Skip to comments.It's The Attitude, Stupid [re: Palestinians]
Posted on 05/14/2002 7:02:18 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
I usually prefer to write about subjects that I have some unique knowledge of. There is so much written and said about many subjects by experts (real as well as self appointed) that it seems as if a layman could not add anything. Certainly, the Middle East is one of those subjects. I have not been there since I was a teenager, (Golda Meir was Israel´s Prime Minister then) have never met Ariel Sharon or Yasser Arafat, and frankly know nothing more than what can be learned by reading public documents. However, there are times when public discussion is so lacking in logic and common sense that I feel a need to express an opinion.
In 1992 I looked into a currency trading shop. The point of this essay is not about currency trading, but let me just say that if you are ever presented with an opportunity to get rich trading currencies walk away or hang up. While I was there I met two Arab nationals. One was Palestinian and one was Syrian. I spoke with the Palestinian fellow and mentioned that I had relatives who live in Israel. He went through the usual rhetoric about occupation and liberation of Palestine. He held the generous opinion that Jews who lived in Israel prior to 1947 (or maybe it was 1918) should be allowed to stay.
At the time I thought there was a reasonable free market solution to the situation of Gaza. I had heard that Gaza was the second most densely populated territory. First was Hong Kong. Of course Hong Kong is one of the most prosperous areas in the world. Gaza is a coastal city, is located in close proximity to Israel, the Arab nations and southern Europe and has a well educated but under employed populace. An open status for Gaza, equivalent to Hong Kong (with Israel having security control, perhaps less of a role than Great Britain had in Hong Kong) would seem to hold a marvelous future for the residents. In 1992, most of the world was adopting free market economies and democracy. I assumed this trend would sweep the Arab world. I asked my new friend about that. He dismissed it out of hand. It did not bring about a Palestinian state or the other forms of liberation that he was looking for.
I later found myself talking with the Syrian fellow. He was a very outspoken and somewhat flamboyant young man. I asked if he had been in the Syrian Army. He turned to me and burst out loudly Why would I do that? I don´t want to go to Lebanon and shoot people. I don´t want to go to the Israeli border and get shot at. Why should I fight with Israelis? They have never done anything to me. I was impressed beyond words. It was the first time I had heard such a rational discourse from the Arab side. If the majority of Arabs had the same attitude the Middle East would have peace.
Much of the discussion today speaks of the Middle East as if it is an engineering issue. If only more effort were put in, if only a new formula was tried. We recently had the critics of the President telling him that he needed to get more engaged. He got more engaged and there are many more dead bodies to show for it. There has never been a shortage of effort to solve the problem. From Ralph Bunche and Count Bernadotte, to Henry Kissinger, to Jimmy Carter, to Philip Habib, to Dennis Ross, to Colin Powell, to Tenet, to Zinni, to Mitchell we have seen numerous individuals try to solve the problem. Every Administration has had its Middle Eastern specialist and special envoys. Yet the problem persists.
What has been lacking is the attitude of the Syrian gentleman. A mindset that improving the quality of life of the Arab people is more important than a conquest of the Jews. Is this possible, is there any precedent for it? After all, we are told, how can we expect peace from people who were driven out of their homes? We are led to believe that people who lose their homes can never reconcile with their tormentors until they get their homes back. Only constant war should be expected.
I have a cousin who grew up in Poland, was sent to the concentration camps, and who still has numbers tattooed on his arm at the age of 90. When he returned from the concentration camp he found that his brother had been murdered. The murderers were vicious anti-Semitic Poles, who were living in his home. He was forced to sell his home for a song and leave the area. Abe could have spent his life looking for revenge. He could have lived in squalor and plotted revenge against the people who had caused him so much suffering.
