First there were the planes that crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocent human beings. Then there was Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoe. But what have terrorists gained by their acts of destruction? Nothing. They have not strengthened their cause; instead, they have provoked the United States to act against them. They have not weakened the United States. There was no way for their murderous crime to accomplish any tangible goal. Death and destruction were ends in themselves. The extremists who destroyed the Twin Towers chose to die simply for the sake of killing Americans and blowing up important buildings. They were genocidal but considered themselves altruistic.
Long before there was an al-Qaeda, there was the Japanese Red Army Faction. Four members of this group went to Lod Airport in 1972 to die because they were under the delusion that killing Jews was important enough to die for. They had nothing to gain. They were totally committed to their crazy cause. One would have thought that Japanese terrorists would choose America as the site for their violence to take vengeance for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But like all terrorists, they viewed Israel as the most wicked of all countries and the Palestinians as the most persecuted of all victims.
More than half the people killed by the Japanese Red Army Faction were not Jews at all but Puerto Rican Christian pilgrims. No doubt the terrorists who shot them felt it was all right to kill bystanders if you were killing Jews as well.
Like the al-Qaeda terrorists, like the Japanese Red Army Faction, Palestinian rejectionists have nothing to gain. The Intifada that has been taking place against Israel is very much like the war that Osama bin Laden has declared on America. The suicide bombers who kill bystanders and customers at dance halls and pizzerias in Israel know that their actions will not create an independent Palestine. They will accomplish nothing if they succeed.
A Palestinian state can exist only with Israel, not against it. If there were no Israel, the neighboring states would divide up the land and subjugate the Palestinians. We have seen that the Arab world has not been good to the Palestinians. It has kept them in refugee camps for more than half a century. Jordan massacred Palestinians in 1970 during Black September. Kuwait exploited Palestinians before the Gulf War and expelled them afterwards. Despite these expulsions and persecutions, there were no Palestinians who tried to make a deal with Israel until the Gulf War was over. Yes, they wanted a state, but it was not their top priority. The destruction of Israel was more important to them.
When the USSR fell and Stasi stopped training terrorists, when Saddam Hussein seemed to have been defeated, the Palestinians despaired. Some of them accepted the idea of statehood and coexistence with Israel, their second choice. They received aid from abroad, they became more prosperous, and independence was around the corner.
Everything changed when Israel left South Lebanon. Before then, Israel was hated because it was considered unredeemably wicked and supremely powerful. That hatred still exists. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon without an agreement, a new hatred was added: Israel was despised because it was weak and could be defeated. The Arab world was unable to welcome Israel's departure from Lebanon as good news. Certainly it could not be viewed as an act of compromise, generosity, or bridge building. Instead, it was a reason to hate Israel more than ever - something one wouldn't have thought possible.
The Palestinians are not free agents. They are the tools - in general, the voluntary tools - of fanatics whose only interest is destroying Israel. Iran, which supports Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, is happy to use the plight of the Palestinians as a weapon in its jihad against Israel. Iran, which once was a country where women had rights, uses anti-Zionist hatred as a device to keep extremists in power. In the Arab world, and to a lesser extent, in the Islamic world, democracy and human rights have been suppressed. Rage has become a habit. The outrages against women's rights and freedom of religion that have been carried out by Taliban have no direct connection with Israel, but the mood of ferocity in Afghanistan is part of a sweeping hatred that began as anti-Zionism.
Since the fall of the USSR, radical Islam has been the world's major force opposing reason and free thought. Anti-Zionism has always been a central element in the obsurantist vision that inspires and protects terrorism. Israel is viewed by fanatics as the most powerful evil in the world. The Palestinians are seen as the most persecuted of victims. When there was a Soviet Union, it too opposed freedom of thought. A de facto Marxist-Islamic alliance existed, united by hatred of Israel and fear of the West, with its wealth, its liberty and its temptations. This was a coalition of enemies, yet, inexplicably, it survived the war between the USSR and Afghanistan, the anti-religious policies of the Soviet Union, and the anti-Communism of Saudi Arabia.
Israel is considered such an offense that anti-Zionism has dominated the world of Islam for half a century. Demagogues remain in power, fighting bloody wars against each other and endangering the world. Women are persecuted. Young people plan to die in a holy war instead of looking forward to life. Reason and self-interest are abandoned, and nothing remains but obscurantism.
Israel is a small, unimportant country, a fact nobody seems to have noticed. The recent conference at Durban did not, in the end, condemn Israel as a racist state, but the fact that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitic rhetoric dominated the conference shows how central the issue is. A delegate from Syria at the Durban conference described the Holocaust as a "Jewish lie."1
The world has seen many examples of genocide. The slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda is a recent example. Anti-Semitism is a source of genocidal rhetoric that returns again and again. Let us consider the following excerpts from a sermon broadcast on official Palestinian Authority television.2
Anti-Zionism, like the terrorism carried out by al-Qaeda, is genocidal without having any possible result that could help the perpetrators. Four Palestinians have died for every Jew killed in the current Intifada. It would take 20 million Arabs willing to die in order to kill all the Israelis. To judge by their rhetoric, these 20 million would be easy to find. They couldn't all be Palestinians; there aren't 20 million Palestinians in the world. However, to judge by their rhetoric, the fanatics would be willing to accept the death of every Palestinian if the Israelis could die as well.
The Nazis believed they were doing something beautiful when they killed Jews. If, in 1939, someone had offered them a deal, the death of 6 million Jews in exchange for the death of 25 million Germans, would they have accepted the bargain? We can never know the answer. As for the writer of the sermon cited above, he would accept such a trade without hesitation.
If the Palestinians lose the current Intifada, Israel will grant them a state and the world will give them money. They will have peace, independence and prosperity. They can have these things only if they are defeated.
(1) Arch Puddington, "The Wages of Durban," Commentary, November 2001, p. 30.
(2) Translated by Palestinian Media Watch, as reported in the Jerusalem Post Online edition, Wednesday August 8, 2001.
This essay appeared in Midstream, Volume XXXXVIII, Number 2, February/March 2002.