Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meaningless Sacrifice

The New York Times has an excellent report on the dead end of the Palestinian fight to destroy Israel. Even victories like expelling all Israelis from Gaza look like defeats.

“It was always our choice to be fuel for the struggle,” he said. “But our problem now is that the car burns the youth as fuel but doesn’t move. There’s a problem in the engine, in the head. These kids are willing to be fuel, but many have been burned as waste.”

Mr. Zubeidi was a hero of the first intifada. “When I was younger I thought, ‘if I die, that’s natural, it’s for a cause,’ ” he said. “And today I think differently. To die? For what? For these people who can’t agree? That’s what this generation fears. It’s lost, and its sacrifices are meaningless. Is the Palestinian dream dying? In these circumstances, yes.”
Actually this is a very hopeful sign. Wars end when one side loses all hope.

One must also look carefully at what the Palestinian hope is. The destruction of Israel and the expulsion of all Jews from "Moslem" lands. The end of that hope could be the beginning of reality.

A Palestinian father talks about his children's future.

For the Id al-Fitr festival, the boys asked for toy Kalashnikovs and Uzis, and they know all about the crude rockets, the Qassams, that militants fire into southern Israel. “They classify the weapons, they want a particular gun,” Mrs. Assar said. “And when you think of the violence, and what future will we have here? It will be a very violent future.”

Mr. Assar broke in. “The world is moving ahead, and we’re moving backward,” he said. “We’re back to 1948.”
What was 1948? The first Arab war to exterminate the Jews or drive them from Israel. It was a failure for the Arabs.

They commemorate their defeat with Al-nakba Day. Nakba means “catastrophe” or “disaster.” So far Palestinian Arabs have one disaster after another to celebrate. Every few years they come up with a reason for a new holiday.

What happens when a culture is just going through the motions and no longer believes in its own myths? It collapses. The fall of the USSR is a prime example that is less than 20 years old.
In another part of the refugee camp, four black-clad fighters gathered in self-conscious secrecy, members of the Abu Rish brigades, a militant Gazan offshoot of Fatah that opposed the Oslo accords with Israel and has moved closer to Hamas.

Raed, 30, was arrested in the first intifada, when he was 16. He felt a hero at the time, but the political result, the 1993 Oslo accords, “were useless and benefited Israel,” he said. “No one can resist with stones or build a nation without violence.”

Like his comrades, he says he is fighting for the future of his own children, but he has small hopes for them, and large fears. “Hamas and Fatah are so divided, the goal of Palestine disappears,” he said. “I talk about willing my children to be martyrs for Allah, but I honestly wish for them to be safe and healthy, that’s all.”

There is bravado there, but also frustration. None of the fighters, who agreed to talk if their last names were not published, believes a Palestinian state will be established; none can imagine living next to Israel. All of them want to leave and start again, somewhere.
What do you do when your dreams of conquest turn into a nightmare of defeat? If you can, you go some place else to start over.

Where that some where might be is not yet determined. Their Arab brothers certainly don't want them. With their propensity for violence they will not be welcomed in any civilized place. Even conquest only gets you so far when you run out of victims. Then you must return to productive pursuits and produce real fruits. Martyrdom produces no fruit.
Gaza is a poor, chaotic place of 1.5 million people, 70 percent of them refugees or their descendants. Younger, more conservative and more religious than the West Bank, Gaza is the heartland of Hamas, and the people of Gaza are even more constrained by Israeli and Egyptian security restrictions on their travel. There are fewer jobs than in the West Bank, and even more weapons.

With the economy of Gaza shutting down, much of the work available for young people is either in the swollen and disorganized security forces or in the armed militias or gangs, many of them built on clan loyalties, and some of which engage more in racketeering than in fighting. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with considerable financial help from Iran and Syria, are known at least to pay their people, even if Hamas cannot pay full salaries to all Palestinian Authority employees.

