The rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan by the Arab nations, and their declaration of war against Israel rather than their acceptance of peace, was the first clear indication that the Arabs' desire was never to provide a state for the Palestinian people, but rather has been from the beginning to erase Israel from the map. Pictured: An Arab Legion platoon on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City in 1948. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
We must salute Jared Kushner's attempt to bring a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. That said, the Palestinians' unsurprising rejection of the peace offer requires some scrutiny, especially the true causes of the perennial failure to achieve lasting peace.
Without understanding them, every attempt to solve this conflict, every attempt to make true peace in the Middle East, will always fail.
As an insider with a background as both a Muslim and an Arab, please allow me share with you some insight into the problem.
1. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about borders. It is about the existence of the state of Israel.
In 1947, the United Nations Partition Plan -- Resolution 181 -- gave the Palestinians and Arabs control over most of the Holy Land. The rejection of the plan by the Arab nations, and their declaration of war against Israel rather than their acceptance of peace, was the first clear indication that the Arabs' desire was never to provide a state for the Palestinian people, but rather has been from the beginning to erase Israel from the map. This destructive intent is memorialized in the Hamas Charter, which unashamedly asks for the eradication of the State of Israel. This intent is also aligned with the Iranian leaders' continuous entreaties to destroy Israel. An evaluation of relevant social media commentary in the Arab world demonstrates a genuine desire by many -- if not most -- of the Arab population to see the destruction of Israel and the killing not just of all Israeli Jews but of all Jews:
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
I heard Allah's Apostle [Muhammad] saying, "The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, 'O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!' " -- Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 791
2. The cause of the problem is NOT the land
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, several Arab nations were created by fiat. The Arab world accepted this without any problem, as these were Muslim-majority countries. Rejecting the state of Israel was related to the fact that it is a Jewish rather than a Muslim country. In fact, on several occasions I have asked Arab Muslims (including raising the point on Aljazeera TV) [See: 40:44 - 41:04] whether they would continue fighting Israel if its entire population converted to Islam. The answer is a unanimous "NO." My answer to that is always, "Then the problem has nothing to do with the land, as many claim, but with the Jewishness of the State of Israel."
3. Delusional way of thinking
Delusions are defined as fixed beliefs that contradict reality. This way of thinking among many in the Arab world impedes any peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, many in the Arab world strongly believe that the Jews are the cause of the economic collapse of nations. This idea is belied by the fact that when the Jewish community was a viable component of Egypt prior to 1952 revolution, the Egyptian economy was in far better condition than it was after President Nasser expelled the Jews from the country. Any rational person can see that if the Jews were the cause of the economic collapse of nations, the economy of Egypt should have improved significantly after they were kicked out of the country. Delusional people do not see (nor do they want to see) such logic
4. Inability of the Arab mind to admit its wrongdoings
Many in the Arab world falsely believe that Israel expelled all Arabs. In fact, there are nearly two million Israeli Arabs who live in Israel as citizens, making up 20% of the population. Many in the Arab world tend to ignore that it was the Arabs who expelled the Jews -- in a humiliating way -- from countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Algeria. Arabs' failure to admit their own mistakes and crimes against their Jewish communities adds another obstacle to peaceful resolutions to the problem.
5. Conspiracy theories
Analysis of the Arab and Muslim media and honest evaluation of comments on social media in the Arab and Muslim world show that Arab street tends to believe that any problem that occurs in the Arab world must be an "Israeli conspiracy," or, at very least, "It can't be the Arabs' fault!" For example, When, for example, sharks attacked several tourists at Egypt's Red Sea coast in 2010, many Arabs, including officials, originally accused Israel of planning the attack. Shortly after that, Saudi Arabia detained a vulture on "charges" of spying for Israel. When rats were accused of being trained by Israelis to drive Arabs from the Old City of Jerusalem, the award-winning journalist Khaled Abu Toameh drily noted , "It is not clear how these rats were taught to stay away from Jews, who also happen to live in the Old City."
Such terrible self-deception, which must stem from a feeling of supremacy (or inadequacy), and the shifting of blame for all problems in the Arab world onto Israel instead of admitting one's own wrongdoings, have reached pathological and self-destructive levels in the Arab world.
