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From: Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President
Jack Rosen, Chairman of the Council of World Jewry, invited me and many others to attend dinner with General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, an Islamic nation of 150 million people. After much thought and discussion I decided to attend. Despite my deep concerns and reservations about Musharraf’s policies, I thought it might be worthwhile to make my concerns known to the media who would be there and to see if Musharraf had made any significant changes in his views toward Israel.
As soon as I entered the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, where the event was being held, I was immediately approached by several reporters who asked me what I thought of this event. I told them that “although the organizers mean well, I was worried that this may be giving legitimacy to President Musharraf who has allowed thousands of madrassas (religious schools) to indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of Pakistani youngsters in Jihad education and hatred for Jews and the West; has allowed terror training camps to operate in his country; has refused to take action against the Taliban; and has provided centrifuges useful to nuclear development to Iran.” It was also troubling that CIA Director Porter Goss had recently said that the U.S. is certain that Osama bin-Laden is in Pakistan — but that Pakistan is really not cooperating in apprehending him. But, I said I was looking forward to President Musharraf changing my mind.
Almost everyone I met at the dinner felt differently. They thought this meeting will bring Pakistan closer to Israel, will cause more moderation of Musharraf’s views, and even impact the larger Muslim world in a positive way.
When President Musharraf entered the dining room, he immediately received a standing ovation by the several hundred mostly Jewish people there , including many Jewish organization heads. (I remained seated.)
Musharraf began by immediately calling Jews “the most influential community in the United States.” (I was frankly troubled by this statement. Since the Muslim world despises the U.S., they will not appreciate the claim that Jews have a great influence over U.S. policy.) He then expressed chagrin that “Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are pitted against each other.” (Really, I thought, Muslims were intentionally murdering Jews and Christians around the world as well as demonizing them — not the other way around.)
He said that “the relationship between Muslims and Jews had always been wonderful and that the past 6 decades are an aberration in the long history of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and co-existence.” Musharraf seemed to ignore the fact that Muslims massacred Jews who refused to convert when Islam first began 1300 years ago. Even in the past century, Arab Muslims murdered Jews in 1920-21, 1929, 1936-39 — before there was a Jewish State. I was troubled by his implication that it was the re-establishment of Israel six decades ago that caused the problems between Muslims and Jews. This despite the fact that Israel was re-established on only 12% of original Palestine. Jordan was given 78% of Palestine by the British in the early 20s and 10% of Palestine was offered to the Arabs as a State in 1948 but the Arabs rejected this offer and went to war against the fledgling state of Israel.
Although he acknowledged that the “Jewish people suffered their greatest tragedy, the Holocaust in this century” — he added that “the Palestinians also suffered their greatest tragedy in this brutal century.” This was a most bizarre and inappropriate analogy between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Arab experience. The fact is that the plight of the Palestinian Arabs is almost entirely due to their own rejection of statehood, and their Arab brothers and sisters keeping them in refugee camps and refusing to absorb them into their 22 countries, while the one Jewish country absorbed 800,000 Jews in a short period of time after 1948. In addition the Palestinian Arabs turned down a State in 1948 and also rejected a state in 2000 and also refused to establish one during the years 1948 to 1967 when Arabs controlled all of Judea & Samaria, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem that they now claim for a state.
It was also disconcerting to hear Musharraf single out only one Jew in his speech because that Jew one who has viciously attacked Israel time and again. His name is George Soros. (Musharraf thanked Soros for helping Muslims.)
While he did make a general criticism of “terrorism” around the world, President Musharraf never specifically mentioned the terrorism or suicide bombing that Israel endures!! That should have been an imperative when speaking to a Jewish audience. Yet he did allege that “most of those who suffer the consequences of terrorist acts are Muslims.” He also never mentioned the name of one Muslim terrorism group — not al-Qaeda, not Hamas, not Hezbollah!!
