Skip to comments.Condoleezza, Abdullah, Israelis Living in Virtual Realities
Posted on 06/17/2007 1:55:48 PM PDT by Lorianne
Why, it is often asked, is the Arab-Israel conflict so intractable? Part of the reason is that the various protagonists live each in a mental framework that ignores fundamental facts. Mostly these facts have been reported in the public media. But their significance is overlooked because it lies outside the virtual realities that those protagonists have created for themselves over long years.
Thus it is that the Hamas victory in Gaza has left the "international community" flummoxed. Once again, the inevitable arrived to everyone's surprise.
For weeks, the area had been awash in a stream of visiting foreign ministers. Each of them claimed to be promoting "the Middle East peace process." Disregarded by them all was the most significant fact of recent months: the spreading civil war between the Palestinian factions. None of them saw the absurdity of "reviving the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians" when the latter are engaged in a war to the death over who represents Palestine.
In the case of EU foreign ministers, this blind friendliness passed harmlessly. But when Condoleezza Rice issues directives to Israeli and Palestinian leaders, blindness to the evident facts is perilous. Some of her directives were manifestly impossible to implement. The others, if implemented, would make the situation only worse. So both Israelis and Palestinians made much show of allegiance to her commands while seeking discrete forms of evasion. But Condoleezza, maybe, was too busy with Iran and Putin and whatever else to notice.
Before recalling those individual directives or "benchmarks," it is worth noting some fundamental current realities. First, for a long time nobody has been in control in the Palestinian areas. In particular, Palestinian President Abbas today functions at most as the mayor of greater Ramallah. Otherwise, he commands negligible obedience. Elsewhere, his own Fatah movement is split into numerous self-governing groups, such as the active terrorists of the Al-Aksa Martyr Brigades. Even in these groups there is no overall command, but a multiplicity of local leaders. Add to this the other Palestinian factions, including a Hamas that is showing first signs of splits, and various clans that have armed themselves especially in Gaza.
Second, all of those arms serve a dual function, as has already been manifested in many examples. They are used, even in rapid alternation, both against Israel and in the internecene Palestinian struggles. Arms acquired for either purpose will eventually be used for the other.
Third, though less obviously, is the nature of Palestinian nationalism itself. Since its beginnings in the 1920s, it has had only one actively pursued aim: the liquidation of any organized Jewish entity in the land. This has become increasingly obvious, however, since the Oslo agreements. It explains why the Palestinian factions show no regard for the security and economic concerns of their own population, why they readily destroy the infrastructure that was built up since 1993 with hundreds of millions of dollars provided by the governments of the world.
Take away resentment of Jewish success and nothing remains to unite the Palestinians. They fall back into old patterns of inter-village and inter-clan rivalries, exacerbated by religious fanaticism. The only innovation is that the various armed groups are themselves evolving into new clan-like structures whose activities include the pillaging of less well-armed neighbors. That also goes for elements of the police and other security forces.
Consequently, Condoleezza's benchmarks for the Palestinians were never attainable. She gave two: the cessation of missile attacks upon Israel from Gaza and the ending of arms smuggling into Gaza from Egypt. Abbas, for sure, wished for both, especially as it was those arms that enabled Hamas to conduct its campaign against Fatah in Gaza. He vainly first commanded, then requested, then begged the firers of the missiles to stop provoking Israeli retaliation. So little had he any authority and so many are the groups involved, including disobedient Fatah elements themselves, that he had no impact on the phenomenon. Similarly, all the factions need smuggled arms and none has been in a position to deny them to others.
Her directives to the Israeli government, however, were not merely products of fantasy but outright dangerous. One of her demands was for Israel to institute transport convoys between Gaza and the West Bank. This would serve to equalize the level of conflict in the latter with the former. In particular, Hamas is longing for the opportunity to bring arms to those parts of the southern West Bank where it won the parliamentary elections, thus adding military to political conquest.