Hassan, 21, ran out of money before finishing university, but cannot imagine what he would do in Gaza with a degree. “I look at the graduates here, and their diplomas are useless,” he said. “That’s why I’m in the resistance.”
Before the start of Intifada II the Palestinian and Israeli economies were integrating. Unemployment among Palestinian Arabs has declined from about 35% to about 15% over a four year period. That ended in 2000 with the start of the latest war between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

One of Arafat's henchmen gave the reason for the start of the latest war - well fed people do not wish to fight. So it was Arafat's policy to start wars when the people stared progressing. Economic independence makes rule difficult. People start gaining a measure of independence. Alternate power centers are created. What dictator wants that going on in his back yard?
Khader Fayyad, 46, lives in Beit Hanun and works as an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent, dispatched to every horror.

“I call these kids the destroyed generation,” Mr. Fayyad said. “Nobody pays attention to this generation, except to recruit them, and it’s very dangerous.”

He is proud of 16-year-old Ayman, the brightest of his sons. But he feels unable to provide him a valuable future.

Mr. Fayyad’s own father died when he was 17. But it was a different time, he said — the peace talks, the Oslo accords, the return of responsibility to Palestinians over their lives, Camp David. “We were exposed to the world, to politics, and yes, to Israelis,” he said.

“Resistance and politics must go together,” he said. “Yasir Arafat knew how to use one for the other. Now, there is no politics, no talks, so the sacrifices of the youth are wasted and empty.”

Ayman, however, like most members of his generation, cannot imagine living in peace next to an Israel that has ripped up his town, or becoming friends with an Israeli who has rolled over his schoolyard in a tank.
Which only indicates that their defeat is not yet sufficiently complete. The Germans and Japanese found a way to work with their enemies. To get to that point however they needed to be utterly crushed and face starvation.

Short of that they will have to live with hopelessness for probably another decade before the reality of the situation crushes them utterly.
Mr. Hussein says he has never spoken to an ordinary Israeli. “The only Israelis I see here are either settlers or soldiers,” he said. “They all have guns.”

He hates waiting on people and washing dishes, and says he is still looking for a decent job. But he is also looking to get out — to the United States, if possible, where his sister lives, but “almost any place,” he said, “where I can work and live a normal life.”

He is a Palestinian patriot, he insists. “But there’s no hope here,” he said. “You see the situation. It’s useless to think it will improve. You see it; it just gets worse.”
Just how bad can it get? Very bad even for those trying to leave.
Even the young fighters of the Abu Rish brigade have tried to leave. Muhammad and Saado, both 27, sold their weapons, took bank loans and paid $2,000 for visas and tickets from Cairo to Beijing on Austrian Airlines. They made it out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, but the Egyptians put them on a bus, locked the door and drove straight to the airport. For the four days before their departure, they said, the Egyptians then locked them into a crammed airport waiting room.

“A dog wouldn’t use the toilet,” Muhammad said. “They charged us 150 Egyptian pounds a day ($26.30) to use a seat, even the little kids. One Egyptian said, ‘Even a dead body has to pay.’ ” They bribed guards to bring them food and water.

The day of their flight, a Friday, they were brought to the departure hall. But an airlines security guard examined their documents and turned them away. Presumably, the visas were fake. “He looked at us as if we were evil,” Saado said. “There was no respect for us. I hate the Israelis, but I hate the Egyptians more.”

They were returned to the fetid waiting room, and a day later, when there was a busload, they were shipped back, first to El Arish. There they waited for days in an even more disgusting detention area, they said, until the Rafah crossing opened.

“When we finally got back to Gaza, I kissed the soil,” Muhammad said, laughing at his humiliation. “We said, ‘Gaza is paradise!’ ”
In time it is possible the Palestinian Arabs will figure out who their real enemies are. Their leaders and their Arab "brothers" who use them as cannon fodder.

Some want to leave at any cost.
What about those who would accuse you of giving up your rights in your land?

Mr. Hussein turned away. “I don’t care,” he finally said. “I want to live happily.”
First the myth dies. Then the struggle to uphold it even with lip service ends. Once that is over, and it could take a decade or more, new beginnings are possible. Provided they change their operating myth. Building must replace fighting as the motivating ideal. It is very difficult. Not impossible.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


naftali said...

Deep analysis,Simon.That victory and defeat is the final solution to war is lost on too many people.

naftali said...

Of course,it also means that anything
given them,other than terms for unconditional surrender is antithetical to peace.