USA Dollars, Israeli Blood and Palestinian Fundamentalism
By Eliezer Cohen
In the United States of America, divergent groups who may have cultural differences work together in a beneficial and productive manner providing a prosperous climate for national and personal growth. Viewed from the success model that the US enjoys and espouses, other countries could adapt this successful blend of dollar incentive with co-operation to bring forth peace.
This is the basic plan that the American peace brokers have for the Middle East. If it works for the US then it will work for you.
The basic tenets of the American peace idea is that Arab-Israeli economic co-operation promotes prosperity and that prosperity and growth makes concessions more palatable. This is based on the belief that prosperous people are happier and more confident and therefore more willing to make political concessions and that economic co-operation fosters political co-operation.
The above mentioned theorem has proven its worth in the US where blacks, whites, Latinos and other diverse groups work together in harmony. It is in the extension and extrapolation of this theory into the Middle East that serious errors of reasoning become apparent.
Washington assumes that the Israelis and Arabs will prefer to enjoy national economic growth and personal success and therefore will be more eager to make concessions.
Let us see what the fallacy in that thought is.
First it must be understood that the Israeli State is based on a dichotomy. On one side is the concept that the country is a Jewish country and this is opposed to the second idea which is that this is a democratic country. Being a Jewish country means that it is a haven for the Jewish people, a place where the Jews may come and build a new life, a life based on Jewish values and norms. A life style which is liberally or strictly based on biblical teachings and promises. This we can say loosely is the position of the political "right" in Israel.
Opposite this thought, is the concept that Israel is a democratic country, meaning that all citizens are treated and considered equal whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druse, etc. In its pure form there is no regard or favoritism to a person or groups based on religious heritage or practice. This we can say loosely is the position of the political "left" in Israel.
These two concepts are essentially opposed. A Jewish state can not treat all its inhabitants with pure equality since it has declared itself to promote the benefit of the Jewish populace.
With the American concept of prosperity, the left together with the rise of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Perez to power felt that Israel could utilize the concept of prosperity and peace in dealing with the Arab neighbors. With an upsurge in Israeli prosperity, Israel would be more willing to make painful concessions to enable it to benefit from economic co-operation with their Arab neighbors.
The error was in misjudging the mentality and the adherence to the convictions of the "right". This loose-knit group is made up of the orthodox religious and the settlers, with their idealism and high birthrate, together with many non religious who although may not be observant, but never the less, strongly feel their Jewish identity - all of whom possess a strong distrust of the Arabs which has been fostered by generations of abuse. They were not willing to accept what they considered extreme demands for concessions, especially if it meant re-dividing Jerusalem and abandoning Jewish shrines and settlements in the so-called Arab areas for a mere promise of peace and prosperity.
To this steadily growing segment in the Jewish population, each Arab attack was proof that there was no peace via the Rabin-Peres-Barak direction, but rather a continuous and endless giving which brought only more violence to secure more concessions.
For the Israeli side, this lack of understanding of the strong Jewish feelings attached to vast areas of land and Jewish shrines, which convinced many Israelis that Jews were dying for intangible promises was a serious error.
On the other side, the American peace initiative viewed from the Palestinian side was even worse. Arafat, while attracted to the US promise of monetary investment to promote prosperity and peace, was obviously interested in raising capital for his poverty-stricken population. However he and his underhanded administration, who are known for pocketing funding, are unable to properly supervise any use of US funding. The notoriously corrupt Arab world is synonymous with lies, deceit and flowery speech which is understood by the Arabs as the lie that it is, but not by the Americans who believe a word is a word.
Hoping for "prosperity and peace", the Israelis did not press the Arabs to keep their agreements. It became defacto understood by the PA that Arabs can make agreements and not keep them.
The second judgmental mistake that was made (and perhaps the most serious error) was the not properly taking into account the impact of the Arab fundamentalist religion on the life of the Palestinian Arab and hence the peace movement.
Since the PA has not and can not provide social service to alleviate the abject poverty of the Palestinian Arab, that vacuum was filled by the Islamic religious fundamentalists. They won the mass support by simply giving them the basic necessities of life that he needed to continue his meager existence.
We must understand that the Arabs are an illiterate group in regard to world culture. In all Arab lands, the despots, dictators, and monarchies are still (not just tolerated) but accepted as the norm by the masses. The average Arab has a low education level (not a mental level) and few have graduated universities. The average Arab is distrustful of the "outside" world and views the US as the enemy, yet he is very accepting of his own corrupt and inept rulers. Hence the concept of "prosperity and peace" was never a realistic concept to the impoverished and illiterate masses.
This coupled with the identification of the Palestinian Arab of the fundamental religious group as a positive force in his life and the acceptance PA leadership (which was put into power by the Israelis as nothing less than the same despot/dictator) that all Arabs endure. The fundamental Islamic leaders are themselves hate-mongers by all western standards, who have no concept of toleration and concessions and it is their venom which promotes the popular uprising and suicide bombers. The popular support for these extremist groups is so great that even the mighty PA will not go against it!
The Arab masses, to whom prosperity is not even a vague idea, were never swayed by America's promises. They continue to view the Israeli as a usurper to be eliminated and that suicide bombers are promised immediate entry into the heavenly paradise.
That Arafat was not a leader who was unanimously chosen by the Arabs could be overlooked in view of the peace process - but that Arafat did not and could not exert his rule upon them - this was the downfall of the peace process. Had Arafat forced compliance to the Oslo agreements and clamped down on the Islamic fundamentalists, we would have seen a divided Jerusalem as capital of an independent developing Palestinian state.
Had Israel and the Palestinian Arabs lived together in the North West corner of the United States, with neither having a desire nor the ability to control that portion of the land, where religious hate-mongering is not tolerated, then the US peace initiative would have worked. But in the hot Mediterranean climate, where each group excludes the other, where peace was imported in an American container, based on US understandings that if it works for us it will work for you, is it any wonder that it failed?
from the August 2001 Edition of the Jewish Magazine