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Jewish World Review August 14, 2002 / 6 Elul, 5762

Mark Goldblatt

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Middle East pipe dreams | The Hamas bombing of Jerusalem's Hebrew University killed seven people - five of whom were American citizens. In a world that made sense, the entire population of the Palestinian territories, on whose behalf Hamas claims to act, would now be soiling themselves in anticipation of a massive American retaliation. But nothing in the Middle East makes sense, so we find thousands of Palestinians not praying for mercy but taking to the streets to celebrate the carnage, beating their chests in defiance, and we find a Hamas spokesman vowing to kill a hundred Jews - Israelis, Americans, whomever - for every terrorist leader targeted by Israel.

The episode highlights the two pipe dreams that sustain the chaos of the Middle East. The first is the one that beats in the heart of millions of Palestinians - namely, that the state of Israel can be annihilated and a state of Palestine, extending from Jordan to the Mediterranean, established in its place. The second pipe dream is the one that beats in the heart of millions of Americans and Israelis - namely, that the Palestinians can be persuaded to abandon their pipe dream by means of reason and diplomacy.

Ironically, our pipe dream is the more farfetched of the two. The Palestinians, for their part, can at least point to what's laughably called the "peace process" as evidence that they're making headway. There's a process going on in the Middle East all right, but it has nothing to do with peace. It consists, rather, of Palestinians killing as many Jews as they possibly can until the Israeli army strikes back to stem the violence . . . at which point Palestinian leaders go crying to the United Nations in the hope of forcing Israel to make further concessions toward a Palestinian state. But in the end the United Nations cannot make Israel annihilate itself, and America won't allow Israel's annihilation by outsiders - so the Palestinians cannot be satisfied.

Which begs the question of why we still cling to our own pipe dream of Palestinian rationality. Two days after the Hebrew University bombing, for example, the Council on Foreign Relations proposed allocating several billion dollars for public relations in the Middle East, to share "our democratic tradition, the value of strength of family and religious faith, freedom of expression, women's rights and education."

So if we can just get a few Thomas Paine pamphlets into the hands of those Palestinian young men caught on tape smearing their hands with the blood of dead Israelis and waving them to a cheering mob . . . or if we can just send over Oprah to discuss family values with those Palestinian parents weeping with pride at their sons' and daughters' suicidal massacres of Jewish children . . . or if we can just ship a thousand or so Sesame Street coloring books to those Palestinian toddlers dolled up in mock explosive vests by friends and relatives and paraded before al-Jazeera cameras . . . if we can just let them know who we are, and what we're about, then the Palestinians will come to their senses.

The trouble is, the Palestinians already know who we are. They know our psyches; that's the only reason they dare celebrate the murder of American civilians. They understand that we cling to rational protocols, that we distinguish between combatants and non-combatants - which is why Palestinian terrorists set up shop in civilian population centers. The fact that the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly outlaws that strategy (Part 3, Article 1, Section 28) interests us, not them.

To speak of "them," to be sure, fails to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians. There are indeed ordinary Palestinians - in the same way there were ordinary Germans prior to World War II. Yet a case can be made that ordinary Palestinians, circa 2002, are even more fanatical than their 1930s counterparts because at least Germany had a fighting chance. By contrast, the Palestinian struggle against Israel is like a deranged Chihuahua nipping at the heels of a Rottweiler; their struggle against American hegemony is like a deranged Chihuahua nipping at the wheels of a bulldozer. Eventually, you wind up with a mangled Chihuahua.

That seems the only endgame the Palestinians themselves will accept: the mangling of their population. The last century taught us the hard lesson that wars don't truly end until the defeated people know they're defeated; thus, ordinary Palestinians are doomed, right now, in the same way ordinary Germans were doomed even before World War II began. There's no going back for them. They're too committed to their pipe dream. They're begging for the coup de grace, begging to be taken seriously enough to be put down, in the way that Germany was put down, begging for a Dresden to call their own - and in their heart of hearts, they probably know it's coming.

It's time we consider accommodating them.

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JWR contributor Mark Goldblatt's novel, Africa Speaks , will be published this month. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Mark Goldblatt