AN OPEN LETTER FROM A 70 YEARS OLD PALESTINIAN TO AN ISRAELI 53 GRANDFATHER of two beautiful girls he doesn't want them to grow up fearing "terrorism"
Dec. 12, 2001

Emanuel Gross, a professor of law at Haifa University since 1992, who served in the Israel Defense Forces for 25 years, first as a soldier and later as a judge at military tribunals, wrote an op ed that was published in   The Washington Post on 7 December 2001.  The full article is available on at:

In his article, Gross expressed his understandable rage at the "killing 15 people in this university town that I have called home for the past 10 years."  What was not understandable is his defence of the atrocities committed by his "democratically" elected Government who is killing virtually defenceless innocent Palestinian civilians whose crime is that they were born in a country that had been their homeland from time immemorial

He started by comparing what's going on in Palestine with the tragedy of September 1I to conclude, "Israel now has the same right -- even duty -- to take military action in self-defense."

Gross knows well that "waging war on Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority will not solve the problems in the Middle East."  Therefore, he reiterates the same deceitful PR claims that Israel is an innocent victim of "terrorism" who wants peace, "that can only happen at the negotiating table."  But, unfortunately, "getting to the negotiating table is like a tango [the argument that was earlier used by Ehud Barak]: You need a partner who is willing to cooperate, so that both sides adjust their steps in concert. I am not sure that this partner is Arafat. To put it more bluntly I am almost sure that our partner is not Arafat." To make his point, he made this accusation, "Arafat has made a strategic choice: to disregard his obligations to solve disagreements peacefully according to the Oslo agreement and instead to strike out on his well-worn path of terrorism. Perhaps he believed that by attacking Israel we would give in to despair. For now it is clear that Arafat's true vision still is to return to the historic Palestine -- to the Arab cities of Haifa, Jaffa, Lod and so on. According to that vision, we Israelis will have to decide whether we want to stay here as citizens of the new Palestinian state or go back to our previous places in Europe, America and elsewhere…"

Gross reflects on his experiences as army a soldier in the Israeli army for 25 years and as a judge " presiding over a military court in Nablus" to conclude that "terrorism" is quite a different kind of war and that "capital punishment [for the terrorists] will not do the job".

What would do the job, in his opinion "as a professor of law who specializes in human rights and terrorism" is "By demolishing the terrorists' homes. By making sure they know that anyone who commits acts of terror will not be viewed as heroes, but as the reason for the destruction of their own communities. If they knew that blowing themselves up would reduce their families' homes to rubble, they might just hesitate. Many of my liberal colleagues criticize me for holding this view, but I am determined to find a way to stop these crazy people."  Accordingly, "it is up to the Palestinians to realize that Arafat has finished his historic role and that someone else needs now to take his place. Until we get the new partner we are entitled to, we are under a duty to defend our democracy."

The 53 years old "grandfather of two beautiful girls" he doesn't "want them to grow up fearing terrorism, as his "own children have done" ended his article with these words: "I believe there are many Palestinian grandfathers who also hope that their grandchildren will be able to raise families in a region where Israel and Palestine, two independent states, will live side by side with mutual respect and honor. Isn't that what the Oslo accords were all about in the first place?"

As a 70 years old Palestinian who, like the majority of the Palestinian people, had never served in any army, like you did, and never knew how to use any kind of arms and spent our entire life in a struggle for survival after having been made "refugees" as a result of the ethnic cleansing activities of the Haganah, Irgun and Stern in 1948, would like to tell you how I feel in my own simple and humble words.

Killing of innocent civilians is a criminal act that every sensible human being and I myself denounce, condemn and reject. The Palestinians are also human beings who don't want their children and grandchildren to live under any kind of fear and/or humiliation of any kind.  The Palestinian blood is as red as all human beings blood is.

What was abhorrent and horrifying in your article is your cheap effort to stain the whole Palestinian people with the oversimplified accusation of "terrorism" in a flagrant abuse of the tragedy of September 11.  Moreover, you try to use this alleged claim to justify killing innocent Palestinian civilians, demolishing Palestinian homes, and inflicting all kinds of collective punishment measures, including violations of all kinds of human rights.

