Italian Muslim cleric defends Israel
Blames Arafat, Arab leaders for continued Mideast violence

By Jon Dougherty

As the violence between Israel and Arab guerrilla factions continues to escalate in the Mideast, a noted Italian Muslim leader and regional expert has begun a campaign to educate Jews, Arabs and the rest of the world about key facts regarding the historic animosity in the region.

Specifically, he told WorldNetDaily in an interview last week, Israel not only has a right to exist as a nation in the region, but such a right is evdescribed in the Koran, the Muslim holy book describing the origins of Islam much like the Bible describes the origins and manifestations of Christianity.

Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, secretary general of the Italian Muslim Association and Muslim co-chair of the Islam-Israel Fellowship of the Root and Branch Association -- which promotes the study and practice of universal Jewish teachings -- said much of what is known and written about Jews and so-called Palestinians is myth.

And, he said, a Jewish homeland is even described in the Koran, though little is said about it in the press or in Jewish-Arab discussions.

"And thereafter We said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd,'" the Koran says in 17:104, The Night Journey.

Palazzi, a Muslim cleric, told WND that one of the most common misconceptions in the current Arab-Israeli conflict is that in reality, "there is no such thing as a 'Palestinian.'

"There never was. It is a PR fiction, a Madison Avenue fantasy," he said.

Also, "There is no 'intifada,' El Aksa or otherwise. There is a Philistine Authority Pogrom, both against Jews and Arabs, by Arafat and his thugs. The main victims are the resident Arabs themselves. There is actually one reference in the Qur'an [Koran] to the Palestinian People and that is the Philistines," he said.

Furthermore, the Koran confirms God's covenantal relationship with the Torah, land and people of Israel, he explained.

Palazzi has called for Israel's continued sovereignty over Jerusalem, and in recent speeches in Jerusalem, he has noted that the city's holiness in Islam was derived from two sources: It is the city of the pre-Islamic biblical prophets also revered by Islam (King David and King Solomon), and it is the site of the Dome of the Rock, from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven (the Night Journey).

But as long as "traditional" methods of resolving the current Israeli-Arab conflict are followed, Palazzi told WND he sees no end in sight to the current cycles of violence.

"As long as the Israeli government does not learn the sad lesson of the Oslo trap, does not realize its error in surrendering to a 'Palestinian Authority' in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as long as it goes on negotiating with the PLO and does not take local pro-Israeli Arab leaders in due consideration, I see no solution at hand, except an increase in mischief," Palazzi said.

.Indeed, the cleric's statement has proven prophetic. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in response to an increase in attacks by Hezbollah and PA-sponsored guerrillas, ordered Israeli F-16s to conduct strikes against a Syrian army radar station 22 miles east of Beirut, Lebanon.

Three Syrian soldiers were killed in the attack, and several other civilians were wounded. Sharon said following the attack that as long as Arab factions continued to step up violence against the Jewish state, Israel's armed forces would be ordered to respond.

On the issue of a lasting peace in the Mideast, Palazzi said one could never be achieved as long as Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat was involved.

"An agreement can be reached between peace-loving Jews and Muslims, between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, on condition that the state of Israel does not take PLO leadership as a counterpart for negotiations anymore, abstains from steps which contribute to make [the] PLO survive, and patiently wait for the time when local Arabs will not bear PLO's tyranny and corruption anymore," he told WND.

In the meantime, Israel should unilaterally declare that any further peace negotiations with Arafat or any of his factions are effectively over and, in fact, should call for "PLO's self-dissolution."

Then, Israeli leaders should "open a discussion which those local Arab leaders who were not involved in" Arafat's regime in any way, Palazzi said.

The Italian Muslim cleric said he didn't necessarily see a wider regional conflict between Israel and other Arab nations on the horizon, mostly because Arab leaders are certain they cannot defeat the Jewish state militarily -- at least at this point.

"I think that the dictators of the contemporary Arab world are using Israel as a verbal scapegoat for their propaganda, but also that none of them have either the courage or the will to be involved in a war which they know will be a sure defeat," he said.

Despite that, Iraq and Syria in recent months have begun to form a more cohesive alliance, marshalling forces and making more bellicose statements as the current PA-Israeli conflict enters its seventh month.

However, Palazzi believes that if any wider conflict does evolve, it's more likely to come between Arab factions.

"The best timetable I have [for an escalation in violence] is hoping for Arafat's death, and for the time when PLO dissolves in endless riots between feudal warlords and micro-criminal gangs," Palazzi said.

He also believes that a final, lasting peace in the Mideast with Israel is not in the best interests of current Arab regimes.

"I see that an eventual peace in Middle East will surely be a ruin for the feudal monarchies of the Gulf, and see that Saudis, Kuwaitis and most of [the] Arab emirates will spare no effort to fund anti-peace forces whenever they can," he told WND.

Palazzi, 40, was born in Italy to a Moslem mother whose grandfather immigrated from Aleppo and an Italian father who converted to Islam. In Jerusalem last month, he did say there have been some positive developments in Islam.

The cleric, the Jerusalem Post said March 14, is encouraged by traditional Islamic views (as opposed to what is today called "fundamentalist Islam" or "Islamist") coming out of the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

Jon E. Dougherty is a staff reporter and columnist for WorldNetDaily, and author of the special report, "Election 2000: How the Military Vote Was Suppressed."

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Date of original article: APRIL 17, 2001

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