President Musharraf to U.S. Jews: “Pakistan has no direct conflict with Israel”

September 19, 2005

* Musharraf on why he won’t yet establish relations with Israel: “57 years of bitterness, hatred and animosity cannot be undone so fast… We have to be a little patient I need more support in my endeavors to be able to take the Pakistani people along with me. The people of Pakistan are too involved with the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian homeland.”

* Musharraf on Islamic societies: “Many of us have remained trapped in a time warp, still struggling to reconstruct our political, social and economic systems to respond to the challenges of our times.”

* Musharraf on terrorism: “It cannot be condoned for any reason or cause.”

* Musharraf on Islam: “A religion of tolerance, compassion and peace.”

 

CONTENTS

1. Musharraf: Pakistan has “no direct conflict or dispute with Israel”
2. Plenty of motives for Pakistan to warm up to Israel
3. Pakistani opposition to relations with Israel
4. Palestinians reject Islamic countries normalizing ties with Israel
5. Arab opposition to “check this sweeping ominous tide”
6. “Pakistan leader urges U.S. Jews to help make peace” (Reuters, Sept. 18, 2005)
7. “Musharraf: Israel must leave W. Bank” (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 18, 2005)
8. “Recognizing Israel” (Dawn - Pakistan’s leading English-language daily)
9. “Musharraf Talks to Jewish Leaders” (Arab News, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 19, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

MUSHARRAF: “PAKISTAN HAS NO DIRECT CONFLICT OR DISPUTE WITH ISRAEL”

In a speech to the American Jewish Congress last Saturday night (September 17, 2005), Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf opened the door to full diplomatic relations between Israel and Pakistan.

The groundbreaking dinner opened with the sharing of bread and Koranic prayers. In his speech, Musharraf commented on the Holocaust, claimed to have watched and been influenced by Schindler’s List, and also spoke of preventing anti-Islamic prejudice in the West after 9/11.

This is the first time a leader of a Muslim nation that has no diplomatic ties with Israel has held a public dialogue with Jewish leaders. Pakistan is the second most populous Moslem country in the world, after Indonesia.

The dinner was attended by several long-time subscribers to this email list, including David Horovitz (the editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post), David Makovsky (formerly of Ha’aretz and now of the Washington Institute), and by myself. The event and diplomatic initiative with Pakistan was organized and chaired by Jack Rosen, also a long-time subscriber to this email list.

Almost half the guests at the dinner were prominent Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans.

In his speech, Musharraf also singled out individual Jews for praise. In particular, he cited “the American Jewish philanthropist George Soros,” whom he said had been the single biggest donor to help Bosnian Moslems, more than any Moslem donor had.

Musharraf’s speech follows talks between the Israeli and Pakistan foreign ministers in Turkey on September 1, 2005 and Musharraf’s handshake with Ariel Sharon at the United Nations last week.

Pakistan’s role since 9/11 has been problematic. Daniel Pearl, a Jewish reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and decapitated by terrorists in Pakistan. Pakistan’s network of religious schools has been accused of spreading a radically violent version of Islam. Two of the 7/7 London bombers visited Pakistan in the months leading up to the London terror attacks.

PALESTINIAN STATE WILL GIVE ISRAEL FULL RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN

Musharraf said a Palestinian state would help stop Islamic terrorism and facilitate full diplomatic relations between Israel and Pakistan.

In his speech, Musharraf urged Israel to pull out of the West Bank and agree a solution in Jerusalem in line with the city’s “international character”.

Even though Musharraf said he will not yet officially recognize Israel, and he made quite a number of strongly pro-Palestinian remarks, he was given (by my count) six standing ovations during the course of the evening.

PLENTY OF MOTIVES FOR PAKISTAN

It is widely assumed that Pakistan seeks better relations with Israel to boost its own national security, which it feels might be threatened by growing ties between Israel and India, and most of all to improve ties with the US.

On his arrival back in Pakistan yesterday, Musharraf cited the “influential” US Jewish community that could be used to pressurize the American administration “if and when needed”. Whilst he also cited the advancement of Israeli technology that Islamabad could benefit from.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said in his meeting with Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom at the beginning of September that relations with Israel would help Pakistanis all over the world. “There are 80 million Pakistanis living abroad and after the incidents of 9/11 and 7/7, the lives of ordinary Pakistanis abroad became too difficult. We want to address this. We want to portray the soft image of Pakistan.”

