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Five years of Intifada - a reckoning


It is now slightly over five years since the outbreak of the Intifada. It is certain that no good came from the thousands of lives lost, and the vast quantities of hate generated. The only thing we learn from history may be that nobody learns from history. Thus, it is not likely that we can learn anything by contemplating the wreck of the peace process. We don't even know if the Intifada is over. This is important: If (when?) new violence breaks out in earnest (because Bibi Nethanyahu walks on the Temple Mount perhaps) is it Intifada III or Intifada II, second installment? We have to keep track after all. Nonetheless, we ought to try to make some sense of it all anyhow.

In October of 2000, as the first violence of the Intifada kicked us into the bad new world, I wrote in PeaceWatch:

In the Middle East, however, it is always darkest before it gets darker. Very soon, there may be elections in Israel. Very probably, a government headed by Ariel Sharon or Benjamin Nethanyahu, with a solid right-wing majority and a mandate to take a hard line will be elected. Public opinion on the Palestinian side is similarly hardening. Soon the brief sunshine of the Oslo Peace Process, flickering and uncertain, may be snuffed out for good. Night will descend once more on us. If that happens, the numerous opponents of the Oslo accords and the peace process, all of the self-righteous intellectuals and "Zionists" and "Palestinian Patriots" who have been cranking out the litany of hate for all these years, all members of the unholy alliance, can rejoice in their "achievement." All of those who have helped fuel the fires of hate will achieve their goal. The Palestinian refugees will rot in their camps for another generation and Israelis can say goodbye to a future of peace and prosperity in our life times.

You can check that I really wrote the above in October of 2000 at http://www.ariga.com/peacewatch/pv2n22.htm

Indeed, the last five years have not been kind to Israeli-Palestinian peace or to peace anywhere in the wolrd. Everyone will have their own version of what failures were the biggest ones and who was at fault. The hate lobby has been busy reinventing history, justifying "resistance" (murder) and "self-defense" (murder) and remembering "historic claims" and "legitimate rights" that exist mostly in the minds of their inventors.

We all should have learned quite a bit, considering the tuition fees. Most have learned the wrong lessons if anything. The people responsible for the mess have been busy exploiting the mess to help create an even bigger mess, blaming "the other side," never willing to admit that they had a share. The right-wing extremists "learned," and are willing to teach us, that you can't trust Palestinians and that only territories and occupation provide security They blame everything on the leftists and the Palestinians. They believe the Intifada proves that Palestinians only understand the language of violence. The Palestinians and their supporters "learned" and are eager to teach us, that you can't trust "Zionists" and that only violence will win their freedom. They believe the Intifada proves that Zionists only understand the language of violence. The anti-Semites "learned" that it is all the fault of the Jews. Everyone "learned" all the mistaken things they already knew.

Still there are some lessons that we ought to assimilate, and this fifth anniversary of the Intifada is as good a time to do it as any, especially as it is the eve of the Jewish new year. Some lessons will not be pleasant to anyone, but we can't ignore facts just because we don't like them:

The occupation, by allowing the IDF to act in the occupied territories, provides limited security. In the absence of a peace agreement, it is better than nothing.

The settlements, while they may be good bargaining chips, have no security value whatever. For the most part, they are a security liability. No suicide bombings or terror attacks were prevented by the settlers of Ariel, or Hebron or Izhar or Tapuach or Gush Katif. In fact, they perpetrated a few terror attacks of their own.

The days of the occupation and the settlements are numbered. This was always true, and did not occur because of the Oslo accords. Even before Oslo, our beloved settlements were alienating us from the US, our closest ally. Israel can never afford to become an embarrassment to the United States. Every dollar and every life spent in developing and maintaining settlements that Israel is not going to keep, like those in Gaza, is wasted. Waste is a sin. Waste of life is a terrible sin.

Israel's much vaunted military strength is of limited value in dealing with an insurgency in occupied territory.

Israeli intelligence can be proud of the way they were able to adapt to the new and strange world of the Intifada and begin scoring real successes in foiling terror attacks. A marked contrast to the hopeless case of the Americans in Iraq. However, preventive action, intelligence and reprisal raids alone will not deliver peace in the long run.

Yasser Arafat was one of the worst national leaders in history. He led his people to chaos and bilked them of billions of dollars. Anyone who does not admit this, including those Israeli peace people who are strangely fascinated by Arafat, is fooling themselves and doing the Palestinians a disservice.

There cannot be peace until both sides are ready for peace. The Palestinians are apparently not ready to give up right of return and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Too many Israelis are not ready to give up too much of the occupied territories.

