By Arieh Miller, Executive Director, Zionist Federation
“That’s not the question.” That’s the response I was given by the radio station researcher when I called in to speak about what I guess we are describing as ‘Mufti-gate.’
When Prime Minister Netanyahu took to the podium at the World Zionist Congress, no one could have foreseen that he would slip in a fairly controversial opinion about who was really the evil architect behind the Holocaust. But the ensuing Spanish Inquisition was one everyone could have predicted.
I was calling in to the radio station not to praise Bibi, or to bury him. I wanted to discuss why it was that this single comment was leading a public discussion, with much of the world’s media (social and otherwise) making out that the head of the Jewish state was, amongst other things, a Holocaust Denier – when inflammatory statements and actions by Palestinian leaders are simply ignored.
I’m not talking about Saeb Erekat’s comically idiotic contribution, in which the PA’s chief negotiator stated that “Palestinian efforts against the Nazi regime are a deep-rooted part of our history.” In any serious universe he would be pilloried for such a statement, given the context of discussing how a historical Palestinian leader was an ideological bedfellow of the Fuhrer. Instead, it disappeared without trace.
I’m not even talking about the fact that amongst all the outrage over Netanyahu’s alleged attempts to pin the Holocaust on his political opponents, no one mentioned that Mahmoud Abbas wrote the book on this subject. (Literally – his PHd was on how the Zionists colluded with the Nazis to make the Holocaust happen.)
I’m talking instead about how Abbas – cuddly, grandfatherly Abbas – has whipped up weeks of violence by praising murder and making false accusations of religious blasphemy:
“The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they [the Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
“We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.”
These words could easily have come from the latest YouTube missive from deepest, darkest ISIS country. But no. Instead it has come from the most senior, internationally recognised leader of the Palestinians, the moderate peace partner we are supposed to be pinning our hopes for Middle East peace on. I’d like to know why that wasn’t the question.
And it isn’t just words. It’s actions too. While we’re on the subject of provocations at religious sites, why the silence over the fact that Joseph’s Tomb has now been attacked twice? Why wasn’t the media leading with that desecration – not with feet, filthy or otherwise, but with firebombs.
Or the Palestinian resolution to the UN to have the whole of the Kotel, Western Wall and prayer plaza included, recognised as belonging solely to them. Let’s just take a second to think about that – a motion to have the global community recognise the most famous Jewish site in the world as an exclusively Muslim one.
Try and imagine this in another context. In a less volatile situation, it would have prompted widespread ridicule. ‘Tee hee,’ the headlines would have chortled. ‘The Mormons are claiming that the Vatican belongs to them!’ ‘Ho ho,’ the internet would have roared. ‘The Cornish Independence Movement are arguing they built the pyramids!’
And then try and imagine it in the Middle Eastern context. Imagine if the Israelis had tried to pass a resolution claiming the whole Temple Mount (including the Al Aqsa Mosque) as their own. Imagine if the Jews had tried to pass a resolution claiming sole ownership of Mecca. Imagine the outraged, baffled, and constant media coverage – just before World War Three kicked off.
So I want to know why the words of Israeli leaders lead the headlines, and the words of Palestinian leaders disappear. And I want to know why Israeli actions are condemned, but Palestinian actions ignored.
I know that the answer to each of those would be: ‘That’s not the question.’ So I guess my real question is: why not?