The story of the Palestinian family killed by an explosion on a Gaza beach will not go away.
Human Rights Watch produced an expert who claims that the explosion came from an Israeli artillery bombardment. Kofi Anan has cast doubt on the IDF explanation that it was not responsible, and is sending his own expert to examine the event.
Neither Human Rights Watch nor Kofi Anan come to this controversy with clean hands. Human Rights Watch is one of those organizations that has signed on to the Palestinian cause, and predictably finds Israel to be racist and in violation of international laws. Anan has signaled his acceptance of targeted assassinations done by the United States in Iraq, but distinguishes them from Israeli efforts to defend its citizens. He was not so quick to condemn mass murder and rape in Darfur, or to send his inspectors to check on reports of genocide in the Congo.
There will be no absolute determination of truth in this case.
The reason appears in an interchange with one of my correspondents. Khalid Amayreh lives in Hebron, writes for the Aljareera English language internet site, and occasionally puts my views into his reports.
He wrote to me:
Don't you think you are exaggerating when you say that the Palestinians want their civilians to be massacred by Israel? Did Jews want their people to be gassed by the Germans? After all, the holocaust, too, generated unprecedented sympathy for world Jewry and was probably a central factor in the creation of the state of Israel? Or do you think Palestinian pain is less real and less genuine than Jewish pain? As to the IDF investigation, do you really trust armies investigating themselves? Doesn't the IDF lie?
The Holocaust did not come as a result of Jewish violence and German offers of compromise which the Jews rejected. It's not a fair comparison to Palestinian activity.
I agree that Palestinians suffer pain, no less than Israelis. The problem is with the various clans, individuals, gangs and organizations that make up the Palestinian "regime." At least some of them provoke, and see profit in the deaths of Palestinians.
I do wish for peace when you and I can sip coffee together, more Palestinians can come to Israeli universities, and Israeli and Palestinian children can play together. But it won't come until Palestinian leaders accept Israel, give up some of their own aspirations, and control those who wish to continue with the violence.
No regime is perfect. Israel does not succeed in stopping all of the violence against Arabs; Jordan and Egypt do not stop all of the terrorists who use their territory. But there is a great difference between what each of those regimes manage to do, and what Palestinian authorities do.
He came back to me:
In the absence of a sovereign state, with authority, security and power, things of this nature are bound to happen. You also had internal problems prior to statehood.
Palestinians, or more correctly most Palestinians are willing to accept Israel if Israel accepts a true and viable Palestinian state.
Palestinians will not recognize Israel in return for pie in the sky. Palestinian violence against Israel is a boomerang effect of the Israeli occupation which is an act of rape.
A rape victim's resistance to her attacker can't be equated with the rapist's crime. Some rape victims even kill their attackers and are exonerated.
I have studied the holocaust very thoroughly. However, it is clear that many Jewish circles have turned into a prosperous industry. Now, does this entitle non-Jews to claim that the Jews wanted the holocaust to happen...
I believe it is wrong to dehumanize people just because they don't subscribe to our way of thinking. Jewish pain and Arab pain are genuine pains..we are no more and no less human than each other.
Have a good day my friend. We can differ on many things and remain friends.
Inherent in Khalid's remarks is the explanation of why we are stuck. We do not read history the same way, so we do not look at the present in the same way. That is not likely to change.
On the other hand, this is not about a debate in a seminar. In all probability, Israel will continue to defend itself despite condemnations from Human Rights Watch and Kofi Anan. More important is what Israelis hear from Sderot, and from the left wing of centrist political parties. Yesterday two technicians came to my home from a company located in Sderot. The young child of one cries every night. Their wives and children want to leave the town, but no one will buy their apartments.
Right wing parties want more action against the Palestinians. The centrist left is important because it defines the outer boundaries of the policymaking establishment. Israelis further to the left often define themselves as off the rails.
Amnon Mitzna led the Labor Party to defeat in the election of 2003. He first came to prominence as a general who criticized Defense Minister Ariel Sharon for his conduct of the war in Lebanon. If anyone deserves the label of accommodationist without being on the fuzzy fringe of Human Rights Watch or Kofi Anan, it is him. Today he is holding forth in support of the IDF's analysis of what happened at the beach, and insisting that Israel continue its attack against those who attack its citizens.
And the beach is not the most recent of problematic incidents. Yesterday the IDF sent a missile against a car carrying a missile, along with one of the bad guys who have been involved in firing them at Israeli civilians. The Israeli missile stopped the car, but did not destroy it. Nearby Palestinians surrounded the car, and several of them paid with their lives when a second Israeli missile finished with the bad guy.
Lesson: Do not play in traffic, especially when the IDF is likely to be there. Israel regrets collateral damage, but when the likes of Amnon Mitzna define the priority as stopping attacks against our civilians, it is likely to be dangerous for Palestinians to be close to their fighters. There is a limit to which we can protect people from themselves.
Meanwhile the conflict between Hamas and Fatah in heating up. Each side in a Palestinian civil war may seek to score points by attacking Israel. But as usual, they are likely to pay the higher price.
We hope for better, but it is best to recognize what is real.