No outcry at Abbas's racism?

It is bad enough that the PA President wants to exclude Jews, but much worse that he has not been condemned


In mid-July, in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, set out his minimum conditions for a definitive peace treaty with Israel.

At first glance, these seem to represent a departure from the inflexible Arab unrealities of the past: for example, Abbas is now apparently willing to agree to a land swap whereby some territory bordering on the West Bank would be ceded to the Palestinian state as compensation for territories in Judea and Samaria. These would acquire de jure the status they now enjoy de facto, namely that of being an integral part of the Jewish state.

But who would police the borders of the new Palestine? Abbas has naturally rejected any suggestion that Israel would police them. However, he has - according to the interview - accepted the idea that Nato forces might fulfil this role.

So far, so good, you might be tempted to say. You might even be tempted to conclude that the recognition that the borders would need to be policed represents a concession by Abbas, and that his refusal to agree that Israel police them is only to be expected.

Is Britain actually willing to ban Jews from the proposed Nato force?

But, before you yield to these temptations, I urge you to read the small print and, in particular, to absorb the contents of a briefing that Abbas gave to Egyptian journalists a week or so after the al-Ghad interview.

Speaking in Cairo on July 28, Abbas gave his version of negotiations with Israel's former Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. In the course of his remarks, Abbas made a statement so astonishing that I quote it in full, as reported by Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency: "I'm willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the agreement, such as Nato forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the Nato forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land."

A week or so later, Abbas's political adviser, Nimar Hamad, no doubt realising the embarrassing insensitivity of these remarks, effected to issue a retraction, blaming unnamed American media for spreading the falsehood that the word "Jews" had ever been used.

But when I looked last Friday, the statement, including that word, was still on the Wafa website, and I understand that, in any case, some Arabic newspapers, such as Al-Quds (on July 30), had had no hesitation in reporting that it was "Jews" to whom Abbas had referred.

Apologists for the Palestinian position frequently assure me that when Arabs talk about Jews, and especially when they talk about Jews in negative terms, they usually mean Israelis.

Yet here we have the Palestinian President talking quite clearly about Jews - not Israelis - and declaring that he for his part will not tolerate a single Jew in any Nato force that might police the borders of an emergent Palestinian state.

Let's think about this. What sort of Jews would Abbas veto as part of a Nato peacekeeping force? Any halachic Jew? Just Orthodox Jews? Or, perchance, anyone with just one Jewish grandparent?

Does Abbas expect to be provided with lists of those (and they would not only be armed-forces personnel) who might be nominated as part of the Nato presence, and would he demand the right to veto anyone he considers Jewish? Does he expect the member countries of Nato - such as the USA, the UK and Germany - to agree to this blatantly antisemitic demand?

Apparently he does. But the fact that he does is not what I find astonishing, because I have always held that religion - specifically, Islamic-inspired anti-Jewish prejudice - is at the root of the conflict between Israel and its neighbours.

No, what I find astonishing is that no Nato spokesperson has to date rejected - let alone condemned - Abbas's unashamed racism. We have heard nothing from the White House. Nothing from Downing Street. From David Cameron, preoccupied perhaps with his new-found Turkish friends, we have heard not so much as a whisper of disapproval.

Are we to take it, therefore, that the British government, for its part, would actually be willing to ban Jews from the British contingent in any Nato peacekeeping force that might be deployed along Israel's border with Palestine? If so, I for one would be interested to learn on what legal basis such a ban would be implemented.

And, if not, I await impatiently a firm, very public and very unambiguous repudiation from Downing Street of the very idea that such a policy could even be contemplated.

    Last updated: 11:18am, August 19 2010