Newsweek Opinion Columnist Asks, What Has the Palestinian Peace Camp Accomplished?

In Newsweek on May 10, Muhammad Shehada makes the argument that the purpose of Operation Shield and Arrow was not to respond to Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s firing of over 100 rockets into Israel, but merely “to please the most extreme elements of Netanyahu’s government, to protect his coalition from collapsing, and to boost the government’s approval ratings and undermine the ongoing demonstrations and opposition leaders.” (“Israel Just Bombed Gaza to Please Extremists and Boost Approval Ratings.”) 

It’s a strange argument to be making – of course, when a country is under attack, people will demand that their government take action to protect them and failure to do so may cause that government to collapse. But it’s an unsurprising one, from someone who has previously falsely claimed that payments to terrorists by the Palestinian Authority, known as “pay to slay,” were a “canard” that has been debunked and who has falsely claimed that Palestinians do not have any right to vote. Now, consistent with the mission of Richard Falk’s NGO, for which Shehada works, he uses this Newsweek piece to attempt to position himself as a voice of reason, arguing that Israel’s actions defending its population “are accelerating the demise and delegitimization of the Palestinian peace camp.” (“The what?” most readers should be asking.) It’s an interesting flip of the script, as observers of the situation in Israel and the disputed territories have known for some time that Palestinian terror attacks have destroyed the Israeli peace camp.

Shehada writes, “since Netanyahu took office, it has been increasingly difficult for Palestinian moderates and advocates of peace to speak up. The immediate pushback to calls for dialogue is ‘Peace with who? With Ben Gvir or Smotrich and their fanatical camp of Greater Israel?’” It’s not immediately clear to which “moderates and advocates of peace” he is referring. Could he mean Rami Aman and others who were arrested by Hamas and convicted “of ‘weakening revolutionary spirit’ for having held a Zoom call with Israelis peace campaigners”? Nevertheless, “Peace with whom?” is exactly the question that Israelis have been asking for some time. Perhaps if Shehada were not so busy denying that the Palestinian Authority pays salaries to terrorists he might have realized this.

But Shehada seems intent on appropriating the Israeli point of view. Especially rich was his description of the current Israeli government, only a few months old, as too “radical” to deal with, when Gaza has been ruled since 2007 by an Islamist terror organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction. 

Continuing, he asks the question, “what does the [Palestinian] peace camp have to show for their efforts?” CAMERA is happy to answer the question for him.

The Palestinian “peace camp,” such as it is, has created a long and durable legacy – one of rejectionism that has denied independence to the Palestinian people for decades, and that has directly contributed to the conditions that Shehada himself so deplores.

In 2000, then-Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat rejected the Clinton parameters, which would have provided an independent Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza. Former US President Bill Clinton was clear in his autobiography: “Right before I left office, Arafat, in one of our last conversations, thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a great man I was. ‘Mr. Chairman,’ I replied, ‘I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one.’ … Arafat’s rejection of my proposal after Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions.” Arafat then intentionally started the Second Intifada.

In 2008, then- and still-Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected an even more generous offer of Palestinian independence from Ehud Olmert, and in 2014 Abbas rejected parameters for Palestinian independence proposed by the Obama administration. If Mr. Shehada is confused, he need not be. This is what the Palestinian “peace camp” has to show for its efforts.

Among the numerous distortions of fact and logic in his piece, however, one point jumped out as a perhaps inadvertent admission. In Gaza, Shehada tells us, “if one argues against the use of armed resistance and calls for non-violence, they are shunned.” Perhaps this is why we so rarely hear from this “peace camp.”

All of this Palestinian rejectionism can’t justify the attacks on Israel emanating from Gaza since the start of this month, and it doesn’t negate Israel’s right to defend its citizens from such attacks. Shehada seems to think that Israel should just accept attacks on it, downplaying PIJ rockets as “primitive projectiles.” While any civilian death in war is tragic, Israeli officials told the Wall Street Journal that the IDF had already postponed action several times to avoid even higher civilian death tolls. At some point, Israel must, and did, act to protect its own citizens.


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