Israelis have met their match in the Palestinians
by H.B. Koplowitz
Many years ago, Louis and Julius, two Jewish peddlers in southern Illinois, got into a dispute over a piece of junk. Louis knocked Julius down. Julius got up and Louis knocked him down again. As Julius got up and was knocked down a third time, his wife happened by. “Julius,” she cried out, “why don’t you stay down?”
Jews can be stubborn, but they have met their match in the Palestinians. Each time Israel knocks them down, they get up and fire another rocket. Why don’t they stay down? Stubbornness and pride may have something to do with it, as might hopelessness and desperation. Diplomacy takes both carrots and sticks, and Israel has been accused of only offering sticks to the Palestinians. But diplomacy also requires compromise, and in the past, Palestinians have not been persuaded by carrots or sticks to recognize the Jewish state.
The first time the Palestinians were offered a carrot was in 1948, and it was a big one. The UN “partitioned” Palestine into Jewish and Arab nations. The Jews accepted the compromise, the Arabs didn’t. There was a war, and the Jews ended up with a country while the Palestinians didn’t. The Palestinians were offered another big carrot in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. As Israelis often say, Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and instead of using international aid to turn the strip into a seaside resort on the Mediterranean, they responded with unguided missiles, border raids and terror tunnels.
As a result of the Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes (1972), skyjackings (Entebbe 1976), hijacking a cruise ship (Achille Lauro 1985), intifadas (1987-93 and 2000-05), suicide bombers (buses, discos, malls), kidnappings (IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006), the Lebanese civil war (1975-82) and three bruising wars in Gaza (2008, 2012 and 2014), the Palestinians have put a heap of hurt on Israel and garnered a ton of PR. But they have improved their quality of life and chances of statehood not one iota. Where is the Palestinian Gandhi, Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr.? Why don’t they give peace a chance?
There are two answers. The first is the moral equivalency argument – for every terrorist attack on Israel, Palestinians can cite their own grievances, from the Nakba, or catastrophe of 1948; the occupation of the West Bank; the “siege” of Gaza; the Sabra and Shatila massacres; encroaching settlements; the daily humiliations at Israeli checkpoints; targeted assassinations; and of course the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian children. The other answer is that destroying the state of Israel is more important than having their own state or improving the lot of their people, and the most effective way to sabotage any and all peace efforts is to just keep shooting, which polarizes Jews and Arabs alike.
Some years ago, I went on a float trip with friends and family down the Meramec River in Missouri, which was crowded with canoers. My 10-year-old nephew had been splashing water at me the whole way down. I asked him to please stop, but he kept at it, and in frustration, I let go with a fury of splashes at my nephew, who smiled victoriously. Then I noticed the silence, as all the other canoers had stopped paddling to watch me pummel this poor child with water. It was embarrassing, and it didn’t stop my nephew from splashing me again as soon as everyone stopped looking.
For whatever reason, instead of a pleasant float trip, my nephew found it more fulfilling to annoy his uncle, and there was nothing I could do about it. In that sense, it’s not up to the Israelis to offer the right combination of carrots and sticks, but for the Palestinians to get their own act together. It’s what some Muslims call the greatest jihad – the struggle within each person to resist temptation and do the right thing. Should you follow leaders who want you to die for their cause, or become one of those boring everyday people who just want to go to school, get a job, find love, raise a family and enjoy life?
Up until the latest cycle of violence, a growing number of Palestinians, including Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, seemed ready to finally accept the deal that was offered in 1948 – recognize the state of Israel in exchange for their own autonomy and the chance to live a normal life. They say Israel hasn’t reciprocated, and has instead expanded its settlements into Palestinian territory. But until moderate Palestinians can control extremist factions like Hamas, Israel isn’t going to ease its security measures, and not just because Jews are stubborn. Never again.
The Steven Spielberg movie “Munich” is based on a 1984 book called “Vengeance,” purportedly a true story about an Israeli hit team dispatched to kill the perpetrators of the Munich massacre, as told to Canadian author George Jonas by “Avner,” allegedly one of the assassins. By the end of the book, Avner becomes ambivalent about his mission, noting, in effect, that counterterrorism, whether it be assassinations or bombs that kill children, spawns more and worse terrorism. That like the mythical Hydra, cutting off one head results in more heads growing back. Vengeance only begets more vengeance.
But in the concluding paragraphs Jonas writes this: “One can, in terms of moral justification, distinguish between counterterrorism and terrorism in the same way one distinguishes between acts of war and war crimes … It is possible to say that the Palestinian cause is as honorable as the Israeli cause; it is not possible to say that terror is as honorable as resisting terror. Ultimately both the morality and usefulness of resisting terror are contained in the uselessness and immorality of not resisting it.”