Abe immigrated to the United States, built a small business, married and had a daughter. He still has bitterness over the way he was treated, but he chose to improve his life, not destroy the lives of people who were much crueler to him and other Jews than Israelis ever were to Arabs. His case is not unique. Many Jews followed the same path. Half of the Jewish population of Israel is made up of refugees from Arab nations who were dispossessed by the Arab governments. Many Palestinians live in the United States and have been successful. Many Arabs live successfully and peacefully in Israel. In fact, I am not aware of any mass migration of Israeli Arabs to Arafat´s Palestinian Authority. If the only goal of Palestinians was to avoid living under Israeli dominance, such a migration should have taken place.
On the other hand, Arafat was offered all of Gaza and virtually all of the West Bank two years ago. He walked away from the peace talks and launched the current war. Dennis Ross, the chief American negotiator, has recently revealed the details of what Arafat was offered. It was virtually everything he has ever asked for. Why would he turn that down? How could the current state of affairs be better than what would have occurred if Arafat had accepted that offer?
It all depends on what he wants. If his primary goal is to improve the economic standard of living of Palestinians, he would have been crazy to choose the current course. If his goal was to bring about self rule he was largely there. The West Bank and Gaza have been divided into three zones. Area A is under Palestinian civilian and military control. 95% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live in Area A. The concept of Palestinians living under Israeli rule is largely a fallacy, most live under Arafat´s rule.
We hear so much about settlements. I recently read that West Bank settlements account for 2% of the land of the West Bank. In 35 years of rule, the Israelis have put 2% of the territory under the ownership of settlements. If we project that trend forward, it would take 1,750 years for the settlers to control all of the West Bank. Yet we are told this is the crux of the problem. In Gaza, 7,000 settlers live among more than 1 million Palestinians. The website, http://www.gazacoast.org/ contains pictures and descriptions of the Gaza settlements. Its pictures show that the Israelis have built what look like very attractive suburban subdivisions amongst the squalor of Gaza. Instead of attacking the settlements, why are the residents of Gaza not demanding, of their leaders, that they get the chance to build equally desirable places to live?
What seems to exist amongst the leadership of the Palestinians, as well as through much of the Arab world, is a mindset that the Arabs must reverse the creation of Israel. The self governing Jewish presence must be removed from the Middle East. Any approach to the situation that does not take this attitude into account cannot be expected to succeed. All the plans, negotiators, bribes, promises, etc. are beside the point.
I hope to visit the Middle East this summer. Unfortunately, I will probably not get to see the settlements or the Palestinian areas, due to safety concerns. I would love to ask individual Palestinians in Jenin or Gaza if they are bothered by the corruption and dictatorial style of the Palestinian Authority. I would love to ask them what they want for their future, whether their lives are improved by the murders of Israelis. I would like to ask the settlers if they are prepared to live under Palestinian rule in the event that politicians put their homes under Palestinian rule. Certainly in a true peace, that would be possible. A peace that forces the Israelis to retreat behind the green line, to live behind a security wall, is not a real peace, but a strategic adjustment. It is also hugely ironic that the dispossession of 200,000 Jews is the answer to the problem when the problem is supposed to be the dispossession of Arabs that took place 50 plus years ago. A withdrawal of Israelis from the territories as well as the disbanding of settlements should be analyzed as to whether they enhance security or not. They should not be viewed as a peace plan.
Israelis such as Golda Meir had an idealized view of peace. It included her shopping in Cairo, while Egyptian housewives shopped in Tel Aviv. Peace is not always ideal. We all live near neighbors we are not fond of. We might not go to their homes for dinner. However, if they are not bothering us, we are satisfied. A peace with the Palestinian Arabs that leaves both sides with little economic or cultural connection would be a huge improvement over the current situation. However, the peace of Oslo has consisted of Israel continuously handing over land to Arafat and his terrorists, while they continued to prepare for war in all aspects of their existence. If Arafat, or some successor of his, announced a major initiative to build homes, hospitals, and schools and went six months without mentioning Israel this would be more of an indication that peace was at hand than any diplomat packing his bags and announcing a new plan.
Questioning the Loyalty of US Palestinians
Source: CNSNews.com; Published: May 14, 2002;
Author: Linda Chavez
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