There can be no peace until there is an organized Palestinian society and government that can make decisions and enforce them. The problem was illustrated by outbreak of the Intifada. Was it spontaneous or uncontrolled or planned and how can you tell the difference? The Palestinian government itself was part of the chaos under Arafat. The chaos in Gaza underlines the problem, but that may be only the beginning.

Until the differences can be bridged, which may be a long time from now, both peoples have to get on with their lives. We can't hold our breaths waiting for the vaunted "final settlement."

Peace cannot be brought about by any external intervention. The prince of peace cannot come from the White House or the UN building or EU headquarters and instill the love of peace in Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

Israel has become dangerously dependent on the United States, and the United States proved to be an unreliable ally. Over-dependency is a sin that no country can afford. The boycott of spare parts during the first year of the Intifada is an important lesson to be learned.

Forget about "open Jerusalem." This wonderful dream was shot to death by Palestinian machine gunners, if it wasn't hit by a rock in the first days of the Intifada. Perhaps in fifty or a hundred years, we can return to this dream. Anyone who thinks open Jerusalem is possible should watch videos of Gilo under machine gun fire.

The "peace" groups, including Zionist "peace" groups, who justified or ignored terror, need to do some serious thinking about the meaning of peace. Terror is the number one enemy of peace. Not one "peace" group of the left sponsored a petition against terror, or asked for an International convention on terror. Most Jewish peace groups did less to protest terror than CAIR! So many peace groups asked the US and the UN to intervene and stop the imaginary Israeli massacre in Jenin in 2002. Not one peace group asked anyone to intervene to stop the suicide bombings that made the incursion in Jenin necessary.

The "peace" groups and journalists who spread successive falsehoods about Israel have a some explaining to do. Do you remember that Ariel Sharon was going to evict all the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza? "Genocide" and "Ethnic cleansing" were claimed to be imminent even by Zionist peace groups. None of it was true. Nobody apologized. The same people came back with different stories: Sharon was annexing 60% of the West Bank. No, Sharon was annexing 40% of the West Bank. No, the "wall" is taking 14% of the West Bank. None of it is true. Some of these claims can still be seen on various Web sites of peace groups. Peace can only be served by truth.

On the other hand, the peace groups have been tragically and woefully ineffective in winning for the Palestinians minimum attainable rights and concessions: a settlement freeze, an end to humiliation and infinite delays at checkpoints, better medical care, employment for those who want to work and feed their families. Of course people turn to terrorism if Islamic Jihad is the only company in town that is hiring. and the Hamas are the only ones paying for schooling and social services.

The tragic shooting of Israeli Arabs at the beginning of the Intifada, the continuing failure of the Israeli justice system to deal with the problem honestly, and worse, the fact that no changes in procedures for handling crowds have been made, all indicate that something is very wrong with the way Israel treats its Arab citizens and the way decisions are made at every level. How is it possible that the same IDF and police that killed Arab demonstrators in 2000, and keeps wounding demonstrators at the Bilin barrier to the delight of photojournalists, the very same people, could contain thousands of angry settlers without harming them? How could it be that 13 Israeli Arabs had to die in 2000, but none of the settlers in Hebron who rioted against the polices was hurt?

Everyone will find something unpleasant in the above list. Those who are serious about ensuring that the future doesn't look like the miserable past will focus on the items most unpleasant to them.

Shana Tova - Ramadan Karim.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000385.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 3 comments

I agree with your last two paragraphs. If Isreal had put money in helping the Palestinians gain self respect, jobs and education, they would not have resorted to violence and those pushing violence would have had no takers. Peace is only possible when there is some sense of future and equity.
Regards, David Formby

Posted by David Formby @ 10/06/2005 10:54 AM CST

David Formby:
Enormous amounts of money have been provided to the Palestinians over the years, yet their economy remains moribund. Palestinian expatriates are markedly successful in business, yet few seek to establish commercial concerns in either Gaza or the West Bank. The root of this has always been the appalling level of corruption prevalent in the Palestinian leadership. If one looks back to the 18th Century the flawed nature of Palestinian leadership has always remained at the foundation of their problems. There is nothing that Israel can do to alter this, any reform must come from within Palestinian society. Palestinian leadership has consistently reverted to violence as a means of directing public attention away from internal problems.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 10/10/2005 01:13 PM CST

the best way the palestinians could have gotten a homland and the fastest was yhe gandhian non violent sathyarga method nd the opposite of terorism and instead of alenation the world would have gotten their support. likewise if the israeli state would have consdered the problems ofarabs and instead of presenting practical discrimination and havinga policy of oractical thoecratic apartheid Israel should have becomea a true democracy and haven for all people and a jewish nation with other minorities and not a jewish state which discrimanates and rejects others

Posted by moiz esufally @ 10/13/2005 07:31 AM CST

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