The idea is widespread among the Arabs. It goes as follows:
At the basis of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians there used to be, since the beginning, an unfair, unjustified, unrelenting connection between two parties not matching each other. This rapport de force was being expressed without restraint in all the wars Arabs and Israelis had had to fight. The Israelis never claimed the right to live in Palestine é the true name of that land prior to the creation of the Israeli state- peacefully. Since the beginning they forced their way to the territories then under the British mandate using guns and terrorism. It is in the terrorist brigades that all the Israeli leaders, leftwing and rightwing confounded, got their credentials as future rulers and political officials. It is well as bomb-makers that men like Sharon, Shamir, Begin, Rabin, Barak, Dayan etc, made their first steps in the Middle East political world. And it is well to fight against their violence that Yasir Arafat and his old companions created in Kuwait city the first Palestinian resistance organization. The Israelis may perhaps change the map of the region they have pretended to rule from the Nile to the Euphrates, but they will never be able to change these truths about how all that mess began.
They did not come to settle down out there in peace. They never asked to live in peace with the Arabs. They came as occupiers and conquerors to take over the faltering British rule, when the whole region was seething and shaking the colonization bondage. Were they expecting to be received with fanfare? And when the first war burst out in 1948, they were much more ready to face it than seven Arab states. That first Israeli victory was in itself the proof é if need be- that Ben Gurion and his companions were neither relying on international diplomacy nor even on the “commonsense” to lead their struggle. It was thanks to their weapons that they dismantled and defeated the armed coalition of seven Arab states. Thanks to their weapons, they were able to create the state of Israel. Thanks to their weapons, they continued the fight and were victor in all the other wars against the Arabs, excluded October 1973, which was not a clear victor for the Arabs either.
And today they are still fighting from the top of their armed superiority. And it is that superiority that is more humiliating to the Arab states than any defeat in the war field. All the pains the Arabs é as individuals-suffered at the hands of the Israelis are terribly straining; but the real bitterness is not about their casualties on the field. It is about this unending, undue rapport de force that makes them, despite their number and their potential, the weak party. Otherwise, the party forced to beg and wait, to compromise, to sell its shirt and maybe even its trousers for whoever proposes to help. This is the great humiliation inflicted to the Arabs, not the Israeli bullets.
Now when the Israelis pretend that the Palestinians are nothing but a bunch of terrorists, how would they qualify their own political class? Why don’t they give us the name of one é only one- Israeli Prime Minister that has never tried his hand at weapons’ handling and bombs’ making? History is there to help them if they are faithful. So why don’t they try to convince the Arabs that since the beginning they were actually seeking peace and attempting to integrate themselves in the region peacefully?
They know the answer: they won’t do that because they may transform history, but certainly not invent it.
Yet, now that they have tried all the political means and the warfare tactics to settle down for a long timeé Now that they do not need anymore to make evidence of their military and technological poweréNow that they have proved to the world that they are far superior to all the Arab states gatheredéWhy don’t they remember their own predicament under the Nazi domination and take a human look é just human- at that Palestinian population they have been tormenting and decimating? Is it so hard to be human when one is Israeli? Demolishing Palestinian homes is thus a mere routine? Just a mechanical task without further consequences for the morale of the troops? The “brave” soldiers of tsahal would go home after that and continue to live among their families quietly, as if nothing happened at all! As if they did not force kids and women and old persons to abandon their houses in this ungodly winter and to go erring on the cold, muddy roads! How would the Israelis ever justify this irredeemable behavior of their army in the eyes of the future generations anyway condemned to live with the Arabs next door?
What is Arafat asking which is really impossible to give up? The moon? In his speech to mark the Muslim Holiday of Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, did he not ask the militants to halt suicide bombings and all other armed action against Israel? What was he expecting in return? The answer they know: the Palestinians want the land occupied in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem.
He told them: let’s try this solution. Give us back this land, and then you will be in your right to ask for no more trouble.
Instead of responding positively to this speech, both Israelis and Americans pretended that they wanted to wait until they see the results! As if the man is a wizard! Or as if he was making his speech as a factory manager, not as a man whose people are still undergoing a brutal plight under a foreign occupation! They did not understand the deal. Or worse: they did not want it, albeit they are still pretending to fight terrorism!
It is so simple though. We all know that the USA and Israel are quite able to wage war and defeat any regional power that challenges them. Then, what are they afraid of? Why is it so hard to have a compromise with the Arabs é Lebanese and Syrians included- in order to defeat terrorism and get a fair and durable peace? Instead of sticking to the old accusations and nourishing the Israeli paranoia and the military build-up, – the very cause of Arab misery and the real supporter of the Arab dictatorships- why don’t they try to have a big deal based on the concept “land for peace”?
The Israelis would have none of that. They think that if the Arabs get the 1967’s lands back, they would not stop there. They would claim more. For example, the lands occupied in 1948! Then who would stop them? Israel is not sure to be always the winner! It is not even sure that the Arabs are as weak as they pretend! Thus, an uncontrollable, irrational fear is lodged at the heart of Israel, despite the 200 atomic bombs and all the non-conventional weaponry lying in the ground of Dimona. The fear that history reveals to be cyclical, and that the Jewish torments will be recurring! Thus, in order to avoid being the next victims of history, the Israelis need to torture another people!
That is why all that diplomatic hocus pocus on the American side seemed meaningless to the Palestinian factions, decidedly still clinging to the concept of armed resistance facing an over-armed enemy. In the same speech, Arafat winked to Bush, though. ” We understand the changes in the world”, he repeated thrice for emphasis, meaning that he was aware that the U.S. campaign against terror was having an impact on the Middle East.
Yet, nobody seemed to care!
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.