PAKISTANI OPPOSITION TO RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL

In January, Shimon Peres was interviewed by “Jang,” a leading Pakistani paper. Peres was quoted as saying that Israel and Pakistan should have “direct, personal contact, publicly, without being ashamed about it.” Following Peres’s interview, armed men ransacked the newspaper’s office in Karachi chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is great).

Following the meeting of the foreign ministers earlier this month, the opposition party Muttahida Majlise Amal (MMA) held demonstrations in major Pakistani cities and staged a walkout from Parliament. The leader of the MMA described the move as “against Pakistan’s national interest as well as state policy.” But the biggest demonstration held in Peshawer featured only 200 people.

PALESTINIANS REJECT ISLAMIC COUNTRIES NORMALIZING TIES WITH ISRAEL

The Palestinian National Anti-Normalization Committee warned on Sunday that the Palestinians are against any Arab or Islamic countries normalizing ties with Israel. The Committee’s chief, Omar Shallah, has announced that the committee plan to hold a conference against normalizing relations with Israel in October.

At the same time, the Palestinian Authority seemed unconcerned that more than 10,000 Hamas members marched on Sunday vowing to continue to fight Israel until it is destroyed.

ARAB OPPOSITION TO “CHECK THIS SWEEPING OMINOUS TIDE”

Israel currently has full diplomatic relations with three Arab states – Mauritania, Egypt and Jordan – as well as Turkey, which has a Muslim majority.

Since the withdrawal from Gaza, Israel has also held high-level public meetings with Qatar, Indonesia and Tunisia. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss called for an Arab League meeting to take measures to “check this sweeping, ominous tide. I wonder how they can undertake such a step, forgetting a cause they espoused for more than half a century... under the pretext of rewarding the Zionist enemy for withdrawing from Gaza.”

ISRAEL FOURTH ON US ALLY LIST

According to a poll carried out by the Harris organization, Israel is considered the fourth ally in the minds of U.S citizens. Israel came after the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia as “most reliable ally” for the second year in succession.

I attach four articles. The first two concern the speech made by President Musharraf to the American Jewish Congress. The third article from “Dawn,” Pakistan’s leading English-language daily, illustrates the dilemmas felt in Pakistan about establishing full relations with Israel – it is an interesting article which I recommend reading in full for those who have time. The fourth piece is an analysis from the Saudi Arabian English-language daily, “Arab News.”

-- Tom Gross

 



FULL ARTICLES

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF URGES US JEWISH LEADERS TO HELP MAKE PEACE

Pakistan leader urges U.S. Jews to help make peace
By Paul Eckert
Reuters
September 18, 2005

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told U.S. Jewish leaders on Saturday that granting the Palestinians statehood would help stop Islamic terrorism and lead to full diplomatic ties between Pakistan and Israel.

Speaking to the American Jewish Congress at a groundbreaking dinner that opened with the sharing of bread and Koranic prayers, Musharraf said his Muslim country had “no direct conflict or dispute with Israel” but that Pakistanis had deep sympathy for Palestinian aspirations for a separate state.

“Israel must come to terms with geopolitical realities and allow justice to prevail for the Palestinians,” he said, describing a Palestinian settlement as the key to security for Israel and an end to Middle East terrorism.

“As the peace process progresses toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, we will take further steps toward normalization and cooperation, looking to full diplomatic relations,” Musharraf said to lengthy applause.

His outreach to the influential Jewish group followed his handshake with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday at the United Nations and groundbreaking talks on September 1 between the Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers in Istanbul.

In conciliatory comments that Pakistani analysts called strikingly candid in the Muslim world, Musharraf recalled the tragedy of the Holocaust and acknowledged compassion shown by Jewish groups in helping stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and in combating anti-Islamic prejudice after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Pakistan has been one of Israel’s harshest critics in the Muslim world. But Musharraf said the strife since the creation of Israel in 1948 was an “aberration in the long history of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and coexistence.”

Islam, Judaism and Christianity shared prophets and spiritual practices, but were now needlessly “pitted against each other” -- a situation it would take courage to reverse, he said. His remarks received several standing ovations from the audience of about 350 people.

Musharraf said suggestions that Islam rejected tolerance and promoted terrorism amounted to a “hate campaign” against the faith. But he acknowledged that most people involved in terrorism, and most who suffered from it, were Muslims.

“Obviously there is a deep disturbance and malaise within Islamic societies, which has become especially acute in recent years,” he said. Troubles in Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq caused “anger, desperation and humiliation,” he added.

