The crowd then chanted, "Death to America. Death to Israel."

Following the recent Gaza suicide bombing, Abu Medein, minister of justice for the Palestinian Authority, said: "We must remember that the main enemy of the Palestinian people, now and forever, is Israel."

Since signing the Israel PLO peace accords, Yasser Arafat, in his speeches directed at the Western world, has lauded peace and coexistence -but not in remarks delivered to Arab and non-Western nations. Unfortunately, these remarks often are unreported or underreported in the news media.

Two years ago, on the day the Israel-PLO peace accords were signed, Jordanian television broadcast a speech by Arafat, who said: "Do not forget that our Palestine National council made the decision in 1974. It called for the establishment of a national authority on any part of Palestinian soil that is liberated or from which Israel withdraws."

Arafat's statement refers to a 1974 amendment to the Palestine National Covenant that calls for a "phased plan" for liberating Palestine by taking whatever portion to facilitate the ultimate goal: the destruction of Israel.

In violation of the Oslo Accords, Arafat has steadfastly avoided convening the Palestine National Council to rescind segments of the covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.

Instead, a revised edition of the covenant was published in March 1995, declaring the internationally accepted Balfour Declaration, which in 1917 called for a Jewish homeland, illegal and morally unacceptable.

Moreover the revised covenant fraudulently claims that Jews refused all Arab appeals for peaceful coexistence and autonomy. This new version of covenant strengthens existing clauses that call for Israel's destruction.

In a speech delivered in Johannesburg, Arafat called for jihad (holy war) to liberate Jerusalem, and linked the peace agreement with Israel to the strategy that Muhammad applied to the Meccans 1,300 years ago. Muhammad had no intention or honoring the peace agreement with the Meccans. Two years later, militarily stronger, he attacked and conquered Mecca.

Are these the words of a true believer in peaceful coexistence with Israel?

Are Arafat's declarations of peace transient, motivated by political expediency?

Will Arab peace with Israel evaporate at a more convenient and opportune time for Arabs who want to reclaim land they consider theirs?

Despite the signing of the Israel-PLO peace accords, the Palestine National Covenant still calls for the destruction of Israel.

We hear with clarity Arafat's "phased plan" speech. The chanting of "death to Israel" from Palestinians rings in our ears. We look at a 1994 poll conducted by the American University of Beirut and note that 90 percent of the Muslim Arabs the support peace today would not support it if Israel were weaker. We see Iran inching toward nuclear capabilities, and we behold that the Saddam Husseins, the Moammar Gadhafis and the Hafez Assads are still alive and well.

Then we recall Weizman's haunting words "we signed an agreement that does not work" and we wonder if Israel's risk for peace today may become tomorrow's risk of life itself.

Sidney Laibson is president of PRIMER-Connecticut, a regional, nonprofit organization that monitors reporting on the Middle East. He lives in Bloomfield.

Hartford Courant August 29, 1995

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