Summer 2008

Palestinians and the Perceptual Trap

by James May

Copyright 2008 James May • All Rights Reserved

The greatest weakness of Middle Eastern Muslim societies in the world today is their lack of perception of world events and an intransigent unwillingness as regards coming to grips with their true status and position in the world with which they interact.This lack of perception is particularly hard on Palestinians Arabs today and I believe is responsible for their present plight.

Because the West operates in a different perceptual reality, the actions of violent Fundamentalist Muslims is seemingly inexplicable. Anti-western Muslim rhetoric commonly distorts truth to the limit, making and accepting statements that have no basis in reality whatsoever. One need only take a look at editorials in newspapers throughout the middle east to see the truth of this. The most negative and aggressive traits are commonly attached to Israel and the United States in particular.

The West can expect no change in the virulent hatred by Fundamentalist Islam since we are speaking of a culture that generally sees what it wants to see and hears what it wants to hear. In short, whatever makes Islam look good and Israel and the West look bad is an accepted practice demonstrating a bias so blind to reality that it is difficult for those of us in the West to contemplate much less understand.

Whenever an individual, culture or nation becomes out of touch with the reality of their relationship to the world at large then bad things are bound to occur. Ironically, the bad things that can happen from such lack of a valid perception of reality mostly happen to the entity itself although in almost every instance, negative effects will spill over to surrounding people, cultures and nations until the offending entity is taken in hand by it's neighbors as was the case for example with Japan and Germany in WWII.

At the heart of such issues in the middle east are the Palestinian Arabs who continue to allow themselves to be ground into dirt by their simple inability or unwillingness to come to grips with the truth of their situation and in so doing provide a powder keg of a situation throughout the middle east as witness the 9/11 attacks. With the help of incredibly bad leadership and their own willingness to blame their predicament on everyone but themselves, the Palestinian Arabs have brought themselves to uncompromising ruin. Palestinian Arabs fought a civil war and they lost but have never accepted this defeat. This has left the Palestinians in a cultural, economic and perceptual wasteland. Things grew ever worse for the Palestinians as subsequent wars involving Israel and it's Arab neighbors resulted in spectacular defeats for the Islamic coalitions and further military consolidation over the former Palestine by Israel. The defeats of the Arab coalitions in particular have left a stain of shame and bitterness against Israel but also the United States because of the perceived proxy status of Israel for the US.

Arab Palestine was all too willing to resort to violence in the late 1940's to undo waves of Jewish emigration from Europe when, by allying themselves with their Arab neighbors it seemed they could not fail to militarily oust the Jews from Palestine. Palestinian Arabs have since failed to come to any kind of understanding and acceptance of that defeat and that of their regional Islamic military allies and instead have continued their hateful rhetoric against Jews and the Palestinian Arab leadership has resorted to guerrilla and terrorist tactics that has only hardened the resolve on the part of Israel.

I liken this situation to other historical events from which the Palestinian Arabs should take heed. If the Confederate South after the American Civil War and Japan and Germany after WWII had taken a similarly misguided path, they would have been ground into dirt and been in an even worse predicament than they already faced as a result of their devastating military defeats. The American North and the post-WWII allies would have vigorously stamped out any guerilla or terrorist activity in those situations because they would never have countenanced a perceived waste of so many casualties they suffered or of such an expenditure of national will power during the wars themselves.

How much less likely then, the idea that Israel, who are not occupation forces, notwithstanding claims to the contrary, but on their home soil with no where to melt away to will ever accept any coercion based on terrorist attacks. The Palestinians and their leadership have no chance whatsoever of accomplishing anything constructive. Anyone who believes that such tactics will cause the Israelis to pack up their tents and steal away in the night is mistaken. Terrorist bombing attacks have succeeded only in a further occupation and sub-division of Arab Palestinian land by Israel and deepened the plight of the Palestinians not to mention giving sympathy to Israel from the rest of the world; a sympathy I might say, that is entirely deserved. Terrorist attacks amount to nothing more than revenge and accomplish nothing whatsoever. The emergence of Hezbollah and Hamas on the heels of the disastrous leadership of Yassir Arafat have made the situation even worse. The rockets that are fired into Israel have no positive political or military effect on the situation and in fact every rocket that is fired pushes the dreams of Palestinians in Israel and in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan into an ever more hopeless future.

Today, the American South, as a result of the right leadership at the right time, has for generations been indistinguishable from the rest of the United States in terms of it's rightful place in America, racial divides notwithstanding. Japan and Germany have accepted the painful lessons of their defeat and now stand as strong, sovereign and independent nations. Post-war Japan, Germany and the American Confederate States were not in the end governed by die-hard fanatics out of touch with reality but by individuals with a good measure of common sense. If it had been otherwise, then Orwell's boot would have stamped on their faces forever and this is exactly what is happening to the Arab inhabitants of the former Palestine. Arab Palestinians run the very real risk of going the way of the Aztecs; ghosts wandering their own and other lands, powerless to touch any portion of their land in any real sense. With every decade that passes in violent deadlock, the hopes of Palestinian Arabs dissipates like smoke.

To put it simply, if one decides to sit at a table and play poker and subsequently loses a great deal of money then one cannot cry about those losses to the other players, especially for decades. The Palestinian Arab community should have decided from the very beginning to live in peace with Palestinian Jews but they and their neighbors would not have it. Look what that disastrous decision has reaped.

Decades later now, the Palestinians continue to fight a battle they cannot win, still egged on by their so-called leaders and certain nations of the Arab world, which nations do so through no love of the Palestinians but out of their own hatred of Jews and for their own political agendas.

Regardless of whether you agree with the above, one cannot dismiss the fact that anti-Israel coalitions, including at various times Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and the Palestinians themselves have failed miserably in their military endeavors against Israel. Cooler heads in the Arab world have decided to back off, to ensure their own political survival if nothing else. However, entities such as Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Hamas continue on against Israel and in so doing have succeeded only in further devastating those that live around them and in converting the already converted not to mention dooming Arab Palestinians to living unbearable lives.

The Palestinian Arabs in Gaza, in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Syria deserve to live good lives, like any human being. Children born to Palestinian Arabs today have nothing to do with decisions made decades ago, and nothing to say about decisions made by a radical leadership today. Those children deserve to have a bright future rather than being indoctrinated to hate Jews and bring about yet another generation of violence.

It is time for the Palestinians to do what to them must be the unthinkable and that is to accept the Israelis as human beings like themselves; human beings who are there to stay and who must be dealt with. Palestinian Arabs must make up their minds that they will live in Israel and with Israelis in peace. In no other way will the Palestinians ever recover any land or self respect. If the Palestinians follow a path of peace then there is no way in the eyes of the rest of the world that Israel will be able to deny the Palestinian Arabs the return of lands and, for those who are Israeli citizens, full and equal status.

The right of Palestinian Arabs to use violence as a means to combat what they feel is a military occupation is not the issue. The real issue is that using violence against Israel has not and will not succeed. If the combined armies of nations has not succeeded what will a man with a bomb or a rocket? The best that Palestinian muslims can hope for now is to salvage whatever they can in the way of land and dignity by dealing peacefully with Israel. In the words of the Emperor Hirohito after nuclear weapons had been used by the U.S. against Japan, "We must endure the unendurable". This was a recognition of the reality of the situation, the reality being that what Japan wanted to do was no longer an issue and instead Japan had to do what must be done to salvage whatever they could as a defeated nation. If Palestinian muslims are unwilling to subscribe to a pragmatic realization of the true nature of the fix in which they find themselves then they have only themselves to blame.

For the Palestinian muslims to continue to allow such organizations as Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to use violence is an exact analogy to what would have happened to Japan if they would have rejected the idea of surrender; suffering, death and humiliation is no future to aspire to. All mature adults understand that there is a time when one must swallow one's pride and admit defeat; it can sometimes be the only way to move forward.

The way things are now the Palestinians are playing right into the hands of those Israelis who are militant. The constant fear of terrorism ensures that the rest of the world will never put the proper amount of pressure on Israel to treat the Palestinian Arabs well because most of the rest of the world will never deny Israel the right to defend itself from attack. In order to take what it can from the ashes of their military failures, Palestinian Arabs must shift the sympathy of the outside world from Israel to themselves. Altho there is currently some support in the world for Palestinians and their plight, there is not enough to tip the scales and help pave the way for a Palestinian State living side by side and in peace with Israel.

