Dubious claims of a peacenik

One of the great divisions among Jews is between those who believe the Palestinians are genuinely prepared to live in a Palestine state side-by-side with Israel, and those who believe that they are not. The former are scorned by the latter as dreamers or idiots, the latter denounced by the former as right-wing extremists and bigots.

The evidence, however, strongly suggests that the latter are not extremists but merely sober realists. Consider, for example, the recent utterances of the urbane and genial Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator who is constantly held up as the shining example of Palestinian moderation.

In an article for the Guardian last month, Erekat declared that the "return" to Israel of the Arab "refugees" displaced in the 1948 war was an essential precondition for any peace settlement with Israel. This, of course, gives the whole game away. For the goal of a Palestine state is vitiated by the nonsensical demand to immigrate as of right into someone else's state - which would destroy its national and cultural identity.

Furthermore, Erekat also claimed, absurdly, that there were now seven million Palestinian refugees. The most plausible estimate of the number who left Palestine in the 1948 war is between 550,000 and 700,000. Add another 100,000 who were displaced by the 1967 war, and you get the same number as, or fewer than, the 800,000 or so Jews forced out of the Arab world after 1948 and who are not demanding their homes back.

When will our lethal dreamers wake up to their idiocy?

The seven-million figure is formed by adding the descendants of the Arabs who left. But the idea that subsequent generations are entitled to "return" to homes they never knew (and which therefore cannot be "their" homes at all) is ludicrous, and is, accordingly, unheard of anywhere else.

Erekat also claimed the Palestinians "constituted a majority in every district of historic Palestine prior to 1948". Well, the "Palestinians" at that time were considered to be the Jews, not the Arabs; and there had been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since the middle of the 19th century.

Next, he claimed that UN resolution 194 called for "the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes". It did not. It referred merely to "refugees" - and was thus aimed equally at the Jews driven out from their homes in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (as the world then called them), areas occupied by the Jordanians during the 1948 war.

And, crucially, it restricted such return to those who wished to "live in peace with their neighbours" - the one thing the Arabs in these territories have never done.

Such a constellation of falsehoods, half-truths and belligerency signifies the utmost bad faith on Erekat's part. So it might be thought extraordinary that he would declare all this so openly in a British newspaper. But the grip of these falsehoods upon Britain's anti-thinking classes is so profound that Erekat can be confident that even such a declaration of continuous war will not be recognised by those reading it - who will doubtless brandish it instead as further proof of Palestinian moderation and Israeli intransigence.

Such blindness to reality is deepened by the media's failure to publish damning evidence of Palestinian behaviour. Such as the recent admission by Hamas that 700 of its operatives were killed in Operation Cast Lead - thus confirming the IDF figure of 709 known combatants killed, along with 295 civilians and 162 (mostly men of fighting age) "unknown".

No other country at war would achieve such a low ratio of civilian to combatant casualties. Yet the west pumped out the Hamas-inspired calumny that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians during that conflict.

So have those who demonised Israel now acknowledged this murderous falsehood, which incited hysteria against Israel worldwide? Have the media even reported the Hamas admission?

Have they reported the praise recently lavished by that other "moderate", Mahmoud Abbas, upon the "outstanding leadership" of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al Husseini, who had "sponsored the struggle from the beginning" - a "struggle" characterised by his joining forces with Hitler to form the Palestine wing of the Nazi movement?

Or the recent Israel Project poll, which revealed that a majority of Palestinians refuse to renounce violence and believe that a Palestinian state is merely a stage towards the destruction of Israel?

When will the dreamers wake up to their lethal idiocy?

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist

    Last updated: 10:49am, January 10 2011