My sympathy for the Palestinians is somewhat limited

Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided in late 2003 that it was doing Israel little good to continue its occupation of the Gaza Strip, and put forth complete withdrawal plans. By the end of August, 2005, the last of the twenty-one Jewish settlements in Gaza had been evacuated, and the remaining Israeli soldiers pulled out in the first couple weeks of September.

This was great, the first step to a lasting peace. In this story on National Public Radio, Nigel Roberts of the World Bank tells Renee Montagne about rebuilding prospects and obstacles to economic recovery. Mr Roberts was concerned about the high unemployment in Gaza, especially among 16-24 year old men.

But while Gaza lacks much in the way of infrastructure, it has one amazing natural resource that could have been easily developed and brought in billions of euros: Gaza has the kind of beaches that ought to attract wealthy European travellers — and their money — if they’d just clean them up and build some decent hotels and resorts. And tourism is easily the resource that could be most rapidly developed and bring in the most foreign capital of anything the Palestinians have.

Oh, one other thing: the Palestinians would have to stop shooting across the border at Israel; Israel doesn’t put up with that crap, and it’s hard to develop a decent beach resort if it’s subject to being bombed.

    60 Gazans Killed in Incursion By Israel¹
    Operation Follows Use of Longer-Range Rockets by Hamas
    By Griff Witte, Washington Post Foreign Service

    JERUSALEM, March 1 — The Israeli military launched a major operation against Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing 60 people — about half of them civilians — and sending in a large contingent of ground troops to stop rockets streaming daily out of the territory into southern Israel.

    The violence, which also resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers, imperiled an already fragile peace process just days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive to try to jump-start the flagging talks. Both sides indicated Saturday that the intensified conflict could cause the negotiations to collapse. That would mark a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which has made Middle East peace a top priority for its final year.

    The fighting Saturday was the worst yet following a significant escalation Wednesday. In the four days since an Israeli missile destroyed a van carrying five Hamas members suspected of plotting an attack inside Israel, 94 Palestinians have been killed and more than 300 have been injured, according to hospital sources in Gaza. During the same period, at least 180 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel, causing one death and 11 injuries, the Israeli military said.

    Palestinian leaders called on the international community to step in to force Israel to stop the attacks and suggested that peace talks should be halted until the violence subsides. They also warned that Israel’s tactics would backfire by radicalizing the Palestinian population.

    “It is beyond comprehension,” said Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. “What they are doing is pushing people beyond their limits. They are creating a very strong reaction among the people, so the people will become more desperate and hard-line. Israel is not securing its own interests by this kind of massive killing.”

    Israeli officials have warned that there will be more to come and that operations may intensify, as long as Hamas continues to fire its rockets. Israeli officials say they are especially concerned that Iranian-made rockets began landing in Ashkelon in the past week. The coastal city has a population of 120,000, and with its center about six miles north of Gaza, it had previously been out of range of the crude Qassam rockets that have been the mainstay of Hamas attacks. On Saturday, seven more rockets with greater range and lethality, known as Grads, landed there.

Much more at the link. But it’s difficult for me to generate much sympathy for the Palestinians. Israel withdrew, unilaterally, without any pre-conditions, from Gaza. The Israeli government, in effect, gave the Palestinians every chance to show what they could do — and would do — with an independent state. Would they develop it, would they try to build something in which their poor people would have a chance at increased prosperity? Or would they use the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers as an opportunity to increase terrorist attacks against Israel?

It should have been an easy choice. The Palestinians had complete control of their own destiny in Gaza. Israel wasn’t going to interfere — and was actually providing Gaza with food and power — and the Palestinians living there could have proved to Israel and to the world that there was no reasonable risk from granting them their own state, that all they really wanted was peace and a chance to live their lives without Israeli checkpoints and Israeli occupation and Israeli interference.

But Palestinian logic is apparently somewhat different from democratic Western thinking. Rather than do what Westerners naturally thought was the reasonable, safe and easy thing to do, the Palestinians took another path: they used the withdrawal of Israeli troops as an opportunity to launch more terror attacks against Israel. And now comes the most pathetic, most laughable, statement of all, from The Washington Post story:

    Palestinian leaders called on the international community to step in to force Israel to stop the attacks.

Well, duhhh! If the Palestinians hadn’t been shooting rockets into Israel, if they hadn’t started using longer ranged rockets to try to terrorize Israeli citizens, Israel wouldn’t be striking back, Israel wouldn’t be trying to knock out the Hamas terrorists.

If “Palestinian leaders” want Israel to stop striking back, then they need to keep their own irredentists from picking fights.

