This letter sent on February 2001, started the relation between MIFTAH and me
Dear Dr. Hanan Ashrawi,
I would have liked to address you as "Dear Hanan". I have listened
to a number of your talks and have seen you on TV programs. You
impressed me, as you must have impressed all the audiences, with
the scope of your knowledge, with the compelling strength of your
arguments, and with the political stands you took on many
To avoid misunderstandings, I will start by saying that I do
believe that "rights" are indeed on the side of the
Palestinians. However, the military power and the most powerful
ally are on the side of Israel. I totally oppose the barbaric
repression exerted by Israel on the "territories", I believe
that all the Jewish settlements have to be dismantled and their
present occupants be moved out of the territories. I believe in
the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. I belief that a
state should be that of all its inhabitants. I do not believe in
maintaining a "Jewish character" to the state of Israel. It is
therefore clear that my opinions do not differ essentially from
I hope I will one day have the privilege to meet you. I will
then be able to tell you what qualifies me to send you a letter
and why do I dare express opinions as to what the Palestinians
could do to strengthen their cause.
A good speaker takes into consideration the kind of audience he
is addressing. If (s)he speaks to people who do not think that
the Palestinians should have the right of return, the speech may
have to advance the arguments proving they do have that right.
If the speaker speaks to the Palestinian refugees, it would be a
waste of time to demonstrate by lengthy arguments the legitimacy
of their right of return.
When I speak to you, and since our opinions do not differ as to
the Palestinian rights, I have to concentrate on what measures
can advance the cause of the Palestinians.
To the Jews, I remind them that their temple in Jerusalem, had
been destroyed more than once, that their state, Israel, had
been conquered more than once. History does not support the
belief that it could not occur again. No law of nature obligates
the US to remain for ever Israel's ally. No law of nature
prevents some Arab state from becoming militarily as strong or
stronger than Israel. In the short range, Israel can rely on its
army to protect its security. On the long range, and for
Israel's security, there is no alternative to a peace between
Israel and its Arab neighbours, a peace that will not be
questioned by next generations, a peace with which all sides
come willingly to terms. There can be no long-term security for
an Israeli state permanently surrounded by hostile Arab
I do not give advise to the Israeli leaders because, for the
moment, they are deaf and blind. Would I tell them to evacuate
the territories, dismantle the Jewish settlements, and seriously
discuss the question of the return of the refugees, and it would
be like speaking to the wall. Their military strength blinds
them to the necessity of long-term solutions to their security.
The situation is such that the Israeli could do a lot, but are
not willing. And since it is the Palestinians who are suffering
the most, it is incumbent on them to exploit every possibility
to advance their cause.
I will therefore ask you the following question: Is it true or
not that in order to win their cause, the Palestinians should be
able to muster a winning coalition of forces? By winning I mean
having the necessary material strength.
The different forces in the field are first and foremost the
Palestinian people. Then, without differentiating between
friends and enemies, I will mention the US people, the US
government, the Arab peoples, the Arab governments, the European
peoples, the European governments, the Israeli people and the
Of all these forces, which are those that the Palestinians can
have on their side, and what is the strength of each of these
All these forces were in the field since more than fifty years.
One force which existed before has now disappeared, that of the
defunct Soviet Union. It would make this letter too long were I
to examine each of these forces, study its strength and consider
the possibility of its standing as an ally of the Palestinians.
I do not have, for instance, to demonstrate that the Israeli
government is certainly not such a force.
One must conclude that the situation does not look good for the
Palestinians. However, I think that there is a force in the
field which apparently seems to be against the Palestinians but,
potentially, can be on the side of the Palestinians. That force
is the Israeli people.
You and I do agree that it is in the long term interest of
Israel to make peace with its Arab neighbours. The peace must be
agreeable to all parties to avoid the possibility of being
challenged by future generations. Since we do not differ on
that, it means that we both agree that Palestinians and Israelis
do have a common interest. If so the obvious question is "why?".
Why is not the Israeli people an actual ally of the Palestinian
people? The answer is very simple. The Israeli people is, of all
people on earth, the one most brainwashed with false information.
The Israeli people is maintained by its leaders in a state of
ignorance of the reality. It is this ignorance which makes the
Israeli people afraid of the loss by Israel of its Jewish
character. It is this state of ignorance that exaggerates in
their mind the issue of security.
