Menachem Begin famously remarked after the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, ``Gentiles slaughter gentiles, and the world blames the Jews." That insight remains true today with respect to everything connected to Israel: World opinion concerning Israel is determined by interests having little to do with the merits of the case or justice.
I have long been puzzled, for instance, by the fact that so many yuppies, whose lives are based on material acquisition and personal relationships characterized by extreme self-centeredness, who contribute little to charity and volunteer even less, are nevertheless so quick to espouse the most ``progressive" political line. That line includes, of course, the portrayal of Israel as a neo-colonialist power, which has dispossessed the native Palestinian population and used its superior military power to crush Palestinian national aspirations.
The answer, I suspect, is that ``progressive" politics are so costless. One need give nothing of oneself or even open one’s checkbook. For the price of a few platitudes, one can convince oneself that the face staring back in the mirror is that of a good and caring person. Progressive politics, including viewing Israel as the source of all that ails the Middle East, is salve for the pricks of conscience caused by lives of material excess and rampant selfishness. Adopting the cause of the downtrodden Palestinians is balm for the self-image. And it is purchased cheaply – one need not even know anything of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
At the national, as opposed to the personal level, the interests involved are different. But justice has equally little to do with them. Leaders of Arab countries, among the most backward and least free in the world, have an interest in continuing the conflict with Israel to distract their populations from their own patent failures. Concern with the poor Palestinians has nothing to do with it. The five Arab armies that attacked Israel in 1948 did so in order to divide the country among themselves, not to create a homeland for a Palestinian people. In the nineteen years, Jordan and Egypt controlled the West Bank and Gaza neither showed the slightest inclination to create an independent Palestinian state in the region, or even to grant the Palestinians any degree of political autonomy. Instead they maintained them in squalid refugee camps.
Those currently pushing the new Middle East Roadmap and other panaceas designed to bring to an end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have their own interests at heart. The Europeans, above all, wish to curry favor with Middle Eastern rulers to further their business interests. They seek to preserve the status quo and maintain their current business partners in power.
The Europeans view with utmost cynicism the goal expressed by President Bush and many of his leading advisors in the Defense Department of moving the region towards democracy. They could care less that the Middle East’s various despots have so miserably failed their own populations and turned the Middle East into one of the most backward regions of the world, despite its tremendous petroleum resources.
The European-sponsored myth that the central problem facing the Middle East is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is at root a defense of the status quo, for it removes the onus from the Arabs for the sad state of their own societies. Yet it is hard to see in what way any of those societies would be more viable tomorrow if, chas Ve’Shalom, Israel did not exist.
Every Western European country has a large and growing Moslem population, and increasingly European politics has become dominated by fears of a loss of national identity. Anti-Moslem feelings are on the rise, but the same politicians riding the wave of xenophobia are not above throwing bones to their restless Moslem populations. Israel is that bone.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair showed himself to be made of sterner stuff than Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder in joining with America in Iraq. But he paid a very heavy price within his own British Labor party for having done so. His chief concern at present is to shore up his own backbenches and reestablish himself as the unchallenged leader of his party. Nothing would so serve his interests as being able to argue that he had been able to use his relationship with President Bush to rekindle the Oslo process of Palestinian promises in return for concrete and largely irreversible Israeli concessions – the approach traditionally favored by European Community.
President Bush surely recognizes that the Quartet Roadmap is a substantial retreat from his June 24 2002 speech, which conditioned Palestinian statehood on the creation of a Palestinian democracy. But he too is pulled by other concerns. The Iraq war and the plans for rehabilitation of Iraq thus far appear to be following Defense Department blueprints. At the same time, Bush wants to keep Secretary of State Colin Powell, the most popular member of his administration, on board. A reversion to traditional State Department nostrums for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one way of doing so.
Bush can also point to the Roadmap, formulated jointly with the U.N., the European Community, and Russia to answer the constant carping of his critics about American unilateralism and desire to establish America as the unchallenged world hegemon.
THERE CAN BE NO MISTAKING that the Roadmap is a substantial retreat from the President’s June 24 speech. In that speech, the President made it clear that Palestinian statehood was dependent upon a new leadership untainted by terrorism. Yasir Arafat was treated as entirely irrelevant to any future peace process; President Bush never even mentioned his name.
The President accepted the argument made by Vice-President Dick Cheney in the last few hours before delivery of the speech that to offer Arafat a state, no matter how onerous the terms, would be to reward terrorism – something the United States undertook never to do again after September 11.
The Roadmap, however, represents a return to earlier drafts of the June 24 speech, in which Arafat was offered a state upon the fulfillment of certain terms. Arafat is still very much alive and kicking. The Palestinian Legislative Council may have appointed Abu Mazzen as prime minister, but Arafat remains the head of state of the Palestinian state being brought into being and not a mere figurehead. Palestinian polls show that only 2% list Abu Mazzen as the Palestinian leader they trust most, as opposed to 21% who list Arafat. Indeed Arafat has skillfully undermined Abu Mazzen by portraying him as an American puppet.
Arafat has refused to acquiesce to the unification of all Palestinian security services under the authority of Interior Minister Mohammed Dahlan, though that unification is required of the Palestinians in stage one of the Roadmap. Instead Arafat has ordered the creation of a joint oversight committee of the various security forces. He would still control that joint committee.
Most telling, the timeframes set forth in the Roadmap would seem to have nothing to do with the time actually required to establish a Palestinian democracy. Rather they are dictated by assumptions about how long a timeframe the Palestinians will accept. (For their part, the EU and UN would like to see the Palestinians receive their state as soon as possible and forget about all the democracy claptrap.)
Palestinians have not yet accepted Israel’s legitimacy, as opposed to the fact of its existence. And support for terrorism remains very high. It would take years of intense effort, if even that, to undue the effects of the death cult created by the Palestinian schools and media during the course of Oslo. And no such effort has even begun.
A poll by the Palestinian Jerusalem Media and Communications Center found last month found that 76% of Palestinians favor continuation of the Al-Aksa intifada, 65% support military operations against Israeli targets, and 60% support homicide bombings.
There is no reason to believe that the reeducation effort required of the Palestinians is less than that required for the denazification of post-war Germany or for ending the deification of the emperor in Japan. And yet the Roadmap timeframe for the creation of a Palestinian state is far shorter than that for the end of Allied control of post-war Germany or Japan.
Thirteen years after the signing of the first Oslo Accords, we are returning to the old formulas of Oslo. Once again, we hear of the need for confidence building measures. Yet those calls fail to take into account the shock to Israelis of the Palestinian declaration of war after Camp David. It is Israelis whose confidence needs to be bolstered. Once again, the Palestinians are being called upon to make promises in return for concrete Israeli concessions.
The Roadmap in one sense is even worse than Oslo, for it makes a Palestinian state the explicit goal of the process, and provides an entirely unrealistic timeframe for achievement of that goal, without clear benchmarks of what the Palestinians must do. In doing so, it rewards Arafat’s terrorism.
In short, the world again seeks to solve its problems on the backs of the Jews.
Related Topics: Peace Process
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