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Jewish World Review August 20, 2001 / 1 Elul, 5761

Robert W. Tracinski

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The Bizarro-World War -- FOR 10 months, Yasser Arafat and his legions of rioters and terrorists have been waging a war against Israel. Now it looks as if Israel will finally choose to fight that war. Faced with a new wave of terror attacks, Israel is now weighing whether to invade the West Bank.

The only extraordinary thing about this decision is that it is likely to meet with vitriolic condemnation from the rest of the world -- including, I am sad to say, the current administration. But this will just be a fitting climax to the upside-down, Bizarro-World war Israel has found itself in.

To begin with, note that the Palestinians approach this as a real war, a conflict into which they have thrown all their resources: rifles, a few mortars, Molotov cocktails, angry mobs who use their bare hands to tear apart unarmed victims, 12-year-olds who throw rocks at soldiers, and suicide bombers who deliver nail-packed explosives.

For Israel, however, this has been a "phony war." The Israelis have tanks, rocket launchers, attack helicopters, smart bombs, F-16 fighter jets, long-range artillery -- all the panoply of a modern, technological military power. Yet, they have done practically nothing, contenting themselves to assassinate a terrorist leader here, demolish a Palestinian militia stronghold there. They have the ability to annihilate, but they have only inflicted pinpricks.

Yet, the Israelis have been condemned for the "excessive" use of force and military "intimidation." They have been told, instead, to make more concessions to the Palestinians -- the ones who initiated this conflict and keep fanning its flames.

If this is not absurd enough, add another twist. The Palestinians are not fighting a military war against military targets; instead, they target bus stops and pizzerias. It is a coward's war, aimed at women and children. The Israelis, by contrast, target the organizers of terrorist attacks and demolish Palestinian police stations and weapons stockpiles; they do not intentionally strike at non-combatants.

Now add the final twist. This whole conflict broke out after Israel made the most generous peace concession imaginable, offering the Palestinians full statehood, half of Jerusalem, and international control of the Temple Mount. The Israelis wanted peace, and they were willing to pay a high price for it. The Palestinians responded with a campaign of hatred and destruction. Islamic zealots exhorted their followers to "eradicate the Jews from Palestine."

At a summer youth camp run by Arafat's henchmen, teenagers practiced terrorist attacks and were told that their generation would "plant the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem" -- not as peace brokers, but as conquerors. A recent broadcast on Arafat-controlled television contained the following progressive sentiment: "Blessings to he who shot a bullet into the head of a Jew."

Yet here is how Secretary of State Colin Powell assesses the situation: "I hope that both sides will act with restraint. They both have to do everything they can to restrain the violence, restrain the provocation and the counter-response to the provocation." In other words, the victims of terrorism are to be blamed if they try to fight back.

In this world turned upside down, a brutish, primitive dictatorship engages in an all-out war motivated by racial hatred and religious intolerance -- and receives the sympathy of the world and the de facto protection of our State Department. A civilized, peace-seeking nation restrains its army, does only the bare minimum required for its survival -- and receives, as its reward, the condemnation of the world.

How is this possible? A clue is provided in a recent television interview with a British reporter, who was asked why so many in the press are hostile to Israel. He explained that they are repulsed by Israeli "arrogance." What does this "arrogance" consist of? First, he pointed out, Israelis are much wealthier than the Palestinians and have a vastly superior military power. Second, he charged, Israelis don't view themselves as morally equivalent to the Palestinians.

Does anyone recognize, in this attitude, the typical charges against the United States -- that we have too much wealth and power, that we are too morally certain?

This is the ultimate cause of Israel's upside-down war. They are the victims of an upside-down morality. Because Israelis have wealth and power, because they have too great a sense of self-worth to surrender to immolation, the conventional wisdom concludes that they must be the oppressors, no matter what the actual facts.

Israelis are beginning to realize that they must reject this perverse moral perspective if they want to survive. So must America.

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