The blunt-speaking army general said many Islamic societies had failed to embrace modernity and good governance.

“Many of us have remained trapped in a time warp, still struggling to reconstruct our political, social and economic systems to respond the challenges of our times,” he said.

 

MUSHARRAF: “SHOW COURAGE, AND SOLVE THE PALESTINIAN DISPUTE ONCE AND FOR ALL”

Musharraf: Israel must leave W. Bank
By David Horovitz
The Jerusalem Post
September 18, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1127010246579

In a landmark, unprecedented address to American Jewish leaders late on Saturday night, just days after he had shaken hands with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the UN General Assembly, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf urged Israel to show its “courage,” and the Jewish community to use its influence, to solve the “Palestinian dispute once and for all.”

He said this required Israel to pull out of the West Bank and agree a solution in Jerusalem that respected the city’s “international character.”

Resolution of the conflict, which Gen. Musharraf asserted lay “at the heart of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond,” would “usher in a period of peace and tranquility in the Middle East and perhaps the whole world.”

Among other things, it would certainly enable Pakistan to formalize full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, he indicated.

Speaking briefly to The Jerusalem Post shortly before making his address, Musharraf said he had no timetable for such ties. “We need to sit down and talk more [with the Israelis],” he told The Post, “and see how to move forward. We ought to be taking more steps.”

While unanimously praising Musharraf for addressing the gathering, arranged after two years of preparations that coincided with the formal opening of contacts between Pakistan and Israel, some Israeli and American Jewish participants expressed discomfort with some of the president’s comments, and especially his intimation that Israel’s presence on land it captured in the 1967 war constituted the root cause of Islamic terrorism.

Dan Gillerman, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, told The Post that he considered this assertion to be “very problematic.” Still, Gillerman said, at least there was now finally an opportunity to pursue a dialogue on this and other issues directly with the Pakistanis.

Gillerman added that he wished Musharraf had “gone further” of late and agreed to full ties with Israel. Again, though, now that direct contacts had been initiated, Israel could and would try to “push him along a little faster.”

The Pakistani leader described the groundbreaking dinner meeting, attended by a large cast of Jewish leaders and dignitaries assembled by the American Jewish Congress, as “a historic occasion.” Also present were Pakistani ministers, officials, dignitaries and journalists, Americans of Pakistani origin and a smattering of international diplomats.

He used the event to pledge that Pakistan ultimately intended to cement full diplomatic relations with Israel, and spoke warmly and at length about the need for a return to the centuries of positive interaction between the Islamic and Jewish communities and to end the past six decades’ “aberration” in that record of cooperation and co-existence. He vowed personally to help educate his people about the strong history of warm Jewish-Islamic ties.

At the same time, however, his recipe for healing placed the overwhelming onus on Israel.

He stressed that terrorism “cannot be condoned for any reason or cause” and that both Israelis and Palestinians “must shun confrontation and pursue peace and reconciliation.”

But he then went on to say that Israel’s rightful desire for security would remain “incomplete, until the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state is assured.” Israel, he said, “must come to terms with geopolitical realities and allow justice to prevail for the Palestinians They want their own independent state and they must get it.”

Specifically, he continued, the welcome Israeli decision to pull out of Gaza should be followed “soon” by an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. And later, for the sake of “durable peace and harmony between Israelis and Palestinians – indeed between Israel and the Muslim world,” there would have to be a final settlement on the status of Jerusalem that would “respect the international character”of the city.

Over 1,400 years ago, he said, Caliph Omar annulled the 500-year exile of the Jewish people and invited them to return and build their homes in the Holy City. This kind of “gesture of reconciliation and realism” was now “required of Israel.”

In a short question and answer session after his speech, when asked why he was not prepared to follow the lead of a country like Turkey, which enjoyed full ties with Israel while simultaneously highlighting its support for Palestinian statehood, the general said that “57 years of bitterness hatred and animosity cannot be undone so fast.”

To try to sprint when barely walking risked “derailing the whole process,” he said. “We have to be a little patient I need more support in my endeavors to be able to take the Pakistani people along with me. The people of Pakistan are too involved with the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian homeland.”

They had, he said, already “come a long way” in accepting Israel’s right to exist. But as Israel moved toward enabling the establishment of a Palestinian state “side by side with a secure Israel,” this would “allow us the flexibility” to fully normalize ties.

