- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 28, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the great mysteries of our time is why facts seem to be irrelevant to world opinion on the Middle East.

As Joel Mowbray pointed out recently (“A prospect for peace,” Opinion, June 19), Israel “has long been willing to make painful concessions” for peace. The Israeli public broadly supports a two-state solution, while the Palestinians repeatedly have rejected peace, launched an “unprecedented campaign of suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians” and “miss no opportunity in textbooks or television to poison the minds of parents and children alike” against Jews and Israel.

In 2000 and 2008, Israeli leaders made comprehensive peace proposals to the Palestinians. Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas rejected them, respectively, without offering any counterproposals of their own.

Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the risk of losing his governing coalition, has just offered the Palestinians yet another chance for a state born in peace. Mr. Netanyahu made clear that he is ready to begin negotiations immediately, anywhere, without any preconditions. His chief demands - that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and that it recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland - are hardly unreasonable in light of these facts: Israel has endured more than 60 years of war and terror aimed at its annihilation, and many of Israel’s neighbors still reject its right to exist. Yet Mr. Netanyahu is still being vilified as a “hard-liner.”

By contrast, Mr. Abbas is being lauded as a “moderate” even though he rejected Mr. Netanyahu’s offer out of hand and without offering any ideas of his own. A May 27 article in The Washington Post hailed Mr. Abbas as a man of peace who was “trained as a lawyer and historian” and “came to power from a career spent burrowing into the fine points of peace talks.” Never mind that Mr. Abbas’ credentials as a “historian” rest on his vile doctoral dissertation, which mocked the Holocaust as “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed.” Never mind that he rose to power as a Fatah terrorist and was involved in such notorious attacks as the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israelis.

So, who is the real moderate and who is the real hard-liner? For much of the world, the facts are irrelevant.

STEPHEN A. SILVER

San Francisco

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