By George Brewer
The recent spate of suicide bombings in Israel has created ferment among those writers who labor under the conceit that nations take direction as a result of their scribbling. The cacophonous chorus of jeremiad journalists, mostly found in the pages of the Washington Post, and with the honorable exception of Richard Cohen, has been to call for ever-increasing brutality against the Palestinians. Far from recognizing that a cycle of violence exists, their simplistic remedy is, in effect, to call for such a massive wave of destruction that the cycle will be stopped for all time.
But one doesn't have to be a historian to see that the proposed remedy is bound to fail. In fact, in a realistic sense, Israel has few options of an active or destructive nature for handling the current crisis - and it is a crisis - in which hopeless young Arabs have chosen to destroy themselves in the most grisly manner conceivable simply for the sake of taking some of their enemies with them. What we propose to do here is simply list some of the non-options available, as well as to point to what must be the only solution that offers an opportunity for long-term peace in the region.
Search and DestroyOne favorite strategy of the columnists involves what would be in effect an Israeli armed invasion of the scattered territory under Palestinian control. All who favor this approach assure us that the object would be to destroy the tens of thousands of active or potential terrorists, along with the paramilitary infrastructure that supports them. By a process of declawing and emasculation, it is believed that the Palestinian lion would be reduced to a purring pussycat.
The proposed solution would never succeed, because the cost of human lives on both sides would be incredible. On the Arab side, even the attempts by Israeli secret police to carry out surgically precise assassinations has frequently led to the deaths of innocent civilians, at times on a one-to-one basis. The military murder of "tens of thousands" of potential threats to Israeli security would almost certainly lead to at least as many dead Palestinian women and children, which would be duly recorded by the hundreds of international journalists in the region, and would only suffice to further radicalize even larger segments of the Palestinian population. Meanwhile, the IDF would probably incur thousands of casualties in such an enterprise.
Nor is the loss of life likely to end there, for the destruction of the Palestinian paramilitary infrastructure would create a state of complete anarchy in the territories, with the result that the reverberations of the destruction would lead to even more dire conditions. We can easily envision how, as Palestinians begin to perish in the strife, shortages and anomie wrought by the proposed invasion, international interference, even if purely of a humanitarian nature, would soon cause Israel to forfeit de facto control in the region, thereby bringing an end to Israel's version of Oriental Despotism.
The Final Solution of the Palestinian QuestionA more grisly and ironic strategy that is frequently discussed, although not often in public, concerns the mass expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, which revisionists believe would attempt to do to the Palestinians what the Nazis sought to do to the Jewish people during World War Two.
The first problem, aside from the breathtaking viciousness of the solution, is that many lives would be lost, not only in terms of the process and resistance to the process, but in the aftermath. Expulsions involve the creation of stateless persons, and thus persons without any defense against lawlessness. Although frequently practiced in the 20th Century, expulsions have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. Regardless where one stands on the reality of either genocide or Holocaust, there is no doubt that the Armenians, Jews, Poles, Eastern Germans, and Ukrainians all lost hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives as a result of state sponsored expulsions. Since over three million Palestinians would be involved in the proposed ethnic cleansing, there is no reason to doubt that casualties would not be of a similar magnitude.
The second problem is that Israel cannot afford the diplomatic isolation that such expulsions would bring about. While a great nation, Israel, like most countries in the modern world, cannot afford to stand alone, and it is even debatable if the United States, which has stood by Israel at all times, would be able to contain the wave of international and even domestic revulsion that would ensue if such expulsions were even attempted.
The third problem is that expulsions, like invasion, and like virtually every other force option at Israel's disposal, only serves to further destabilize the region, and weaken the web of international law as expressed by the United Nations on which Israel's existence depends. No country can be an outlaw and defy the laws to which all other nations submit: to do so is merely to invite others to defy the law. Already, as has been pointed out by several Arab commentators, many of Israel's actions with regard to the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem stand in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has been largely able to get away with these violations because they have been usually small or episodic in nature and have been cast as defensive measures by the largely supine and propagandistic media. But the attempted expulsion of the Palestinians would create a sow's ear of such gross dimensions that no amount of stitching by the likes of George F. Will, Michael Kelley, Charles Krauthammer or Jamie Glazov would make it appear as a silk purse.
