After years of counterproductive concessions and compromise, it is unlikely that the situation is still retrievable by consensual means… remedial measures will require coercive action on a wide scale… Unless the Jews convey the unequivocal message that any…challenge to their sovereignty will be met with overwhelming lethal force, they will increasingly be the victims of such force at the hands of their Arab adversaries – “Into the Fray,” The Jerusalem Post, November 13, 2014
It was with these the words that I concluded my column written almost exactly a year ago. In it, I warned that the country was “on the cusp of carnage” – which was also the title of the column.
No consensual resolution possible
Within days, carnage was upon us, with Jews at morning prayers in a Jerusalem synagogue hacked to death by hate-crazed Arabs brandishing meat-cleavers. Since then, the brutal butchery has continued unabated, indeed, accelerating considerably in recent weeks, with a score of Israelis being slaughtered by Palestinian Arabs.
Alexander Levlovich, Naama Henkin, Eitam Henkin, Aharon Banita-Bennett, Nehemia Lavi, Alon Govberg, Chaim Haviv, Yeshayahu Krishevsky, Richard Lakin, Omri Levy, Avraham Asher Hasno, Benjamin Yakubovich, Ya’akov Litman, Netanel Litman , Reuven Aviram, Aharon Yesayev, Yaakov Don, Ezra Schwartz, Hadar Buchris, and Ziv Mizrahi were stabbed, stoned and shot to death – literally for no other reason than being Jewish.
With each gory week, it is becoming increasingly pointless to pretend some consensual resolution to the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is possible.
Apart from a few transparently disingenuous disclaimers, over the last hundred years and more, the Arabs have shown consistently, by deed and declaration, that they are obdurately unwilling to countenance any expression of Jewish political independence in the territory (or part thereof) designated as the “Land of Israel.”
Accordingly, it is increasingly egregious to persist with this shabby charade. Indeed, for Israel to invest further effort in pursuing the unattainable is not only manifestly futile, it is debasing, dishonest and detrimental to the state and its citizens.
As such it is ignominious and ineffectual; iniquitous and injurious. In short it is fundamentally, thoroughly and irretrievably immoral!
Harnessing Islamist ideology, not hijacked by it
This Thursday, the prestigious Henry Jackson Society will be hosting an old friend and colleague of mine, Prof. Yossi Shain, of Tel Aviv and Georgetown Universities.
The title of his talk is: “Global Terrorism and the Palestinian Cause; How the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict Has Been Hijacked by Extremism.” Regrettably, it will be delivered just after this column is submitted for publication, so I will not be able to refer to the substance conveyed. However, I must confess to a perceptible sense of misgiving at portions of the introductory paragraph, publicizing the address. Thus, for example it states: “Over recent decades we have seen Islamist groups infiltrate and take hold within the Palestinian population… Palestinian society…has witnessed a move towards extremism and radicalization… [I]nternational observers and policy makers have often failed to fully comprehend the extent to which Islamist ideology has hijacked the Palestinian cause…” While there might well be some truth in this contention, it is the converse dynamic that is the more dominant! In other words, rather than the Palestinian cause being hijacked by Islamist ideology, it is the “Palestinian cause” that has harnessed Islamist ideology to further its long-standing objective – the obliteration of the Jewish state and eradication of any trace of Jewish political sovereignty.
Cutting Palestinian terror undeserved slack?
To imply that the recent ascendancy of Islamist ideology has somehow exacerbated their pernicious bent for homicidal violence, as the promo for Prof. Shain talk might be taken to suggest, is to cut the Palestinian-Arabs a measure of moral slack, which is decidedly unmerited.
For what could surpass the “extremist” position of Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor as PLO chairman, who on the eve of the Six Day War, before the alleged “grievances” of settlements” and/ or “occupation” had any conceptual significance, never mind practical relevance, called for the extermination of the entire Jewish population of pre-1967 Israel. With somewhat premature confidence, and with nary a Jihadi imam to inflame his passions or radicalize his rhetoric, he threatened ominously: “…We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants…This is a fight for the homeland – it is either us or the Israelis… it is my impression that none of them will survive…” So, while it is true that recently resurgent Islamist ideology has hardly been a moderating influence on Palestinian conduct, it should not be forgotten that some of the most murderous exponents of Palestinian terror have not been Muslim at all – and yet led organizations, whose ideology was in no way “Islamist.” This, however, did nothing to preclude them from perpetrating some of the most heinous acts of barbarism.
Barbarism beyond Islam(ism)?
For example, arch-terrorist George Habash, an Orthodox Christian, set up the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLPF), an ostensibly secular organization with Marxist-Leninist leanings. The PFLP, a “trailblazer” in the use of airliner hijackings for political extortion, has been responsible for scores of grizzly attacks from its inception up to the present, including numerous suicide bombings on both sides of the pre- 1967 “Green Line”. The perpetrators of the gruesome Har Nof synagogue massacre and the blood-curdling slaughter of the Fogel family claimed affiliation with PFLP.
Wadie Haddad, also an Orthodox Christian, was another high-profile terrorist among PFLP’s ranks, who reportedly recruited and trained Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (“Carlos the Jackal”), later expelling him for sparing the lives of two hostages Haddad ordered executed in a 1975 PFLP attack on OPEC Vienna Headquarters. Haddad also masterminded the 1972 Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport massacre, carried out in collaboration with the Japanese Red Army Faction, in which almost 30 innocent passengers were gunned down in cold blood.
