The Taba Tragedy: "Round up the usual suspects"

Ariel Sharon has a new whipping boy for the disaster he is visiting on the Israeli people: Al Qaeda. Maybe Sharon will have a better chance of catching Osama Bin Laden than George Bush. In reality, the parallel atrocities in Gaza and Taba reflect a bankruptcy of policies on all sides.

First, Israel: Israel is a failed state, a terrorist state, kept alive on life support by American taxpayers who provide weapons of mass destruction for the murder of innocent Palestinians.

But America and American Jews have proven no friends of the Jewish state. By providing sustenance for Ariel Sharon’s malignant policies, we have prolonged a conflict that would have long since been solved by the parties themselves without outside support. Significantly, the Taba killings came only a few hours after Ariel Sharon brazenly announced he had decided to terminate any future Palestinian state.

Second, the Palestinians: at a time when the "oil weapon" is potentially more powerful than at any time in the past 30 years, Arab leaders stay silent and laugh all the way to the bank-while Palestinians suffer an Israeli holocaust. The silence of Arab leaders, who offer pious pronouncements but no economic muscle to provoke and provide a solution to the Palestinian genocide, is embarrassing. Palestinians are left to fend and fight for themselves and, not surprisingly, kill Israelis in the same indiscriminate manner that Israelis kill Palestinians.

Taba has gone from a place of healing and hope four years ago, when Palestinians and Israelis came within a few pen stokes of arriving at a peaceful solution to the conflict. In a spasm of self-destruction that will puzzle posterity, Israelis then voted for a homicidal maniac to lead them, and they are literally dying for their votes.

Ariel Sharon has ignited fantasies of empire and omnipotence in a large part of the Israeli electorate; they undeniably gave him a mandate to continue his self-destructive policies. But the Jewish people have endured for 6,000 years not because they were militarily omnipotent but rather because they were morally superior in the society their religion sought to create. They have forfeited their moral superiority by allowing themselves to be led into the precipice by a leader who defiles and demeans everything the Hebrew religion honors.

Finally, the Americans: the hypocrisy of American leaders and indeed world leaders is pathetic. There are of course, the ritual condemnations of the Taba killings, but these condemnations arise and then evaporate like mists in the desert morning. Where is America when Sharon is butchering the people of Gaza? They are represented by the mealy-mouthed opportunism of Colin Powell, the American apologist for Israeli atrocities.

George Bush’s attempts to purchase Jewish votes have been paid for with Palestinian blood. He bears some of the moral guilt for the Taba killings. But we are all afraid to say so. Instead, we pretend that "terrorists" committed these acts, when terrorism has become endemic to the modern world.

Israelis commit terrorist acts against Palestinians, and vice versa. Americans commit indiscriminate killing against Iraqi civilians, hoping to kill "terrorists" in the middle of the muddle. The death of innocent Iraqis is considered an acceptable cost of America’s great experiment in the Middle East. When the world’s great moral leader, the United States, accepts the killing of civilians, whether in Gaza or Falluja, who can point the finger of guilt? Certainly not the USA.

And so, Ariel Sharon joins a great parade of world leaders who blame bombings on Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is a perfect scapegoat for failed policies. Al Qaeda cannot be found, all the better to assign military and moral guilt to this shadowy organization. Once again, someone tries to "round up the usual suspects" to excuse genuine accountability.

But in the midst of tragedy, truth emerges. Israelis felt safe around Egyptians. Yes, they felt safe around Arabs. It was not the Egyptians who created the climate for terror, it was Israeli leaders. One of my favorite responses to the prevalent refrain that Arabs and Israelis cannot live together is to remind people that up until 2000, Israelis were perfectly happy to visit Yasser Arafat’s saloon and skivvy house in Jericho. And felt perfectly safe there.

So in the midst of moral collapse and building collapse in Taba, the greater moral truth emerges: Israelis and Arabs, Egyptians, Palestinians and all of the others, want peace and want to live together without fear. They were vacationing together.

Only when the leaders of all of these nations, led by the moral leader America, learn from these reciprocal tragedies and lead their peoples to a land of milk and honey, of peace and prosperity, where terrorism is outlawed not by repressive regimes but by the free will of free peoples fighting for their own freedom and self-determination, will we be able to live in a safer world.

We await that day. In the meantime, civilians on all sides suffer. If President Bush was the leader he claims to be he would convene a new summit in Taba, and bring Sharon and Arafat together and beat them with a stick until these leaders made a deal that could endure and ensure peace for both peoples.

Then and only then would President Bush be truth worthy of and have truly earned the votes of Jewish Americans and supporters of Israel. Until that day, Bush, Sharon, and all the others worship at the temple of false prophets, while innocents pay the penalty for the perfidiousness of their leaders.