6. Psychological projection
Psychological projection is a mental mechanism in which people defend themselves against unconscious impulses that they might consider unflattering or forbidden, by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who has wishes that he does not want to admit to, will accuse other people of having them, such as greed, bigotry or sexual urges that might frighten him -- as a way of shifting the blame.
In this manner, despite the clear discrimination against non-Muslim minorities in most of the Arab and Muslim world (denying equal rights in church construction, for example), many in the Arab world point the finger only at Israel when they talk about discrimination.
It would be hard not mention in this context that the only place I have found discrimination in Israel was by Muslims, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where non-Muslims are not permitted to enter. (Sadly, because non-Muslims are seen as unclean). By contrast, I -- with my Muslim background -- was freely allowed to visit the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem without any objection from the Israeli authorities.
7. Unprecedented levels of antisemitism
Nothing better illustrates the level of antisemitism in the Muslim world more than the statement of Soad Saleh when she justified Muslims raping Jewish women to humiliate them. Soad Saleh is a well-known scholar at Al-Azhar University, the most reputable Islamic university in the world. She is actually considered by many in the Arab street to be "moderate"!
Not a single well-known Islamic scholar stood up against her evil views. She remains in her position at Al-Azhar University and was not punished at all.
Such barbaric views are not limited to people like Soad Saleh. Unfortunately, careful evaluation of social media comments on issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict shows beyond doubt that these beliefs are widespread in the Arab world.
It would be extremely difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to reach any peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict without first addressing this unrepentant antisemitism in the Arab and Muslim world.
8. Lack of Pragmatism
Another factor that impedes any peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a general lack of pragmatism in the Arab world. For example, despite the many economic benefits to Egypt from the peace treaty with Israel (such as the return of the Sinai Peninsula and renewed access to the Suez Canal, both of which were a boon to trade and tourism), many Egyptians and the Arab of other nations still reject and refuse to follow the peaceful path of President Anwar Sadat. Arab resistance to peace with the Jewish people, despite the economic gains that resulted from the Camp David Accords, was clearly demonstrated when tens of thousands of Egyptians attacked and burned the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
This kind of unpragmatic approach to the problem will always be an obstacle to solving the conflict only via economic incentives.
9. Ideological Factors
The strong ideological belief held by many Muslims that they MUST fight the Jews before the end days, and kill all of them, is another major obstacle to achieving true peace in the Middle East. It is important to note that such a belief is mainly based on a Hadith of Prophet Mohamed rather than the Quran itself.
10. Lack of Reformed Understanding of Islam
Traditional interpretations of Islam tend to limit the verses that speak positively about Jews to the past and on the contrary generalize the verses that were critical of the Jews in specific situations.
For example, many Muslims see the following verse as limited to the past: "Children of Israel, remember My favor which I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over mankind" (Quran 2: 122). By contrast, the verse that has been used to call all Jews "pigs and monkeys" was actually limited only to specific group among the Children of Israel who refused to obey the Torah in a particular situation at a particular time and place. Without going into sophisticated theological analysis, the main point is that if such verses are understood in a different way so that the first verse is not limited to the past and the second one is seen in it its historical context, Arab-Israeli relations would be much better today.
While a bias against Jews starts at home -- it is not as if this view appears only on the first day of school -- children are fed a curriculum in much if the Arab and Muslim world that reinforces these prejudices. Saudi textbooks, for instance, while recently banning all influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, have not yet done the same for anti-Jewish, anti-Christian or anti-Sufi bias.
A Saudi textbook from 2016-2017, for instance, on Hadith (the sayings and actions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), "baselessly alleges that Zionism aspires to world domination and a 'global Jewish government.'" (Now that is projection: world domination is what Salafi Islam aspires to; Judaism does not).
Palestinian textbooks are basically no different. The European Union is currently funding a study into Palestinian textbooks, brought about by the findings of the non-governmental organization IMPACT-se, which found in May that "the new Palestinian school [material] for the 2018–19 academic year... was 'more radical than those previously published.'"
"Most troubling," the NGO reported, "there is a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects in a more extensive and sophisticated manner..."
Meanwhile, no one is being educated for peace.
When we add onto all that the sad reality that Palestinian politicians are using the conflict to get billions of dollars in donations, we can understand why this conflict has so far not been solved.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid, the author of Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.