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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

October 11, 2012

Q: Why Can't the Palestinians and Other Muslims Accept a Political Solution with Israel?
A: Because It's Not a Political Problem.

Dear Friend of FLAME:

A few days before Yom Kippur, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York City, spouting off about how Israelis have been occupying Palestine for no more than 70 years. "They have no roots there in history" and should be eliminated, he added.

On actual Yom Kippur day, as Ahmadinejad railed against Israel and the U.S. in the U.N. General Assembly, I was at services, and my congregation recited the words of Isaiah 2:3: "For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Isaiah's words were written some 2,800 years ago in what came to be called Palestine. Our congregation concluded Yom Kippur services------as Jews have for thousands of years---with the words, "Next year in Jerusalem." So much for Muslim lies about a short Jewish history in the Holy Land.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose doctoral thesis was a denial of the Holocaust, also frequently denies any Jewish connection to Palestine and, despite volumes of archeological evidence to the contrary, the fact that two Jewish Temples stood on site of the later Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem.

What is it about Arab and Muslim politics that permits and accepts such blatant, outright lying about Jews? Why do no Muslim scholars denounce these obvious racist falsehoods? Above all, why is it so important to the Arab narrative that Jews can have no history in Palestine?

The short answer is that Jews residing and prospering in the Middle East is anathema to Arab and Muslim culture. It creates profound cognitive dissonance and simply cannot be accepted.

According to this week's FLAME Hotline article, it's the failure by the U.S. and Western nations to understand and acknowledge this cultural disconnect that has doomed Arab-Israeli political efforts to achieve peace. Because the problem is not political---rather, it's cultural, it's psychological.

I think you'll find that this brilliant article by Richard Landes, a professor of history at Boston University, offers real breakthrough thinking and a bold proposal for resolving the decades-long negotiating impasse. However, as Landes notes, it will require a sea change in thinking by Western liberals, as well as by Muslims and Arabs.

As usual, I urge you to pass this courageous perspective along to friends, colleagues, and fellow congregants using the "send to a friend" button at the bottom of this email, or using the buttons above to share it via social media. I guarantee that you and they will be glad you did.

Thanks for your continued support of Israel, and thank you for your support of FLAME.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Vice President
Facts and Logic About the Middle East – FLAME


In a world turned upside down by outrageously false Arab propaganda---which contends that Israel has no rights to a state in the Middle East---FLAME has been fighting with facts and logic to publicize the truth in mainstream media. A great example is our recent hasbarah (public relations) effort, "Do the Jews Have the Right to a State in the Holy Land? The question is not whether the Palestinians are an 'invented people,' but rather why Arabs deny Jewish history and Jewish rights to a state in Israel." It was published in media reaching more than 10 million people, and delivered to all U.S. Senators and Representatives. It's one more example of FLAME's determined efforts to tell the truth about the enemies of Israel (and the U.S.). Ask yourself: If FLAME doesn't refute lies from Ahmadinejad and Abbas in mainstream media about Jewish rights to a state in the Holy Land, who else will do it? If you agree that these kinds of outspoken advocacy efforts on behalf of Israel and the U.S. are essential, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.


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Redesigning the Peace Process
Ignoring cultural difference and overestimating politics has left us without a resolution. We can do better.
By Richard Landes,Tablet magazine, September 25, 2012

Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, there hasn't been a moment when the punditocracy hasn't insisted that Israel needs to make a deal with the Palestinians—and soon. Otherwise, they claim, Israeli democracy, saddled with millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control without citizenship, will have to choose between the twin catastrophes [1] of democratic suicide and apartheid. And since the solution that everyone knows is the eventual one–land for peace–is so clear, let's just get on [2] with it.

It hasn't panned out. We're now approaching two decades of failure of the two-state solution. Every strategy for pulling it off—Oslo, Taba, Geneva, Road Map, Dayton, Obama/Clinton—has, despite sometimes enormous efforts, failed or died stillborn. And yet, with each failure, a new round [3] of hope emerges, with commentators and politicians arguing that this time [4], if we just tinker with some of the details, we'll get peace right. (Or, as an increasing number have now come to believe, it's time we abandon [5] the two-state solution entirely.)

The predominant explanation for this impasse in the West has focused on Israel's role: settlements [6] that provoke, checkpoints [7] that humiliate, blockades [8] that strangle, and walls [9] that imprison. Palestinian "no's" typically get a pass: Of course Arafat said [10] "no" at Camp David; he only got Bantustans [11] while Israelis kept building illegal settlements. Suicide bombers are excused as registering [12] a legitimate protest at being denied the right to be a free people in their own land. In Condoleezza Rice's words [13]: "[The Palestinians] are perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace … the great majority of people, they just want a better life." The corollary to such thinking, of course, holds that if only the Israelis didn't constantly keep the Palestinians down the world would be a better place. So, the sooner we end the occupation, the better, even if it means urging [14] the United States to pressure Israel into the necessary concessions. It's for Israel's own good [15].

This line of thinking is driven entirely by politics. Oslo thinkers from Bill Clinton to Thomas Friedman believe that what was needed was a political settlement and the rest would take care of itself. In 2007, Rice reflected this outlook in a statement of faith that projected [16] a peculiarly modern outlook: "I just don't believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you can create the right conditions, that's what people are going to do."

Overestimating the power of politics and dramatically underestimating the importance of culture has actually hindered the possibility for a political solution. For Jews, especially progressive Jews, the early second decade of the 21st century poses a particularly interesting and painful meditation just in time for Yom Kippur: In our quest for "fairness," for splitting the blame evenly, for misidentifying problems as political and therefore easily solvable—so easily solvable they could be dispatched with a simple email, as one exasperated BBC anchor put it recently—are we actually working against both parties in the conflict?

