Along the Tracks

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Giving it up themselves

While my sympathies lie squarely with Israel, I can and do appreciate the yearning of Palestinians for a place to call their own. They (or their ancestors) were, after all, living in the Holy Land during Israel’s formative years, and many continue to live there now.

But when suicide bombers are exploding hither and nigh and “brave” gunmen are sneaking into houses to shoot 9-year-old girls, all while mothers praise their “martyr”-killers and the masses crowd the streets to shoot guns in the air and burn American flags, those feelings of empathy crumble on the rocks of the Palestinians’ own vulgarity.

We have a tendency - a good one, I believe, and one which I generally support - of not identifying a foreign “people” with its leaders or leadership. This urge may be rooted in our own democracy: “Don’t put me in with that bunch - I didn’t vote for them!” In the autocracies we have to deal with, none of the people voted for their leaders, so they can’t be held responsible for that leadership’s mistakes, right?

In most cases, I agree. The long-suffering Chinese didn’t ask for the Communists; Iraqis would love to rid themselves of Saddam; Afghans danced in the street when we overthrew their government, the Taliban.

But occasionally, evil’s roots sink deeper than just the dictator and his underlings. Germans will always have to live with the black mark of the Holocaust, precisely because a majority of their people looked the other way as Jews were herded and slaughtered. That singular horror could never have happened without the acquiescence of the German people. Although most there probably regret it now, the Iranian revolution, with all its excesses of hostages, stonings and the subjugation of women, was in the beginning a popular movement. Milosevich’s rule was strengthened by the support his policies of “ethnic cleansing” received from the Serbian people.

The evidence now is incontrovertible. The Palestinian people, as a whole, favor violence against civilians in their drive to destroy Israel. They do not want the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a state. They do not wish to live in peace with their neighbor. They don’t even want to fight a real war, troops against troops. They want to terrorize Israelis into withdrawing from the Holy Land, a piece at a time, until the last boat leaves Tel Aviv. Theirs is a long-term plan: Now the West Bank and Gaza, then Galilee, then Jerusalem, then the Negeb, then the Meggido plains, then on to the coast.

Are their some Palestinians who DON’T want Israel’s destruction, just a place to call their own? Certainly, maybe even a fairly large percentage, but probably less than half. In a dictatorship such as Arafat’s, these people are harshly suppressed; they are the ones you occasionally hear have been lined up and executed by Hamas or Islamic Jihad gunmen, their bodies then hung out publicly or dragged through the streets. Thus, most keep their mouths shut.

Still, the majority, it is safe to say, favor unending war against Israel. A Palestinian state is but a pause, a training ground and home base for the continued war.

What can Israel do with such an enemy?

The lessens of World War II come into play here. Germany had to be utterly defeated, and its people forced to face the evils they had condoned, before redemption and renewal could begin. It had to be destroyed, then occupied, then rebuilt. It’s people had to be taught democracy. Former German dissidents had to be given prominent roles to encourage a new direction among the people. New allegiances, to constitution and to rights, had to be sworn.

The same must be done in Palestine, and dare I say, much of the Islamic world. Israel’s new stance, reoccupying territory until terrorism ends, will only result in a ping-pong of suicide attack-invasion-pullout-attack-etc. The Palestinian Authority and its terrorist arms of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Brigade and others must be hunted down, destroyed and crushed into dust. Supporters of those groups must see the wages of their labors. A fully occupied, beaten Palestine could then be amenable to a new system of government, implemented by the Israelis, which has as its bedrock democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Israel could decide when the people living in the territories were ready for self-government, and what shape that self-government should take.

This could take a long time, but their is reason to hope it would not; Germany was a stalwart European democracy within a decade of the opening of the last concentration camp. People, individually or in groups, can be led down the path of evil. People can also redeem themselves.

But first, they must be torn from the darkness.

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