For many years, Professor Sari Nusseibeh has been regarded as the epitome of Palestinian moderation. The urbane president of al Quds university in east Jerusalem, he has been regarded as a "two-state solution" moderate. His actual advocacy of a one-state solution and the swallowing up of Israel has been unaccountably ignored.
Yet now he has let down his guard to reveal more starkly what lies beneath this polished veneer. Considering the Israeli government's requirement that the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, Nusseibeh declared in an al Jazeera article (in English on its website) that this was inherently "problematic" because of its "legal, religious, historical and social implications".
Those problematic implications are that, for Nusseibeh, a Jewish state would necessarily either be a theocracy or practise apartheid -- stripping Israeli Arabs of their civic rights and ethnically cleansing them from Israel, on the basis that in a Jewish state the only people with civic rights would be Jews.
His argument is as bizarre as it is disgusting. He appears to regard the idea of Israel as a Jewish state as an outlandish hypothesis which has suddenly been sprung upon the world. But Israel is a Jewish state, just as France is French or America is American. Second, the idea that such a Jewish state would necessarily be homogeneous is not only false in theory but totally ignores reality. Israeli Arabs, who make up some 20 per cent of the population, enjoy full civic and political rights. Indeed, it was an Israeli Arab judge who presided over the court which sent a former President of the Jewish state to jail for rape.
Outrageously, Nusseibeh claims that in the 50 years before Israel's creation, no official declaration about Palestine made any reference to a Jewish state. He thus omits the key 1948 UN resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. One has to wonder at Professor Nusseibeh's relationship with the very concept of evidence. But the key to his position is that for him, Israel can never be the national state of the Jewish people – because, despite some weasel words about the "overlap" between the "ancient race of Israelites" and the Jewish religion, he seems not to accept that Jews are a people with a right to national self-determination. For him, a Jewish state means solely a Jewish religious state.
Of course, this is not a Jewish but an Islamic formulation. It is the Islamic world that produces theocracies which deny civic and political rights to Jews, Christians and others; it is the Islamic world which did perpetrate the ethnic cleansing of some 800,000 Jews from Arab countries after 1948; and it is the putative state of Palestine where, according to Mahmoud Abbas and his cronies, not one Jew will be allowed to live.
If even a supposed hyper-moderate like Nusseibeh turns out to be in fact a rejectionist wolf in sheep's clothing, what chance is there that anyone in the Palestinian leadership is genuinely committed to a Jewish and a Palestinian state living peacefully side by side? Indeed, they all tell us over and over again that their real goal is not two states but the destruction of Israel.
Abbas has said the Palestinians will never, ever accept Israel as a Jewish state. Alzeben Ibrahim, the Palestinian ambassador in Brazil, recently told a group of university students that "Israel should disappear". Abas Zaki, a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee, told al Jazeera that forcing Israel out of Judea and Samaria was the Trojan horse for the destruction of Israel.
"If we say that we want to wipe Israel out... C'mon, it's too difficult. It's not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don't say these things to the world," he warned last month. "Keep it to yourself."
In a recent poll of Palestinian opinion – conducted by theleading Democratic Party pollster Stanley Greenberg, in conjunction with the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Israel Project – only 34 per cent said they would accept a permanent Palestinian state alongside Israel; 66 per cent said the goal should be the annihilation of Israel; and 73 per cent agreed with a quote from the Hamas charter on the need to kill all Jews.
Yet to many Jews, let alone those in the non-Jewish world, the reason for the continuation of the Middle East impasse is the settlements policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Go figure.