After meeting April 11 with Yasir Arafat, Oslo architect, Yossi Beilin told Israel Television that Prime Minister Sharon triggered the September 29 visit to the Temple Mount. He was also highly critical of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak for submitting a report to the Mitchell Commission blaming Arafat for the outbreak of violence.
Beilin is not alone in placing the onus of the current intifada on Israel. Israel Prize winner Shulamit Aloni gave an interview in the prestigious Le Monde, just days after the lynch in Ramallah, in which she characterized Israel as guilty of war crimes in the current intifada, while having not one word of criticism for Arafat or the Palestinians. Just recently, Yossi Sarid advised Arafat not to accept a cease firs without an absolute freeze on settlements, which in Arafat’s lexicon includes at least a dozen Jerusalem neighorhoods.
Others go even further. Writing in Jerusalem’s Kol Hazman last week, Gidon Sapir advised the Palestinians to employ Japanese Kamikaze tactics against settlements and army bases (while sparing malls on his side of the Green Line.)
The Peace Now/Gush Shalom website features caricatures of Israeli soldiers massacring Arab children, and such brain teasers as "What was the first settler genocide against a West Bank city?’’ Answer: the killing of the men of Shechem after the rape and abduction of Dina. According to Gush Shalom, genocide runs in Jewish blood.
The voices of those who continue to see the Palestinians as repositories of all virtue and justice are less frequently heard in Israel today than they were before Rosh Hashanah. Yet those voices continue to find ready audiences abroad, where they are eagerly cited by those for whom Israel can do no right.
Beilin repeated his claim about Sharon’s culpability for the current intifada in the United States. Aloni’s comments about Israeli war crimes were widely reported in France. Ofer Bavly, a spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Rome, accused Ha’aretz’s Gidon Levy of vying with Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid, at a recent panel in Rome, "to see who could slander Israel more – and in my opinion Levy won.’’ (Nachum Barnea, hardly an icon of the Right, described Levy and his fellow Ha’Aretz columnist Amira Golan as providing the Palestinians with "absolute support’’ shortly after the Ramallah lynch.)
At a conference in San Francisco sponsored by the New Israel Fund on Israeli discrimination against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, Ha’Aretz’s Nitzan Horowitz accused Israelis of dehumanizing Palestinians. The Israeli press consistently describes Jewish victims of the intifada as murdered, he said, while Palestinians are described as killed. The distinction between teenagers who have their skulls crushed with rocks , or those blown apart in suicide bombings, or infants shot in the head after being placed in a sniper’s site and Palestinians killed in the wake of military confrontations is too fine for Horowitz to grasp.
When Jeff Halper of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, an organization funded by the European Community, charged that the Jerusalem municipality planned to raze 6,000 Arab homes in Jerusalem, the charge was reported as fact by Amnesty International and in the international media. The actual number of demolition orders was 152.
What explains this need on the part of Jews to blame Israel? Here, I think, Yossi Beilin provides the key.
At some level, Beilin knows that Sharon did not cause the intifada. As Justice Minister in the Barak government, Beilin was privy to army intelligence reports as early as June predicting that Arafat would initiate mass violence in the territories that might well spiral out of control into an all-out conflagration.
Even in the midst of the Camp David Summit, Abu-Ali Mustafa, a member of the Palestinian Authority described in Al-Quds preparations for violent confrontations "to create new facts on the ground.’’ And Palestinian Minister of Communications, Imad Al-Falouji told a December 5 symposium of Arab journalists in Gaza that the Palestinian Authority began preparations for the current intifada, at Arafat’s request, immediately after Camp David.
So why does Beilin continue to blame Sharon?
Those who placed messianic hopes in Oslo are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome in the wake of the renewed intifada. The outbreak of organized and lethal violence, following former Prime Minister Barak’s extraordinarily generous proposals at Camp David, made clear that the Palestinians will not compromise on the "right of return,’’ and that their goal remains, in the words of the "moderate’’ Faisal Husseini, the PA’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, a Palestine "from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.’’ Even Beilin admits that "the right of return’’ means nothing less than eradicating Israel.
But if no compromise can be expected from the Palestinians on their maximalist demands, how is peace to be achieved? And if therecan be no peace in this generation, how can one go on living? Beilin, it will be recalled, has famously remarked that he could not go on living in a world in which peace is impossible.
How to preserve the possibility of peace, and therefore of life itself, is the challenge confronting Beilin and those who shared his hopes for Oslo.To preserve the possibility of peace, they must perforce cast Israel as the source of all evil and continue to advocate yet further Israeli concessions. After all, as the last year has shown, there are no clear limits to the possible Israeli concessions.
Oslo may be dead, but the messianic dream lives on, and continues to pose a real threat to Israel.