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A Palestinian Responds to Ahmadinejad's call for destruction of Israel


Below is a Palestinian response to the call of Iranian president Ahmedinejad for the destruction of Israel. Ahmadinejad had said, among other things:

'Today the Palestinian nation stands against the hegemonic system as the representative of the Islamic Ummah [nation]. Thanks to God, since the Palestinian people adopted the Islamic war and the Islamic goals, and since their struggle has become Islamic in its attitude and orientation, we have been witnessing the progress and success of the Palestinian people.'

"'... They [ask]: 'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved.

Significantly, in the Arab and Muslim Middle East, Palestinian leaders led the way in rejecting Ahmadinejad's statement. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said:

"We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "This is unacceptable."

Walid Salem of the Panorama Center in Jerusalem wrote the letter below and asked that it get the widest possible circulation.
Ami Isseroff

A Response to Ahmadinijad: Questions of Strategy

by Walid Salem

Personally, as a Palestinian working responsibly for the last thirty-one years, including five years in prison as a political prisoner, it is very difficult for me to continue as if nothing has happened when hearing a President of an Islamic State returning to the 1960's and 1970's slogans calling for the elimination of Israel. At that period, these were the slogans of the Arab nationalist movements (and also the Palestinian armed Marxist organizations). Today, these slogans have become Islamist political propaganda resurrected by the Iranians and different political movements that use Islam as their announced ideology.

The dangers of such slogans lie not only in their role in incitement, but also in the fact that they express a lack of strategic vision about the following issue, which also relates to post-disengagement issues in Palestine, namely: How do we deal with the "Jewish question" in the Israeli-Palestinian and also in the Israeli-Arab/Islamic context?

The first point in this regard is the question of "the Jewish question" itself: Do we in the Middle East ask ourselves about this question? With the exception of a book written few years ago by the Lebanese journalist Joseph Samahah, I have not seen other Arabic writings that recognize the "Jewish Question," not only as a European question, but also as an Arabic/Islamic one.

The second point is built onto the first: if the Jewish question is recognized, then its phenomena should be discussed. In this regard very frank questions need to be asked: Were the rights of the Jews throughout the ages guaranteed in Arabic and Islamic countries? If the answer to this question is yes, then why did the Jews of these countries emigrate to Israel? Was it only Zionist propaganda? If it was only Zionist propaganda that led to the migration to Israel, then why do at least a portion of those who came to Israel from the Arabic and Islamic countries adopt right-wing positions towards the Palestinians and Arabs? Moreover, what have Arabs and Islamic countries done in order to maintain good relations with these Jews after they migrated to Israel? These questions need frank answers and if we continue justifying oversights, the results will only be further deterioration in the Israeli/Palestinian and Israeli/Middle Eastern relations.

My third point centers on the strategy towards Israel. Do Ahmadinijad and others of his ilk think that this kind of propaganda helps Palestinians? Do they, on the other hand, help Israel to integrate in the Middle East? Or does their attitude just help to increase those trends that call for Israel to be part of the West and to disconnect itself with Eastern culture and ties, except those ties of hegemony and dominance? Do such statements help bring peace to the Middle East or more hatred and violence and proliferation of nuclear weapons? Does Ahmadinijad hope to use these weapons in order to eliminate Israel? Moreover, does he realize that an Israeli response might bring about the elimination of Iran and probably other Middle Eastern countries? Why are we giving momentum to militarization and a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, instead of peace? What kind of strategies are these? What does this say about our leaders?

The fourth point regards our roles in solving the 'Jewish question.' Of course the greater part of this problem was created in Europe, but as the Jewish State was established in the Middle East, it falls upon us to answer the question: Will we accept the challenge of integrating Israel into the area? Alternatively, do we want to create new problems just because we do not bear the responsibility of creating the original problem? Even if the creation of Israel was not our direct responsibility, it is still our overall humanitarian responsibility to find a common solution to the Jewish question rather than to resolve the suffering emanating from the establishment of Israel by causing anguish for the Jewish people! These are issues that Ahmadinijad did not think of because his very blind strategy can't see the humanity of the opposing side.

The fifth point ponders whether these actions reflect Islam. Is this the tolerant Islam that all average citizens know, the Islam that recognizes the 'other'? Is this the Islam that promotes equal rights for all people whatever their religion, color, sex…. etc? These blind ideologies have nothing to do with Islam. They only create the opposite of what Islam stands for: they create hatred out of religious differences and thereby religious wars.

On all of the above points, moderate Muslims are called upon to raise their voices. Moderate Muslims must be loud and vociferous against blind strategies, and instead should call for a real and intensive discussion about the Jewish question and about Israel's position in the Middle East. Without such deep and fruitful discussion, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will not be completely solved.

Walid Salem

Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office. He is also the author of books and articles on such issues as democracy, citizenship, youth rights, civil society development, Israeli-Palestinian peace-building, and the right of return. Together with Paul Scham and Benjamin Pogrund, he is author of SHARED HISTORIES: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue, Left Coast Press, 2005.