Demolition of Palestinian homes and "redemption" of Palestinian lands as well as killing of innocent Palestinian civilians started a long time ago.  It was not in retaliation for Palestinian "terror".  There was no such thing when the whole tragic story began over one hundred years ago.  What you call as "terror" was not known in the area and was introduced during and immediately after WWII by the underground Jewish terror organizations.  The goal was to create an Exclusive Jewish State within which there is no place for Palestinians as equal human beings with equal human rights.

You were not yet born when innocent children, and old men and women were slaughtered in Deir Yassin.  These people were not "terrorists".  In fact they had a pact with their Jewish neighboring settlements to live in peace together.

Your democratically elected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as head of a special company of paratroopers, Unit 101 of the IDF, was killing innocent Palestinian civilians to prevent them from "infiltrating" back into their homes and lands that were left behind in 1948.  Within this capacity, he committed the Massacre of Qibya in October 1953 where he demolished 45 houses and seventy corpses of innocent civilians were found in the rubble.

The list of documented massacres include Kafr Qassim, Sabra & Shatila, Qana and many other atrocities is a long one, which as a law professor and as an expert on human rights and terrorism should be aware of.  Yet, you didn't denounce or even make a hint of your disapproval to them.

You accuse Yasser Arafat of being a terrorist who has ulterior motives and cannot be trusted as a partner for peace.  You suggest, "Until we get the new partner we are entitled to [whatever that means], we are under a duty to defend our democracy".

In 1948, there was no PLO and Yassir Arafat was an unknown student.  Yet the founder and democratically elected Prime Minister of Israel did not want to make peace, not because the Palestinians had a "terrorist" leader who cannot be trusted as a partner for peace.  For him, peace meant that the Arabs, "will demand a price of us – borders [that is, in terms of territory] or refugees [that is, repatriation] or both.  Let us wait a few years."  That was what he wrote in his diary on 14 July 1949, which reflected plans for expanding Israel's territorial gains.  These plans were put into action and failed in 1956.  Failure in 1956 did not stop Israel from repeating the effort in 1967, which led to the occupation of East Jerusalem, the remaining parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in addition to the Golan Heights, all of which are still under occupation to this date.  This occupation is in violation of Security Council Resolutions # 242 and 338.  Ending Israel's occupation does not require any kind of negotiations in the same way ending of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait was enforced without any negotiations with the occupier.

Following the war in 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution # 194.  The resolution expressed its deep appreciation of the progress achieved through the good offices of the late Count Folke Bernadotte who was appointed by the UN as a mediator between the Arabs and Israel who was assassinated in the Jewish part of Jerusalem on 17 September 1948 following his report submitted to the UN Security Council in the previous day.  The resolution also established a Conciliation Commission, "To assume the functions given to the UN Mediator on Palestine by resolution 186 (S-2) of the General Assembly of 14 May 1948 and to carry out any other functions and directives given to it by the General Assembly or by the Security Council with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between the Governments and authorities concerned”.  Moreover, the resolution resolved that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return”.  It also instructed “the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees”.

The efforts of the Conciliation Commission were unsuccessful.  It called for a return of the refugees to their homes.  Israel simply rejected that.  Palestinian homes and lands were needed to settle Jewish immigrants coming from all corners of the world.  It also called for the assumption of the functions of mediation started with Count Bernadotte to arrive at a "final settlement of questions outstanding between the Governments and authorities concerned.  This meant final boundaries for Israel and peace with its neighbors, which would have limited its desire for expansion.

During the PCC discussions in 1949, the Arabs were ready to make peace with Israel provided the refugees were allowed to return to their homes.  Israel rejected the offer.  The "return" and "rehabilitation" of the Palestinian refugees are inconsistent with the Zionist objective of an Exclusive Jewish State.  Ussishkin was very clear in this respect when he stated in 1938 that "There is no hope that this new Jewish State will survive, to say nothing of develop, if the Arabs are as numerous as they are today."  Ussishkin, who was addressing the "Transfer Committee" at the time, added: "The worst is not that the Arabs would comprise 45 or 50% of the population of the new state but that 75% of the land is owned by Arabs."  This land was desired for waves of Jewish immigrants who would populate the Jewish State.