The idea of living in peace with Jewish folks is one that the Arabs in Palestine and surrounding countries should have adopted in the first place. Both sides suffer in military conflicts but losers the most. Once the reality of military defeat takes place the only way out is to hitch up your pants, accept what has happened and make the best of it. The lesson is to either eschew the use of military force as a means to solve your problems or to be willing to accept what happens when you are on the losing end of a failed military solution. The alternative is to have that boot heel on your face and for decades.

How Palestinians are to get themselves out from under the boot heel of organized and armed fanatics like the Al-Aqsa Matyrs Brigade, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, who wish to continue down the same sorry road of failure is another issue. These armed Palestinian groups must be disbanded and the Palestinian people must agree on a grass roots level on a non-violent and clever step by step strategy in the vein of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. There is simply no other avenue available to the Palestinian Arabs and not realizing this is the perceptual trap.

The Dec. 25-31, 2008 edition of the Cairo based Al-Ahram Weekly Online had an intriguing article by a Palestinian-American professor at Georgetown Universtiy named Lama Abu Odeh titled, "Why One State Works". The following is an excerpt from that article:

"However, it is only by retiring the homo nationalis to the background (and consequently the PLO itself) that the homo economicus (the Palestinians themselves) is centred, allowing us the insight that at the end of the day, and on balance, it is better for Palestinians to be poor, marginalised and discriminated against citizens of a post-industrialised, wealthy democratic state (Israel), with possibility of advancement within a democracy, than being the stalemated citizens of an underdeveloped Third World state led by a tyrannical elite (the PLO), as their fellow Arab citizens find themselves in the rest of the Arab world.

The demand for citizenship in the state of Israel provides a golden opportunity for Palestinians to make the PLO/PA historically redundant, and through the discourse of citizenship lay claim directly to the wealth they produce for the Israeli state. Such struggles have to be civil rights oriented, persistent while shunning violence. There is nothing more disarming of Israel than the scream by Palestinians: 'We want to be citizens of the state that governs our lives, taxes our wealth, and annexes our land and gives nothing in return.''"

If one takes a look at the charter of Hamas it is plain to see that there is little to be gained for the Palestinian Arabs by having such organizations speak for them. Needless to say, it is a remarkable document considering the situation in that it is a roadmap to failure. Organizations such as Hamas only ensure further violence which has not worked in the past in favor of Palestinian muslims and there is no reason to believe that violence will accomplish anything in the future. Organizations like Hamas are robbing their own children's future as they seek to indoctrinate the new generation in the same rhetoric and actions that have led to unmitigated failure in the past.

Looking to the past will result in nothing. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians must look to the future or be doomed to the same sorry embrace in which both sides now find themselves. Reconstructing events in Palestine in the 20th century in order to place the blame in the appropriate circles will accomplish nothing, change nothing. Recreating historical precedents in so far as which ethnic group most "deserves" a claim to Palestine will accomplish nothing. The issue of land ownership has been decided by military means, the oldest and most effective claim to land there has ever been. The status quo is what must be addressed and must move from that to the future. Every day the Palestinian Arabs hesitate is another day that the lands they dream of living on in self respect and self determination are swallowed up little by little. The Palestinians must steel themselves to accept what they will be given simply because they have no other choice in the matter. They can either pragmatically and peacefully seek a path to their dreams or continue to live in the nightmarish and humiliating conditions in which they now find themselves. The victors call the shots and if you cannot accept this idea then don't pick up a rifle or, at the very least, know when to put down a rifle, swallow your pride and say, "Let's talk." There is only one alternative and that is the boot heel. This is the reality of violence and war.

One thing is for sure: international law and the United Nations will not be able to tell the Israelis what to do. The Israelis will only give back what they want to and that will only occur when they see a sea change in the attitude of the Palestinian Arabs. Israel will certainly exchange land for peace; they will not exchange land for no further threats of violence which is a different thing. What use is it to Israel to help Palestinian Arabs found their own sovereign state if that state will subsequently be implacably hostile?

Make no mistake about this: Israel is comprised of one of the toughest, clever and competent peoples in the world today and they will break neither militarily nor psychologically. Both have been tried and the Israelis have not been found wanting.