A version of the letter was published by the University of Pretoria Centre for International Political Studies (CIPS) http://www.up.ac.za/academic/cips .

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Replies: 9 comments

Thank you for this blog entry.

It is not often that voices of sanity and reason speak out against the vitriolic anti-Semitic hatred that festers in many parts of the Middle East. Saeb Erakat's unequivocal response was heartening.

The rare displays of pragmatism and sanity show us that amid the viciously boiling caudron of Palestinian society, there are indeed voices of pragmatism and common sense. Too bad they are not heard more widely.

All that REALLY needs to happen for the Palestinians to gain a state of their own is for the Palestinians and the other Arabs to finally listen to these voices and to discard the wasteful, bloody and self-destructive policeis of violence that have always ruined their hopes.

Posted by DH @ 11/02/2005 10:02 AM CST

Its all nice and well, but is it, or isn’t just one voice?

Posted by Dvar Dea @ 11/02/2005 06:23 PM CST

please send to tehran so they can rethink strategy and things over. If they truly follow Islamic faith than peace is the question. Their faith should lead them to peace.

Posted by red @ 11/02/2005 08:33 PM CST

The one very disturbing element of this distasteful discussion is the use of the term "Jewish Question". Arabs can not be unaware of the racism implied in the term based on historical useage. National Sodeletedts(Nazis) used this term to cloak the Holocaust in clinical, "clean" language. Is the purpose to intimidate or to scare?
The distasteful-ness of this discussion stems from the assumptions that underlie; that anyone has the right to deliberate on the continued existance or the rights of the Jewish state. Let us put it bluntly, AS OF 1945, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO QUESTION ISREAL'S RIGHT TO EXIST! With every war that Isreal did not start, but won against overwhelming, if extremely ineffective, Arab armies NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO REQUIRE ISREAL GIVE BACK ANY CAPTURED LAND; unless they are willing to demand that any other nation give back all other territories it aquired in battle.
Your comments on the history of Jewish people in Muslim countries is not quite as rosy as you want to believe. Jews were forcibly expelled from many Arab nations--I do not believe that in any Muslim nation they have ever had equal rights, nor were they allowed free travel in the region.
Finally, the reason you wrote this article seems to be to repair the damage to public opinion done by the Iranian leader. Actions are far more influential then words, and by actions alone the muslims in the Middle East and else prove themselfs to be a violent group unable to tolerate, let alone peacefully co-exist with other religions. Moderate Arabs must prove their prodominance in the Muslim world by actions rather then words or frankly no one will believe it.
Finally, one last comment must be made about

Posted by Cheryl Morgan @ 11/03/2005 11:00 PM CST

First, Cheryl Morgan, it is possible you misunderstood Salem's letter. To me at least, it is not saying anything to "repair the damage to public opinion done by the Iranian leader". Rather Salem criticises Ahmadinejad for his lack of foresight and diplomacy in making this statement and for seeking to kindle/revive Iranian feelings of antipathy towards "America and Zionism'.

Second, I have a question to the readers/authors of the blog. I remember reading in a book by Richard Foltz about Iranian seats of parliament being reserved for Jews and other minority groups. I found confirmation of this at an online copy of Iran's constitution (http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/ir00000_.html#A064_). Does anyone know if this happens in practice, and if so, what were the responses to Ahmadinejad's statment from this Jewish member of Iranian parliament?

Posted by Lisa Thurston @ 11/06/2005 05:16 AM CST

I am glad palestine rejected the statement because I want them to finally make a peace treaty

Posted by Chris @ 11/06/2005 10:51 PM CST

the opinion of the iranian leader was uncalled for as bigoted and racist and totally unnecessarily. it is unrealistic to say the least as even if you take the lowest common denominator its impractical and illogical and in a plainli humanistic view bad form.
thats is not to say israel should not reform itself rathr it should but it cannot as long it facs enemies like this but maybe it should try and outtiger the nieghbouring tigers.
one has to wonder whether the iranian tirae is a bunch of hot airof an aging ad toothless lion or a agile wolf. the risks of finding out are emormous and may or may not be worth it.

Posted by moiz esufally @ 11/07/2005 12:05 PM CST

The Iranian leader has said it as it should have been said.Why should the Palestinians pay the price for the atrocitities against the jews BY THE WEST.Where's justice in this.The Palestinians have not landed from Mars. We have lived on this land even before Moses entered it. The world can dream all it wants of the elusive and false peace with the Jewish state. It will not happen, simply because Israel wants to occupy not only the Palestinian land but the whole Arab world if it could. Israel does not belong in the Middle East, an Israeli State would prosper in peace and security in California or any other piece of American land !!!!!!!!

Posted by SRajab @ 01/17/2006 02:20 PM CST

Re: "We have lived on this land even before Moses entered it."

You're kidding, right? You're a Canaanite?

Posted by Deborah Hoffman @ 01/29/2006 07:47 AM CST

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