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Catfish and Cod
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Palestinian reform: civil war or velvet revolution?
(Link path: The New York Times [free and pointless registration required])

"Palestinians have to want to get rid of Hamas and Islamic Jihad as military groups for their own reasons. You cannot build a new state with parties who believe that it is O.K. to take the flower of Palestinian youth, wrap them in dynamite and have them blow themselves up in Israeli pizza parlors. Nothing normal can come from that. "


The basic problem is that Hamas, Jihad, PFLP, and Hezbollah have to go. One half of the plan to get rid of the terrorists is to cut their funding. Hamas and Jihad get their money primarily from Saudi Arabia; PFLP and Hezbollah from Iran. (Syria/Lebanon and Egypt are also players, but bit ones.) The other half of the plan is to undercut their support by showing that the PA is the future. Once people love what Abu Mazen can do for them (get the Israelis off their back), support for Hamas and Jihad (who get them blown up and shot at) will drop. Or so the thinking goes.

Sharon doesn't really care about Palestinian political stability; what he wants is Israeli security. In the 'good old days' of the Yom Kippur War and the invasion of Lebanon, that meant General Sharon pressing forward on invasion fronts to prevent the invasion of Israel from the south, east, or north. But now Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties, Iraq is under US occupation, and the Syrian/Lebanese forces have a MAD relationship with Israel. Invasion is no longer a threat. Improving Israel's security now means stopping the suicide bombings. (That's why Sharon has flip-flopped on creating the state of Palestine: he's no longer worried about Saddamite legions marching through Jericho.)

But Sharon wants the bombings stopped ASAP, and Abu Mazen is balking. Sharon wants to share the 'stop terror' mission with the PA. The problem is that the PA starts looking like an Israeli stooge if it openly fights with Hamas; and if they try to destroy Hamas, the people's loyalty will be split and the Palestinians will have a civil war. In the chaos, so goes the thinking, the Israeli settler movement will move in and steal even more land. (Sharon, it should be noted, was a founder of the settlement movement.)

The key to undermining Hamas/Jihad support is education and propaganda. The PA, formerly the PLO, has supported anti-Israeli memes since time immemorial. (Examples: the "Israel doesn't exist" meme, the "Israelis are moneygrubbers/theives" meme, the "Jews sacrifice babies" meme, the "full right of return" meme.) The PA's textbooks don't show Israel, and they contain derogatory slanders against Jews. In short, the Palestinians have raised a generation taught to hate. But the PA can turn around. A year of determined effort has produced a PA Finance Ministry with tight controls on the money flow, a far cry from the days of corruption and underhanded terror funding. A similar effort must be made to reform the PA Education and Information Ministries.

The Palestinian people, demoralized, might respond to new memes: "prosperity together", "solidarity", "suicide is prohibited in Islam", "a new future", "freedom", "democracy". Will Abu Mazen and his allies have the courage to try them?