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Growing extremism, not Fayyad, is the problem

When Salam Fayyad was Palestinian prime minister, he faced an unrelenting barrage of criticism and even hate from anti-peace Arab and Palestinian extremists. Now that he is out, the same extremists are expressing outrage that Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, is blocking his appointment to an obscure UN post in violence-torn Libya.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres informed the Security Council last week of his plans to name Fayyad “special representative” to Libya. Haley immediately declared the appointment “unfair” to Israel. I did not know its foreign policy extends to Libya.

Haley’s extremist hatred of Palestinians goes back to her heritage as a Sikh from India, a nation where sectarian hatred flourishes. In the US, many Indian and Sikh Americans support Israel and marginalize Palestinian rights. Instead of focusing on Haley, though, Palestinian and Arab extremists turned their anger against President Donald Trump, asserting the move is another example of his hatred of Muslims.

That a qualified, visionary Palestinian has been prevented from playing a role in the diplomatic arena is not the real issue to these fanatics, because they led the attacks against Fayyad when he served as prime minister between 2007 and 2013.

During his tenure, he was viciously attacked by anti-peace extremists because of his practices of “normalization” — the process of dealing with Israel rather than bombing it — and his embrace of moderation in support of the two-state solution.

These extremists did everything possible to block his efforts to rebuild Palestine from the inside in anticipation of statehood. They derogatorily referred to his moderate agenda as “Fayyadism.” They even blamed the occupation on him.

They were angered even more when former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who partnered in 1993 with Yitzhak Rabin to recognize Palestinian statehood in the two-state solution, praised Fayyad as the face of the Palestinian future. The criticism was relentless, ending only when Fayyad was pushed out of office by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was both dysfunctional and paranoid about his rivals.

Nikki Haley’s extremist hatred of Palestinians goes back to her heritage as a Sikh from India, a nation where sectarian hatred flourishes.

Ray Hanania

There is a typical but greater irony here. The very fanatics whose unrelenting attacks doomed Fayyad’s efforts as prime minister are now using his troubles to attack Trump. Nothing motivates Arab and Palestinian fanatics more than the ability to destroy something, block something or reject everything.

Their entire existence is based on rejectionism, which has allowed them to rally their supporters by fear-mongering and fanning the flames of hate. They oppose but never support. Their rejection allows them to survive as worthless, failed leaders without ever having to be accountable, a problem that plagues most Arab and Palestinian activism not just in the US but throughout the Arab world.

Rejectionist voices have always been louder than those of the bullied and assaulted moderates. They denounce the alleged hypocrisy of the peacemakers while embracing hypocrisy as their political agenda. Rejectionism is a disease that the Arab world and Palestinians do not do enough to denounce.

Fayyad’s biggest problem was not his moderate, progressive agenda, but his failure to embrace strategic communications strategies. He did a poor job of communicating with the public. He relied on his supporters’ accolades to get the word out, and they were not very good at overcoming the larger assault of criticism from the haters of moderation and “normalization.”

As a consequence, Fayyad is not recognized for his achievements, which is why he is so easily brushed aside. This absence of communications strategy, a fundamental flaw in Arab culture and Palestinian activism, was the real cause of his downfall. It also allowed for the rise of the extremists, who have been standing in the way of peace for decades. They are responsible for enabling the rise of extremism in Israel.

How extreme is Israel today? Years ago, the debate in the Arab world was whether to refer to Israel as “Israel” or “the Zionist entity.” Today, Israel is more fanatic than the most fanatic Arab and Palestinian activists, but Israeli fanaticism is accepted as the norm.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a pro-apartheid racist, recently urged the government to stop using the words “Palestinian state.” He shares the stage with a coterie of racist extremists, including “Justice” Minister Ayelet Shaked.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who longs to be a moderate but has to embrace the extremists to survive, joined in the attacks against Fayyad’s appointment, saying it gives Palestinians an edge over Israel that they should not have.

Guterres quickly announced plans to name Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former justice minister and a moderate, to a deputy post. Instead of appointing Fayyad to a UN post to monitor Libya, he should replace Abbas, which would upset Arab and Palestinian extremists even more, but also upset their Israeli counterparts.

• Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]