It was a news story that actually gave one hope for the future--a Palestinian youth orchestra, based in a West Bank refugee camp, gave a concert for elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Israeli town of Holon. It was a welcome change from the usual Holocaust denial and provocation of Jew hatred that fills the Palestinian school curricula. One might even have thought that allowing the children to give a concert at the Holocaust Survivor's Center could be peace feeler, a small gesture of good will from the Palestinian Authority, an indicator that peace negotiations might actually bear fruit.
Well, dampen those optimistic hopes my friends. Apparently the concert excursion for the Arab teenagers from the Jenin refugee camp simply had escaped the notice of the Palestininan Authority (PA), and when the PA found out it, there were consequences. According the AP and the Jerusalem Post, the PA has disbanded the 13-member Strings of Freedom orchestra and boarded up the apartment in the Jenin refugee camp where the orchestra held its rehearsals. The conductor of the group, an Israeli Arab woman named Wafa Younis, has been banned from the Jenin refugee camp. The actions followed a flurry of strong condemnations of the concert from refugee camp leaders and political activists.
One official, Adnan al-Hinda, director of the Popular Committee for Services in the Jenin refugee camp, said that the participation of the children in the concert was a "dangerous matter" because it was directed against the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians. Apparently, then, giving a few moments of musical entertainment to elderly Jews who survived the German attempt at the physical destruction of the Jewish people threatens the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians.
Perhaps this attitude reflects the true outlook of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority toward peaceful co-existence with Israel. Perhaps, contrary to the enunciations of Western media, it is the Palestinians, not future Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, and not the outgoing Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Israel, that rejects the so-called "two-state solution," which envisions a Palestinian Arab state covering Gaza and most of the West Bank living side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel.
The available evidence would certainly suggest that is the case. Last week, Prime Minister Olmert revealed in a speech to a conference in Herziliya, Israel that his September 2008 "final offer" to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas included the following terms:
- Return of 93% of the West Bank;
- Removal of some 60,000 Israelis who now reside in settlements east of the current barrier fence dividing the West Bank from Israel, and the dismantling of all settlements east of the barrier;
- Ceding by Israel of lands within its pre-June 1967 borders to the new Palestinian state, to compensate for West Bank areas to be retained by Israel;
- Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neigborhoods of Jerusalem; and
- International oversight of holy sites within the Old City of Jersusalem.
Prime Minister Olmert never received a response from President Abbas to this offer, because it would have required the Palestinians to give up a right of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents to return to areas within the boundaries of the State of Israel. Israel requires that concession from the Palestinians in any peace agreement, because it is necessary to assure the future existence of Israel as a Jewish State. The continuing refusal by the Palestinians to make that concession proves that the essential condition for Arab-Israeli peace--the recognition by the Arabs of the legitimate existence of Israel as a Jewish State--does not exist. And that is not the fault of Israel.
Mohammed Dahlan, the former Fatah security commander, and still a Fatah leader, is often cited as an example of a Palestinian moderate, the kind of Palestinian leader with whom Israel supposedly can do business. On March 18, he stated that Fatah has never recognized Israel's right to exist, although he acknowledged that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had done so. "We acknowledge that the PLO did recognize Israel's right to exist, but we are not bound by it as a resistance faction," he said.
Now Fatah is the largest faction within the PLO, and has always dominated it. Fatah was the party of Yassir Arafat, who as Chairman of the PLO signed the Oslo Accords, in which the PLO recognized Israel. It was only on the basis of the Oslo Accords that Arafat Abbas and their PLO and Fatah cohorts were allowed in 1994 to return from exile in Tunisia and establish the Palestinian Authority. What kind of double-talk is this, that Dahlan can now state publicly that Fatah, as a "resistance faction" does not recognize Israel's right to exist?
It is the type of double-talk that would disband a Palestinian youth orchestra because it played a few songs for elderly Jewish holocaust survivors, and perhaps recognized their history of suffering and their mutual humanity.