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Jewish World Review April 9, 2002 / 28 Nisan, 5762

Robert W. Tracinski

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LIVE FROM RAMALLAH: The Theater of the Absurd | In the late 1940s, a group of playwrights started a movement called the Theater of the Absurd, based on the Existentialist notion that life is rationally incomprehensible. According to one description, practitioners of the Theater of the Absurd sought "to convey their sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an inexplicable universe."

Apparently, some of these playwrights are still alive and have been writing the script for recent events in the Middle East. Behold the Peace Process Theater of the Absurd, as broadcast live from Ramallah and Washington.

Act One, Scene One: In response to the mass slaughter of his fellow citizens, "hard-line" Israeli leader and military general Ariel Sharon vows to take decisive action against Yasser Arafat's terrorist state. He abandons his previous ineffectual strategy, which was to keep Arafat "isolated" by surrounding him within his compound in Ramallah, and adopts a bold new policy: to keep Arafat "isolated" by surrounding him within the second floor of his compound in Ramallah.

Act One, Scene Two: The "isolated" terrorist leader holds interviews with CNN, Reuters and Al-Jazeera, declaring his wish to die for his cause: "May God make us martyrs." Sharon, who has labeled Arafat an "enemy," branded him a "terrorist" and declared that Israel is in a "war for survival," pledges not to harm a hair on Arafat's head.

A Palestinian spokesman briefly wanders on stage to proclaim that Arafat, the ugly little gangster with a permanently unshaven face, is a "symbol of Arab dignity."

Act One, Scene Three: A conference of Muslim countries meeting in Malaysia expresses unanimous agreement that Israeli military actions are "terrorism," but the group cannot decide whether Palestinian suicide bombings are terrorism.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdullah, representing the Arab world, condemns Sharon as a "criminal." The presidential office of the European Union, representing the West, declares that Arafat is "the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou calls him "a personal friend."

Meanwhile, 40 European, American and Israeli protesters run past confused Israeli soldiers and enter Arafat's compound, offering themselves as human shields for his protection. Who are these volunteer hostages? As Act One closes, we discover that these servants of a terrorist ringleader call themselves "peace activists" and piously proclaim that they are opposed to violence.

Act Two, Scene One: The action moves to Washington. President Bush acknowledges that Israel has a right to defend itself. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's representative at the United Nations votes for a Security Council resolution demanding the withdrawal of Israeli forces, implying that Israel has no right to take military action to defend itself. Only one nation protests: Syria, a major sponsor of Palestinian terrorism, objects that the resolution does not condemn Israel harshly enough.

Two weeks earlier, following 18 months of unremitting Palestinian terrorism, the U.N. Security Council approved Resolution 1397 calling for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. This scene closes with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan declaring: "Terrorism will not bring the Palestinian people closer to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state."

Act Two, Scene Two: In the raid on Ramallah, Israeli troops discover a "terror invoice" showing that Arafat's Palestinian Authority funded suicide bombings. Asked how this integrates with America's own war on terrorism, President Bush says that Arafat is not a terrorist because he agreed to the peace process. In a later speech, he admits, "Arafat renounced terror as an instrument of his cause, and he agreed to control it. He has not done so."

Act Two, Scene Three: In the Rose Garden of the White House, this absurdist parody reaches its climax. The president of the United States declares that "no nation can negotiate with terrorists," then announces that he is sending his secretary of state to the Middle East -- to negotiate with Palestinian terrorists.

The Theater of the Absurd is not entertaining, and when blood is being spilled, it is not funny. But it has found an enthusiastic worldwide audience, eager to express their contempt for the facts and embrace the gospel of irrationality. And so the Peace Process Theater of the Absurd continues, as Colin Powell flies off to the Middle East to become the central character in Act Three.

But this show must end soon, because the playhouse is reserved for another theatrical engagement. Voltaire once observed, "If we believe absurdities, we will commit atrocities." The Theater of the Absurd is merely the opening act for another kind of performance: the Grand Guignol -- the theater of horror.

Comment on JWR contributor Robert W. Tracinski's column by clicking here.

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01/29/02: A profligate and irresponsible distortion of congressional priorities
01/22/02: Liberal conspiracy theories
01/15/02: Fading shock and fading resolve
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12/31/02: The real person of the year
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12/19/01: Ending the "peace process war"
12/11/01: The ruthless grip of logic
12/04/01: War powers without war
11/27/01: An Afghanistan Thanksgiving
11/20/01: The end of the beginning
11/06/01: The phony war
10/30/01: A war against Islam
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10/16/01: A culture of death
10/11/01: An empire of ideals
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09/11/01: Out of the fire and back into the frying pan
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08/20/01: The Bizarro-World War
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07/25/01: Barbarians at the G8
07/17/01: The carrot and the carrot
07/11/01: The real Brave New World
07/03/01: The child-manipulators
06/19/01: The scientist trap
06/11/01: The National Academy of Dubious Science