Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Jerusalem Post: Middle East Drama starring Israel's Danny Ayalon
Middle East Drama starring Israel's Danny Ayalon
By Ray Hanania
(Published in the Jerusalem Post Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010)
When Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon intentionally disrespected Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol last month in the "sofa affair," many believed he was just an immature politician.
In reality, though, Ayalon's snub of the ambassador represents more than just one man's failings. His actions symbolize the fundamental shortcomings common to rejectionists and shared by the Arabs, too.
Ayalon didn't accidentally disrespect the Turkish ambassador. He did it with flair and intended mischief. Ayalon had Celikkol sit on a couch in his office that was "lower" than his own chair. Not that anyone would care except that Ayalon intentionally pointed out the slight to the Israeli media to drive home the embarrassment.
Celikkol was "summoned" to Ayalon's office to be "reprimanded" because Turkish state TV was airing a program that made the IDF look bad. Well, if they were mad about that, you can imagine why they were enraged with the war crimes allegations against the IDF in the UN's Goldstone Report.
And in an apparent response to the Ayalon "slight" of Celikkol, a billboard went up near Istanbul on Sunday depicting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan standing upright before Israeli President Shimon Peres, an advocate of peace, who was portrayed "bowing" to the Turks. Is that the best the Turks can come up with?
THE CONTROVERSY hadn't even cooled when Ayalon did it again last week. This time, Ayalon reportedly refused to meet with an influential delegation visiting Israel organized by J Street and refused to let them meet with senior Israeli officials, a charge the Foreign Ministry denied earlier this week. J Street is the celebrity Jewish American lobbying group that seeks to replace the rigidly right-wing policies of AIPAC with more moderate views to convince American Jews to support peace based on two states. The delegation included five members of the US Congress, normally a place where childish behavior is rewarded.
But for Ayalon, it wasn't enough to not shake their hands or make them sit on a "time-out couch." According to J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, Ayalon ordered a "boycott" of the delegation.
When the congressional delegation protested in anger, Ayalon reportedly apologized (although this was also denied by the Foreign Ministry) - through a surrogate - to them too.
AYALON'S CONDUCT is not peculiar to Israelis, though. There is more than enough childish behavior among the Arab and Palestinian rejectionists. Arabs don't need a TV show to set them off. There are more "serious" things like when an Arab journalist tried to interview an Israeli official and was reprimanded by the Arab Journalists Syndicate, which acts more like a mafia than a professional fraternity of the Fourth Estate.
But the worst offense for the rejectionists is to embrace the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
Arab rejectionists insist that the solution is a failure. Their answer: one state, a goal they share with Ayalon whose right-wing party endorses one state but without Palestine, while the Arab rejectionists endorse the same without Israel.
So why not have a debate about it? Because that is normalization, too. Haram[forbidden] of the highest fatwa order.
This attitude to "normalization" (contact with the enemy) and "public debates" isn't just a problem with Arabs in the Middle East. It is a bigger problem with the Arabs who live in the West and in the US.
Recently, a group sought to bring together two Palestinians to debate the issue of "One State or Two?" at the University of Chicago.
The proponent of the two-state solution is Hussein Ibish, a fellow at the moderate American Task Force on Palestine in Washington as well as one of the most articulate English language spokespeople for Palestinian rights.
The sponsoring organization at the university reached out to nearly every leading Palestinian activist to present the case for "one state," and all refused, including, according to Ibish and event sponsors, the canonized saint of the "one state" plan, author Ali Abunimah.
Based at the University of Chicago, Abunimah is one of four founders of the online "Electronic Intifada," where Palestinian moderation is regularly browbeaten and defamed. Abunimah is also the author of the convoluted manifesto and the rejectionist's bible titled One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Basically, the "one-state" theory goes like this: If Palestinians will just refuse to compromise and to create two states, Israelis and Jews will simply give up so Palestinians can replace the Jewish homeland with an Islamic homeland.
Just like that.
Wow. If we only knew that, how many suicide bombers could we have spared in the past? A stupid notion, it has gained huge support among Arabs, maybe because it is just that, a stupid notion.
But "one state" advocates have an ulterior agenda. They know their idea is impossible to achieve and it allows them to exploit Palestinian anger and frustration, turning suffering into hatred and hatred into violence.
Rejectionists have no desire to compromise. They want to keep the conflict going until they can win, they think.
In the end, although Israeli rejectionists are similar to Palestinian rejectionists, there is one glaring difference. Palestinians never apologize for anything or admit they are wrong.
Apologizing means compromise. Apologizing recognizes a mistake. Palestinian rejectionists live in a pretend world where their mistakes don't exist and their failures are not debatable. War crimes committed on their behalf are never addressed, only the war crimes of others.
Danny Ayalon may be a poor diplomat but at least he knows when to apologize and recognize when he is wrong.
When Israelis and Arabs can apologize and recognize when they are wrong together, and stop denying everything as they often do, maybe, just maybe, we might see the day when genuine peace is achieved.
That's something I would bow to myself.
Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian-American columnist and peace activist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com