NEW YORK (Apr. 22)
“Would the U.S. have gone to the peace table after Pearl Harbor? Well, we’ve had the same traumatic shock.” That remark was made last week by Taher Kanaan, a United Nations staff economist in Beirut, one of six eminent Palestinian intellectuals interviewed by the senior editor of Newsweek magazine, Arnaud de Borchgrave and correspondent Milan J. Kubic in the Lebanese capital. The colloquy is published in the April 27 edition of Newsweek, following a similar group interview with six leading Israeli liberal intellectuals published a week earlier. The Israelis were “bluntly critical of their government’s ‘inflexibility,”‘ Newsweek reported. “However, the Palestinians displayed somewhat less ‘give’ and an even greater sense of frustration” in discussing ways to end the Middle East conflict. The Palestinians interviewed included Mohammed Rashid, chief of foreign relations for El Fatah; Ibrahim Ibrahim, a professor of political philosophy; Burthan Dajani, a writer on economic development; Dr. Henry Cattan, a lawyer and former UN negotiator; and Usama Khalidi, a professor of biochemistry.
All of them passionately supported the idea of replacing Israel, which they called a Zionist “settlers’ state,” with a multi-racial Palestinian state inhabited by Jews. Moslems and Christians on a basis of equality. They said they were prepared to give “reassurances” to the Jews of Israel but insisted that the first peace overtures must come from Israel. They warned that the present struggle could last for another 20 years, blamed the United States for supporting Israel and claimed that the U.S. could pressure Israel into admitting two million Arabs and reconstituting itself into a Middle Eastern rather than an “outsider” nation. Mr. Rashid, presumably speaking for El Fatah, said, “We’ve taken up arms. Until we did that we were ignored. Now the world is sitting up and paying attention.” He claimed that the Palestinians were not offering the Jews a “blood bath” but “concrete proposals for a new state that would bring lasting peace to the Middle East.”
Prof. Ibrahim spoke of a “new policy adopted by the Palestinian movement, namely that we are now willing to live in peace and harmony with all the Jews in the land of Palestine.” Mr. Kannan said. “The initiative, in the short term, lies in Israeli hands.” Dr. Cattan said. “The sovereignty of Palestine does not belong to the Arab states and therefore cannot be bargained away under cover of the UN resolution.” He insisted that if Israel had pulled back from the occupied Arab territories immediately after the June, 1967 war,” it would not have been in return for nothing.” Prof. Khalidi said, “The Israelis must begin thinking about how they can fit into the Middle East and dismantle Fortress Israel. They are wedded to a colonial concept, thinking of Arabs as inferior. The only thing they understand is force. We Palestinians are hardly backward. We have 60,000 university graduates.” The interviewees rejected the idea of a Palestinian state on the West Bank because “a puppet state coexisting with a racist state…(is) unacceptable.” All of the Palestinians conceded that even if the Israelis agreed to a multi-national Palestine it would take a long, drawn out process to achieve it. Dr. Cattan said, “After two decades of warfare reasonable men can sit down and work out some form of government that would ensure full rights for all concerned.” Prof. Ibrahim said, “If they can take in two million Jews, why not two million Palestinians?”