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Jewish World Review April 25, 2002/ 14 Iyar, 5762

Don Feder

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'Palestinians' chose their suffering | The most potent weapon of anti-Zionists is appeals to Palestinian suffering. At times, Israel's friends fall into this trap, by acknowledging the obvious without putting it into the proper context.

When Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, representing the Bush administration, spoke at a pro-Israel rally in Washington last week, he noted that, besides Jewish victims of terrorism, "Palestinians are suffering and dying as well."

Now, really. A deputy secretary of defense should know you can't fight a war without civilian casualties, not to mention the privation that comes from the destruction of homes and basic services. Civilized people try to limit civilian suffering. Savages target noncombatants.

If the Israeli Defense Forces fought like their enemies, they would have leveled Ramallah and Jenin. That would have destroyed the terrorist infrastructure, along with the rest of the population.

Instead, Israel's army fought on the ground -- and 29 soldiers died in the latest operation -- to minimize the harm to civilians.

Their enemies send holy warriors not against military targets but into markets, malls and crowded restaurants to massacre women and children. To imply moral equivalence between these tactics is obscene.

Of course the Palestinians are suffering. But who's responsible?

By late 1944, the civilian populations of Germany and Japan were experiencing unimaginable hardships. German cities had been reduced to rubble. The firebombing of Dresden, the relentless air raids on Tokyo and the mushroom clouds that sprouted over Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following summer, resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

One can feel sorry for the Germans and Japanese who suffered this fate, and still understand that they brought it on themselves.

Hitler was democratically elected. By 1939, Germans were prepared to march into hell (and send others there) for the fuhrer. Japan's war on America and the people of East Asia was equally popular at home.

That Palestinians overwhelmingly support their leaders and the evil they've unleashed is beyond dispute.

In a late-March poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, 81 percent endorsed Yasser Arafat's leadership. In another survey conducted by An Najah University in Nablus, 87 percent of Palestinians said they supported continued terror attacks while 88 percent favored "liberating all of Palestine" -- wiping Israel off the map.

Arafat's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade doesn't have to advertise for suicide bombers. Young Palestinians are beating down its doors, begging for the privilege of murdering Israelis.

Bombers' families beam with pride over the deeds of their dearly departed. Like German mothers who gave their sons to the S.S., Palestinian women speak of the reward they'll reap for their blood sacrifices.

Children as young as 12 are sent to "summer camps" where they shoot at cardboard replicas of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George Bush.

Yes, but Israel: stole their land, is brutally occupying their territory, subjects them to daily indignities -- the jihad excuse industry intones. Let's get one thing straight: No one's land was stolen. There is no occupation. Israel occupies the West Bank the way America occupies New Jersey.

Like Atlantis, Palestine is a myth. The West Bank was originally designated part of the future state of Israel by the United Nations. It was conquered by Jordan in 1948 and liberated in 1967. Not once in 4,000 years has an independent Arab state existed there. Nor has such an entity ever governed in pre-'67 Israel.

The Palestinians have issues? So did Germans in the 1930s (the Versailles treaty was unfair) and World War II-era Japanese. Grievances don't justify gas chambers, the atrocities of the emperor's army or suicide bombers.

Like the Germans and Japanese, the Palestinians may evolve. In the meantime, their suffering is a consequence of the choices they've made.

You want to see suffering? Like me, go talk to a rabbi whose 13-year-old son was dragged to a cave and stoned to death -- for no reason other than his religion. Unlike the Palestinians, Koby Mandell didn't choose his fate.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate