June 21, 2002
The Palestinian Peace Camp

On Wednesday a group of notable Palestinian intellectuals published a full-page ad in a Palestinian newspaper, appealing for the Palestinian resistance movement to change certain tactics. This development was optimistically reported in the press with headlines such as "Prominent Palestinians publicly condemn suicide bombings" . In fact, the ad said nothing of the kind. It offered only the modest appeal to end "military operations targeting civilians in Israel" And what does this really mean? [IMRA's English translation of the ad is here]

NPR's All Things Considered aired an interview Thursday with one of the signatories, political scientist Musa Budeiri. I've posted a full transcript of the interview here

On the surface this sounds like an encouraging development, but in fact it is even worse than "too little, too late". The subtext contains a number of disturbing messages. Having carefully read both the ad itself and listened to Budeiri's interview, I'm struck by the following:

The ad explicitly labels the attacks on civilians as "military operations", not as crimes, not as immoral acts. The rationale for ending them is the signatories' conclusion that these "operations" are counter-productive, not that they are unjustifiable.

The ad specifically mentions "...targeting civilians in Israel". This implies that targeting civilians outside of Israel, and targeting non-civilians wherever you can target them is okay. This begs the question, how do you define Israel? Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the #2 signatory on the ad, said on Tuesday after the Gilo bus bombing

"There is no solution except for Israel to withdraw from all our lands up to the border of June 4, 1967".
But wait, both of this week's bus bombings, in Gilo and French Hill, took place in Jewish neighborhoods that were annexed in 1967, and therefore not part of the Ashrawi's definition of Israel. So the writers of the ad exploit the world's revulsion at the bus bombings, and ride into town on a white horse claiming the mantle of moderation ("you see," Cherie Blair might say, "there are Palestinians who condemn terrorism!") But the essence of the ad's condemnation does not even extend to this week's murders. And excuse me. The ad doesn't condemn any "military operations", it only:
wishes that those who stand behind [the operations] reconsider their policy and refrain from recruiting young Palestinians for the purpose of mounting military attacks.

There is a clear message that the ends justifies the means. The ad text:

The positive and negative features of a military operations is defined by whether political goals are achieved and not by the operations as a standard onto themselves.
reinforced by Budeiri's comments on NPR:
People think that in this kind of situation any kind of response is justified and any kind of response is in that sense a military operation.
(to Budeiri's credit, he said that he personally has moral objections to certain attacks, but it doesn't seem to bother him that so many of his fellow aspiring countrymen do not share his ethics)

With these statements, these Palestinian "moderates" clearly reject the validity of concepts such as "war crimes" or "human rights". That should be no surprise, but of course, you know who will be demanding a Hague Tribunal whenever a would-be terrorist is inconvenienced on the way to committing murder.

But what practical contribution will this ad make to the physical safety of Israeli schoolchildren? None whatsoever, of course. Like Arafat's perennial statements condemning terrorism, this is more of an avuncular encouragement to "try a more effective type of murder, instead". The last thing on Budeiri's mind is for any Palestinian to enforce this appeal.

We do not want to play the role of Israel's security guards. We are not Quislings
Quisling? Never missing a chance to portray the Jews as Nazis, the historically challenged political scientist is apparently unaware that no Norwegian has ever exploded himself in a German supermarket. He goes on to say that
once [a negotiated peace agreement] is arrived at, if people break that commitment then that becomes an internal matter which the Palestinians will have to deal with but not before.
No, Musa, it is not only a Palestinian internal matter when non-Palestinians are murdered. And if you and your people are unwilling to make your own people toe the line today, what possible confidence should anybody have that you will be able to enforce an agreement in the future? In the meantime, thank you for explaining exactly why Israel is fully justified in reimposing the occupation.

So once again, we have a classically duplicitous statement that is seen as positive by credulous and hopeful westerners, that is seen as a wink-wink sign of encouragement by the thugs and murderers of Palestine, and that is seen for what it is by those who read it carefully.

Try again, Hanan and Musa and the rest of you. In the meantime, your people will continue to pay the price for your incompetent leadership and diplomacy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at June 21, 2002 06:06 AM

That was fantastic. Right on.

Posted by: James on June 21, 2002 02:51 PM

Nicely shredded. If only we had some sugar, some milk, and a coupla bowls...

Posted by: Jeff G. on June 21, 2002 04:45 PM

Amazing! Well stated.

Posted by: Craig Schamp on June 21, 2002 10:06 PM

Good analysis. Now try and get it through to Demosthenes (at demosthenes.blogspot.com), who appears to have taken the lead of the "there is no right and wrong, only power" school of thought. I've pretty much given up.

Posted by: Dean on June 21, 2002 10:08 PM

An excellent misrepresentation of my arguments, Dean. It's plausible, difficult to rebut without extensive citation of context between several posts, and includes that nice little world-weary "I've tried, but I've given up".

Pity you appeared to miss the part where I said that there was neither moral nor pragmatic reasons for suicide bombing. Condemning the former does not affect the latter, and those who either disagree with or simply don't care about the morals can argue that the bombings are necessary from a pragmatic standpoint. Unless, of course, that standpoint is debunked.

And that, of course, is the real message of this post. You're absolutely right, Shark, this doesn't morally condemn the bombings, but I don't think it's intended to. At this point, moral condemnation is unlikely to sway anybody, least of all the Palestinians who think that they're engaging in "martyrdom operations" and are inherently moral. The only thing that a moral condemnation would get at this point is a charge of treason from some Palestinians and a "but the Israelis are just as bad" from the rest (and Palestinian sympathizers). To attack them because they simply don't work appeals to the interests of the Palestinians themselves, however, and neatly sidesteps any question of morality, while working to accomplish the undeniably moral goal of stopping Palestinians from blowing Israelis up.

In the end, that's what matters, isn't it?

Posted by: Demosthenes on June 24, 2002 04:44 PM

Good point, Demosthenes. One should care less about the motivation than the result.

But my objections are not only that the ad was amoral, but also that it is ineffective.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on June 25, 2002 12:27 AM

One of the problems with the ad...and of course there are many (including the moral issues),is that it builds yet another layer of deception and lies on top of all the others. Most people have no clue and are then quick to say...well, see how reasonable the Pals are and that is part of the illusion - along with Pals being militants, not terrorist murderers, along with 'they only want what's rightfully theirs ...ad nauseum. And where can we even start to explain it to people who are not all that interested anyway?

Posted by: Ronit Fraid on August 27, 2002 07:03 PM

Juxtapose this with the report that the Palestinian Journalist Association has banned the publication of photographs of children participating in violence against Israel for the reason that it harms the Palestinian image.
Surely the reason for any ban should be to deny publicity to acts of terrorism. Like all Palestinian organizations these journalists are not bothered by the killing of Israeli civilians but about how they are seen by the wider public.
This reveals how thoroughly evil has saturated the Palestinian psyche.

Posted by: Jacob Wajsbort on August 27, 2002 10:21 PM
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