Recently, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Many international leaders reacted appropriately with shock and horror. Yet tragically, such statements in the Arab/Islamic world are nothing new.
From the very day of Israel’s establishment to the present day, calls for Israel’s violent destruction have been emphatic and continuous across the Middle East. Some examples:
- 1948: Arab League Secretary-General Azzam Pasha: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”
- 1954: Saudi King Saud: “The Arab nations should sacrifice up to 10 million of their 50 million people, if necessary, to wipe out Israel … Israel is to the Arab world a cancer to the human body.”
- 1959: Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser: “I announce from here, on behalf of the United Arab Republic people, that this time we will exterminate Israel.”
- 1967: Iraqi President Abdar-Rahman Aref: “The existence of Israel is a mistake that must be rectified … The clear aim is to wipe Israel off the map.”
- 1980: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat: “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel . We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations.”
- 1993: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat: “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.” [same day of Oslo signing ceremony]
- 2001: Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanani, “If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession … the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel.”
- 2005: PA Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris: “the Jews are a virus resembling AIDS … The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews … Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew.”
- 2005: Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Mehdi Akef, “I declared that we will not recognize Israel which is an alien entity in the region. And we expect the demise of this cancer soon.”
Examples like these are rampant. As the record shows, loathing of Jews and Israel and a desire to destroy them have not evaporated because of formal peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the Oslo peace process, the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) on land handed over by Israel or anything else. The opposite: Arab and Muslim rejection of Israel has seeped across the globe so that even in the gentlemanly halls of American academe, professors like the late Edward Said of Columbia University and Tony Judt of New York University have openly embraced the idea of dismantling Israel.
It is very telling that in no Arab country, even Egypt and Jordan, does Israel appear in official maps. In Egypt, last year’s hit song was ‘I hate Israel.’ Within the PA, President Mahmoud Abbas refers to Israel as the “Zionist enemy”, a common term used by those rejecting Israel. Abbas remains explicitly committed to the so-called ‘right of return’ — shorthand for Israel’s elimination by inundating the country with Palestinian refugees of the 1948-9 war and their descendants. Successive opinion polls over the years show that Palestinians repeatedly reject Israel’s right to exist.
Abbas heads the Fatah party, which he co-founded with Yasser Arafat, whose existing Charter calls for the “Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence” (Article 12) — goals identical to those found in the Charter of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group. In short, Palestinian rejection of Israel is thoroughly mainstream.
As Faisal Husseini, a so-called moderate and PA Minister and representative in Jerusalem, disclosed shortly before his death in 2001, the Oslo peace process was a “Trojan horse” designed to subvert Israel: “our ultimate goal is [still] the liberation of all historical Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] sea.”
This past week, even an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Azmi Bishara, declared in a speech delivered in Lebanon, “I will never recognize Zionism even if all Arabs do … Return Palestine to us and take your democracy with you. We Arabs are not interested in it.”
Ahmadinejad’s call for wiping Israel off the map is not an aberration, but should be seen in its historical and contemporary Middle Eastern context. That context indicates that Israel is emphatically rejected by virtually all its neighbors and that the terrorism launched against it has nothing to do with negotiable claims that Israel could satisfy. Rather, it has everything to do with Arab/Islamist goal of eliminating Israel. Until Middle East nations put Israel on their maps, teach their publics that Israel has a right to exist and stop funding terrorism and hate campaigns, peace will remain as elusive as ever.
Morton A Klein
National President of the Zionist Organization of America
and the editor of The Dangers of a Palestinian State .
Dr. Daniel Mandel
Director of the ZOA Center for Middle East Policy
and the author of H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist (2004).