After reading article after article by Israeli commentators consumed by the actions of suicidal Palestinians and what they would do about them, I have to wonder about what their sense of historical events is. Do they think that injustices felt by a whole people will not eventually boil to the surface? Please allow me to bring some historical perspective (no doubt heretical to some of you) back into this discussion. I may be an outsider, but that has it's advantages in such an endeavor.
At one time a majority of Americans believed that Israel was a "white-hat" good guy fighting a lonely battle against the amassed might of "no-good black-hat" surrounding Arab countries. That simple characterization has changed through the years, as I am sure we've all changed, hopefully growing wiser with age. Israel does not seem to take much notice, but the Arabs have also changed along with the whole world. As an example, Arafat and his people are now capable of writing compelling statements of the Palestinian case for justice (in English no less, and appealing directly to the court of world opinion, published in the New York Times). And he was able to do this despite having to pass through Israeli checkpoints to use the bathroom!
Israel has perhaps fallen victim to "believing her own press". After so many wars fought and won on the battlefield (with the most lethal weaponry that U.S. money could buy) maybe it was natural to begin acting arrogant and condescending to your enemies. But Israel did not perceive or care that in so doing, it was reinforcing and inciting deep passions of injustice. The prevalent attitude was and is a Rambo-like "if they don't like it - tough!". In this writer's opinion, the middle-east is not a place where you can act like this and not expect lethal consequences. So when twelve year-olds started to give up their lives and challenge million-dollar tanks, the IDF (Israeli Army) merely gave permission to target and shoot them. Your society did not say "wait a minute, this is unprecedented, if these kids had been in the Warsaw Ghetto they would've been called martyrs, and maybe these children are acting out of a genuine hatred of what we have done to 'their' people". When young women (the very givers of life in any culture) started to blow themselves (and yourselves) up, a similarly short-sighted reaction occurred, not a dawning realization that suicide is a serious act of extreme desperation. When Ariel Sharon sends the IDF on midnight destruction missions in the camps "to teach those Palestinians who's boss", does it not occur to Israel that more sympathy for Hamas is created in one such night than Arafat can create in one year? It did not "teach" the thousands of Palestinians anything who were recently rounded up, numbered, blindfolded, and abused, except fear and hatred of another type of storm-trooper. Has Israel become a 'Frankenstein' that our tax money created?
Israel seems to be convinced that the "black-hat" Arabs all want to wipe her off the map. Wouldn't it therefore make sense to explore what the basic reasons are for Arab hatred instead of just dismissing it as rabid anti-Semitism? Intellectuals, 'brain-washed suicidal maniacs', and rock-throwers alike are expressing themselves to Israel: about the brutal manner in which Israel acquired it's territory in 1948 prior to declaring itself a state, the bullying way it has since treated a totally subjugated people, about how it has treated it's neighbors and "mended it's fences", and the arrogance with which it illegally expropriates Arab land today.
The U.N. Partition Plan of November 1947 was the product of the world's best diplomatic brains. It was passed by the General Assembly and called for separate and equal Jewish and Arab States in Economic Union, and for an International Jerusalem among other provisions. It was understandable that the Arabs and their supporters were violently opposed to this partition of Palestine (a land that they owned more than 90% of). Not only that, but to 'give' half of it to a people who were natural enemies seemed very ill-advised. By any standard of justice, one would have to ask which country today would give up half it's territory (without just compensation) and without going to war. But in 1947, the various forces of history had spoken to both Jew and Arab through the U.N. Plan.
In hindsight, it was not acceptable to either the Arab or the Jewish side, and so began the whole tragedy. The Jews however, were a worldly people, smarter at politics, more ruthless, and more dedicated to founding their State than were the Arab peasants who owned Palestine. As British forces withdrew, the forces of terror and absolute dedication to the Zionist vision of a Jewish Palestine were the clear winners. In the chaos that transpired it is estimated that over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven off their land. That the Arabs had opposed the Partition Plan however, did not justify the taking of their land by these 'Genghis Khan' type methods. Even the winning of several wars by Israel did not give her carte blanche to do so, unless we accept Israel's regressive policy that "to the victor go the spoils".
If the Arabs had accepted the Plan, it would not have changed the mindset of Israel's militant Zionists "that we are entitled to Palestine as a whole" (as Ben-Gurion put it). It is clear to the world that certain Zionists still feel entitled to all of Palestine, given the actions of extremist 'settlers'. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a proponent of this view. It is also clear to this observer that Palestinian suicide attacks (by individual civilians, not squads or military divisions) have been used as further excuse by an Imperial Israel to push Arabs off their land and to the brink of liquidation in squalid camps.
So the Jewish State was born, not trailing clouds of glory, but in the smoke of terror and the 'displacement' of Arab Palestinians. Many creative explanations have been advanced to justify Israeli actions, but the fact remains - the world's best attempt at solving the situation, the Partition Plan of 1947, was rejected and subverted. The Jewish State was not constituted as envisioned, the Arabs lost most of their land holdings and legal rights instead of attaining Statehood, and Jerusalem is now firmly in Israel's control instead of being the International City it should be. Many eloquent and prescient comments about Palestine were made long ago during the 1947 U.N. sessions and are there for anyone interested enough to read.
The whole world in effect 'solved' the Jewish Diaspora problem and the Jewish-European refugee problem and their guilt over the Holocaust, mainly at the expense of Arab Palestinians. And there is a debt owing. When Arabs refer to "a right of return", they are really saying in a Real Estate sense that someone owes them just compensation for the value of land and chattel which were taken by force. This is not some biblical prophecy that they are trying to collect on: Israel will not have real peace until it addresses this perfectly legal grievance. And please stop saying that the return of Palestinians will mean the end of Israel because it will dilute her blood; this whole line of reasoning reeks of Nazi racial-purity thinking. Is this the real hidden character of Judaism, that only Jews can live in Israel? Shall we then refer to Israel as being an apartheid democracy?
America is dancing to the tune of the Jewish Lobby by demanding only that Arabs cease their terrorism and Israel only cease her 'incursions' into Arab areas. The Arabs, having been pushed around like cattle in camps for two generations while Israel does nothing but add to their misery, have come to the point where they have nothing left to lose (if Israel would but listen, it would hear this direct statement in the sickening explosions of human flesh). When Israel demands "defensible borders", a firm U.S. and world community must remind Israel that very few countries on earth have guaranteed security; the only way to attain security in this era of modern weapons is to learn to "get along" with the neighbors. The Cold War is a prime example of how apocalypse can be avoided. I pray it is not too late for Israel and the Arabs to avoid another senseless Great War (and this includes all the saber-rattling going on now regarding Iraq and Iran).
Fortunately, the pendulum of historical justice appears to be swinging back to the original intent of the 1947 Partition Plan. In a carefully worded United Nations resolution, the Security Council recently decided to "affirm a vision of a region where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders". One can only wonder why it took until now for the Palestinian people to be granted basic fairness, surrounded as they are now by a totally wrecked economy and a destroyed infrastructure. They've been "bombed into the stone age" and only now become a recognized entity.
As we go forth, hopefully Israel's right to exist will be recognized, a precious Jerusalem will be open to all faiths as it was intended, and the Palestinians will also have their own separate State someday with the same right to exist. But in order for this to happen, (1) the world will have to re-impose it's vision of a peaceful Palestine peopled by two ancient Semitic cultures which are of the same soil, and (2) some means of redress must be found to assuage generations of Palestinian suffering. There is no other way to peace that I can see.