There is the further possibility that a drastic response - like either invasion or expulsion - would terminally radicalize the populations of the rest of the Arab world, already chafing under the pressures of eroding feudal governments. Destabilization, and even revolution, in this part of the world, which the United States, Europe and even Israel find as the source of oil, would have consequences so far reaching that we can scarcely envision the nightmare that would ensue.
No Pollyanas Need ApplyIn arguing the inapplicability of violent responses by Israel, and recognizing the strength of pro-Israel propaganda, we shouldn't pretend that the Palestinian side of the equation is blameless or that it doesn't have its own propaganda machine that has been fairly successful in recent times.
The Palestinian Authority has shown little leadership in the present crisis, nor has it shown an ability to control, or provide, for its population. To be sure, the PA cannot provide without the means, and Israel largely controls these. Even so, the Palestinian Authority can be legitimately criticized for tolerating the endless demonization of Israel, and Jews in general, through the constant repetition of offensive libels about Jewish child murder, blood usage, world conspiracies, and so on, in their media. Such manifestations of hatred, especially when they are encouraged by the official media outlets, strongly suggests that the Palestinian leadership has little desire to share the land with Israel, or to make peace with their Jewish neighbors. This must be said.
However, while the inability of the Palestinian Authority to control their people does not bode well for an independent Palestine, it must also be said that Israel's conduct, at least on an individual basis, is toppling on an abyss. Many news stories, including columns by the Englishman, Robert Fisk, leave no doubt that some Israelis are gradually making a descent into uncontrolled sadism. Meanwhile, photographic evidence tells its own tale. A series of photographs by an Egyptian journalist in Hebron - home to two hundred thousand Palestinians and about 400 privileged Israelis - presents a sequence of a small Jewish boy, apparently aided by his mother, in an attack and attempted humiliation of an Arab woman in a public street. To be blunt, these are images that we know very well from Nazi Germany, where young German punks burned the beards of pious Jews, or from the American South, where in the 1950's wholesome-looking white boys and girls could be seen brutalizing black boys and girls who wished to attend integrated schools.
No Water, No PeaceThe last strategy that has been much bruited by our pundits has been for the Israelis to simply build a wall around the territories they choose to control, and keep the Palestinians out. However, as a related article in The Revisionist shows, this cannot be done, since the Israelis have, over the past 34 years, come to be heavily dependent on the water resources in the West Bank. As a result, not only can Israel not build a wall, it cannot even abandon its settlements, because to do so would expose its people to water shortages that they would not long tolerate.
Of course, the intertwining of water resources in Israel and the Occupied Territories tells us something else: it tells us that the current situation cannot long continue without basic changes. It is only a matter of time until the parched peons of Palestine rise up against the water masters of Tel Aviv. No water, no peace.
ConclusionThe current situation has tried the spirits of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Military or violent solutions are impossible due to the diplomatic and possibly revolutionary consequences that would ensue, which in turn could wreck the global economy. On the other hand, the interrelatedness of the water resources make it clear that segregationist panaceas are unworkable, and that even a two state solution not built on mutual trust and hope for the future is bound to fail. Yet neither side has done much to promote such trust and hope: the Israelis through their continued exploitation of the land and water, and through their brutal application of collective responsibility, and the Palestinians through their noxious propaganda and their terrorist acts.
It is hard to believe that the Palestinians would settle for less than equality: but that would mean the end of the Jewish state, if not in the short term, certainly in the long term, since the Arab birth rate is far greater than the Jewish. Yet it is doubtful if the Israelis will settle for anything less than survival, and that almost seems to require a state that follows the rhythms of Jewish law.
Yet that assumption may need to be tested. One of the very few encouraging things about the current controversy is the absence of Holocaust manipulation. No longer is it being claimed that the Arabs want to emulate Hitler's alleged policies, or that the Nazi mass destruction of the Jews somehow justifies Israel's conduct today. This suggests that a turning point has been reached in the political maturation of the Israelis. Perhaps Israel will now be more receptive to the only possible future in the region, one in which Jew and Arab stand side by side on the basis of equal opportunity and complete social and political equality, to create a shared future in the Holy Land. A secular Israel, under civil laws, and based on the principles of individual freedom and democracy, is the only path for lasting peace.
Installed: 07/27/98, 1: 00 AM, PST