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Commentary: Israelis Seek Peace with Arab Neighbors

By Steven Yonati

Buffalo, NY – On Tuesday, July 8th, WBFO presented Listener Commentator Nathan Stock who presented a thoroughly negative assessment of the Middle East peace process and a totally one sided and distorted view from the Palestinian side. The rhetoric presented in this commentary did not serve the peace process. Rhetoric solves nothing. The Palestinian and Israeli objectives are very different. And we need to know them to understand the conflict and the prerequisites for peace.

The Jews in the State of Israel want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. They have demonstrated this repeatedly since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. The Arabs do not want that Jewish state to exist. Period. They have demonstrated this in their repeated deadly military assaults in 1948, 1967, and 1973, as well as in their indiscriminate murderous terrorist attacks on Jews in the last three years.

The predominant ideology of the Israelis dictates harmony and understanding of all humans. A predominant ideology in the Muslim Arab world does not tolerate any non-Muslims in Arab lands and dictates a holy war of conquest and subjugation against all non-Muslims be it Jews, Christians, or others. These two conflicting ideologies cannot be reconciled.

The first and foremost issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict is the recognition of the State of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish people. The Land of Israel has been recognized as such not only by non-Jewish historians and archeologists, theologians and politicians throughout the Western world, but also by the League of Nation in 1920 and by the United Nations in 1947.

On the other hand, the 22 counties of the Arab nation and many other Muslim countries claim that the Land of Israel belongs to the Arab Nation for perpetuity, because according to Islam, land conquered by Muslims cannot revert to its previous non-Muslim owners. Consequently, the Arabs deny Jewish and Christian historical rights in the Holy Land.

The stated goal of the Palestinian Arabs is the return of ALL of so-called "Palestine" to Arab rule. Not just return of the Israelis to the pre-1967 borders, but of all the land of Israel. This amounts to the total destruction of the existing State of Israel and conversion of the land to an Islamic country.

The recognition of the State of Israel de facto, as Egypt and Jordan have done, is not enough, because then the Arabs would still look at the land as an occupied Arab territory -- a target for a future assault. Unless the Arabs recognize the Land of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish people there will not be lasting peace in the Middle East.

As long as Yassir Arafat and his ilk repeatedly declare that Jewish history, including the building and destruction of First and Second Temple in Jerusalem, is a Zionist myth there will be no peace. As long as the Palestinians continue to teach their children that Jews are subhuman and that Islam mandates a holy war (Jihad) to exterminate them by all means possible including suicide bombings, there will be no peace.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about territorial boundaries, it is about the very existence of a sovereign Jewish state in its historical homeland. The conflict is about the legitimacy of the State of Israel. It is also about the legitimacy of terrorist organizations whose sole objective is to eliminate all Jews from the Holy Land, or at least subjugate them to Islamic rule. As long as the Arabs refuse to liquidate those terrorist organizations, there will be no peace.

A second issue is the "right of return" of Arab refugees to the State of Israel. The 470,000 Arab refugees of the 1948 war (these are the official UN numbers) are outnumbered by over 800,000 Jewish refugee exiled penniless under the threat of death from Arab countries once the Jewish homeland was established. They were expelled from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. Most of these Jewish refugees from Arab counties came to Israel and were completely absorbed into Israeli society.

On the other hand, the Arabs kept their indigent refugees and their descendents in segregated in camps as a militant political tool for the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state. This callous handling of the Arab refugees by the Arabs must come to an end before any lasting Arab-Israeli lasting peace is possible.

We must realize that this conflict will not be solved by rhetoric on a public radio station. It could be solved only when the Palestinian Arabs give up their Islam-driven militant ideology and become members of a free, tolerant, democratic society like the Israelis.

Commentator Steven Yonati is an attorney, and President of the Buffalo/Niagara Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.