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Jewish World Review Dec. 9, 2002 / 4 Teves, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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Sheep, wolves, and reality

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In the Middle East today, farce masks real tragedy. The first farce is that of the world's press rushing to the ornate gates of Saddam's palaces as if there were the remotest chance of stumbling on evidence of his weapons of mass destruction. Expect nothing to come of this charade. The second farce, one that deserves real scrutiny, is the continued push by the West for negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. Expect nothing to come out of this either. Why? Because diplomacy has come to a dead end. Terrorism has supplanted reason and even self-interest.

What is at stake now is not the shape of a future Palestinian state, or this or that border adjustment or security procedure. It is the existence of Israel. As the Kenya outrage shows, the right of Jews everywhere to live in peace is under siege. It bewilders Israelis that so much of the world tolerates and even excuses the terrorism they face each day. It is to his everlasting credit that President Bush sees clearly the stakes of this conflict and has the courage to speak plainly about it. Contrast that with the weasel words we hear from foreign governments and, sometimes, from our own State Department in the form of talk about a moral equivalence between Arab terrorists and Israel's response in its defense.

The fact that the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors have dedicated themselves to a war to wipe out Israel is manifest in their response to every peace initiative. Israel opens up an area like Hebron or Bethlehem. The terrorists rush right back in. The Palestinian Authority doesn't consider the shooters and suicide bombers terrorists, of course; they neither detain nor deter them. Quite the opposite. Arafat has released all Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from Palestinian jails. The PA's commitment to fight terrorism has proved, in a word, meaningless. The same is true for its "commitment" to constrain the incitement and the hatred of Jews and of Israel.

Quartet. In Palestine and throughout the Arab world, fabrications about Jews are taught every day in the schools and broadcast daily in mosques. Arafat conceded as much when he offered, as a "reform," to end the teaching of fanaticism in PA schools. What an admission! How could so many have failed to understand the reality of this hatred and what it says about the rejection of Israel as a Jewish state? How can anyone continue to believe there is the slightest possibility of good-faith negotiation until the terrorism is ended? This performance standard, established by President Bush in his June 24 speech on the Middle East, must become the official position of the quartet made up of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and our own State Department

It sounds so reasonable to urge both sides to return to the negotiating table. But it is, almost certainly, an exercise in futility. Not only is the hatred and mistrust deeper than ever on both sides; there are huge gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians on key issues that make a political breakthrough virtually impossible.

The majority of the Palestinians who continue to support suicide bombers believe that violence has helped the Palestinian side. But some leading Palestinians now admit that the resort to terrorism was a strategic mistake resulting in the loss of most of the political gains made by Palestinians over the past two decades. PA institutions are in ruins. Palestinians are suffering terribly from the collapse of their economy. Relations with Washington are at their lowest ebb ever. And Israel's pro-peace camp, once the Palestinians' most strategic ally, has been shattered by the endless scenes of Palestinian terror. Today, as a result, the world no longer falls for the bogus Palestinian claims of Israeli atrocities.

Yet after so much loss, and so many lies, the terrorism and incitement continue. Palestinian terrorists have provoked Israel, for the protection of its citizens, to invade and reinvade the West Bank and Gaza. Even Israel's left wing understands that victory over terrorism is a prerequisite for an eventual Israeli negotiation and withdrawal. As one Israeli commentator put it: "It is desirable, even in the era when the wolf dwells with the sheep, to take care never to assume the role of the sheep." Is there any cause for hope? Washington remains committed to the idea of establishing a democratic basis for a new Palestinian regime to negotiate with Israel. This is, sadly, a delusion. Palestinians with the will to reform do not have the power, and those with the power do not have the will. Arafat has killed the reform movement. There is no one to challenge him. No one publicly criticizes him; anyone who does is threatened and promptly shuts up.

And still the western push for negotiations, blind to history, prevails. But history must be recalled. Long before 1948, 1967, Israeli settlements, and suicide bombers, there were murderous attacks in the Holy Land against the Jews who lived there. Palestinians wanted them out. Period. Once Israel was a reality, the Palestinian goal was to destroy the Jewish state first by war, then by terrorism, then by deceptions like that at Oslo, which-it is now clear-the Palestinians had no intention of honoring. Faisal Husseini, the former PA representative in Jerusalem, even described the accord as a "Trojan horse," one more cynical step in the "war of independence and return."

This is not paranoia. It is reality. And it is both wrong and dangerous to sweep under the rug the true ends and purposes of the Palestinians. How else to explain a society that extols as heroes suicide bombers whose objective is to kill as many innocent civilians as possible? How to rationalize a society in which mothers appear proudly on TV to extol the virtues of their children who have become martyrs and urge their younger children to follow in the elder siblings' path? What to say of a society where the entire religious establishment calls upon its faithful to hate Jews simply because they are Jews, where news of Israeli women and children being blown apart by yet another bomb is greeted with joyous street celebrations?

Return. To the West, and especially to the western media, the Palestinian narrative is one of Israeli occupation, of colonialism through settlement-of apartheid. These are myths intended to provide the West with familiar language and terms to help differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. But the term occupation lost all relevance two years ago when Israel made firm proposals at Camp David to resolve the problem that would have ended Israel's occupation. Arafat's rejection of the proposals was based on his insistence that Israel agree to the right of return of Palestinian refugees who fled the 1948 war and for all of their descendants as well. This would have created demographic conditions that would have spelled the end of Israel as a Jewish state-a condition no Israeli leader, obviously, could accept. And so, in the words of the recently deceased Abba Eban, the Palestinian leadership extended its record of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

The Arab narrative to their own people, since then, has been one of mobilization for jihad and a refusal to recognize not just Israel's right to exist but any legitimacy of the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Even when they speak of a "just peace," Arabs are using code for a state in which Palestinians dominate Israelis. Read what Arafat's ideological chief, Sakher Habash, one of the founders of Fatah, said: "[T]here can be no coexistence between Zionism and the Palestinian national movement . . . [Jews] must become citizens of the state of the future, the democratic Palestinian state."

At this point, can anyone truly believe that the wave of terrorism and suicide bombings that were unleashed after Camp David two years ago was prompted by Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount? No. It might have sparked a few days of rage. But what followed was a wholesale reversion to a program of terrorism and violence, clearly approved by the PA. And now we know, of course, that even before the Sharon visit, Arafat was preparing to launch a new intifada. This, in the Palestinian argot, is yet another step in their Doctrine of Phases to undermine Israel.

And it is what they mean by a just and lasting peace-and why the return of refugees into Israel's territory is but a step toward creating a sweeping pan-Palestinian state in the place of Israel and the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. According to this vision, a Palestinian state, alongside that of Israel, would assume control of its border crossings. This in turn would enable the new state to absorb thousands of Palestinian fighters from Fatah, Hamas, and the other armed militias from Lebanon. That accomplished, the new state would have the enhanced capability to threaten both its neighbors, Jordan and Israel, especially with terror.

Is it any wonder, then, that Israelis insist on controlling Palestinian borders and Palestinian air space? Is it any wonder they want to wait until there is democratic reform, that is, a regime change of the Palestinians, that would give the Israelis a minimum confidence of a regime and a people prepared to live in neighborly harmony?

American policy in the Middle East has been to try to formulate a workable "road map" that could serve as an outline for a dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The policy will not succeed-or deserve to succeed-unless it recognizes the brutal realities behind the code words and the determination to wage a campaign of terrorism against the only democratic state in the Middle East. It is in the best interests of the Palestinians to turn away from such a path. Or are they, irredeemably, a society that practices suicide not only against innocent Israelis but, ultimately, against its own citizens?

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up


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04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman