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Catfish and Cod
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

The worst thing holding back the Palestinian people at present is their leadership's blind insistence on all-or-nothing resistance to Israel. It is a philosophy borne both of the pain of the Naqba and the encouragement of financial supporters. Both of these influences are alien to the Palestinian people in origin.

The Naqba need not have occurred but for the foolish and empty promises of the Arab states, who swore that Israel would be strangled in its cradle and the Palestinian titles and deeds affirmed. Most of the exiled Palestinians took up residence in Jordan (the only country that would take them) and went on with life. Only after the capture of the Gaza, the Sinai, and the West Bank in the '67 war did serious Palestinian resistance begin. This resistance occurred for two reasons: first, because a sizable Arab population was being ruled directly for the first time by the Israelis; but second, and more importantly, because the Arab states chose to fight a guerilla proxy war as an additional front in the Jewish-Arab conflict.

Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and to some exent Fatah, cannot exist without a devotion to the destruction of Israel. It was the purpose for which they were created, and an extreme position which garners them recruits and talent. But most importantly, it is the means by which they solicit funds: from the Syrian and Iranian governments, who use the Palestinians as proxy fighters, and from Arab extremists of all types, who desire to fuel their own personal grudges. Note that this is an entirely seperate issue from humanitarian support of the Palestinians. The occupation provides plenty of incentive to support poor Palestinians, or even to support a resistance. But it doesn't justify calls for Israel's destruction. Only fanaticism, or the Great Game, can be reason for that.

And the Palestinians have been cruelly used as pawns in the Great Game. All over the Arab world, great appeals are made for Palestinian support. TV channels run clips daily, even hourly, depicting the plight of the Palestinians. Yet, not one Arab country has ever been willing to accept the Palestinian refugees into their own country; to offer to settle them elsewhere; or to accept them even into their economy. Not even the oil-soaked states of the Gulf, who can surely afford to take a few small villages' worth, refuse to budge an inch. Why? Partly because the Palestinians would represent competition for labor in a place already stuffed to the gills with people; but primarily because if the Palestinians left Palestine, there would be less pressure to fight Israel. The refugee camps, as everyone knows, are the center of the resistance. Forced to take handouts, unable to do any useful or purposeful work, the populations of the camps languish, day by day, year by year. Rejected by their captors, by their brother Arabs, and largely ignored except as poster children by the "international community" -- is it any wonder that they turn to violence?

Of course not. They were put there for precisely that purpose.

Which is why it's a joy to see a Palestinian scholar make the effort to wake his people up and alert them to the truth: that the "full right of return" is a joke even they themselves do not believe in or desire, and that it forms no real impediment to Middle Eastern peace. The "right of return", famously, was the sticking point in the Camp David II negotiations of 2000. The Camp David II experience showed that settlements, borders, Jerusalem, and even Mount Moriah (aka the Temple Mount, aka Haram al-Sharif) were ultimately negotiable on both sides.

Both sides know what the peace deal will eventually be. The primary problem in Holy Land politics is now eliminating influences which seek to prevent the conclusion of any sort of deal. Which, unfortunately, include the several dozen "rioters" which attacked Dr. Shikaki. (How many rioters show up with a pre-translated press release?) In fact, today's events are part of the struggle between Abbas' forward-looking wing of the Palestinian Authority, which actually seeks to create the Palestinian half of the two-state solution, and Arafat's backward-looking wing, who see the PA only as a stopgap on the road to an eventual ultimate victory.

Abbas has the Israelis, the US, the EU, and the UN on his side; but they don't count for much in the eyes of the Palestinian people. He peddles hope, but Hamas and their ilk seem to offer hope as well. What Abbas' group uniquely has that no other Palestinian group can offer is an honest appraisal of the Palestinians' situation at this point in history. Eventually, the truth will out, and it shall empower those who hearken to its call.

(Reference: the New York Times [free registration required, despite being totally useless])