Not one of these atrocities was the product of Islamist incitement, but rather a natural outcome of the inherent brutality of the Palestinian “cause” itself and its adherents – as were the actions of Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, who joined the ostensibly secular Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF), established well before the 1967 war and Israeli presence in land claimed today as “Palestine.”
The bestiality of Kuntar’s deeds were aptly described by Newsweek (June 30, 2008) as “so sickening that they give pause even to some of Israel’s enemies” – and with good reason. After landing on a beach in northern Israel with several other PLF accomplices, Kuntar shot and drowned the father of 4-year old Einat Haran, in front of her, and then proceeded to crush the little girl’s skull on nearby rocks with the butt of his gun.
Kuntar was released in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of Israeli reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, to be greeted as a hero on his return to Lebanon by a delegation that included Maronite Christian President Michel Suleiman and his government, plus a long line of politicians and Muslim and Christian clerics, (Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2008).
A little later Kuntar visited Syria, where he was awarded the “Syrian Order of Merit” by President Bashar Assad – then hailed by some as a “reformer.”
Nayef Hawatmeh , a Catholic Christian is founder and leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a secular left-leaning organization, which split from Habash’s PFLP.
From its inception in 1969, DFLP carried out many deadly terror attacks – the most notorious being the massacre of 22 Israeli schoolchildren and four accompanying adults in the northern town of Ma’alot.
Since then, it has claimed responsibility for dozens of other terror attacks, including a lethal suicide bombing near Tel Aviv in 2003.
Significantly, in May 2013, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas awarded aging arch-terrorist Hawatmeh the “highest order of the Star of Honor… in recognition of his important national role in service of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.” (Gatestone Institute, July 3, 2013)
Bonded by Brutality
I belabor this rather depressing “walk down memory lane” for an important reason: To dispel any illusion that, were it not for the specter of Islamist ideology, the “Palestinian cause” would be essentially benign.
This is clearly not the case – as the forgoing examples should clearly underscore – and any policy based on the erroneous assumption that it could be accommodated by the display of Israeli goodwill, will almost certainly lead to disastrous results.
The brutality underlying the Palestinian cause, and its devotees, is an endogenous “stand-alone” phenomenon, which does not need exogenous ideological stimulants to engender it. Indeed, rather than being hijacked by nefarious outside elements, the “Palestinian cause” has typically harnessed them – whether Christian, Druze or Japanese – to further its dastardly designs and to satisfy its Judeophobic blood lust.
That said, of course, there is a particularly pernicious peril in the fusing of the “Palestinian cause” and “Islamist ideology” – simply because they fit together so well, with an almost seamless mutual affinity.
They are welded together with a bond of almost bestial brutality – sharing misogynistic, homophobic impulses with a shared penchant for political tyranny and socio-cultural intolerance. As such, they each may comprise a catalyst for the other, in furthering their independent, but certainly not incompatible goals.
Accordingly, the melding of the two together may well produce a perilous synergy and result in a new, hitherto unencountered menace both to Israel and to Western civilization. However, it is crucial to remember that the great dangers, which may arise from new threats, severe as they might be, should not obscure the very real dangers of existing threats.
Concessions compound casualties
But what is crucial to comprehend concerning the emerging situation vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue – whether or not it is subsumed into the Islamist agenda – is this: Compromise will be counterproductive; concessions will compound casualties and moderation will multiply the menace.
To understand why this is inevitable, it is first necessary to realize that, in principle, there exist two archetypal and antithetical conflictual configurations. In one, a policy of compromise and concession may well be appropriate, and in the other, such policy will be disastrously inappropriate.
In the first configuration, one’s adversary interprets any concession as a genuine conciliatory initiative, and feels obliged to respond with a counter-concession. Thus, by a series of concessions and counter-concessions, the process will converge toward some amicable resolution of conflict.
However, in the alternate configuration, one’s adversary does not interpret concessionary initiatives as bona-fide conciliatory gestures, but as an sign of vulnerability and weakness, made under duress. Accordingly, such initiatives will not elicit any reciprocal conciliatory gesture, but rather demands for further concessions.
If further concessions are offered to assuage such demands, instead of convergence toward peaceable resolution, the result will be a divergent process. This will necessarily culminate in either total capitulation or large-scale violence – either when one side finally realizes that its adversary is acting in bad faith and can only be restrained by force; or when the other side realizes it has extracted all the concessions possible by non-coercive means – and further gains can only be won by force.
Clash of collectives: Rights that Palestinians do not have
Two things should emerge with crystal clarity from the foregoing analysis.
The first is that if a concessionary policy, designed to achieve a consensual resolution, appropriate in the first configuration, is applied in the case of the second configuration, the consequences will be calamitous. The second is that the conflict configuration prevailing in the case of the Palestinian-Arabs – with or without Islamist accelerants – is very definitely of the latter variant.
Accordingly, no consensual resolutions are feasible; only coercive ones. Is seems inconceivable that intelligent men of good faith could sincerely believe otherwise.
Sadly, judging from recent statements from official government and military sources, this almost self-evident truth seems to have eluded Israel’s senior decision- makers, who appear bent on adhering to the unworkable.
They seem unable to grasp that what is at hand is a clash of collectives, not malfeasance by individual Palestinian miscreants.
Misdeeds perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian collective must carry a price, which the collective pays – for if not, it will have no incentive to curb them.
Palestinians do not have the right to slaughter Hadar Buchris with multiple stabbings.
If her slaughter was perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian collective and that collective remains unmoved, even supportive, it forfeits its right to collective benefits – water, electricity, fuel and so one.
It would be immoral for Israel to continue to provide them.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic- israel.org).