As you see, ridding the country of its population is nothing new in the history of the conflict in Palestine.  It has nothing to do with Yassir Arafat, Hamas or Jihad or the suicide bombings and killing of innocent Israeli civilians.  It was part and parcel of the Zionist project in Palestine, which is the root cause of the conflict.  Palestinian resistance to this project is in self-defence against the encroachment of the Zionist project and not the other way around.

On 17 March 1949, eight hundred delegates convened in Ramallah (The Ramallah Congress of Refugee Delegates) and discussed the terrible conditions of refugee life as well as political issues.  The congress demanded the return of the refugees "without awaiting the ultimate settlement for the Palestine question" - that is, the country's political fate.

A high-ranking delegation representing the congress was sent to the Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC).  Their presentation and demands were so impressive that the Arab governments and other refugee committees had no alternative but to meet with them to co-ordinate presentations before the Arab League, the PCC, and other UN agencies.

The delegation of the Ramallah congress insisted on the right of the refugees to return to their homes, and argued that that was the only way to guarantee peace and security in Palestine and in the Middle East.  The delegation also expressed its readiness to discuss directly with Israel the question of return, compensation, and peace in Palestine.  It explained to the PCC the harm and danger that would result from dispossession, neglect, and denial of the rights of the refugees, and from the perpetuation of their life in exile:

“There is no human force that could stop the personal revenge of individual refugees against the party that sentenced them to death.  It is inconceivable that the refugees should be left to die with their children in caves and deserts in Arab lands, while watching European families of various extraction living by force in the homes that they had built with their own sweat and blood, enjoying a peaceful life.  Nothing could prevent these refugees from infiltrating, as individuals, and blowing up those houses over their own heads and the heads of those now living in them.”  (For more details, see Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Reality.  New York: 1987, pp. 218 - 220)

In a Consultative Meeting held on 19 April 1949 in advance of Lausanne, Yadin rejected compromise on repatriation.  He lumped together the issues of “the refugees and the [state’s final] borders.”  “My opinion is that we must say, with all cruelty: The refugee problem is no concern of the Land of Israel…" Ben-Gurion stressed that Israel’s primary concerns and need at the moment was the absorption of new Jewish immigrants: "This comprehends all the historical needs of the state."  Immigrants and their absorption was the key to Israel’s security, implying that repatriation would preclude absorption of immigrants.  (Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, p. 261)

The PCC conference was opened in Lausanne, Switzerland on 26 April 1949.  Under the threat that the US would prevent Israel's admission to the UN, Israel finally agreed to attend the conference.  President Truman threatened Ben-Gurion: “If the government of Israel continues to reject the basic principles of the UN resolution of Dec. 11, 1948, and the friendly advice offered by the US government for the sole purpose of facilitating a genuine peace in Palestine, the US government will regretfully be forced to the conclusion that a revision of its attitude toward Israel has become unavoidable”.  (Simha Flapan, op. cit., p. 214)

Another delegation of the Ramallah congress traveled to the Lausanne conference in April 1949 to be close to the negotiations initiated by the PCC with the Arab states and Israel on the refugee problem, borders, and peace.  The delegation was instructed to adhere to the UN resolution of December 11 calling for repatriation of the refugees and was free to meet with all international and political bodies involved in the negotiations.

The PCC members listened to the information and the suggestions of the delegates but could not accept their demands.  The refusal was based on the fact that the conference discussion took place only among governments.  Even so, this did not prevent the delegation from holding frequent private meetings with members and staff of the PCC in which concrete suggestions were discussed regarding repatriation, compensation, release of blocked bank accounts, unification of families, assessment of property values, and other matters.

On the other hand, the AHC sent its own delegation to Lausanne.  Moreover, a number of Palestinian notables were included as members of the official delegations of the Arab states.