As Abba Eban famously said, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

¹ – The Washington Post, Sunday, 2 March 2008, p. A-1


  1. Dana–I don’t feel much more sympathy for the Palestinians than you do, but on the other hand, I don’t think the Israelis deserve all that much either. After all, modern Israel got its start when the Jewish residents of Palestine drove out the British with acts of, yes, terrorism, then unilaterally declared sovereignty over the land where they resided. They proceeded to enforce that sovereignty through arms, engaging in what we would today call “ethnic cleansing.”

    In the seemingly endless conflict with Arab Palestinians, the Israelis stridently claim the moral high ground. I don’t buy it. From where I sit, they’re every bit as bloodthirsty and vicious as their opponents. A Palestinian child killed by an Israeli air rocket is just as dead as a Jewish child killed by a Palestinian ground rocket.

  2. Dead is dead, but the power to stop the killing rests with the Palestinians, a power they choose not to exercise.

  3. Equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, as PCD does, is one of the biggest reasons it’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation on this subject. I don’t hate Jews, but I don’t think they or anyone else should have carte blanche to brutalize their neighbors.

  4. Bitter, You are naive at best, but a Jew hater at your best. Israel has offered olive branches many times only to be attacked.

    Israel is only reacting to extreme provocation. If the “Palestinians” want to be left alone, let them hang the rocket crews from the nearest light posts or trees. Or do you condone the rocketing of Israel?

  5. PCD: I think you meant “…Jew hater at worst.” Which, I assure you again, I am not.

    But if Israel keeps on as it has been, there won’t be any trees or light posts left standing in Gaza.

    I no more condone rocket attacks against Israel than I do, say, Israel’s building what amounts to ghetto walls around the occupied territories. Or its prevention of food and medicine from reaching the people in those territories.

    Focusing on the outrages committed by one side, while blandly ignoring those of the other, is not going to accomplish anything.

  6. Mr Scribe: Perhaps you ought to remember that the United Nations recognized Israel’s sovereignty. That kind of puts a damper on your initial comment.

    Israel’s problem is that it won too-quick victories and then failed to consolidate them. The Israelis either should have expelled every Arab from the territories they conquered in 1967, or given the land back quickly. Had they done the latter, the Palestinians would still be living in Jordan rather than in some non-state.

  7. Gosh, Dana, a conservative looking to the UN for legitimacy? Now I’ve seen everything.

    I think that at the time of Israel’s birth, the international community felt sympathy and guilt for what the Nazis did to Europe’s Jews. That probably colored their judgment. As we both know, the UN’s ardor for Israel has cooled considerably since then. (Remember the “Zionism is racism” resolution?)

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not questioning Israel’s right to exist. Most nations, including our own, are formed at least partly through force of arms, whether that happened in 1948, 1776 or 1066. But it just annoys me when Israel and its supporters assume that they have all the moral legitimacy and the Palestinians have none at all.

  8. OK, Mr Scribe, you’ve accepted that Israel has a right to exist, and that military conquest has been a valid, historically normative way for nations to be established and set their borders.

    The question becomes: if Israel has a right to exist, does that mean, inter alia, that the Palestinians have lost the right to hold the land where Israel is sovereign? That’s the part that Hamas, the legitimately elected government of the Palestinians, refuses to accept.

    For us Westerners, the solution is ridiculously simple: Israel evacuates the land seized in 1967, and the palestinians form an independent nation on the evacuated land; the Arabs return the favor by recognizing Israel and agreeing to peace. That’s all ridiculously simple.

    Trouble is, while that’s so simple to our Western logic, it seems like so much trash to the people living in the Levant. Right now, the Palestinians are led by groups (primarily, but not exclusively, by Hamas) which do not accept our simple, enlightened logic, and would rather fight on in hopes of victory than to negotiate a peace that they would see as a surrender.

    And while I think that most Israelis would accept our simple logic, most is not all, and there are a lot of settlers in Judea and Samaria who would disagree, some violently.

  9. Dana: You’re right, which is why this conflict has dragged on so long with no end in sight.

    And which is why I, for one, am equally disgusted with both sides.

  10. Bitter Liberal,

    Why does Israel have to provide food and medicine to people who want to kill them or march them into the sea? Where is your indignation at the Arab states? Egypt has a border and a wall between them and Gaza, and you are SILENT. Your selective indignation is an abomination.

  11. PCD: No, what’s an abomination is your lack of reading skills. As I said in my last post, I’m equally disgusted with both sides. That’s hardly “selective indignation.”

  12. Bitter Liberal, You just refuse to see anything outside of your little box. No matter what fact is presented to you, you have to keep your jaws firmly locked on the leg of Israel.

    Be honest, will you accept anything less than Israel marching into the sea? If so, please state what is the less you will accept?

    Also, why so silent on Egypt having the same wall as Israel around Gaza?

