arafat and militant Whos the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?

Clearly, this is a fraught time in Israel-Palestinian relations.  A third intifada may not happen, but violence is increasing.  Abbas– unable to achieve his goals despite grandstanding at the UN– is threatening to resign and let the Palestinian Authority fall apart (or fall to Hamas).  Many blame Israeli intransigence.  Settlements are the issue, some say.  Others say that Palestinian grievances rightfully go back to 1947.  The realist, though, cannot deny that, in the end, Israel is here to stay.  Muslims, Jews, Druze, and Christians all prefer living in Israel to the possibility of living under the Palestinian Authority or any of their Arab neighbors.  Even if one accepts that the UN’s creation of a Jewish state was wrongheaded (and that is not a view we endorse), it is without doubt that eradicating Israel would only compound the injustice.  A realist, then, says that the Arab states must accept Israel.  The Palestinians must accept Israel.  All must move on with what they have and try to make the best of it.

It is unfortunate that Islamists are not realists.  Their dedication to Israel’s destruction betrays their deep-seated anti-Semitism and their hatred of Western culture and values.  Lacking military power, Islamist groups have sought other outlets to score points over Israel.  Craven cultural relativists allow them a place in the UN and a hearing in the world’s media.  This, in turn, gives the Islamists sympathetic defenders when organizations like Hamas fire rockets into Israel or Hezbollah blows up buses full of children.  When Israel commits itself to battle with these terrorists it does exceptionally well in the military sphere, but has trouble with the PR battle.  When Israel treats with these terrorist groups it finds that for every concession it makes the terrorists up the ante.  Israel cannot achieve peace, because the terrorists don’t want peace.  Again, a realist looks at this situation and shakes his head in wonder: can’t the Islamists see that they are dying and achieving nothing?  Why not take a deal?

They’re not taking a deal because we’ve taught them that it’s not worth their while.  They’ve lived on handouts for so long that they cannot make the hard choices that come with responsibility.  In this case it’s much easier to keep a war going than it is to opt for peace, because during war you can always blame your opponents for your own failures.

It’s worth taking a moment to note: we do not mean that individual Arabs or Muslims are incapable of being responsible citizens.  There are millions of responsible Arabs and Muslims in both Israel and the United States who vote, exercise their freedoms while respecting others’ freedoms, and are good citizens all around.  We are talking here about the organizations who eschew meaningful dialogue and opt instead for violence out of ideological blindness or because they cannot exist any other way.

Take, for example, the Palestinian Authority.  The Palestinian Authority has lived off the largesse of international donors and Israel for years.  The PA was intended to be a stepping-stone to self-government.  Fatah, as a part of the Oslo Accords, even publicly renounced the destruction of Israel as a goal.  It sounds admirable, but in practice not much changed.  Fatah worked with Israel, but its leaders siphoned international aid into their own pockets.  When Palestinians asked why their life had not improved, it was blamed on Israel.  Violence continued with the Second Intifada.  International money– when it has found its way to the Palestinian Authority– has been used to build up a police state where Freedom of Speech has no meaning.  Journalists who report on dissent are jailed or exiled.  The Palestinian Authority refuses to pay for the electric power it gets from Israel and even forgives its residents’ power bills to buy their loyalty.  For years it has known that if Israel cuts off power the PA can blame Israel and avoid any responsibility for its own malfeasance.

Hamas is a similar matter.  Though Hamas has far less international legitimacy than the Palestinian Authority, it nevertheless subsists on handouts from the international community.  Millions of dollars are channeled into UN schools run by Hamas.  Though those schools exist and function, they are also money-laundering operations that channel UN money to less savory activities.  Refugee camps throughout the Middle East have kept Palestinians reliant on the international dole for three generations.

And what has all this led to?  It has shattered old family and tribal networks that may have formed the basis of good government.  It has created ecologically unsustainable concentrations of people in places like Gaza, which can produce practically nothing on its own, but exists because that’s where the handouts are.  The leadership in Gaza and the West Bank are uninterested in peace, because peace would mean admitting that they are uninterested in actual statesmanship.  Fatah, Hamas, and its ilk are only interested in power.  To maintain themselves in power they hold their own people hostage.  They do that by attacking Israel.  Any response by Israel, no matter how muted, is ratcheted up into an international sensation.  To keep the peace, the international community buys the terrorists off with money and verbal declarations of support.  Rather than encouraging peace, it has only encouraged war.  And we have been fools for playing along.

John Michaelson

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