Asked whether he felt able to publicly champion Israel’s legitimacy in his contacts with the rest of the Muslim world, and to convey the message that Israeli territorial concessions would have to be met with a curtailing by the Palestinians of the demand for a “right of return” for refugees to Israel, Musharraf gave a vague response. He said all “the modalities” would now have to be considered, but that he hadn’t really given much thought to these kinds of specifics.

One of the most telling sentences in his speech came near the beginning, when he expressed pleasure at speaking “to so many members of what is probably the most distinguished and influential community in the United States.” Officials traveling with Musharraf privately confirmed that the president regards the support of US Jewry as an immensely valuable factor as he seeks to solidify his ties with the US administration.

One senior Pakistani official also cited, as central factors in the warming of ties, Musharraf’s recognition of common interests with Israel in the war on terror, a desire for a Pakistani role in peacemaking and a belief in inter-faith dialogue.

In a conversation with The Post, one of the president’s most trusted ministers, Dr. Nasim Ashraf, the minister of state for human development, said Pakistan also hoped it might now begin to build the kind of military partnership with Israel enjoyed by India. It would be excellent, Ashraf said, “If Israel could open up its military relationship” to Pakistan.

Musharraf devoted much of his address to the potential for Judaism, Christianity and Islam to serve as “a source of hope, tolerance and peace,” rather than being “pitted against each other.”

He bitterly rejected talk of a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, and also rejected “attempts to associate Islam with terrorism.” Islam, he said, was a “religion of tolerance, compassion and peace” and those who denied this were engaged in “a hate campaign.”

Nonetheless, he acknowledged that “most of those involved in terrorist acts, as well as most of those who suffer the consequences of these acts, are Muslims. Obviously there is a deep disturbance and malaise within Islamic societies.”

This, he said, stemmed from “festering” problems such as those in Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq, which had “given rise to a deep sense of anger, desperation and humiliation in the Arab and Muslim populations.”

The consequent terrorism and extremism, he said, had to be addressed separately. “Terrorism has to met head on with all the force required to suppress and eradicate it.” In the case of extremism, on the other hand, “the battle has to be won in the hearts and minds of the people.”

He said that the “misuse of religion to spread militancy, hatred and violence has to be suppressed.” But at the same time, political disputes exploited by terrorists “to justify their criminal actions” had to be resolved. And among those ripe for resolution, he said, were the Palestinian and Kashmir disputes.

He did not have “an iota of doubt” that the Israeli-Palestinian problem “lies at the heart of terrorism in the Middle East and beyond.” Peace in Palestine would revive the historical ties between Judaism and Islam, he insisted, and “extinguish the anger and frustration that motivates resort to violence and extremism.”

 

A VIEW FROM PAKISTAN

Recognizing Israel
By Anwer Mooraj
Dawn (Pakistan’s leading English-language daily)

www.dawn.com/2005/09/19/op.htm

By now the thinking man in the land of the pure has probably fully recovered from the headlines which etched the friendly overtures made to the Jewish state by a country that has for 57 years carried on as if the Hebrew republic just did not exist.

Predictably, the Istanbul meeting, in which Mr Kasuri gave a friendly nod to the Israeli foreign minister, Mr Shalom, has stirred up a lively debate in the media in this country where readers look forward to a healthy controversy.

After glossing over the letters that have popped up in various sections of the press on a regular basis since that fateful day, it does appear that the Cavaliers have won the first round against the Roundheads, though some did point out that the Pakistan president had been unnecessarily secretive about the move, and should have taken the assemblies into confidence rather than the King of Saudi Arabia. Had he done so, chances are that the ARD parties might have supported the government and their allies, and the home office would eventually have had to go into overdrive producing rubber stamps to reverse that offensive passage in the Pakistan passport.

However, one cannot ignore the lobby, which includes a couple of former ambassadors, that has sharply reacted to the move and the many arguments that have been advanced why Pakistan should not in any event recognize Israel. The spontaneous reaction of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami, who heads the thumbs-down faction and whose pronouncement was, in a sense, a distillation of the chorus of negative vibes that emanate from the political right, was that the move was ‘against the ideology of Pakistan’.

Unfortunately he did not specify what the ideology of Pakistan actually is, and how recognizing the Jewish state would undermine the principles and beliefs of the people of Pakistan. Nor did he elucidate just how an essentially political decision motivated by national self interest, like establishing contact with another state, would adversely affect and undermine the firm resolve of the faithful in this country.

