Is this the Third Intifada?

November 11, 2014

The news from Israel is grim.  A conversation held with family in Jerusalem yesterday indicated that the city is gripped by fear as the sudden, unprovoked attacks from Arabs continue to escalate. Yesterday, 26- year-old  Dalia Lemkus from Tekoa became the latest victim of Palestinian violence when she was struck by a car and then stabbed several times outside the Gush Etzion town of Alon Shvut.  In Tel Aviv, Sgt. Almog Shiloni from Modi’in was stabbed to death after struggling with an Arab assailant. Monday actually marked one of the bloodiest days in recent memory, with, in addition to the stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv and Alon Shvut, even more violent riots in Kafr Kanna and other Arab communities in Israel.

What is not reported as widely are the daily attempts at intimidation in ordinary daily exchanges between Arabs and Jews.  In a restaurant in the exclusive Mamilla shopping complex near the Old City of Jerusalem, patrons reported  yesterday the sudden entry of a raucous group of young Arabs who began over turning tables and threatening waiters.  The patrons were forced to flee the harassment through the kitchen.   Two days ago a huge billboard, apparently authorized by the Palestinian Authority, appeared near Nablus exhorting Arabs to attack Jews in retaliation for the alleged Judaization of the Temple Mount and providing sanction from the Koran for exactly such acts.  Jerusalemites are being met with increasing verbal hostility from Arab tax drivers, porters and even street cleaners.

Given these outrageous affronts, it would be fair to ask whether we are witnessing the onset of a new coordinated internal attack upon the Jewish state, uprisings which have been referred to before in Arabic as ‘Intifada’  Although sporadic Arab resistance to the Jewish state within Israel has been ongoing for the past 67 years, two periods known as bona fide “Intifadas”  were December 1987 – June, 1991 and September, 2000- February, 2005.   They differed from other periods of unrest in that they appeared politically coordinated and media focused.

The question now is whether PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, with the complicity and compliance of Hamas, is initiating a third Intifada which will equal in length and ferocity the two which preceded it.

The evidence and the circumstances would certainly point to it. The two previous Intifadas  followed fruitless attempts to build an accommodation with the Palestinians.  In September, 2000 in particular, Yasser Arafat, who had spurned then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer of 97% of the West Bank and joint control over Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites during the summer, clearly planned an uprising which would use, much as his predecessor the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al Husseini had done in 1929 , the pretext of Jewish domination of the Temple Mount as a casus belli.  Mahmoud Abbas, whom the Israelis have always seemed to rely on as a more pragmatic and less bellicose leader than Arafat, still recognizes very well the value of Palestinian dead and wounded, not only for the benefit of the world media, but also for his own internal popularity and survival.

With the West beginning to swing around behind him (the Irish and Swedish parliaments’ recognition last month of an independent Palestinian state, being vivid examples) and the U.S. government at deeper odds with the Israeli government than at almost any point in modern history, the time might be opportune to push the envelope and create circumstances by which Israel is exposed again as a murderous regime, massacring innocent Palestinian civilians.  It will lead to international outrage and condemnations, laying the ground not only for a majority of the world’s governments to declare recognition of a Palestinian state but for the U.S.to abandon Israel at the United Nations ( where its veto almost alone stands against a Security Council recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank) and to apply a variety of other measures that will send a message to the Netanyahu government that the U.S. will not tolerate harsh retaliatory measures which leaves Palestinian children dead.

Forgotten by Abbas in such a  calculus would be the untold damage the last two Intifadas wrought for Palestinian infrastructure and society and the economic ruin it brought so many Palestinian workers and entrepreneurs who relied exclusively on trade with Israel for their financial survival.   Arafat himself, after four years of the revolt, ended a virtual prisoner in his own headquarters with his international prestige almost extinguished.  Not a happy example for Abbas to emulate.

Yet what is missing in this counter argument is that Arafat (and almost certainly his successor as well), did/do not want or need a Palestinian state. To accept a Palestinian state by either negotiation or perhaps even international sanction, is to betray the essential struggle which lies at the core of Palestinian national identity –  the need and desire  to extirpate the so called home of the Jews.   No man can claim the mantle of Palestinian leadership and retain any semblance of legitimacy by surrendering this central tenet of the Palestinian national struggle. Perhaps it is true that Abbas, with the wind of world approval at this back, would be able to convince at least part of his population that this is a stage of the phased plan for the destruction of Israel and thereby win time for  the consolidation of his own power.   But if history is any guide, the argument does not go down well with Palestinian hardliners – and will certainly not placate Hamas who have  opposed any kind of Palestinian state which allows the State of Israel to survive.  Abbas knows all too well how eagerly Hamas leaders are waiting for exactly such an accommodation in order to depose him.

The fundamental fact of Palestinian resoluteness on this issue- so willfully ignored by the media and glossed over entirely by most American and international diplomats – underlines the futility of negotiations with almost any Palestinian leader and the likely perpetuation of conflict for the forseeable future.

See in this light, the potential outbreak of a third Intifada will only be part of a continuing struggle, to see the Palestinian flag fluttering not just over Ramallah, but over the Knesset and the streets of Tel Aviv as well.  There can no peaceful co-existence under such circumstances. The sad truth is that Israel and the Palestinians are doomed for the immediate future to a protracted conflict  which will be decided ultimately only by force of arms and the State of Israel’s continued domination and policing of the areas from which Arab terrorism is incubated and launched.


A Peace Process That Always Leads to War

December 8, 2010

Those reading Hanan Ashwari’s cryptic warning this week in a Los Angeles Times oped, that the Palestinians may return to armed resistance should not mistake its meaning:  It is a hint at what might be in store for the Middle East in the next six months.

Ms. Ashwari, who sits on the Palestinian Legislative Council, is not the only PA leader to indicate that the Palestinians have not forsworn violence.  Other leaders such as former prime-minister Ahmed Qurei have stated openly that, failing the achievement of a diplomatic breakthrough, a new Intifada cannot be ruled out.

History reveals that when Palestinian leaders threaten to take unilateral actions and talk violence, it is never represents just a nervous premonition; it threatens war.

In 1936, the British Mandatory Authority in Palestine, seeking to negotiate the end of a general Arab strike with the Higher Arab Committee, was stunned when Arab violence  erupted in the Galilee and then spread throughout the country.  The disturbances took the form of murderous attacks on Jewish settlers, the bombing of the Iraq Peteroleum Company’s oil pipeline and the abduction of British officers. It was only put down with the exercise of the harshest of measures by British authorities.

In 1994, within seven months following the signing of the Oslo Accords, an infamous  bus bombing killing eight in the northern Israeli town of Afula signaled that ongoing negotiations would not prevent the continuation of armed conflict .  Over the following 24 months suicide bombings in markets, cafes, discotheques, malls and on buses resulted in 137 Israeli civilian deaths and 451 wounded without any serious attempt by Arafat or the Palestinian Authority to stanch the flow of terrorists into Israeli towns and cities.

In 1997, a violent rebellion remembered now as “The Tunnel War” was instigated by Yasser Arafat when he accused the first Netanyahu government of infringing on Palestinian rights when the government opened a long approved and negotiated tourist tunnel near the Western Wall.  This occurred while Arafat was in the midst of negotiations with the Israeli leader.  The confrontation lead to the deaths of 15 Israeli soldiers and  50 Palestinians

Yet the most egregious example of Palestinian mal-intent during negotiations occurred in September 2000  when following Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer of a Palestine state – which embraced nearly all Palestinian territorial demands, Arafat rejected the offer and set the match to a long planned violent conflict known as the Second Intifada.  That four year long conflagration would consume 1,053 Israeli and 4,561 Palestinian lives.

It is particularly interesting that the word ‘compromise’ does not appear in the press interviews or opinion pieces of any of the Palestinian leaders.  Ashwari herself implies that there is in fact  there is no compromise to be had.   Either the Israelis can create a single bi-national state or else accede to Palestinian national demands- the dismantlement of all settlements, the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and, by implication, the right of return for millions of refugees.

Clearly this is not basis for negotiation let alone mutual co-existence.

But that may be just the point.  Taking maximalist positions without regard to the likelihood of accession on the other side has been the pattern of Palestinian negotiation for 75 years.  It is almost certainly a Palestinian calculation that with each failed negotiation and new violent confrontation, Palestinian stock only rises, as their leaders are able to reinforce the image of a David confronting Goliath and, despite their central role in the escalation of hostilities, that they are helpless victims of aggression.

Last  week, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, told students during a lecture at the Islamic University in Gaza City that following the failed Camp David negotiations in 2000, Arafat instructed Hamas (as well as the armed wing of his own Fatah, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) to carry out a number of military operations ( read suicide bombings) in the heart of Israel, recognizing that negotiations with the Israeli government had by then failed.

They had failed because Arafat, much like his successors, felt he had much more  to gain from armed conflict than he did from negotiation.  That, unfortunately, has been the pattern of Palestinian leaders for 80 years.   The world feeds this pattern of obfuscation and rejectionism by continuing to ignore it.  It is not a prescription for peace, but for war.

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Why TIME Magazine Doesn’t Care About Objectivity

September 12, 2010

Could there be a more provocative cover story for a major U.S. magazine?

Time Magazine Cover

The cover of this week’s TIME, set in a blue background and emblazoned  with the image of a Star of David constructed of daisies, blares the vitriolic question ” Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.”

The cover story, by Karl Vick on page 36, is titled The Good Life and Its Dangers and proceeds to report on the seeming indifference of Israelis to the prospect of peace.  By interviewing a handful of  Israeli real estate developers, entrepreneurs and academics, Vick comes to the conclusion that Israelis have become so obsessed with material progress and economic success that they have little time left over to focus on the prospects of peace.

“In the week that three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer.  A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.”

The four page article/argument  is such a hatchet job in gathering evidence to buttress a foregone conclusion ( otherwise known in logic as petitio principii or begging the question)  that any high school student could see through it.

First, is the cover story tagline, which actually has little do with the content of the article.   Why don’t Israelis care about peace?  According to Vick’s piece itself, Israelis certainly do care about peace, but don’t have much faith in the peace process.   That is a very  important distinction.  Peace as a goal, is surely never beyond anyone’s mind in Israel.  How could it be, when every family knows a friend or a relative who was maimed or killed in one of the country’s eight wars.  Which mother  – religious, secular, Jewish, Druze or Bedouin wishes to see their son placed in harm’s way in an unending conflict?  But after 17 years of  failed promises and an adversary who refuses to take even minimal steps toward peace in recognizing their country’s right to exist, why would any citizen of Israel not be cynical about Palestinian intentions?

To present any idea that Israelis don’t care about peace, is simply fatuous.

Second, the author himself  fails to give his story much historical context, neglecting to measure the true shock and anger Israelis experienced time and time again over the past 17 years as territorial concessions were met with Palestinian violence. He quickly glosses over  Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David in July, 2000 to Yasser Arafat of 97% of the West Bank and Gaza – and even the division of Jerusalem – an offer met two months later by a fusillade of bullets in the second Intifada.   One thousand Israelis dead and 4,000 maimed ( many disabled for life)  later, it provided convincing grounds for most Israelis to believe that the Palestinian leadership was preternaturally disposed to a violent resolution of the conflict and not a viable peace.  The IDF  retreat from the Israeli security zone in Lebanon in May, 2000 and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August, 2005 – huge concessions by Israeli standards, left vacuums which were soon filled by violent Islamic thugs who proceeded to rain down rockets on Israeli southern and northern towns.

Who would blame any Israeli for  believing that peace negotiations and concessions are just the precursors to a new round of violence?

Third, Vick just get some things just plain wrong.  He quotes leftist political scientist Tamar Hermann who claims that Israelis are watching  less and less news :

” They read the political sections of newspapers less.  They say, it spoils my day, so I don’t want to see it.”

Really?   Anyone who has been to Israel and traveled on public transportation or even  in any taxi, knows that Israelis are news obsessed.  It is built into the culture and fundamental to the security of a nation ever on the alert for a terrorist strike ( or “pigua” as it is more colloquially known).  The realities of life are simply glossed over in a fanciful acceptance of one academic’s point of view.

The greatest problem with the entire piece however, is the way it supports an antisemitic stereotype without daring to acknowledge it.  The ultimate images of profligacy and dissipation that remain-  ‘oh those rich Jews, sunning themselves on their beaches  and counting their shekels while the Palestinians waste away in abject poverty’  could have been taken directly from the pages of Der Sturmer and drives home the notion that this country of Jews may be no more than an actualized collection of Fagins drawn from English literature.

It shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that this is the same magazine , who when introducing the newly elected prime minister Menachem Begin in 1977, transliterated his name as ” Bay -gin  – rhymes with Fagin.”

One has to wonder whether the magazine would ever commission a parallel cover story about internal Palestinian life?  Would it  have the nerve to expose the seething Jew hatred in the Palestinian media and in its education system or the manifest hypocrisy of leaders such as Saeeb Erekat who bray about peace but do all they can to prevent actual negotiations?

Probably not.  To portray the Palestinians as anything other than victims and underdogs would be to upset a fundamental value of liberal magazines such as TIME – strong equals wrong; weak equals right.  Far easier, it would seem, to render a portrait in keeping with accepted dogmas and age- old stereotypes.

Maybe this is, after all, what  sells papers.


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