I see a fundamental moral difference between the intentional slaughter of civilians as opposed to the accidental. Not because one kind of death is any less horrible for the victim, but because of what the intentions of the killer say about his cause.
In addition, I see a fundamental difference between those who intentionally slaughter civilians and cover-up the evidence of their crimes and those who intentionally slaughter [civilians] and celebrate what they have done or identify as the highest expression of their faith. Again, there is no difference from the perspective of the victim. But for those who are still alive and must contend with the killers, the difference is tremendous.
It is a sad fact that the world's greatest democratic states -- Britain, France and the United States of America -- have done terrible and unjustifiable things in the midst of frustrating wars. Yet the resilience of their democratic societies has ensured an eventual reckoning with such crimes as well as their ultimate repudiation.
For the victims, such reckoning and repudiation may come far too late. Nonetheless, it says something very important about the ability of those societies to peacefully co-exist with their neighbors. They know the road to peace, even if they deviate from it.
Now let me make the comparison with Israel explicit. It is a vibrant democratic society broadly committed to the essential democratic values of liberty and life. And precisely because it is a democratic society, there has been strong support for several efforts to negotiate peace with the Arab states and the Palestinians. In democracy, there is an inherent preference for solutions that favor compromise over force.
To what extent can such things be said about Palestinian society? I am well aware that my knowledge of this society is partial at best. It is the result of a collage of facts and images presented by a media establishment that is profoundly suspect in the [eyes] of Israel's harshest critics. I cannot provide citations or footnotes for the images in my head. So let me phrase what I say as a somewhat tentative effort to separate the facts from the stereotypes.
The total number of Palestinian suicide bombers -- both attempted and successful -- seems to be no more than a few hundred. Yet my sense is that there is much broader social infrastructure necessary to support such attacks. There are those who make the bombs. Those who train the bombers. Those who provide the funding. Those who capture the final testament of the bombers on video. How many individuals play such a supporting role? Perhaps a few thousand.
But the two kinds of supporters that frighten me most are the political leaders and the mothers of the suicide operatives. I have heard interviews with parents who swell with pride at the fact that their child gave his or her life in order to kill Israeli civilians. This indicates me to me that tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are part of a [society] that values death and endless conflict much more than compromise and life.
Also in my head are images of parades in the West Bank and Gaza where children dress up as suicide bombers, with masks and papier mache dynamite vests. Perhaps it's the camera angle, but there seem to be thousands of impassioned Palestinians participating in this spectacle. And if thousands can openly celebrate murder, there is a profound problem that goes far beyond the participants.
If one wanted to change my mind about this subject, the best strategy available would be to demonstrate the marginal nature of such death-obsessed individuals in Palestinian society. Point me towards evidence that their numbers are few and their influence limited. No less important, point me toward the influential (not marginal) figures -- politicians, journalists, clergymen and scholars -- who denounce such horrific behavior as unequivocally as I do.
Yet it seems unquestionable that the most influential politicans will do no such thing. The governing party, Hamas, refuses to repudiate, let alone apologize for violence against civilians. The former governing party, Fatah, often made a show of denouncing attacks before Western audiences while actively supporting its own terrorist cells. Both parties seem to believe that their sponsorship of suicide attacks will heighten their stature among Palestinians much more than it will reduce it. Their consensus on this point suggests to me that it is disturbingly valid.
13 February 2007
Pro-Democracy, Pro-Peace, Pro-Israel
Occasionally (but more frequently since I added the PizzaIDF links over in the sidebar), I'm asked why I'm so pro-Israel. In response, I can offer any number of reasons, but never as concisely or as eloquently as I'd like. In a pair of posts over at OxBlog, David Adesnik provides just such a concise and eloquent explanation: