Two stories, two states

Two stories, two states

On May 16, the New York Times published an op-ed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas entitled “The Long Overdue Palestinian State.” The editorial arrived just a day after what the Palestinians call “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” meaning the anniversary of Israel’s first day of statehood in 1948.
Abbas recounts his childhood growing up in Safed, during which, he says, he and his family were pushed out by Israeli forces upon the creation of the state of Israel. His family “wished for decades to return to their home and homeland” and “were denied the most basic of human rights.”
“That child’s story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine,” he writes.
Later, Abbas uses the platform to call for what sounds like an ideal Palestinian state.
“The State of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter,” writes Abbas. “The choice is not between Palestinian unity or peace with Israel; it is between a two-state solution or settlement-colonies.”
For the peaceful sentiments, we applaud Abbas. Certainly, the only way to enter any sort of negotiations is with a level head and peaceful intentions. We’d be ready to accept his editorial, too, if it weren’t for one thing: Abbas’ selective memory.
The editorial probably sounds quite sensible for readers who have no grasp on Middle East history or the politics of the Palestinians, or lack the peace-process weariness to know better. But for readers who do, it’s extremely problematic.
Abbas writes that “Only the occupation of our land hinders us from reaching our full national potential,” and that “Our institutions are developed to the level where we are now prepared for statehood.”
He ignores the recent joining of his Fatah party with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. How ready could Abbas be to lead his people to statehood, sitting alongside other nations of the world, while their leadership consists of terrorists whose very charter demands that, “Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them).” This is Abbas’ idea of a peace-loving nation?
Abbas’ recounting of his own history is even troublesome and contradictory.
In 2007, Abbas remembered his family’s flight from Safed differently. His account then was that his family feared “that the Jews harbored old desires to avenge what happened during the 1929 uprising [Muslim pogroms]. They realized the balance of forces was shifting and therefore the whole town was abandoned on the basis of this rationale.” In 2007, Abbas and his family left because they were nervous. In 2011, they left because they were chased. What’s true, exactly? We won’t pretend to know the precise case of the Abbas family, but with a platform to augment Palestinian sympathies, Abbas has conveniently changed his story.
It’s an important distinction, especially when we remember that Israel was ready for a two-state partition at its creation — but Palestinians refused to accept the offer.
Unsurprisingly, Israeli officials blasted Abbas’ editorial; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “gross distortion” of history. Haaretz cited sources is Netanyahu’s office: “One can only conclude from this article that Abbas has decided to turn his back on even pretending to be walking the road of peace.”
Abbas is good at what he’s trying to do: build up Palestinian sympathies leading to September, when he will request the United Nations General Assembly to recognize the 1967 borders for a State of Palestine.
We would love a peaceful solution to this seemingly never-ending conflict. Abbas says he would, too, but it’s hard to believe him when he’s building this house on a foundation of lies.