What is needed are measures taken by the Palestinians which
would be conductive in opening the eyes of the Israelis, and
introducing a wedge between them and their leadership.
Here I would like to raise a concern which I never expressed in
public. I do not want the issue to be exploited against the
It is a fact that no one of the Arab countries can be considered
a showcase for democracy. A massive return of the Palestinian
refugees could result in an Arab majority in Israel. This would
not disturb me if there is a great likelihood that the state
would remain democratic, whatever its majority. However, in view
of the record in Arabic countries and, I am sorry to say, in
view of the corruption and lack of democracy within the
Palestinian authority under the leadership of Arafat, a
legitimate concern can be entertained on the future of democracy
under an Arab majority in Israel.
This indicates what the Palestinians can do to demystify the
Israeli population. Any success in improving the Palestinian
democracy and in combating the corruption introduces a wedge
between the Israeli leadership and the Israeli population.
The Palestinian authority could also decide the formation of a
committee which would examine all the school books and
university textbooks which are used under the Palestinian
authority. The committee will be qualified to recommend such
modifications which would help the Arab people recognise the
great achievements the Jews have accomplished in arts and
science. Any text demeaning to Israel or the Jews should be
revised. Obviously, mentioning the barbaric Israeli repression
is necessary and demeans only the horrid Israeli policies.
Such a step would call for reciprocity. The Israeli school books
and university textbooks should be revised. They should mention
the momentous Arab contributions to mathematics, medicine,
chemistry, literature, poetry and the spirit of tolerance. It
should indicate that the Arab retreat from Spain must be
considered a defeat of civilisation.
Of course it would take quite a time for the Israeli to follow
suit and proceed to a revision of their school books. However,
the mere fact that the Palestinians would have taken the lead in
this direction cannot but induce many Israeli to think that,
after all, the Palestinians do have a will for peace. It will
also generate pressure on the Israelis to match such a step.
Maybe, it is difficult to work for democracy under the iron heel
of the barbaric Israeli repression. But let us remember that
before the recent Intefada, much could have been done towards
Palestinian democracy, and the fight against corruption. Plans
must therefore be made so that, at the first opportunity,
serious steps for democratisation of the Palestinian authority
could be implemented. This is necessary as a measure that will
impact on the Israeli population the possibility to live without
fear in the state of Israel even under an Arab majority. It is
the democracy in the US which allows a small minority of Jews to
freely enjoy their Jewish character to the point where they do
not want to emigrate to Israel. In the US, in which the Jews are
a small minority, their artistic and scientific influence is
enormous. In an Israel with an Arab majority, it is to be
expected that the Jews will have a great influence and will be
able to enjoy their Jewish character even more so than they did
in the Spain ruled by the Arabs.
Once more, the Palestinians can either repeat without end that
their cause is just, and it is true. But the only way to really
advance their cause lies in the demystification of the Jewish
people. It is a difficult but feasible task.
Obviously, a great effort must be made within the Palestinian
population and the Palestinian refugees, to unite them in this
understanding. In this sense, the intefada has played a very
positive role. Without it, the Israeli population would not have
been aware that there is a Palestinian problem to be solved,
that there is a need for peace.
I will now consider the problem of the right of return of the
Palestinian refugees. No doubt in my mind that the Palestinians
do have that right. The fact is that they cannot exercise that
right on the face of an Israeli population scared of losing the
Jewish character of the state. It does not help to point out
that the fear of the Israeli population is unjustified.
Justified or not, this fear does exist and is exploited by the
Israeli leadership. In view of the military power of Israel, in
view of the US support of Israel, in view of the fact that the
demystification of the Israeli population could take a long
time, the Palestinian refugees may remain refugees for decades.
There is no contradiction between having the right to return and
freely preferring to chose a resettlement somewhere else. In
this respect, it must be said that the members of the United
Nations have acted as accomplices of Israel. By ignoring
Israel's failure to implement the UN decisions they have
participated in the crime of imposing a life of refugees to
millions of Palestinians. It is therefore just that the world
community be put to task to present a most generous package of
resettlement outside Israel and of compensations, to be FREELY
accepted or rejected by each refugee. It could help a great
number of refugees to alleviate their situation in a short term.
