Jewish World Review May 2, 2002/ 30 Nisan, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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Can't anybody here read a road map? |

From the mountains of fire came the rebels
Everywhere there are settlements
Oh, brave Nablus, keep the cauldron alive
Pour over the settlements great flames
Foreigners have no place on this land.

This heroic Palestinian doggerel, not much in the way of art, is part of a video broadcast by Official Palestinian Authority Television on the eve of the occasion we've all been sitting up for, the introduction of the celebrated "road map to peace" in the Middle East.

The words to the music, which every Palestinian child will want to sing on the road to peace - or at least to the peace process - urges killing Jews and seeks to inspire with scenes of masked gunmen firing their AK-47s, and aerial photographs of targeted Israeli towns, of an Israeli couple on a stroll and of groups of teenage Israeli girls. Young Palestinian men are encouraged - usually by old Palestinian men who keep themselves carefully out of harm's way - to prove their manhood by killing women and children, the frailer, the smaller, the more vulnerable the better.

The Palestinian "martyrs" of Hamas and Fatah, armed with the new road map, celebrated the beginning of the journey by dispatching a homicide bomber to kill three Israelis and wound 55 - the dead after these bombings are often more fortunate than the hideously wounded - in a seaside pub just a few dozen yards from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Message sent, if not necessarily received.

The new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, took office saying brave things. "There is only one authority," he said, and told his thriving terrorist groups that "there is no military solution to our conflict." He vowed to take guns out of the hands of troublemakers.

It's fashionable, even among the skeptics, to take Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, at his word, and to treat him as more or less legitimate. Maybe he really is who he wants us to believe he is, and maybe George W.'s famous road map really is a map to a genuine destination and not, as events will probably show it to be, a road map to another dead end. No pun intended.

Taking "the peace process" seriously requires a strong stomach and a taste for fantasy and satire. Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, was sworn in on Holocaust Remembrance Day, but the irony was lost on the new prime minister because he says there was never a Holocaust to remember. He wrote his doctoral thesis at Moscow University on Holocaust denial, entitled "The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism."

The sheer unreality of this whole business is underlined by the fact that the great moderate hope is a man with a past that sickens decent men and women. "Maybe we can see it this way," says Jay Nordlinger in National Review Online. "The gentlest are Holocaust deniers; the less gentle acknowledge [the Holocaust] - and applaud it."

This is the man who was chief Palestinian negotiator at Camp David three years ago, scorned a far better deal than any road map will lead to, and was pleased with his display of bad faith. "Camp David was a trap," he said of the agreement that gave the Palestinians 97 percent of what they had bargained for, "and we managed to get out of it." Nevertheless, George W. says Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, is "a man I can work with."

It may be that Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, has had, like Saul of Tarsus, a dramatic conversion on the Damascus road. Maybe he didn't really mean it when he said, barely a month ago, that "the intifada must continue, and it is the right of the Palestinian people to rise and use all the means at their disposal." The means at their disposal, of course, are the tools of the assassins of the young, the helpless and the vulnerable. But if the president wants the exercise and is willing to put up with the stench of working with such men, who are we to say nay?

The president is an optimist, as all presidents must be, and the warmth, humility and good humor he demonstrated last night from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, declaring the war in Iraq all but over, was impressive. George W. is a man who lends other men stout heart, and brave and courageous men follow such a president cheerfully. The photographs of the president, surrounded by his fellow fighter pilots aboard the Abe Lincoln, tell us everything about what the men who won the war in Iraq think about their commander in chief.

He will need all the heart he can muster over the next few months, both in Palestine and Iraq and everywhere else in a society and a culture that has never grown beyond its flowering a thousand years ago. The grotesque rhetoric, wrapped in a bitter ideology masquerading as religious faith, from men the West must take seriously, or at least pretend to, sounds to us like something from a backwoods minstrel show. But they believe it, and they don't read road maps.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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