The opposition to the move has little to do with ideology and is actually a reaction to the excessively brutal treatment meted out to the Palestinians by a string of Israeli prime ministers in which Mr Sharon has been singled out as something of a monster. They have been accused of doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews — treating them like Untermenschen. The anti-recognition lobby has put forward other arguments which while they don’t touch on religious tenets are nevertheless compelling. They go something like this: the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations is a one-time event, and Pakistan would lose leverage once it takes the plunge. Recognition will be seen as some kind of appeasement, where Pakistan is taking on the oleaginous heartiness of the small businessman trying to clinch a deal with a bigger one, and once full diplomatic relations are established Israel will improve its intelligence gathering network, making the assets of the only Muslim nuclear power even more vulnerable. An Israeli embassy in the capital with the Star of David fluttering in the Islamabad breeze will be the obvious target of terrorist attacks and will increase militancy in this country.

Recognition, for this lobby, implies condoning the continual occupation of Palestine and the fact that while Mr Sharon knocks down Jewish settlements in one occupied area he builds fresh settlements in another. And lastly, as Israel has paid no heed to the counsels of the United States, Russia and the European Union about settling the Palestine issue, why should they listen to Pakistan which poses no military threat to the Jewish state?

The pro-recognition lobby is currently much stronger and has put forward some compelling and seductive arguments, which appear to be tilting the scales in the establishment’s favour. The main thrust of the rhetoric is that it is time Pakistan started to think of its own national interest instead of always adopting a moralizing tone and behaving like a super Islamic sergeant-at-arms.

According to this group which has given the thumbs up signal, the eventual recognition of Israel would blunt some of the hostility felt by the American Jewish lobby against Pakistan and might influence a paradigm shift in US policy in South Asia. Pakistan will certainly benefit from Israeli technology and might even discover a new supplier of sophisticated weaponry.

There is also the old conflict theory — if Pakistan can recognize India with whom it has fought three wars, why can’t it recognize a country with which it has fought no wars and had no official contact whatsoever? If four Muslim countries have recognized Israel and another clutch of Muslim powers have established trade relations, in spite of the repressive policies the country has inflicted on the Palestinians, why shouldn’t Pakistan follow suit, especially when Pakistanis are not Arabs?

There’s also the moral argument. If Pakistan feels it has a moral right to oppose any country which has inflicted suffering on fellow Muslims, why does it continue to enjoy diplomatic relations with former colonial powers like France and Holland whose soldiers committed unspeakable atrocities in Algeria and Indonesia? The spokesmen for this lobby add that it would be in extremely bad taste if Pakistan suddenly went back on its gesture now that it has made its intention clear to the international community.

When the flack started to fly back home Mr Kasuri was quick to retort that Pakistan had only made a gesture of friendship and had not gone the whole distance and that full recognition would be made only when the Israeli occupation had ended and the Palestinian state had been fully established.

Mr Kasuri appears to have gotten away with it, but it does remind one of that delightful verbal exchange from Beyond the Fringe, the revue that took London by storm in the early 1970s, when Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore fuelled themselves on the iconoclasm of the time and targeted among others unctuous white clergymen, black members of parliament, landladies and foreign ministers.

After a little light-hearted banter involving social stratification and class consciousness, one of the quartet in a rare anti-Semitic jibe said he’d rather be working class than a Jew. There was a hush in the auditorium as dense as the forest. Suddenly Jonathan Miller, the only Semite in the group, said he wasn’t really a Jew, just Jewish — you know, not the whole hog. That is probably what Mr Kasuri was trying to say. He wasn’t going the whole hog — at least, not for the present.

If one digs a little deeper beneath the surface one would realize that Pakistan and Israel really have a lot in common. Both countries were created around the same time on the basis of religion. Both countries have embryonic infrastructures, economies based largely on agriculture and light industry and long virtually indefensible borders. Both countries have fierce nationalists, large swathes of ordinary nice people who are sick of war, hate politicians and want peace, and pockets of orthodoxy that provide focal points for extremism.

Both countries have been victims of some form of oppression-in the case of Pakistan it was colonization by a European power and the degradation that lies in its wake. In the case of Israel it was centuries of targeted persecution of the most humiliating kind followed eventually by intense wide spread ethnic cleansing.

Both countries have had hostile neighbours and faced military threats from an enemy that was many times larger. In Pakistan at the time of the 1965 war with India the population ratio was five to one, whereas in Israel at its very inception, when the country was invaded by the armies of seven countries, the combined populations of the invaders outnumbered that of Israel by a hundred to one!