  13. I’m not sure what you mean by “Egypt having the same wall,” since it was Israel who built the wall. If you’re referring to Egypt’s refusal to allow unrestricted cross-border passage when Hamas breached the wall recently, well, put it this way: I’m guessing you’re one of those folks who wants a wall between Mexico and the United States, or at least wants to restrict immigration. Why should Egypt be held to a different standard?

    To answer your larger question: What I, you, or any other outsider will “accept” in the Arab-Israeli conflict is irrelevant. Both sides have shown a willingness to slit each other’s throats until the end of time. What I would like is a little more objectivity in the U.S. approach, as opposed to the nearly blind adherence to Israel we’ve shown so far.

  14. Israel evacuates the land seized in 1967, and the palestinians form an independent nation on the evacuated land; the Arabs return the favor by recognizing Israel and agreeing to peace.

    Israel would never accept this deal if it included giving up that part of Jerusalem seized in 1967.

  15. Bitter Liberal, Everyone can see you dancing in your answer. You can’t be honest even when cornered. You try to obfuscate, bring in tangents, and even then you aren’t an honest debater.

    For your information, I’m one of those people who are against ILLEGAL immigration. Bitter Liberals can’t distinguish between legal and Illegal immigration. Evidently coarse, not fine, points are too much for you to comprehend.

    Oh, One of my daughters is a naturalized LEGAL immigrant. So, stuff your liberal racism and ignorance.

    Speaking of your ignorance, Bitter Liberal, Egypt has an actual wall between Gaza and their territory that the Palestinians had to breach and rush through the hole to get to Egyptian shops for food, medicine, and other consumer goods. Where’s your condemnation of Egypt for keeping the Gazans out? You are the one that is blinded by liberal rage.

  16. Aphrael: So, what do you do? You have mentioned an Unacceptable Compromise on the part of the Israelis — and I happen to agree with your statement — while the Palestinians have demands that are completely unacceptable to the Israelis.

    Nobody will like to consider this, but the real problem is that neither side won the several Arab-Israeli wars. The Jews won quick victories in the battles, but then always agreed to cease-fires before actually winning the wars. The Israelis never actually killed enough Arabs to beat them into submission. The Arabs always escaped with the ability to fight another day.

  17. PCD: Maybe I’m not an “honest debater,” but at least my posts aren’t filled with ad-hominem attacks.

  18. Bitter Liberal,

    You just can’t be honest, can you. Can you admit there was a wall, berm, and other barriers erected by Egypt to keep the Gazans out of Egyptian towns and territory? That’s a fact, not an ad-hominem attack.

    Oh, I forget, when you best a Liberal, everything is a ad-hominem attack.

  19. PCD: I don’t really see your point. Egypt cooperated with Israel in restricting the access of Gaza residents to food, fuel and medicine. Are you saying it’s OK for Israel to do this but not for Egypt?

  20. As a way of getting off of a potentially never-ending point, allow me to suggest that while both sides are guilty, they are not equally guilty.

    Israel, for motives which were not wholly altruistic, completely evacuated the Gaza strip, forcibly removing all of the Jewish settlers from there. Israel continued to provide food, water and electricity to Gaza. the Israelis, in effect, gave the Palestinians a small version of what people assume they wanted: a land of their own.

    The next step was up to the Palestinians. If they had simply taken that land and remained disengaged from the Israelis, not their friends but not shooting rockets across the border, there would be no fighting now, and there would be enormous pressure on Israel to move forward toward a free Palestinian state, the Palestinians having “proved” that, with their own land, they could live in, if not peace, then in the absense of war with Israel. That they could not, or would not, do.

    The current situation is not one of both sides being wrong, or both sides being nearly equally bad. The Palestinians were shooting at the Israelis; the Israelis choice was to either sit there and accept being fired upon, or fight back — and the Israelis, through a hard and bitter history, have learned that they must fight back. The Palestinians are the ones who are in the wrong, clearly in the wrong, in the immediate situation.

  21. The Israelis did build the border fence between Gaza and Egypt, when they controlled the Sinai following the June 1967 war. But Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt following the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement; it has been under Egyptian control for over a quarter of a century. By now, it is wholly an Egyptian responsibility.

    One thing to remember: none of the other Arab states gives a rat’s ass about the Palestinians, save as political weapons. The Egyptians don’t want them, the late King Hussein expelled them from Jordan, and the oil-wealthy Arab nations have never provided more than a pittance in support for that impoverished people.

  22. Bitter Liberal,

    I guess your Liberally impaired mental processes can not understand that Egypt is treating the Palestinians in the same way Israel is, walling them off an keeping them in their ghetto because they can not act in a peaceful, civil manner when visiting outside of the Gaza Strip. Only you are so blinded by your own rhetoric and full of Liberal propaganda that you can’t see the true situation.

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