[Published 18 October 2010]
The Elders - an independent group of eminent global leaders founded in 2007 by airline mogul Sir Richard Branson and co-founder of Genesis Peter Gabriel - has sent four of its members - including Mary Robinson and Jimmy Carter - on its second visit to the Middle East this week.
As The Elders web site explains:
“Inspired by the role that elders play in traditional societies, as a source of advice, wisdom and experience, they [Branson and Gabriel] took the idea to Nelson Mandela and were thrilled when he agreed to help bring a group of ‘global elders’ together… The Elders comprises ten visionary leaders including Graça Machel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and President Carter. They work both publicly and behind the scenes, collectively and individually, in areas of conflict such as; Kenya, Cyprus, Darfur and Zimbabwe and also work on a number of global issues, such as health and gender equality."
No mention is made of The Elders becoming involved in the Arab-Jewish conflict which still remains unresolved after 130 years of bitter confrontation.
One would have thought that was a wise decision - given that an established negotiating process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority - the Roadmap - sponsored by America, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union has been ongoing for the last seven years.
Yet the Elders have been unable to resist the temptation to interfere. Their website separately claims that The Elders also wish to promote
“a just and secure peace for all that embraces human rights principles under international law,and guarantees the right to live in equality, dignity and security to all Palestinians and Israelis."
In failing to recognize that the conflict is one between “Arabs” and “Jews” - not “Palestinians” and “Israelis“ - this group of sage elders has found itself unable to rise above Arab propaganda - which seeks to deny the Jewish people the right to their own independent State in their ancient and biblical homeland as legally envisioned for them by the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Mary Robinson herself told the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on 5 December 2001:
“Each of us knows that it is a difficult time, and that words matter and will be noted."
Words do matter - especially in the Arab-Jewish conflict which has been turned on its head from being an existential struggle for Jewish independence and survival to one represented as a dispute between two groups of people - Palestinians and Israelis - competing for the same piece of land.
As they embark on their latest visit - statements emanating from The Elders have already invoked memories of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion - the most notorious and widely distributed anti-semitic publication of modern times. Its lies about Jews, which have been repeatedly discredited, continue to circulate today, especially on the Internet and can be freely purchased in many Arab capitals.
In 1921, the London Times presented conclusive proof that the Protocols was a “clumsy plagiarism.” The Times confirmed that the Protocols had been copied in large part from a French political satire that never mentioned Jews — Maurice Joly’s Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (1864). Other investigations revealed that one chapter of a Prussian novel, Hermann Goedsche’s Biarritz (1868), also “inspired” the Protocols.
The current Elders are not anti-Semites.
However, their statements need to be critically analyzed and carefully scrutinized since the weight they carry has the power to materially influence public opinion at a time when campaigns to delegitimize Israel and threats to eradicate the Jewish State are on the rise.
Jimmy Carter was interviewed prior to setting out on his current tour and the following exchange appeared in an article written by Akiva Eldar in Ha’Aretz on 15 October:
QUESTION: Did you ever encounter an Israeli demand that the Arabs recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?
ANSWER: This demand is completely new. The first time I heard of it, I was in East Jerusalem after Obama’s Cairo speech [on 4 June 2009], to which Netanyahu responded with a call for the Arabs and Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state - which was a move probably initiated by Lieberman and his party. I don’t see how it’s possible - there are 1.5 million Arab citizens in Israel, and 320,000 who are neither Jews nor Muslims - so I don’t know if it will be possible. For the Arabs to acknowledge that the Arabs who live in Israel are Jewish will be very difficult.
Granted, Jimmy Carter is now 86.
However is he so ill-informed that he is unaware that Israel’s demand is not “completely new” - that:
1. Israel raised this demand in the Reservations it raised to the Roadmap on 27 May 2003 stating “declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state”
2. America made the following written commitment to Israel on 14 April 2004:
“The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state”
3. Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated this demand as the basis for further negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in a speech to the international community assembled in Annapolis on 27 November 2007.
If Mr Carter is that uninformed or seeks to claim memory loss for his otherwise inexplicable lapse then he should retire gracefully rather than making misleading statements that have the capacity to persuade public opinion that the Jews are attempting to subvert the negotiating process by raising belated demands.
Mary Robinson is no better. After visiting Gaza on 16 October, she declared:
“It is unconscionable and unacceptable that Israel and the international community have not lifted the blockade fully to allow Gazans to rebuild their lives and be part of the interconnected world that we take for granted.”
The blockade is also being imposed by Egypt.
Why would Mary Robinson fail to mention that salient fact? How many readers will be quick to blame the Jews alone for imposing the blockade and exonerate Egypt from any similar criticism?
If The Elders are to make any worthwhile contribution to resolving the Arab-Jewish conflict they need to quickly disavow themselves of such irresponsible and highly inflammatory statements or become known as the purveyors of canards and falsehoods whose effect is to malign and vilify the Jewish people.
Yes - Mary Robinson and Jimmy Carter - words do certainly count.
Just make sure you use them in a manner that is not unfair, deceptive or misleading.