An unprecedented number of ‘official pilgrims’ from European capitals and the United States of America flocked to Palestine to meet with Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon during the warm summer month of June in a feverish endeavour to calm things down and resume ‘peace negotiations’ between the two sides. Usually, this is not the best time of year for diplomacy except for the fact that the political ‘temperature’ in the region soared in the aftermath of two painful attacks in the heart of ‘Israel’ sending shock waves across world capitals. But the most important pilgrim of all has been George Tenet, CIA director, who came not as an arbiter but as a decision maker, an instructor and an enforcer. Having been begged by a variety of Arab parties in the region to play a more active role in order to end the deadlock in the Middle East peace process, the Bush administration decided to respond with sending its top intelligence officer. The Israelis have not been as vocal as the Arabs in requesting the honour of U.S. presence in the region. However, it is not unlikely that the Israelis may have pressed the U.S. administration to move in because of the failure of the Sharon team to provide the Israelis with the security and safety they were promised during the Israeli election campaign.
An Arab proverb that says “he is insane who tries repeatedly in vain” sums up the situation in which Israeli officials find themselves today. For nothing has not been tried, not just once but more than twice in order to bring about a ‘peaceful settlement’ that would guarantee Israel’s right to exist securely.
The insanity of the Israelis is the outcome of their insistence that they expect to live in peace without having to pull out from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Although this is only a part of Palestine, it would have been possible for the Israelis to persuade the Arabs around them and some Palestinians, at this time of Arab weakness and disunity, to accept them in their midst. These Arabs would have been prepared to forget the rest of Palestine had the Israelis shown a readiness to restore things to what they were prior to the six-day war in June 1967.
The Israelis are intoxicated by the myth that they can get away with robbing somebody else’s homeland. For never in history was this the case except when the victims were disempowered beyond restoration. One may cite in this context the cases of the indigenous populations in what now are Latin and North America, Australia and New Zealand. In contrast, one may cite the examples of Vietnam and South Africa, to name just a few. It would drive the Israelis into more insanity if one were to remind them of the fact that the Palestinians today, more than ever before, are alive, numerous and determined to continue the struggle until their rights are restored.
Israeli insanity is not restricted to the elite of the decision makers in the Knesset and the Cabinet but is nationwide. It is so blinding that the Israeli electorate believed, or imagined out of desperation and horror, that someone like Sharon was capable of a magical solution to their problems. But many months after he was elected as Prime Minister, the Israelis are no more secure and peace is no nearer.
Some Israelis are rather disappointed. They expected Sharon, their war (crimes) hero to punish the Palestinians and control them, lock them all up so that their existence is not even felt. Instead, Sharon responded to the ongoing ‘violence’, especially after the ‘suicide’ operations that rocked his administration, to declare a unilateral cease-fire. Anyway, it has been a mere call. The cease-fire has been observed neither by Sharon’s troops nor by the herds of Jewish settlers on the loose.
The ability of the Palestinians to respond and exact revenge for the killing of their children and the bombardment of their homes forced Sharon, in spite of his boastful rhetoric, to change his tactics. It has become evident that his F16s, his Apaches, his tanks and armoured vehicles, his armed-to-the-teeth troops, and all his intelligence capabilities cannot prevent Palestinians from choosing the way they are killed, since they are to be killed anyway. Nothing Sharon could do succeeded in barring a young man from blowing himself up at the entrance to a Tel Aviv discotheque, butchering scores of young Russian immigrants as they queued for a happy evening.
There is no doubt that the scene was horrific. It is unimaginable to think that any human being would contemplate such a massacre under normal circumstances. The Palestinian who chose to exact revenge in such a manner was, anyway, a product of a most extraordinary circumstance. These need not be circumstances of deprivation and desperation. This particular young man did not come from an impoverished refugee camp in the West Bank or Gaza. He was actually visiting from Jordan where life is more comfortable and less pressuring. The extraordinary circumstances have now become a club to which more and more Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are applying to join. These individuals’ actions are the result of feeling humiliation at the hands of the Zionists who are despised and loathed by most Muslims around the world, not for their Jewishness but for their crimes against humanity and against Islam, and at the hands of Arab governments that watch while the Palestinians are starved and dehumanized.
In spite of the horrible life Palestinian refugees are forced to endure, and although they are tormented as they see their own homes enjoyed by alien occupiers, a person that chooses, and comes forward willingly, to die by exploding himself in the face of his oppressors is neither desperate nor hopeless. Almost in every case of these bombings, as evident from the video recordings of a last-hour statement and the written will a bomber leaves behind, the Israelis are dealing with individuals who are most hopeful. They are aspirant to what they alone seem to have known with certainty to be the truth. To them, the eventual destiny of their short trip to Tel Aviv, Natanya or other Zionist-infested Palestinian towns is eternal life in a world of divine bliss.
The insanity of the Israelis is compounded by overconfidence in Israel’s military capabilities and in the indefinite ability of its powerful allies in the West to provide it with protection and sustenance. The Israelis are so intoxicated that they do not realize that their superiority is only material and temporary. Any superiority that is immoral is doomed. The immorality of Israeli superiority is evident in the fact that they embezzle humanity in the name of the crimes that were committed against their fellow Jews in the Nazi Holocaust while they perpetrate a Holocaust of their own design against the Palestinians. It is no secret that the Palestinians had nothing to do with Jewish suffering or with the intractable Jewish problem of Europe.
The double insanity of the Israelis and the Americans is that they continue to insist that Yasser Arafat can prevent other Palestinians from posing a threat to Israel. But what could Yasser Arafat do about a young man who had come from Jordan and had been authorized to enter (his own country) through obtaining a visitor’s visa from the Israeli embassy in Amman? Yasser Arafat, even if he so wishes, can no longer convince the members of his own organization, Fatah, that there is hope in peace. It may be true, as has been rumoured, that the Palestinian Authority includes senior officials who are on the payroll of George Tenet and who receive orders from him. But it is definitely true that the majority of the Palestinians, irrespective of their factional affiliation, are fed up with the peace process. They can now see light in the tunnel not through peace-making but through the sacrifices of the intifada. It’s no wonder that the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians today want the intifada to continue and George Tenet to go home.
Dr. Azzam Tamimi is director of of the London-based Institute of the Islamic Political Thought.