The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations this week distributed an op-ed under the title "A Muslim wakeup," that was published on Wednesday by The Christian Science Monitor. The author, a self-proclaimed Muslim political activist in New York named Ahmed Nassef, railed against the "anti-Jewish bigotry" which he admits is ubiquitous in the Arab world today.
Nassef, you see, does not hate Jews. He likes Jews or at least some Jews. He has a Web site called MuslimWakeUp.com and the most popular feature on his site, he writes, is one called "Hug a Jew."
The feature involves interviews of American Jews who discuss "their work in support of civil liberties and social justice." These good Jews then get their pictures taken receiving "big bear hugs" and the photographs are displayed proudly on the home page. How nice. Finally, in Nassef we may have come across a politically active Muslim who publicizes his love for the Jewish people.
Well, not exactly. While Nassef doesn't approve of the sermons in mosques in places like Jordan that call for jihad against Israel, he understands them. You see, according to Nassef, "For many Muslims today, the government of Israel has become synonymous with the Jewish people."
"This phenomenon is complicated," he continues, "by the fact that Israel invites this association by calling itself a 'Jewish' state." What is more, he carries on, "Israel is as much a 'Jewish' state as Iran is an 'Islamic' state." But not to worry, help is on the way, because Nassef tells us, "Just as thousands of Iranians are calling for more freedoms, scores of Israelis are actively demanding an end to their government's occupation of Palestinian lands."
One can hardly fault the Conference of Presidents for getting excited about Nassef's column. It isn't every day that a Muslim publicly embraces Jews. On the other hand, it is reasonable to come away from a reading of the column not to mention a perusal of his Web site, which features articles like "Apartheid Israel: A South African's perspective" with a sense of discouragement and revulsion.
This is because the only Jews Nassef likes are the Jews who say that the Jewish people has no right to self-determination in our native land. The only Jews worthy of a hug by Nassef are the ones who reject Israel's right to exist.
Nassef's argument with the jihadists over Jews is analogous to the difference between the Russian czars and the Nazis. While both agreed that Jews deserved to be oppressed, the czars just subjugated the Jews and forced us to live in ghettos and every so often let the Cossacks loose on us. The Nazis enslaved us and exterminated us.
By sending out Nassef's op-ed, the Council of Presidents appears to think that we should take note when a Muslim makes a public gesture of tolerance. But is that what Nassef is doing here?
By saying that Jews shouldn't be slaughtered in the name of Allah, Nassef is taking a half-step away from jihad. At the same time, taking this half-step doesn't bring Muslims any closer to accepting the Jewish people. Taking this half-step away from a genocidal war against the Jewish state doesn't bring us a half step closer to peace. All Nassef is doing by hugging his "right-thinking" Jewish friends is letting us all know that Islamic totalitarianism is not the only source of the Muslim world's rejection of the Jewish people's right to freedom and self-determination.
When reading Nassef's column it was hard not to think of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas's speech at Aqaba last month. There, standing before the cameras, he took a half step. He acknowledged "Jewish suffering throughout history." He even said that terrorism is immoral. But he didn't say that the Jews are a people and he didn't say that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. He also didn't say that that terrorism is a crime and that terrorists must be punished for their crimes. In fact he said they should all receive "get out of jail free" cards.
For making his speech of half steps, Abbas has been rewarded generously by Israel and the US. Israel has agreed in principle to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. Working toward that end, Israel has given Abbas money and territory and freed terrorists. In addition, Israel has already begun to throw Jews out of their homes in Judea and Samaria.
For its part, in exchange for Abbas's half steps, the US is for the first time transferring money directly to the Palestinian Authority. This it does in spite of the fact that Abbas and his security chief, Muhammad Dahlan, were the two Palestinian leaders next to Yasser Arafat most responsible for turning the PA into a kleptocracy during the Oslo days. As well, the Bush administration is sending a never-ending stream of functionaries to Israel to pressure Israel to be more forthcoming in abiding by Abbas's demand to free Palestinian murderers, transfer territory, and destroy Jewish homes.
And what has Israel received in return for its embrace of Abbas's half steps? This week IDF Intelligence reported that Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad are exploiting their self-declared three-month respite from mass murdering Jews to mobilize new recruits for the job of human bomb.
They are also spending their time, energy, and resources replenishing their stores of weapons and ammunition.
For their part, Abbas's security officers have been working overtime to steal Israeli vehicles to replenish their depleted vehicle pools. Most sought after are new jeeps, just off the boats in the port of Eilat. According to an Israeli police source, "As Israel's relations with the Palestinians warm up, the pace of jeep theft will also rise."
Abbas has shown that he was absolutely serious when he said that he will take no action against the terrorist infrastructure. He has also proven that he can be completely trusted to demand that Israel free all Palestinian terrorists from prison and that he will not accept measly releases of those who were merely indirectly involved in the murder of Israelis. Abbas can also be counted on to continue to demand that millions of Palestinians whose grandparents left Israel in 1948 be allowed to move to Israel.
Israel can implicitly trust Abbas, in short, to take no step that will irrevocably place the Palestinians on the path to true peace and reconciliation with Israel.
At the same time, Israel can be sure that the meaningless half steps that Abbas has taken will be met with recrimination and denunciation by his boss Arafat. Arafat, who gave a lovely speech chock-full of half-steps in 1994 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, can be counted on to make Israel and the US appreciate Abbas's half steps and feel pressure to continuously heap prizes on him for ostentatiously taking them.
The most disconcerting aspect of all of our self-flagellation in response to meaningless gestures of tolerance is what it says about our national psyche. In loudly extolling the spit being spat in our faces by the likes of Abbas and Nassef as rain, we are showing a wounded psyche in need of serious psychotherapy.
We quickly need to find a way to understand that people whose acceptance of us is conditioned on us divesting ourselves of all vestiges of self-respect are not our friends or partners. We need to search deep within ourselves to find the voice that says that we have rights as a people to live in freedom in our land and that anyone who wishes for the Jews to hug them must first accept us for who we are. Indeed, we must find the courage after absorbing so many years of hatred and rejection to stand up for oursel
ves and be proud of who we are.
As for our American friends who so wish to see us finally living at peace with our neighbors, it would serve them well to remember why they like us to begin with. It isn't our willingness to make "painful concessions" for peace with our sworn enemies that has drawn them to us. The root of our friendship with America is our willingness to stand up for ourselves and defend our principles and our rights. The reason that America wants Israel to have peace is because it thinks that a country based on such principles as freedom, democracy, hard work, and loyalty should be accepted by its neighbors. America understands that our neighbors have more to gain by being friends with a society like ours than we have to gain by making concessions to societies like theirs. As Israel's friend, America should be telling Abbas that his half-steps are worthless.
As the representative of the Jewish people, the government of Israel should be wiping Abbas's spit from our faces and telling him that he will receive no concessions – painful or otherwise – and certainly will not receive statehood until after he makes irrevocable full steps toward accepting Israel as the Jewish state. And our government should do something else as well. It should review the world leaders it has hugged and determine whether these people are worthy of the Jewish state's embrace.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.