Musharraf did say that “we must look at the motivations of terrorists at the root causes of terrorists that pushes them to such extremes of desperation.” (When a reporter later asked me about the root causes of Arab terrorism against Israel — I said it was the same as the root cause of the murder of Jews by the Nazis — they educate throughout their society to hate and murder Jews.) Musharraf’s answer to the root cause was, “Palestine has been at the heart of the troubles in the Middle East. I do not have an iota of doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian problem lies at the heart of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.” This statement was not only shocking but also ludicrous. Doesn’t Musharraf know Muslims were murdering Jews before Israel existed; that before Israel captured Judea & Samaria and Gaza and the Golan and eastern Jerusalem and the Sinai in 1967, there were 3 Arab wars (1948-56-67) and constant terrorism and no interest in establishing another Arab State there. Does he really think that al-Qaeda is murdering Westerners because of Israel. Bin-Laden’s first five reasons he gave in 1997 for his war against the West never mentioned Israel. Does he really think the bombing of the World Trade Center; the trains in Britain and Spain; the terrorist murders in Bali, Egypt, the Philippines, and elsewhere is due to the Arab-Israeli issue. Does he think Iraq and Iran were at war for 8 years; that Saddam murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people; that Arafat’s Black September murdered 5000 Jordanians, that Egypt’s war with Chad and Iraq’s war with Kuwait was due to the Israel issue? What utter nonsense.
Musharraf also said that “Security for Israel will remain incomplete until the creation of a Palestinian State.” (That could be construed as a threat and not simply as a prediction.) Then he said that Israel must “withdraw from the West Bank and for durable peace and harmony between Israelis and Palestinian — indeed between Israel and the Muslim world. Then he made a more disturbing statement — “any final settlement must respect the international character of Jerusalem as well as international law and the resolutions of the UN Security Councils.”
It was frightening to hear Musharraf tell a Jewish audience that we must expect “incomplete security” meaning terrorism will continue until there is a Palestinian State and that Jerusalem must be internationalized, and that Israel must fulfill the numerous (anti-Israel) resolutions of the UN.
He claimed that the problems Pakistan has with recognizing Israel is the lack of a Palestinian State. Again he ignores the fact that they could have had a State from 1948 to 1967 when the Arabs controlled the lands now proposed for a State. But we must forget that even before 1967 — when Arabs controlled those lands — Pakistan didn’t recognize Israel then either.
In his entire speech, he only made demands about what Israel must do — but not a single statement about the obligations of the Palestinian Authority to Israel and to the world, under Oslo and the Road Map.
I was surprised, disappointed and troubled that President Musharraf would give such a non-conciliatory speech that was unfriendly to Israel in front of a Jewish audience. It seems to me that if he was not ready to give a more conciliatory speech, he shouldn’t have been invited and shouldn’t have accepted this invitation. I am also concerned that since this speech was given in an apparent effort to reach out to Jews, the extreme hostile Arab Orthodoxy promoted by Musharraf, that the Israel issue is the real cause of terror, that Israel should honor all (anti-Israel) UN Resolutions, that a Palestinian State will solve everything, and that Jerusalem should be internationalized, can only become more entrenched in the eyes of Muslims and the rest of the world. This is especially true because these statements were made by a man that some now view as being “moderate” toward Israel. The nature of this speech made it more clear to me that his real purpose was better relations with the U.S., not Israel, primarily motivated by concerns of his personal safety and his problems with India.
In a more positive note, I should say that although his speech was disquieting, the fact that he gave this speech to a Jewish audience under the auspices of a Jewish group, in front of Pakistani and other Muslim TV cameras may have some positive value. Muslims will have heard President Musharraf say that Jewish groups were visible in opposing ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia. He also stated that Jews and Muslims “have many similarities and divergences in their faith and culture. He also said that Moses is the prophet most mentioned in the Koran. He also thanked Jews for their help to Muslims in the U.S. These comments may help to improve the image of the Jew to Muslims.
But his speech was still painful and disappointing. It is therefore unnerving to see President Musharraf receive a standing ovation by this mostly Jewish audience. This ovation can only send a message to him and to other Muslims that we agreed with most of his points which were not favorable toward Israel, including his public refusal to recognize Israel diplomatically especially after Israel and the world has recognized the Palestinian Authority. It seems that we Jews are much too willing to accept any overture at all from a hostile world. After 2000 years of we Jews being hated, persecuted, massacred, pogromed, and Holocausted, we are all too acquiescent to accept even a most minimal overture in order to, in a sense, plead with the world to stop hating us and stop killing us. But I believe that strength and courage and standing up for truth is the only way we will gain the world’s respect and reduce their animosity.
When I was interviewed by Pakistani TV stations and the U.S. media after the speech, I expressed my concerns about Musharraf’s speech clearly and respectfully. I hope other Jewish organizations will stand up for the truth about this and other issues and not simply try to appease a hostile world.