Thursday, October 20, 2005

P. David Hornik: Politically-Correct Hell

P. David Hornik
October 20, 2005

Two politically-correct statements:

1. There is no worse fate for Palestinians than to be ruled by Israel; any Palestinian rule is better.

2. There is no worse fate for Israel than to rule Palestinians; any way of leaving the territories, whether by bilateral agreement or unilateral withdrawal, is better.

Regarding the first statement, a moment’s thought reveals that actually it is far from axiomatic. Terrible things can happen to Arabs who live under rule by other Arabs—merely saying the words Iraq, Algeria, or Syria is enough to illustrate this.

Even in “moderate” Jordan with its affable, Western-educated leader, Freedom House reports that “citizens enjoy little protection from arbitrary arrest and detention. . . . Even . . . minimal protections are denied to suspects referred to the SCC [State Security Court].” And in “moderate, pro-Western” Egypt, the UN Committee against Torture has said that there is “widespread evidence of torture and ill-treatment.”

Added to this is the fact that, as detailed in a 2002 Commentary article by Efraim Karsh that left little imprint, Israeli rule in the territories was decidedly beneficial. Living standards and life expectancy rose sharply, mortality and infant mortality rates plummeted. “Perhaps most strikingly,” Karsh noted,

"during the two decades preceding the [first] intifada . . ., the number of schoolchildren in the territories grew by 102 percent, and the number of classes by 99 percent, though the population itself had grown by only 28 percent. Even more dramatic was the progress in higher education. At the time of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, not a single university existed in these territories. By the early 1990’s, there were seven such institutions, boasting some 16,500 students. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14 percent of adults over age 15, compared with 69 percent in Morocco, 61 ercent in Egypt, 45 percent in Tunisia, and 44 percent in Syria."

To be sure, well before Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza it had transferred almost all aspects of rule over the Palestinians to the PA. The results in terms of arbitrary arrests, torture, executions, a collapsing economy, the regime’s plundering of aid money, the transformation of schools into genocide-indoctrination centers, and so on are not a secret.

None of this, however, prevented an almost universal lauding of Israel’s removal of the last vestiges of its control from Gaza—even though, with Hamas now reportedly ruling whole areas and constantly gaining in strength, and Al Qaeda and other terrorist cadres pouring across the newly “liberated” border, the prospect for Gazans is one of even worse oppression than under the official PA.

One could argue that this is not Israel’s problem and it is still better off having left. Yet, a world that seemingly makes the Palestinians the apple of its eye appears—beyond mouthing the usual inane pieties about the PA “disarming the terrorists”—blithely unconcerned about the transformation of Gaza into a radical-Islamist redoubt, with all that implies for its residents’ rights. It reinforces the impression that this supposed compassion for the Palestinians has always been a smokescreen for downsizing Israel and appeasing the Arab oil barons.

As for the second above politically-correct statement, the notion that relinquishing control over the territories is the best thing for Israel has not exactly emerged unscathed over the past twelve years. calls the recently concluded Jewish year a “year of relative quiet”—in it, 57 Israelis were killed and 516 injured in terrorist attacks, but this is less than 135 and 567, respectively, the previous year (all this in a country whose population is 2 percent that of America).

By comparison, in the three years of the Netanyahu government during 1996-1999—the only relative lull in the Oslo period—a total of 46 Israelis died in terror attacks; for the fifteen years before the Oslo period, the average was 15 per year.

The ynet article also notes that “26,159 terror attacks against Israeli targets were recorded over the last five years”—which, as Daniel Pipes has observed, comes to an average of 14.33 attacks per day. The toll is 1,064 Israelis dead and 6,089 injured.

With such outcomes of Israeli territorial withdrawals in the framework of agreements with the Palestinians, the early returns on Israel’s recent venture at unilateral withdrawal are not much better. The short time since the last Israeli troops left Gaza on September 11, 205 has seen—among other things including stabbing and shooting attacks against soldiers—the firing of dozens of rockets at Israeli communities bordering Gaza, the entry into Gaza of vast quantities of weapons along with the terrorist cadres under the winking gaze of Egyptian “guards,” the first Zarqawi-style abduction, videotaping, and killing of an Israeli citizen by Palestinian terrorists, and a drive-by massacre against a hitchhiking post that killed three and wounded five.

Both of the politically-correct statements, then, seem to be false. Handing territory from Israel to the likes of the PLO and Hamas has been no boon for the Palestinians, and certainly not for Israel. Indeed, by any normal moral compass, what is required is for Israel to reconquer the territories and put an end to the constant bloodshed that its retreat from them enabled.

By now, though, the disengagement has put a stamp of permanency on Palestinian rule, and that suggestion is so politically incorrect as to be risible. Better that the oil should keep flowing and the politically-correct hell should continue.

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P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem who has contributed recently to The Jerusalem Post, The American Spectator Online, and Israeli news-views websites.He can be reached

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