Another demand, which would have had the same effect, was to eliminate most of the Israeli roadblocks in the West Bank. Her third demand upon Israel was to enable a fresh supply of arms to Abbas, on the assumption that they would strengthen his position over against Hamas. In fact, as noted above, the recipients of the arms mostly no longer obey Abbas and would use the arms also to rob Palestinians and, eventually, to attack Israelis. No one should be surprised, either, when those groups switch their nominal allegiance from Abbas to Hamas, perceived as the emerging winner in the civil war. Or when, as in Gaza, the Fatah militants run away, letting those arms end up in the hands of Hamas.
Here we may note how elements of the virtual reality of the Palestinians are lapped up uncritically by distinguished foreign visitors. One is the claim that the inter-Palestinian struggles are themselves a product of "the occupation." Quite the opposite. For some time now, Israeli "occupation" has been reduced to those roadblocks and various operations to seek out "fugitives"in the West Bank. In other regards, the Palestinians are left to their own devices and "occupation" has ceased. Those "fugitives," however, are precisely the ones who would now be leading their respective armed groups into mutual warfare. In other words, remove this last remnant of "occupation" and then, as after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, the West Bank can blaze from end to end.
Another such claim, readily bought by NGOs in particular, is that the fighting between Fatah and Hamas is due to the end of foreign funding for the Palestinians. In fact, of course, much funding continues though by less direct paths. Nor has lack of funding prevented the Palestinians from stocking up arms. Moreover, the massive payroll of the Palestinian Authority includes adherents of all the Palestinian factions. Thus two of the captors of Gilad Shalit, as has now emerged, were on that payroll. So more funding would mean, in the first place, more money for armed conflict.
There are also regards in which Israelis live collectively in a virtual reality that blinds them to the issues. A crucial example is the chronic furious Israeli debate about "the settlements." The entire debate is futile because Israelis have agreed upon a definition of "Who is a settler?" which is not shared by any other factor in the world.
The world's definition is simply: any Jew resident in those areas captured by Israel in the Six Day War. On the world's reckoning, there are by now over 400,000 settlers, some eight percent of Israeli Jews. In Israeli debates, however, the typical figure discussed is some 230,000. This is the figure employed by Left and Right, secular and religious.
The explanation of the discrepancy is that nobody in Israel ever speaks of "settlers" in respect of the enormous housing estates built in Jerusalem on land captured in 1967. The media, the politicians and even Israeli campaigners for "withdrawal from the occupied territories" never refer to those suburbs as "settlements."
For the rest of the world, including the Western media and governments, Ramot in northern Jerusalem is as much a settlement as the abandoned Homesh in Samaria, or Gilo in southern Jerusalem as much as the abandoned Kfar Darom in Gaza. Thus the International Court of Justice in the Hague, in its opinion criticizing Israel's security barrier, explicitly complained that most of the "settlers" on the Israeli side of "the wall" reside in Jerusalem.
Israelis, however, have all learned to think of "settlers" as people living far away "out there." When Israeli opinion polls show that large numbers of Israelis would agree to give up most or all of "the settlements," neither the interviewees nor the pollsters imagine that they could be talking about Ramot or Gilo.
Consequently, the Israeli public and the so-called international community completely misunderstand what each other means by any statement about settlers and settlements. Perhaps some leaders of Israel's self-styled "peace camp" are aware that international calls to "evacuate the settlements" and "end the occupation" include removing half of the current Jewish population of Jerusalem and handing over their homes to the Palestinians. But if they know, they are much too smart to ruin their cause by enlightening other Israelis. Rather, let Israelis agree and only wake up later to what they have agreed to.
The confusion is compounded by the pretense of the world media that the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv. A listener to the BBC, for instance, repeatedly hears: "According to Tel Aviv," "Tel Aviv says..." All the instruments of government are in Jerusalem: the parliament, the ministries, the president's residence. So, thanks to the BBC and its like, the whole world thinks that Tel Aviv says everything, but actually Tel Aviv says nothing.