All the Palestinian delegations were united on a common platform, namely, to focus the debate on the fundamental problems of the refugees.  “Two options were put forward to the delegations of the Arab states.  The first was that they present their demands to Israel concerning borders, refugee rights, finances, and commitments, threatening to re-ignite the war if no agreement was reached.  The second was to accept Israel as it existed on the condition that each refugee be allowed to return to his home, whether it was under Arab or Israeli jurisdiction.”  (Ibid, pp. 220 - 222)

Israel was admitted as a member to the UN on 11 May 1949.  At the same time (taking the timing differences between New York and Lausanne) the Arab states and Israel signed a protocol stating that the UN Partition Resolution and the partition map included in it constituted the basis for negotiations.  The Lausanne protocol stated that the aim of the conference was to achieve "as quickly as possible the objectives of the General Assembly resolution of December 11, 1948, regarding the refugees, respect for their rights, and the preservation of their property, as well as territorial and other questions."  By signing the Lausanne protocol, the Arabs had in fact accepted the legitimacy of the UN Partition Resolution, a radical departure from their previous strategy.  They had abandoned the idea of Palestine as a unitary Arab state, accepted the reality of Israel, and agreed to solve the dispute by political means.

Ahmad Shukairy, a Palestinian member and chief spokesman of the Syrian delegation, proposed direct negotiations between the Palestinian refugees and Israel on the basis of the Lausanne protocol, independent of the negotiations with the Arab states.

Eliyahu Sasson, the Jewish Agency's chief Arab affairs expert, dismissed the offer and proposed to help set up a Palestinian delegation headed by Nimr Hawari.  Such a delegation intended to challenge the authority of both the AHC and the Arab governments, would, in co-ordination with Israel, launch a campaign for Palestinian independence in Europe and the US.  It would also come to Israel to undertake direct negotiations on repatriation, compensation, and the establishment of an autonomous entity linked with Israel.  Sasson envisioned that these developments would prevent Abdullah's annexation of the West Bank and allow the Arab states to dissociate themselves from the Palestinian problem.  He also believed that a visit to Israel would convince the delegation of the objective impossibility of repatriating many refugees.

Sharett had serious doubts about this plan.  He was afraid that there would be bitter disappointment and anger among the Palestinians when the delegation returned empty-handed.  Instead he suggested “If Hawari is good for anything, he should be used to facilitate the realization of plans in the Habaniah and Jazira and appoint a serious group of Arabs willing to establish a government in the Triangle”.  (Ibid, p. 229, citing ISA 130.02/2442/5 and 130.02/2442/7)

In his guidelines to the delegation in Lausanne with respect to negotiating peace, Sharett pointed out that "it behooves us to do so not with haste and trepidation but by revealing strength and the ability to exist even without official peace."  According to Sharett, since official peace was not a vital necessity, Israel had nothing to lose from procrastination.  (Ibid, p. 215, citing ISA 120.02/2447/3 & ISA 93.03/2487/11)

All the above documented details are part of the history of the conflict, which makes it clear why peace was not achieved.  There were partners ready to make peace that brings justice based on international law.  The only partner Israel wants is a collaborating partner like Nimr Hawari in 1949 or like the Village Leagues, which Sharon tried to create in 1981 who will be ready to serve Israel's interests of perpetuating and legitimizing their full control and hegemony.

Oslo was another trap to impose a dictated settlement that is commensurate with Israel's goals of full control and hegemony.  That's what Oslo is about.  It was not about "two independent states" that will live side by side with "mutual respect and honor".   When this became clear in the summit held in July 2000, the cycle of violence was inevitable and Sharon's provocations were calculated to invite the kind of reaction that he is using as a pretext to escalate his atrocities against the Palestinian people.

Abusing the tragedy that occurred on September 11 is typical of some one like Sharon whose hands are full with Palestinian blood for over five decades.  Adopting this line by a Law Professor who is supposed to defend human rights and international law is beyond any imagination.

Nizar Sakhnini, a Palestinian who wants to see that all the beautiful children of this world, including American, Jewish, and Arab girls and boys, would grow up and live in peace and harmony without any fear from "terrorism".