By Bradley R. Smith
Everyone with a heart in his breast sympathizes with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli power, influence and brutality.
At the same time, the Palestinian resistance has become a mirror image of the brutality they protest – less powerful, less influential, less brutal in the sense that they are able to kill and maim fewer people than the Israelis – but a mirror image nevertheless.
The courageous, self-sacrificing young Palestinians who volunteer to make bombs of themselves to kill Israelis are celebrated as heroes by Palestinians. In a traditional sense they are. Once upon a time we had a man ourselves who regretted that he had but one life to give for his country.
But how do these Palestinian heroes know whom it is they are killing? Jewish high school students? Jewish babies? Jewish ladies shopping for groceries? Jewish men going to or returning from work? An Israeli soldier here and there? Nearly always the innocent, almost never the guilty. Unless Palestinians are going to argue, as so many Israelis do, that an entire people is guilty. In their rage Palestinians have become copycat figures of the Israelis they hate, who have taken their land, shamed their fathers, killed their families, destroyed their culture. It’s only “natural” to want to do to the other what he has done to you. It makes you the partner of your oppressor, but it’s only natural.
If Palestinians are going to choose to act like Israelis, they might as well choose to live under Israeli rule and forget about it. So long as they don’t care who they kill, they could volunteer to form an Israeli “Arab Legion.” Israelis are probably going to have to kill hundreds of thousands of people over the next century – they live in a sea of Arabs who have learned many new reasons to hate -- so nobody is going to run out of targets. There is so much to kill for. Religious shrines, revenge, nationalism, ideology, race and ethnicity, a neighborhood here and there. None of it is going away by itself. What good are religions that teach its members to kill the innocent for the deeds of the guilty? At the very least they could teach their adherents to start at the top rather than the bottom.
What role does Judaism play in Israeli violence and brutality? What role does Muslimism play in Palestinian violence and brutality? And being Americans, shouldn’t we ask what role Christians play in the endless cycle of destruction, suffering, and broiling hatreds that have engulfed Israel and Palestine? Follow the money.
The U.S. Congress, of which the great majority of its members claim to be Christian, has bankrolled the entire enchilada from the beginning and is still at it. Don’t kill Palestinians with your own hands. Fund Israelis with another hundred billion dollars and they’ll kill everyone who gets in their way. Afterwards they’ll bulldoze the houses and cut down the olive trees. They’ll do it for themselves, and they’ll do it for the moneymen too. As Americans, what are we thinking of?
The Palestinians should give at least a passing thought to non-violent protest. It may not be their only hope, but it is the only hope they have for creating a situation where they, and the whole world, will be able to see Palestinians with clean hands and clear hearts. If they believe they can win using violence with the U.S. Congress against them, they have not yet reached political or cultural maturity.
In the 1960s when Martin Luther King was asked why he did not support violence against those who urged violence against Blacks, he responded that Blacks did not have the power to challenge American racists with violence, and that in any event the initiation of violence against others was exactly what he was struggling against.
Palestinians cannot challenge the Israeli military successfully. They can continue to blow up individuals at random. They can teach their children to bear arms, kill Israelis, and become Israeli tank and missile fodder. That’s about it on the military front. Palestinians have no government (what exactly is an Arafat?), no nation, no army, no dependable allies. The Palestinians have Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and a dozen other cracked and leaking 19th century and even feudal tyrannies. The Israelis have the United States Congress! And Israelis have an ideology, which is a good thing when you want to rationalize acting out on your most brutal fantasies. Israeli ideology is that they deserve all the best parts of Palestine, most of Palestine, and probably all of Palestine. Why? Some Israelis say God gave it to them thousands of years ago. Others say that they deserve it because during World War II the Germans treated Jews very badly, which is true. And that gives Israelis the right to do whatever they want with Palestinians, who are not human in the same way, or not human to the same degree, that Israelis are.
Palestinians can argue against that kind of logic. Piece of cake. They can decide to become something other than the mirror image of those who are brutalizing them. Those young men who are willing to die as human bombs would certainly be willing to risk their lives – and that is what it would amount to – by just marching, just sitting down, just saying no to the deliberate killing of civilians, no to the initiation of violence, and no to their own inner rage.
Easy for me to say.
Installed: 07/27/98, 1: 00 AM, PST