war on moderate Palestinians
IF ONE NEEDED further
proof that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's real intentions
are not just the suppression of terrorism but the relentless termination
of Palestinian national aspirations, you need look no further than
the recent closing of the offices of Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian
representative for Jerusalem.
The Oxford- and Harvard-trained
Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University, is one of the Palestinian
camp's most articulate voices for compromise between Palestinians
and Israelis. Fluent in Hebrew as well as English, Nusseibeh is
on record as recognizing the Jewish people's rights in the Holy
Land, and he has publicly told the Palestinians that they must give
up the right of return to Israel proper. He was also a leader in
the recent move among Palestinian intellectuals to denounce the
use of suicide bombings. He is also a voice for reform within the
One might have thought
that Nusseibeh was just the sort of leader President Bush was calling
for to replace Yasser Arafat. As Israel's opposition parliamentarian,
Naomi Chazan, told National Public Radio: ''This is a man who has
courageously opposed terrorism.... This is a person who has been
a pillar in the creation of a Palestinian-Israeli peace coalition
and really a man who is a moderate voice and a very key person in
the attempt by Israelis and Palestinians to keep some channels open.''
But Nusseibeh has earned
the enmity of two powerful players in the Arab-Israeli drama - extremists
in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who are against compromise with Israel
and the Israeli hard right, personified by Sharon and his security
minister, Uzi Landau, who are against compromise with the Palestinians.
undermining Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, according to Landau.
In other words, there is to be no compromise over Jerusalem if Sharon
and Landau get their way. No Palestinian claim is to be recognized.
Irony of ironies: Landau claims justification in his move against
Nusseibeh by the Oslo accords, the destruction of which his government
has assiduously sought until there is almost nothing left now that
Israel has reoccupied the West Bank.
the head of the Palestinian Medical Relief, got it right when he
told The Boston Globe's Charles Radin: ''Sharon hates us moderates.
Israelis have been given a stereotype that all Palestinians are
either terrorists or involved in extreme corruption. Sharon is punishing
Sari Nusseibeh'' for showing otherwise.
The White House issued
a mild rebuke, which Sharon simply shrugged off because he knows
that, unlike the president's father, George W. Bush may bark, but
he has no bite when it comes to Israeli actions against Palestinians.
Sari Nusseibeh comes
from one of the oldest families of Jerusalem. His father, a Jordanian
diplomat and Cabinet minister who stayed on in Jerusalem after the
Six-Day War ended Jordanian rule, once told me that when Saladin
drove the Crusaders out of Jerusalem in 1187, unlike the Crusaders
who had murdered all the Jews and Muslims they could lay their swords
on, Saladin respected other religions. But he found that the various
Christian denominations squabbled so over their rights to the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre that he gave the keys of the church to Nusseibeh's
ancestors in order to maintain impartiality.
Today, it is men like
Sari Nusseibeh who hold the keys to Palestinian-Israeli compromise
in a two-state solution. But as the Labor Party's Yael Dayan, daughter
of Moshe Dayan, has said, President Bush has given Israel ''a free
ride ... a green light to do whatever the right wing want.'' And
the Israeli right doesn't want compromise. It wants to call all
the shots. President Bush may have his opinions about Yasser Arafat,
but his biggest mistake has been to believe that Ariel Sharon could
be a partner for peace.
column appears regularly in the Globe.
2002 Globe Newspaper Company.