March 9, 2007 - I was discussing with a friend the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian (or more generally, Jewish-Arab) dialogue. She sent me an article, entitled "Palestinians Debate 'Polite' Resistance to Occupation." The article provides some insight into Palestinian thought about the peace process. It reports widespread distrust within the Palestinian community in any notion of a non-violent intifada. A member of Hamas put it like this: "Nothing can be achieved through resisting the occupation in a polite way."
I can't say I was surprised, but for some reason the following statements caught me up short:
From Ahmad Muhaisen, described as a respected Palestinian thinker:
Expressing a commonly held opinion, Muhaisen described the Oslo agreement, and the intellectuals, as having reframed the conflict around negotiations, thereby robbing resistance to the occupation of its legitimacy. "If we return to the origins and show the world that there is occupation, and we are resisting occupation, then no one would say to us that we aren't allowed to do attacks. The first thing that needs to be said is that there is an occupation to be gotten rid of. It means that when you portray the issue correctly, no one can reject you. Even America itself can't say that it is with the occupation."
And this in a press release from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine:
"[The forms of resistance and the timing of attacks] is not the prerogative of a group of intellectuals, known to our people as mouthpieces of the propaganda of the Western democracies that regard the struggle of our people and their resistance to the occupation as terrorism."
As to the second statement, I would only ask, If the intentional killing of civilians for the primary purpose of spreading fear is not terrorism, then what is?
What else, I suppose, would one expect from the PFLP? But in a way Muhaisen's statement is far more disturbing. He says that negotiations rob the "resistance" of its legitimacy. Only violence is worthy of respect. "If we... show the world... we are resisting occupation, then no one would say to us that we aren't allowed to do attacks."
"Resistance to occupation" legitimizes everything, including the rejection of negotiations, and including the murder of unarmed civilians. People are robbed of their humanity, and become pieces in a bizarre and endless war game.
To be sure, there are tendencies on both sides to dehumanize people on the other. It is always that way in war. Israel is not free of such problems. The mutual hatred that has been building between both groups leads members of each to treat the other as less than human. There is even a fringe group in Israel that supports forcible transfer of Palestinians out of the West Bank. Fortunately they have no chance of success, and are rejected by the mainstream. On the Palestinian side, however, anti-Jewish hatred is institutionalized in officially sanctioned sermons, TV and radio broadcasts, and textbooks. Unlike the PFLP and other Palestinian terrorist groups including Hamas, which is now the Palestinian government, Israel does not justify the intentional killing of civilians. If it were ever to do so, I would close down this web site.
The Palestinians have extended the dehumanization of Israelis to a well-coordinated campaign to call into question Israel's right to exist at all. Not that long ago the notion would have been unthinkable. But today more and more people are taking seriously - on supposedly moral grounds! - the idea that Israel has no right to exist and indeed should not exist.
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