This is my email query to Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and blogger, who has consented to posting our exchange:
I’ve debated Isi Liebler on cable television. A supporter of Oslo during the ’90s, he turned into a bitter critic of peacemaking efforts because of terrorism. His regular column in the Jerusalem Post is very hardline, because he totally distrusts the Palestinian leadership. I’m sure that his views are mirrored on the Palestinian side by many who totally distrust the Israeli leadership because of the settlements.
Do you think that anything he writes here is true? I know that he’s basically correct on these ceremonies; how do moderates like ourselves handle such questions on proving the PA’s goodwill? [I quote Liebler here:]
Mahmoud Abbas was adamant that the Palestinian Authority would not contemplate any compromises. He told Al Kuds newspaper that “we’re not talking about a Jewish state and we won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state… you can’t expect us to accept this.” Interviewed by Al Ayyam he said, “If they demand concessions on the right of the refugees or the 1967 borders, I will quit. I can’t allow myself to make even one concession.” He also told the Egyptian media that while he would contemplate NATO forces being deployed in a future Palestinian state, he would not tolerate the presence of Jews among NATO forces and “will not allow even one Israeli to live among us on Palestinian soil.”
…. It should be noted that Abbas failed to explicitly condemn the recent killings by Hamas and merely noted that the timing of the assassinations “contradicts Palestinian interests.”
…. We continue downplaying the criminal nature of Palestinian society such as the sanctification of “martyrs” engaged in appalling crimes against our civilians, as well as incitement against Jews and Israelis in PA mosques, in the media and throughout the educational system. In Ramallah a square was recently named in honor of Dalal Mugrabi who massacred 37 Israelis on a bus.
A few weeks ago Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, participated in a ceremony honoring Amin al-Hindi one of the chief architects of the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
Hussein Ibish’s response:
Most of it’s either distorted or false. The ceremonies are right, but to reduce Amin al-Hindi to someone suspected of having a role in the Munich terrorist act is to misunderstand his role in Palestinian society. It’s a little bit like objecting to Israelis honoring former members of Irgun or the Stern gang. The statements attributed to Pres. Abbas are not accurate at all, and they have been thoroughly rebutted by the PLO and the PA. That’s definitely not what he said and it’s not their position at all. Yes, there are plenty of people on the Palestinian side, maybe most, who totally distrust the Israeli leadership, and not just because of settlements, but also because of violence and the occupation. Anyone capable of including a phrase such as “the criminal nature of Palestinian society” or “the criminal nature of Israeli society” has little to offer and is just looking for reasons not to strive for peace. To call it unhelpful would be a serious understatement.
[Abbas is] on the record as saying the opposite: that he welcomes NATO forces, including Jews and even if commanded by Jews, and many Palestinian officials have said Jews can stay in the Palestinian state, only not as settlers. Abbas obviously didn’t say no Jews in Palestine; he said no more settlers, which is a completely different matter since it’s about their status and not their identity.
Anyway, I’m really not interested in refuting this guy, because I’ve never heard of him and anyone who wants to engage in this kind of finger-pointing is wasting all of our time. We can talk about Lieberman, Yousef and all the others too. But this is a stupid zero-sum approach that concentrates on proving why the other party is bad, and which is therefore completely pointless.
This exchange would generate more light and less heat if everyone linked to the sources of the supposed Abbas quote about Jews in NATO forces. As it is, you are both perpetuating probable canards.
It is typical of Hussein Ibish to dismiss Leibler’s claim by saying “I never heard of this guy.”
It shows lousy judgment to publish such a statement and feed his arrogance. Husein Ibish is probably ignorant of everything and everyone who is no Hussein Ibish. If he is so profoundly ignorant, his ideas are probably worthless.
I have heard good and bad about Isi Leibler. Ibish should enlighten himself by reading Leibler’s column in the Jerusalem Post, but maybe he never heard of that either.
As for the quote by Abbas:
“Speaking in Cairo on July 28, Abbas gave his version of negotiations with Israel’s former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. In the course of his remarks, Abbas made a statement so astonishing that I quote it in full, as reported by Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency: “I’m willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the agreement, such as Nato forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the Nato forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land.”
A week or so later, Abbas’s political adviser, Nimar Hamad, no doubt realising the embarrassing insensitivity of these remarks, effected to issue a retraction, blaming unnamed American media for spreading the falsehood that the word “Jews” had ever been used.
But when I looked last Friday, the statement, including that word, was still on the Wafa website, and I understand that, in any case, some Arabic newspapers, such as Al-Quds (on July 30), had had no hesitation in reporting that it was “Jews” to whom Abbas had referred.
Apologists for the Palestinian position frequently assure me that when Arabs talk about Jews, and especially when they talk about Jews in negative terms, they usually mean Israelis.”
This is as far back as I can trace the actual quote. I am still looking,
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