Section: Opinion

A response to Professor Al-Attabi

In his April 27 Collegian piece “Palestinians are refugees in their own land,” Assistant Professor of Arabic Qussay Al-Attabi recounts once more the woes of the Palestinians under occupation.  The “wall” (mostly a fence), the Jewish settlements, separation from Jerusalem: I will, for argument’s sake, accept all of it at face value. But then, I ask, why does Professor Al-Attabi not address his complaints to the one authority that could magically cure all these ills overnight? I mean of course the Palestinian Authority. Had the Palestinian Authority, under Yasser Arafat, accepted the peace proposals at Camp David and Taba, there would have been a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem and not a Jew to be seen in it the day the Israel Defense Force (IDF) moved out. Just as nearly all Jews evacuated Gaza with the exit of the IDF, so too would Jews have left the West Bank. No wall, no Jews: Everything would have been copacetic. The Palestinians refused and Yasser Arafat explained why in a speech to the UN in 1974. He explained, “They have portrayed the Middle East question as little more than a border dispute between the Arab States and the Zionist entity.” That entity is part of “an old world order [which] is crumbling before our eyes, as imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism, the chief form of which is zionism, ineluctably perish.”  


The peace offer was repeated in 2008 by the Olmert government. This time, Mr. Abbas was running the Palestinian Authority and refused even to make a counter-offer. The offers remain on the table. Israeli public opinion would happily accept a real peace with Palestine, given that it accepted Israel’s existence. But the Palestinians won’t. Abbas has said that he will never accept a “Jewish state, call it what you will.” The Palestinian designation of the day Israel was founded as the Naqba, the catastrophe, underlines their refusal to accept Israel’s existence. The Palestinian Authority does not glorify dead murderers and pay pensions to their families just for fun.


It is hard to imagine that Professor Al-Attabi does not know full well that the occupation of the West Bank is a red herring. From the beginning of the Mandate, the real and only issue has been the refusal of many Arabs — though not all Arabs, since Egypt and Jordan eventually made a “cold peace” with Israel — to accept the legitimacy and permanence of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. As Yasser Arafat said in 2001 of President Clinton, “If he wants me to sign this deal, he wants to issue an open invitation to my funeral, because I will die at the hand of my own people.” The annual Kenyon wall and all the laments about the occupation are tactics designed to delegitimize the Jewish state so it can eventually be destroyed. If Professor Al-Attabi really wants the occupation to end, he knows who to talk to — and it’s not the Collegian. And those who are drawn in by phony claims of “intersectionality” should know that and be aware of the implications of what they are doing.

Fred Baumann is a professor of political science. You can contact him at


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