I believe the answer is yes. And those who wish to pursue a peaceful resolution need to take a hard look at the cultural difference between Israelis and Arabs—and craft policy that confronts it.
Any approach that pays heed to cultural issues yields a very different view as to why the conflict persists. The zero-sum [17] logic of Arab attitudes toward Israel does not represent merely the choices [18] made by politicians, but Islamic religiosity and deep-seated cultural mores. From the Arab perspective, the very existence of Israel represents a stain [19] on Arab honor and a blasphemy [20] to Islam's dominion in Dar al Islam. Some, like the Palestinian Authority, may have made a tactical shift [21] in which they will, despite the shame [22] of it, talk with Israelis and even make public agreements. But they have treated such engagement as a Trojan horse [23], a feint to position for further war. Within this cultural context, the peace process has actually served as a war process [24].

Well-meaning Oslo proponents, afraid that criticism of, and demands on, the Palestinians would delay the peace process, denounced anyone who made these kinds of observations as enemies of peace. So, when Arafat said "no" at Camp David in the summer of 2000, and a wave of suicide bombers came pouring out of the belly of the horse, these same Oslo supporters, including many an alter-Juif [25], rather than admitting they had called it wrong, preferred to blame [26] Israel.

But bitterest of ironies, in so doing, they fed the very culture they denied. Palestinian hatred [27] has festered under the guidance of Oslo-empowered elites, unopposed [28] by the very actors one would expect to have the courage to call out such vitriol: journalists, human-rights organizations, and progressives. Instead, these groups have gone out of their way not to inform [29] their readers of this culture of hate.

Continue reading: Here's my proposal [30]

By constantly reinforcing a Palestinian sense of grievance against Israel, activists like the late Rachel Corrie [31], journalists like BBC's Jeremy Bowen and CNN's Ben Wedeman, and Israel-obsessed organizations like Human Rights Watch have unwittingly contributed to the very war that rages. And as a result of this consensus, Israel appears to most in the West as a terrible oppressor when the sad but redeeming truth is that the Israelis are the best enemies one could hope for, and they face the worst.

Nothing illustrates the cultural gap between Israel and Palestine better—and offers a more immediate and constructive way out—than the problem of Palestinian refugees. They are the symbol of Arab political priorities. When faced with the catastrophic humiliation of 1948, when the combined Arab nations, fully confident of a glorious victory, failed to destroy the upstart Jewish nation in the heart of the Muslim world, the Arab leadership unanimously chose to herd [32] Arab refugees into prison camps so that they could serve as a symbol of Israeli crimes and a breeding ground or the counter-attack.

For over 60 years, Arab leaders have blocked [33] any efforts to remove these people from these wretched camps because to do so would be a tacit acceptance of Israel's permanence and would acknowledge the humiliating defeat. (By contrast, Israel rapidly moved the even larger number of Jews chased from the Arab world in 1948 out of their refugee camps.) The Arabs thus went from a zero-sum loss (the establishment of Israel) to a negative-sum solution: sacrifice your own people on the altar of your lost honor [34]. No negotiations, no recognition, no peace.

Not only do Palestinian negotiators insist [35] on the return of 5 million refugees to Israel (it was one of two key deal-breakers [36] at Camp David), but the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon recently explained [37] that Palestinian refugees not residing in the future Palestine would not be citizens in that state. In other words, Palestinian refugees still captive in camps in Lebanon and Syria and Jordan only have a right to citizenship in Israel.

So, here's my proposal to those who somehow feel we must revive the peace process now, before it's too late. Call for the Palestinians to show their good intentions, not toward the Israelis, but toward their own people. Get those "refugees" out of the prison camps into which they have been so shamefully consigned for most of a century.

Begin at home, with the over 100,000 refugees in Territory A [38], under complete PA control. Bring in Habitat for Humanity and Jimmy Carter to help them build decent, affordable, new homes. Let us all participate in turning the powers of Palestinian ingenuity away from manufacturing hatred, fomenting violence, and building villas [39] for the rich and powerful, while the refugees live in squalor as a showcase of Israeli cruelty, and start to do good for a people victimized by their own leadership.

To take this position, so aligned with progressive values, however, we would have to confront two obstacles. First, overcoming our immense reluctance to criticize and make demands on the Palestinians. That would also mean we'd also have to renounce the impulse to attack as racists or Islamophobes those making the demands. We also have to consider, especially true for journalists in the field, the possibility that we're intimidated, afraid to criticize people with so prickly a collective ego [40]. Second, it would mean overcoming the widespread hunger for stories of "Jews behaving badly." After all, if it weren't for the appetite for moral Schadenfreude, the whole idea of pinning the miserable fate of the Palestinian refugees on Israel rather than on their Arab jailors would never have taken hold in the first place.

Such introspection and self-criticism can be a little like chewing glass, but I can think of no more important communal task this Yom Kippur.

How often have I gone overboard, how often have I accepted a lethal narrative in order to save face with my friends who expect me to rise above being an "Israel-firster"? How often have I admitted to crimes on behalf of my people without checking to see if they were accurate? How often have I failed to speak out against the depravity of the Palestinian leadership, out of fear of being called an Islamophobe? In the answers to those questions lies the path to a real peace in this troubled, blessed land.

Do we outsiders who say we want peace want it badly enough to confront our own comfort zones [16]? Let's hope. Those Palestinians and Israelis who are ready to live in a win-win world depend on it.


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