Only real peace can stop cycle of violence

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Ray Hanania’s Column

In the American penal system, few expect the prisoners to be held responsible to prevent the violence that takes place around them, even under the most relaxed of penitentiary security.

Blaming them conveniently negates the responsibility of the prison guards and those who are in charge of the security there.

This analogy applies, unfortunately, directly to the situation that exists between Palestinians and Israelis. Violence has claimed victims equally on both sides, most recently Israelis shopping in a mall in Jerusalem, and one week earlier Palestinians driving in their car.

Yet there is a double standard that is applied this vicious circle, one that casts the Israelis as the constant victims and that downplays the violence against the Palestinians, who are the prisoners in an Israeli military occupation.

When a Palestinian is murdered by the Israelis, it is called justified. When an Israeli is killed by the Palestinians, it is called terrorism.

Only last week, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon personally ordered the murder of a man he alleged to be responsible for prior acts of terrorism against Israelis. Murdered with the man were several individuals including family members and guards.

There were no dramatic “breaking news” reports on CNN or American television detailing the murder of this man, his family members and those who were accompanying him when his car was blown apart by Israeli missiles.

Yet the Israeli government, one week later, feigns shock that supporters of the slain Palestinian victim would turn their revenge into a dramatic act of violence of their own.

Terrorism has occurred in almost every possible scenario. Under Israeli control. Under shared Palestinian and Israeli control. And under circumstances of heightened violence between the two sides.

There is only one solution to end this violence. It comes from recognizing the true goal of the terrorists, be they Palestinian or be they Israeli. This solution is difficult to see in this atmosphere of hatred and emotion. But the solution is a real peace.

If the goal of the terrorists is to prevent peace, then when peace is achieved, they are deprived of a motive. The power of the terrorists is their ability to hold peace hostage. Once it becomes obvious that peace cannot be prevented, the terrorism will become futile. It will stop.

As long as Palestinian terrorists believe that their revenge suicide attacks will provoke a certain retaliatory act of violence by the Sharon government, they will continue to blow up shopping malls, buses and any target that is accessible.

PNA President Yasir Arafat, his government and the Palestinian people are prisoners in a maximum security prison controlled by Israel. Arafat barely has control of only 18 percent of the West Bank, where the majority of attacks against Israel originate, and where most of the Israeli attacks against the Palestinians occur. Arafat has no real security apparatus and expecting him to stop the violence alone is ridiculous.

The Israelis are the wardens of this prison. They control 88 percent of the West Bank with battalions of heavily armed military guards backed up by tanks and other weapons. They impose upon Arafat the impossible challenge of arresting terrorism with both his hands tied.

Even if Arafat and the PNA were to depart Israel, the terrorism would continue. And as long as the two sides fail to achieve peace, the terrorism will only get worse. Israelis response to this most recent act of terrorism will only encourage more terrorism.

Comparing this situation to the situation in Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden freely directed his network of international terrorism is unfair and wrong. The United States was not building settlements on Afghani land. Nor were American soldiers subjugating Afghanistan’s people or holding the Taliban prisoner when Bin Laden’s terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center occurred.

The Israeli government, not the Palestinians, has the power to stop the violence caused by extremists on both sides simply by returning to the peace negotiations and engaging in a real peace dialogue.

Instead, those among the leadership of the Government of Israel continue to embrace a self-serving indignation that exploits the suffering of the victims of terrorism to justify their own selfish goals of expansion and occupation.

If you want to stop terrorism, stop it with a real peace. There is no other alternative.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to MMN. His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)

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