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Fanning the Mideast Flames

John Podhoretz, NY Post
Aug. 14, 2001

What we are seeing inside the borders of Israel is nothing less than the new face of war in the 21st century. "Terrorism" is not the appropriate word to describe these suicide bombings - and we can only hope that the Pentagon is watching closely, because the Palestinian attacks on Israel offer the only workable model for a sustained future military assault on the United States.

What the Palestinians are waging is not a campaign of terror. These are battles in an ongoing fight to the death - a war being conducted on the only terms that make it possible for the Palestinians to wage it.

Just as America is the world's sole superpower and therefore almost impossible to challenge in direct combat anywhere on the globe, Israel possesses a complete military advantage vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Israel's armed forces are better trained, better equipped, more powerful, more experienced.

If there were a conventional war between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it would last a day or two at most - and the end result would be tens of thousands of dead Palestinians and the destruction of what little military-industrial capacity the PA possesses.

But in the new-style war the PA is waging, each suicide bombing in which scores of people are killed or injured is a victorious battle. That was made clear by the news footage of Palestinian celebrations on the West Bank and Lebanon following Friday's massacre in the heart of Jerusalem - in which Palestinian civilians openly celebrated the murders of 15 ordinary people, most of them women and children.

So instead of the Battle of the Bulge or the Siege of Khe Sanh, the Palestinians salute the Bombing of the Sbarro. The celebrations of the martyrdom and bravery of the suicide bombers make it possible to recruit new ones. And though it seems unimaginable that anybody would choose such a death, the Palestinians only need 20 people a year willing to martyr themselves to keep Israelis in a state of shock and terror.

The brilliance of the New War is that there is no way for a liberal democracy like Israel (or ours, or those in Western Europe) to respond to it effectively except by becoming a mirror image of its attacker. Blowing up houses, sealing borders or seizing Palestinian buildings - these responses are by definition inadequate because they do not impose an equal or greater hardship on the Palestinian people.

The only effective response would be for Israel to massacre 10 times the number of Palestinians simply by dropping a bomb on Bethlehem or a neighborhood in Gaza City.

But Israel won't do such a thing because no matter how enraged and upset the Israeli people get, they and their politicians do not want to turn into the Palestinians - holding life cheap, dancing at news that babies have been decapitated and their bodies riddled with nails.

The Palestinians do not know this about the Israelis. They believe their own propaganda. They believe the Israelis are genocidal murderers, and they think that if they can provoke Israel into a public demonstration of its genocidal intent, the outside world will intervene and force Israel to capitulate.

So this is how it will be for Israel and the Palestinians. The Israelis will struggle to come up with inventive ways to respond to Palestinian attacks - like the seizure of Orient House, the PA office in East Jerusalem - that will do little or nothing to stem them. There will be more bombings, more tears.

Israel will not become animalistic in response to the animalistic conduct of its rival, because it is a nation with a soul and it will not sacrifice its soul. But the cost of that will be blood and tears for years to come. And Americans should watch - because our military superiority will avail us little if a future rival decides it wants to test this nation's soul by using suicide bombers to stage random and large-scale assaults on American civilians on American soil.