In 1993, Yasser Arafat agreed to a compromise that would set aside the full demands of the Palestinian people, and recognize Israel in exchange for Israel recognizing Palestine.
At the time of the agreement, and during a high-profile media flurry, Arafat shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister at the time, to seal the deal.
Little did anyone know that Israel’s word is weak and deceitful and that while it cries for “peace,” it really wants to destroy the Palestinians and anyone who gets in its way.
We know that it was an Israeli follower of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who assassinated Rabin in 1995, sending the Arafat-Rabin peace deal into a spiral from which it could never recover.
Worse is that Israelis, angry that they had to give up on their dream of a “Greater Israel” that encompasses most of the Middle East including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, voted overwhelmingly to elect hard-line extremists to reject peace and pursue a tough military policy against Palestinian civilians.
What is amazing to me is that Israel has been rejecting peace openly and without shame for the past 20 years and no one in the Arab world has done anything about it.
Netanyahu, who professes support for the widely disparaged two-state solution, recently stepped in to prevent non-Jewish citizens of Israel from naming a street after Arafat, who received the Nobel Peace Prize along with Rabin and former Israeli President Shimon Peres for their efforts to end the violence.
Residents of the Israeli city of Jatt, which consists of Christian and Muslim Palestinians who remained in the so-called “democratic state” of Israel after its UN-forced creation in 1948, had erected signs honoring Arafat for seeking to make peace with the militaristic Israel.
Netanyahu immediately issued an order to take the signs down, and his more extremist government members have demanded an investigation to determine if any of the non-Jewish Israeli citizens can be prosecuted for placing the signs in honor of Arafat on their small village streets.
The Israeli-Arab citizens also wanted to name streets in honor of Haj Amin Al-Husseini — who led the Palestinian defenses against the pre-Israel terrorist groups the Irgun, Stern Gang and Haganah during the 1940s — and also Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam, who led Palestinian resistance against growing Jewish violence in the 1920s and 1930s.
Media plays down violence
The Israeli media has largely justified Netanyahu’s rejection of the Arafat street signs, and played down the rising violence that has targeted non-Jews in Israel. The day after Netanyahu announced he would not permit Arafat’s name to be placed on any “Israeli” street, Jewish terrorists began attacking non-Jewish people in the tiny hamlet.
Bloggers in Israel reported that a stun grenade was thrown into the home of Mohammed Kauwash, the chairman of the street-naming commission that recommended the Arafat street name.
It is funny how hypocritical this is. Chicago, for example, has named a major street in honor of Israel terrorist David Ben-Gurion, who ordered the destruction of more than 400 Palestinian villages located inside the new Jewish state and the killing of thousands of Christian and Muslim civilians who opposed dividing the country on religious grounds.
Chicago’s Jewish Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been accused of eliminating the Arab presence in the city government established by his predecessors Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley, and for pulling the rug out from under the Arabesque Festival, which had only started a few years before he came to office. Emanuel, acting in response to protests from Chicago Jewish leaders, has refused and ignored interview requests to discuss his anti-Arab actions.
Israel’s historic racism and apartheid is enabled by the rising extremism among American politicians like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others who do everything to protect Israel not only against violence but also against accusations that Israel is in fact the cause of most of the violence in the Middle East.
Jews in Israel and America often forget the violence their founders embraced, and often act in a hypocritical manner when it comes to principle, ethics and truth.
Netanyahu’s actions and the historic rejection of Palestinian rights reflect the growing racism inside Israel that is being fueled by the government. But the racism is more a form of religious discrimination targeting Christians and Muslims who are Arab. The Christian victims of Israeli atrocities are often ignored and marginalized by the Israeli media and few reports ever make it to the West, where one would assume Christians would be concerned about the Israeli persecution.
Many people view this rising tide of Israeli racism and bigotry as a bad sign, and it is. But there is a silver lining as Israel’s racism becomes bolder. The more Israel discriminates, the more difficult it is for Israelis to pretend they do not. The racism is becoming more and more obvious to the rest of the world.
It is clear that Palestinians are not the cause of the violence in Israel. The cause of the violence is from Israelis themselves who have rejected peace, rejected compromise and who are seeking to completely erase Christian and Muslim Palestinians not just from Israel but from the occupied West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.
The Arab world should respond to Israel’s rising extremism by embracing that which Israel rejects. For example, when Israelis travel to the Arab world, they should be greeted at “Yasser Arafat” terminals. And immigration stamps honoring Arafat should be stamped in their passports.
The more Israel says it does not want the Arafat name, the more it should be forced on them. Arafat was a hero not only to the Palestinians but to civil rights champions throughout the world.
The Arab world should not just sit back silently while Israel builds its movement to not only destroy Palestine but the entire region.
*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]
This article appeared at Arab News.