What is Really Wrong With The Middle East 'Peace' Picture
(Washington, D.C.): As the Bush Administration finds itself being inexorably drawn once again into the role of mediator in the conflict between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, it is well to consider precisely what is the problem it is being asked to help solve. It is not simply that the talks have broken down and must be restarted. Neither is it that Israel has not made enough concessions lately. The real problem is the unwillingness of Israel's Arab neighbors to embrace genuine peaceful coexistence as the basis for their relations with the Jewish State.
This is true not only of the many unabashed enemies of Israel who threaten it with mass destruction on practically a daily basis (e.g., Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Syrian-controlled Lebanon). It is the case even with those who have formally made peace with Israel (i.e., Egypt and Jordan) and the Palestinians who have repeatedly and cynically allowed themselves to be characterized by others as Israel's "partners for peace."
Two helpful reminders of the underlying dynamic -- and its implications -- are to be found in an essay by Charles Krauthammer, which appeared in the current Weekly Standard, and the editorial in this week's New Republic. They should be required reading for Ambassador William Burns -- the veteran State Department Arabist and "peace processor" now trying to pick up where his discredited colleagues, Dennis Ross and Aaron Miller, left off -- and for those who would have him make the mistake of turning the United States once again into a moral equivalence-dispensing "honest broker."
The Boys in the Cave; Murder by stoning, death by shrapnel The fallacy of moral equivalence
By Charles Krauthammer The Weekly Standard, 28 May 2001
ON MAY 9, two 14-year-old Israeli boys who had been playing hooky from school and hiking on the West Bank were found in a cave battered to death and mutilated.
In Western news reports, this horror was not permitted to stand alone. It was routinely coupled with a recent Palestinian death. "The deaths came two days after a 4-month-old Palestinian baby girl was killed by Israeli tank fire and further roiled emotions in a week of spiraling violence that neither side seems able to control," reported the New York Times the next day.
The coupling was invariable. "The deaths of children have enraged both sides," reported USA Today. Or as CNN summarized it, "In a region seemingly numb to violence, the deaths of both Palestinian and Israeli youngsters has struck nerves on both sides of the conflict."
Both sides. Tragedy all around. The presumption of moral equivalence between these two events -- and, by implication, between the two sides -- is by now entirely characteristic of the Western view of the fighting. And it is entirely wrong.
Consider these two incidents.
The Israeli firings in Gaza were not, as the reader might presume, unprovoked.
Israeli tanks did not gratuitously go hunting for babies in Gaza. Israelis had been attacked by mortar rounds fired from Palestinian territory. Israel was trying to silence the mortars. If, say, Zapatista guerrillas were launching mortars into San Diego, is it conceivable that the U.S. Army would not cross into Tijuana to silence them?
Clearly, what happened in Gaza was the inadvertent death of an infant in the urban warfare the Palestinians launched eight months ago. Such deaths happen in every instance of urban warfare, from the post-Normandy fighting in the villages of France in World War II to the more recent NATO bombing of Serbia.
There is a difference, an immense moral difference, between this kind of unintentional death and what happened to those two Israeli boys. It is the difference between tragedy and infamy.
From the 1972 Munich massacre of Israel's Olympic athletes to the suicide bombers of today, the world has long since grown accustomed to Palestinian terrorism.
But even terrorism -- the deliberate murder of innocents -- pales beside what happened to those two boys. Terrorism at least has a perverse logic: It is murder as a means to some political end. What happened in that cave was murder as an end in itself.
These boys were not targets. They were not deliberately sought out by a terrorist on a mission. The most chilling part of this story is that the boys were merely chanced upon. And then were torn to pieces.
Last year, two Israeli reservists lost their way and strayed into Ramallah, where they were lynched by a frenzied mob. The Palestinians then made up the story that the Israelis were suspected undercover agents.
What could the story be this week? Fourteen-year-old boys are neither spies nor soldiers. Yet they were bludgeoned to death with stones, their blood then dabbed on the walls of the cave.
This is not war. This is not even terrorism. This is bloodlust.
It is savagery so grotesque that it might not have been believed had we not all seen that picture last fall on the cover of Time of the Palestinian, having just beaten to death the two Israeli reservists in Ramallah, exultantly holding out his blood-stained hands to the crowd in a gesture of triumph.
People are not born with bloodlust. They learn it. It is no mystery where the Palestinians have learned it. For years Arafat's mini-police-state has been feeding his people the rawest Jew-hatred since the Third Reich. In television, radio, newspapers, and textbooks, Arafat has created the psychic infrastructure that sustains his endless war on Israel -- and gives us the barbarism in the cave.