Comically, Arab pressure groups recently forced the BBC to apologize because somebody in some program called Jerusalem Israel's capital. But it makes no apology for permanently misleading everyone by creating a capital of Israel in virtual reality.
Another example of virtual reality is King Abdullah of Jordan. Honestly committed to making peace between Israel and the Arab world, he believes that Israelis would readily accept the "Arab peace initiative" if they could only read it in their own language. So he has sent a Hebrew translation to every Knesset member.
What the monarch does not realize is that the "Arab initiative" is attractive only to Israelis who have not read it. The text, as approved by the Arab League, calls for "full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967... to the June 4, 1967 lines" and for "a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194."
By now, most Israelis realize that the second of these demands would lead to an Arab majority in Israel. As for the first demand, it is formulated too clearly for the Knesset members not to understand. Whatever their concept of "settlers" and "settlements," Ramot and Gilo are unambiguously included, together with the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall.
Maybe the monarch truly does not grasp what he is demanding of Israelis. Or maybe he, like most of the world, imagines that those Jews are living in "Arab East Jerusalem." Indeed, the Arab initiative itself makes the habitual call for a "Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital."
In fact, Ramot is northwest and Gilo southwest. Today the cliché of "West Jerusalem" and "East Jerusalem" is divorced from geographical reality. But because the world media use the cliché endlessly, most people's conception of Jerusalem is another virtual reality.
Back in 1993, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres openly proclaimed that they were bringing Yasser Arafat out of exile in the Libyan desert in order to tame Hamas. That virtual reality collapsed on the very day that the Knesset elected Peres president of Israel.
In those balmy days, anyone who dissented from the worldwide illusion was branded an "enemy of peace." So I restricted myself to an enigmatic allusion. In 1914, I would recall, the emperors of Austria, Russia and Germany readily went to war. But they would never have done so if they had foreseen that they were destroying their own dynasties.
The three little emperors of 1993 earned the Nobel Peace Prize for turning the chronic local violence between Palestinians and Israelis into permanent armed warfare. Before 1993, let us recall, the Palestinians were fighting with knives and stones. It was the Israeli government, in accordance with the Oslo accords, that first gave them thousands of firearms.
Arafat thought he had a devilish scheme to destroy Israel, but it is his own Fatah that is now shattered. Rabin and Peres thought to eliminate Hamas. Instead, they discredited and demolished the Israeli Left. Echoes of 1914 indeed.
To be continued. As long as politicians, diplomats and journalists continue to create and feed each other virtual realities, the inevitable will arrive unexpected.
Malcolm Lowe is a Jerusalem-based academic.
I think that all recognize that the only thing Arab Muslims like better than killing each other is killing Jews. The problem isn’t recognition of this reality, it’s that voicing, let alone acting, on this reality is politically incorrect and therefore unacceptable in today’s world. Better just to repeat the mantra that Islam is a “religion of peace” and bury the bodies.
Warning! This is a high-volume ping list.
Ah the way in which Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon have embraced their Palestinian brothers........
Cultural assimilation at its best.....sarc!
Boy, is this a gleaming gem of truth.
It shouldn't. But the Left lives under the delusion the typical Palestinian is just an average Ahmed who wants peace. The facts indicate otherwise:
From the article: "A poll carried out in the Palestinian Authority shows 65% support for Al Qaeda terror attacks on the United States and European countries - the biggest donors to the PA."
There are no such people as Palestinians. Those people are mostly Jordanian refugees. We won’t get anywhere speaking in lies and perpetuating them.
“...the only thing Arab Muslims like better than killing each other is killing Jews...”
And, you can add “killing Americans” to your list. That is a no brainer. IMO, when the American people and US Congress come to that conclusion, we can prepare for the next world war that is coming.
So true. I think that, to Arab Muslims, the descriptors “Jews” and “Americans” are synonymous.
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