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Is the Dream of Palestine Dead?



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Over at the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens thinks so.  The entire essay is great, but here are a few passages:

Hamas’s seizure of the Gaza Strip this month–and the consequent division of the PA into two hostile, geographically distinct camps–is only the latest in a chain of events set in motion when Israel agreed, in September 1993, to accept Arafat and the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. […]

As with individuals, nations generally benefit from self-criticism, and sometimes from the criticism of others. No people in modern history have been so immune from both as the Palestinians. […] Arafat’s global popularity reached its apogee in the spring of 2002, exactly at the same time the civilian Israeli death toll from terrorism reached its height. […]

Above all, Arafat equated territory with power. But what the experience of an unoccupied Gaza Strip has shown is the Palestinians’ unfitness for political sovereignty. There are no Jewish settlers to blame for Gaza’s plight anymore, no Israeli soldiers to be filmed demolishing Palestinian homes. The Israeli right, which came to detest Mr. Sharon for pulling out of the Strip, might reconsider its view of the man and the deed. Nothing has so completely soured the world on the idea of a Palestinian state as the experience of it.

The reason so many of us were quietly happy to see Hamas win an election among the Palestinians was that the Palestinian terrorists would not longer be able to hide behind the myth of a victimized people yearning for freedom and peace.  Finally, the people had openly chosen terrorism and war in a free and fair election, and their leaders would no longer be able to claim one set of objectives before the world, and another before their people.  

The logical flaw of the Oslo accords was in the mutually exclusive objectives of the Palestinian faction that signed them: Arafat’s ruling Fatah.  If Fatah’s overriding goal was statehood for the Palestinians, then a negotiated settlement leading to peaceful coexistence with Israel would have to be its overriding mission.  But if Fatah’s overriding goal was resistance until Palestine is liberated to the shores of the Mediterranean, i.e., ultimate victory no matter what the price or how long it took, then a settlement leading to peaceful coexistence was the same as defeat.  And like Hamas, what Arafat always really wanted was the latter – negotiations were only a tactical expedient, never a strategic aim.  The only difference between Hamas and Arafat is that Arafat was above all and first of all a liar, whereas Hamas is honest and open about what it wants: war, war now, war first, war forever until all the Jews of Palestine are either dead or gone.

Arafat always agreed with this sanguinary desire.  This was why it never really bothered him to hear Hamas say “we respect the authority of President Arafat, but there will be no monopoly of violence as long as the resistance continues.”  This refusal to recognize any central monopoly of violence is of course what doomed all the negotiations. It was also the central element of Hamas’s political program.  And naturally, what it means is the negation of statehood, because the most essential foundation of a state is the ability of central authority to claim a monopoly of legitimate violence.  

When Palestinians voted for Hamas, they chose war over statehood; resistance over peaceful coexistence; and self-destruction over progress.  And why did they do that? Maybe Golda Meier was right: Maybe these people simply hate the Jews more than they love anything, even their own children.  In any case, the dream of Palestinian statehood is dying; and the Palestinians themselves are killing it. 

And one more thing: Whenever you hear terrorist-sympathizers blame it all on Israel, know that they are putting more nails in the coffin of Palestine.  Nothing has been more debilitating and dehumanizing to Palestine than the world’s legitimatizing the very terrorists who are destroying it. 


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