The only changes I would note are that several of the specific individuals mentioned here are now dead. Happily, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein (and his regime) have met their well-deserved ends. Tragically, journalist Michael Kelley, whom I quote here, died the following year in an accident while covering the US invasion of Iraq.—Ronbo
A few days after the last tanks rolled out of Jenin and other cities across the West Bank (though they remain in Ramallah and Bethlehem), Israelis have flooded back to streetside cafés to enjoy the spring weather and the security won by their army’s assault on Palestinian terrorists.
This lull in anti-Israeli terrorism is likely to be short lived, however, because Israel has not committed to the one policy that can achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East: a permanent Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory.
The conventional wisdom is that the Israeli occupation and resulting Palestinian “resentment” is the cause of the current conflict. In reality, Palestinian terrorism began before Israel acquired a single acre of land in Gaza or the West Bank. Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, for example, was formed in 1964, three years before the 1967 war in which Israel occupied those territories. The “Palestine” that Arafat sought to “liberate” was Israel itself.
The massive escalation of the Palestinians’ terrorist war actually coincides with the withdrawal of Israel’s occupation. Under the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel has spent most of the last decade removing its troops from Palestinian territories and transferring control to police and security forces controlled by Arafat. The result was not peace, but the creation of a Palestinian regime based on anti-Jewish terrorism.
The creation of this terror regime began during the “first intifada,” the wave of Palestinian riots and terror attacks that began in 1987 and nominally ended with the Oslo accords in 1993. Of the roughly 1100 people killed by Palestinian militants during this uprising, about 800 were fellow Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel. In other words, the Palestinians systematically exterminated anyone who might want to live peacefully with the Jews. (It is a process that continues today. While the press was focusing its attention on the non-existent “massacre of Jenin,” Palestinian thugs dragged three alleged “collaborators” from their cars and shot them, to the cheers of large crowd.)
Rather than seeking to protect friendly Palestinians, Israeli doves and American diplomats betrayed them by installing a terrorist thug as their new political master. Michael Kelley, a columnist who covered the event as a reporter, describes Arafat’s triumphant homecoming to Gaza in 1994, a few months after the Oslo agreement.
Arafat’s entry into Gaza was an object lesson: a purposely uncaring display of brute power. He arrived from the Sinai in a long caravan of Chevrolet Blazers and Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs, 70 or 80 cars packed to the rooflines with men with guns. The caravan roared up the thronged roads and down the mobbed streets, with the overfed, leather-jacketed, sunglassed thugs of Arafat’s bodyguard detail all the time screaming and shooting off their Kalashnikovs to make their beloved people scurry out of their beloved leader’s way.
This was the whole of the Palestinian Authority from the beginning, an ugly little cartoon of Middle East despotism. …
That summer, I saw only three serious efforts at establishing functioning government: the imprisoning of free-speakers and potential democrats, which began immediately, the likewise prompt establishment of daily anti-Israel broadcasts, and a British-run program to train handpicked members of Arafat’s Fatah group in riot control.
Any potential friends of Israel got the message and joined the thugs. No civilized Palestinian voices have dared to speak up since.
Palestinian society has been shaped by an opposite influence: an educational system in which children are showered with anti-Jewish propaganda and praise for suicide bombers; Palestinian “summer camps” in which teenagers are taught how to murder Israelis; an anarchic society in which prestige goes to young men who join armed militias and terror brigades. Terror, in this Palestinian culture, is the primary form of political currency. Arafat lieutenant Marwan Bhargouti has openly boasted that terror bombings by the Arafat-sponsored al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are what restored the political influence of Arafat’s Fatah political faction.
All of this has increasingly fused with the outlook of Islamic fundamentalism, which glorifies mass-murder martyrdom as a moral ideal. Israeli raids have found evidence that Arafat provided direct financial support for terrorism, but the most important form of that support is the least expensive: money for posters proclaiming the heroism of the latest suicide bomber.
Military operations of the kind that has just concluded—arresting militants, destroying bomb factories, seizing weapons caches—are a necessary first step, but they are only a first step. These operations eliminate, for the moment, the products of a terrorist culture. But if Israelis want to be able to live in peace, the terrorist culture itself must be uprooted. Only an Israeli occupation can achieve that goal.
President Bush has referred to the “legitimate aspirations” of the Palestinian people for an independent state. But people who embrace suicide bombings and choose career killers as their leaders—as the Palestinians have done—have no legitimate political aspirations. William F. Buckley, for all of his many faults, is credited with a turn of phrase that eloquently captures this fact. Speaking about an African country’s desire for independence, he quipped, “They’ll be ready for democracy when they stop eating each other.” Although he was referring to the practice of literal cannibalism, the same thing applies metaphorically to the Palestinians. They can be trusted with a representative government only when they stop worshipping murderers.
A permanent Israeli occupation would entail the creation of a colonial administration charged with the task of civilizing a people made barbarous by decades of terrorist leadership. This goals of this occupation should be: to remove terrorist indoctrination from Palestinian schools and to remove incitement to murder from Palestinian airwaves and from Palestinian mosques; to make life safer for civilized Palestinians; to establish a vigorous and efficient police force that will make terrorism a road to prison or death, not popular adulation.
Most important, a new occupation is desperately needed to seal off Palestinian territories from the real instigators of terrorism. Palestinian terrorism is fed and driven, not by Israeli “provocation,” but by the sponsorship of neighboring governments: by Iran, whose theocrats provide money, weapons, and training; by Iraq, whose dictator offers bounties to the families of suicide bombers; by Syria, the base for terror groups like Hezbollah; by Saudi Arabia, which raises money for Islamic terrorist groups. Whenever Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories, these forces will flow back in to rebuild the culture of terrorism.
Occupation is also necessary to keep out one of the most important world sponsors of terrorism: the United Nations. At the moment, there are several proposals to send UN “peacekeeping” troops into Palestinian territories. Such troops would merely serve as a screen to protect Palestinian terrorists; they would do nothing to prevent new Palestinian terror attacks, but they would prevent Israel from engaging in even the slightest effort to strike back.
There is only one legitimate obstacle to the solution I propose: Israel’s identity as a “Jewish state.” Only universal values, the kind of values America was founded on, can be inculcated in an ethnically and religiously diverse population. But this is a problem that can be solved; after all, the majority of Israelis are essentially secular and Western in their outlook.
The primary obstacle to a new Israeli occupation is the intellectual fad that has swept the secular West: the philosophy of multiculturalism, which is founded on a condemnation of “colonialism.” The multiculturalists attack the very idea that there is a difference between “civilization” and “savagery,” declaring that there is no way to judge one as superior to the other.
But in the current conflict, the Palestinian reign of terror has demonstrated that, as Ayn Rand once wrote, to ask “Who am I to judge?” is to ask “Who am I to live?”