"I hate the Israelis," declared Palestinian first lady Suha Arafat only two weeks ago. That hatred is in the air Palestinians breathe. A few days later, Syrian president Bashar Assad -- in the presence of the pope, no less -- accused the Jews of trying "to kill the principle of religions in the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and in the same way with which they tried to kill the Prophet Muhammad." His defense minister then said on television: "When I see a Jew before me, I kill him. If every Arab did this, it would be the end of the Jews."
This is not from crackpots. This is not from the political fringes. This is from the highest level of the leadership among Israel's neighbors.
Keep that up for years, and you have raised a generation prepared -- no, designed -- to bathe in the blood of 14-year-old boys.
When practiced during the Cold War, moral equivalence (between East and West) was a form of moral obtuseness. As practiced today in the Middle East, it remains so. The plain fact is that Israelis are not raised on bloodlust. They are not taught to hate Arabs. On the contrary. On the 50th anniversary of independence, Israel TV produced a historical series so sympathetic to the Palestinians as to raise the question whether Israel had taken sympathy to the point of self-flagellation.
When Baruch Goldstein committed a massacre of Palestinians in Hebron, he was vilified by every major leader in Israel. His name became anathema to Jews everywhere.
When the "Engineer," the terrorist behind a string of deadly suicide bombings, was assassinated, Arafat declared him a martyr and national hero.
When that child in Gaza was accidentally killed by Israeli gunfire, Prime Minister Sharon immediately expressed his regrets and apologized. What of the lynching of the two boys? Utter silence from Yasser Arafat.
Poisoned Chocolates The New Republic, 24 May 2001 "Whatever the source, violence will not solve the problems of the region. It will only make them worse. Death and destruction will not bring peace, but will deepen the hatred and harden the resolve on both sides. There is only one way to peace, justice, and security in the Middle East, and that is through negotiation."
These words introduce the report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, chaired by George Mitchell, that the American government appears to be making the basis of its new involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration.
The words are true, true, true; but they are also a little ridiculous in the magnitude of their detachment from reality.
These moral platitudes are succeeded by policy platitudes. The Mitchell-Powell formula--that seems a fair name for it--calls for an immediate end to the violence, followed by confidence-building measures (foremost among them, at least in the way the report has been presented by officials and reporters, is that "the GOI [Government of Israel] should freeze all settlement activity, including the 'natural growth' of existing settlements"), followed by a resumption of negotiations "in the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreements and understandings of 1999 and 2000."
For diplomatically speaking, "there is a record of achievement." What in Dennis Ross's name are these distinguished gentlemen talking about? As of last summer, there is a record of failure, diplomatically speaking; and the present crisis is its sanguinary result.
The Mitchell-Powell plan appears to be to erase what is known about the scuttling of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation by Yasir Arafat's theological jusqu'au-boutisme, to act as if the Israeli government did not offer the Palestinians a state on virtually all of the territories with a capital in Jerusalem, to proceed as if what was revealed at Camp David was never revealed. This has the effect of detaching the present crisis from its cause, so that the traditional analysis of the peace processors can be protected from all the harsh empirical evidence against it.
Suppose negotiations are resumed. Sooner or later they will collide with the Palestinian obsession with the settlements. The Israelis will make concessions, as they did before; and the negotiations will resume. Then they will collide against the Palestinian insistence on sovereignty over the Temple Mount. The Israelis will make concessions, as they did before; and the negotiations will resume. Then they will collide against the Palestinian right of return....
And so on. What reason is there to believe that the exercise will go differently?
The immediate consequence of the new American stirrings, of course, has been Sharon's government's indication that it will drastically reduce its retaliatory actions and its restatement of Israel's position that it will not expand settlements beyond their established lines. We are not troubled by the Israeli restraint.
But we are troubled by the recurrence of the old pattern of diplomatic partiality once again, the pressure falls all on one side of the line. The bad joke is that the peace processors are not putting the screws on Arafat because they, too, have given up on him. In The Washington Post last week, Dennis Ross wrote that "[k]nowing Chairman Yasser Arafat as well as I do, I am certain he will never initiate--only respond. But he won't respond to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, lest it appears he is giving in.... Barring a United States or international initiative that provides him a justification for ending the violence, he will let the situation deteriorate in the hope that the international community will have to intervene and rescue him." It is an extraordinary admission. But the Israelis are expected to act as if all this is not the case. They must pretend that they have not given up on him, that he is still their "partner."
"The PNA and GOI," the Mitchell Report sagely counsels, "should resume their efforts to identify, condemn, and discourage incitement in all its forms." What do they mean by "resume"? The anti-Israeli virulence in the streets of Palestine is a direct expression of what the Palestinian educational system has taught its young about Israel. Anyway, no sooner had Mitchell and his colleagues concluded their homily than Tayeb Abdel Rahim told the Voice of Palestine that "they threw from their planes poisoned chocolates and some of our children were poisoned."
Poisoned chocolates! In its way, medievalism is more terrifying than mortars. Even F-16s are useless against it.
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