But in spite of the fact that there is still widespread dislike of Zionism and accusations of racism practised by the Ashkenazi minority, the Israelis have managed to retain their sense of humour and make fun of everything and everybody, including Moses who one wit in a Haifa night club said made them suffer for 40 years in a desert and then selected as a home for the Jews the only spot in the Middle East which didn’t have any oil.

Perhaps the British politician had a point when he said that a race that can produce people like Emmanuel Lasker, Akiba Rubinstein and Aaron Nimzovitsch, Yehudi Menuhin, Jascha Heifetz and Mischa Elman, and decided to finally stage Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde can’t be all that bad. All that remains is for Mr Sharon to complete Mr Bush’s roadmap.

 

A VIEW FROM THE SAUDIS

Musharraf Talks to Jewish Leaders
Barbara Ferguson,
Arab News (Saudi Arabia)
September 19, 2005

arabnews.com/?page=4§ion=0&article=70295&d=19&m=9&y=2005

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has become the first leader of a Muslim nation that has no diplomatic ties with Israel to hold a public dialogue with Jewish leaders, many of whom are already calling it an unprecedented event.

Musharraf told members during a dinner meeting with members of the American Jewish Congress on Saturday night that his country would take steps to build ties with Israel as the Middle East peace process progresses.

Musharraf’s historic address in New York began with bread being broken and prayers from the Qur’an recited before the Jewish audience.

He was given a standing ovation as he arrived for the meeting in which he called for the establishment of a Palestinian state to end violence in the Middle East and bring security to Israel.

“Israel must come to terms with geopolitical realities and allow justice to prevail for the Palestinians,” he said.

“I am convinced that peace in Palestine that does justice to both the Israelis and the Palestinians will bring to a close the sad chapter in the history of the Middle East (and) will revive the historical ties between Islam and Judaism.”

He also criticized Islamic societies for failing to embrace modernity. “Many of us remain wrapped in a time warp, still struggling to reconstruct our political, social and economic systems to respond to the challenges of our times,” he said.

“He was incredibly well received, and all the leadership of American Jewry was there — it was a very impressive gathering of American Jewish leadership,” said David Twersky, director of the AJC Council for World Jewry, the sponsor for the event.

“American Jews are hungry for acceptance and normalcy in their relationship with Muslims and Arabs, and this represented a gigantic step in that direction. It is an extremely positive development,” said Twersky.

The meeting comes three days after President Musharraf shook hands with Israel’s prime minister at the United Nations.

Both countries are said to have held two years of secret talks, which culminated in a meeting of their two foreign ministers in Turkey, two weeks ago. After the Istanbul talks Pakistan’s foreign minister said that his country had decided to “engage” with Israel after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

Musharraf said he wants this relationship with “the most distinguished and influential community in America, which is the flip side of the anti-Semitic canard of an evil conspiracy by Jewish organizations that controls Bush, or whatever, to the detriment of Muslims,” said Twersky.

“And here comes a person of Musharraf’s stature who said he’s honored to speak with us, its almost a paradigm shift.”

In conciliatory comments that Pakistani analysts called strikingly candid in the Muslim world, Musharraf recalled the tragedy of the Holocaust and acknowledged compassion shown by Jewish groups in helping stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and in combating anti-Islamic prejudice after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pakistan has been one of Israel’s harshest critics in the Muslim world. But Musharraf said the strife since the creation of Israel in 1948 was an “aberration in the long history of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and coexistence.” Islam, Judaism and Christianity shared prophets and spiritual practices but were now needlessly “pitted against each other” – a situation it would take courage to reverse, he said. His remarks received several standing ovations from the audience of about 350 people.

Pakistan has never recognized the state of Israel, and his speech yesterday irked some American Muslim leaders.

“I strongly believe that there should be no relations with the state of Israel before a comprehensive peace settlement is established, which is satisfactory to Palestinians and after Israel adheres to all United Nations resolutions and international law,” said Nihad Awad, executive director to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Otherwise any effort to move toward establishing relationship with Israel will undermine the Muslim world consensus on this very important and sensitive issue, ” Awad said.

Asked if he thought the Bush administration had pushed Musharraf to a rapprochement with Israel, Awad said: “I don’t know who’s pushing who, but I strongly believe Pakistan is a major world player, and we have to keep this in consideration regarding the need to unify the Muslim world. I agree with Musharraf that Muslims don’t have anything against Jews per say, but does have issues with the state of Israel.”


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.