Nobody can know in advance what would be the residual number of
Palestinians who preferred to remain refugees rather than
accepting a resettlement elsewhere than in their place of
However, once the refugees would have freely made their choice,
the magnitude of the refugee problem would be known with
precision. Obviously that problem would be quite different if
the residual number is a few hundreds of thousands than if it is
in the millions. It must be explicitly mentioned that a refugee rejecting
the compensation package do not lose his right of return.
Whatever be the case, I suggest the following as a draft
declaration to be issued by the Palestinian authority:
Our leadership, in consultation with various representatives of
the Palestinian people, have considered aspects of the
conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in view to
define a road leading to a peaceful resolution which, being
acceptable to both parties will not be questioned by future
generations. We believe that such a peaceful resolution can be
found. At that time, Israelis and Palestinians would live in
peace, brotherly and cooperatively. How can we move from here to
there, from a state of daily violence to a state of harmonious
peace. What stays in our way?
We express most definitely and most clearly our total aversion
to violence. Throwing stones is violence exploding bombs hurting
the population is violence. We are totally against it. However,
those are not the most repulsive cases of violence. The Israeli
occupation of the Western bank, Eat Jerusalem and Gaza is violence.
Preventing the refugees from exercising their right of return, is
violence, destroying houses is violence detaining people without a
judicial sentence is violence, stocking atomic bombs is violence
We are not naive. We do not believe that it is possible today to
obtain and implement a mutual renunciation of violence. There
are obstacles on the way. The main obstacle is the lack of trust
which is also manifested in a desire for extreme security measures.
We must accept that there is a great difference between what the
Palestinian are, and what the Israelis perceive them to be.
Unless that gap is closed the cycle of violence will not stop.
We therefore proclaim that our goal is to have Palestinians and
Israelis live in peace and in brotherly co-operation wherever
they be in the Israeli and Palestinian territory.
We do recognise that the absence of a showcase of democracy in
any Arab state is a matter of concern to the Israeli population.
It legitimises fears that an Arab majority in Israel could lead
to a dictatorship where the rights of a Jewish minority would
not be respected. Such a legitimate fear cannot be dispelled by
words. It can only be dispelled by facts. We are therefore
determined to transform the power of the Palestinian authority
into a model of democracy, even more advanced than that enjoyed
by the Israelis in Israel. We will built a state in which no
arbitrary act would be acceptable. All activities of the
government must be sanctioned by law, all the individuals
whatever their authority must be respectful of the law, and the
law must derive from a progressive constitution second to no
other constitution in the world. The evacuation of the West Bank,
East Jerusalem and Gaza by the Isreli army, will create conditions
allowing the acceleration of a process of democratisation. But we
will start the process from this very day.
We will revise the teaching in our schools and university. We
will make sure that the condemnation it should contain of the
Israeli repression, of its occupation of the West bank and Gaza,
of the maintenance of the Jewish settlements will not obscure
our admiration for the contributions the Jewish people has made
in arts, science and in the spirit of humanism. We hope that
Israel will follow suit and will make sure their books and
textbooks do mention the Arabs contributions to mathematics,
chemistry, medicine, literature and poetry. The books should
also mention the tolerance the Jews enjoyed in the Arab
countries and in Spain when it was under Arab rule.
We will try to unify the Palestinian people, including the
Palestinian refugees, including Hamas and other organisations so
as to achieve an unanimous support on the necessity of
democratisation of our authority, the necessity for both sides
to put a term to violence as previously described. We are not
giving away any right. We just want to get these rights while working
hand in hand with an enlightened Israeli people.
We express the hope that together with the efforts of all the
Jews who already have reached the conclusion that peace with
Palestinians is a possibility and a necessity, we will all
succeed in convincing the rest of the population that
Palestinians want to live in Peace with Israelis. Before asking
the misinformed Israelis to do their job, we should do ours.
It is our dream, our realisable dream, to have the Israeli
people and the Palestinian people, proceed hand in hand in
developing a brotherly relation to the benefit of peace and the
economic progress of all the inhabitants of our two states. It
is our dream to treat any future Israeli resident in Palestine
as a brother and have any Palestinian resident in Israel treated
the same way. We intend to make from that dream a reality.