Tom Friedman, New York Times
March 31, 2002
The outcome of the war now under way between the Israelis and Palestinians is vital to the security of every American, and indeed, I believe, to all of civilization. Why? Quite simply because Palestinians are testing out a whole new form of warfare, using suicide bombers -- strapped with dynamite and dressed as Israelis -- to achieve their political aims. And it is working.
Israelis are terrified. And Palestinians, although this strategy has wrecked their society, feel a rising sense of empowerment. They feel they finally have a weapon that creates a balance of power with Israel, and maybe, in their fantasies, can defeat Israel. As Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader, said in The Washington Post, Palestinians have Israelis on the run now because they have found their weak spot. Jews, he said, "love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die." So Palestinian suicide bombers are ideal for dealing with them. That is really sick.
The world must understand that the Palestinians have not chosen suicide bombing out of "desperation" stemming from the Israeli occupation. That is a huge lie. Why? To begin with, a lot of other people in the world are desperate, yet they have not gone around strapping dynamite to themselves. More important, President Clinton offered the Palestinians a peace plan that could have ended their "desperate" occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away. Still more important, the Palestinians have long had a tactical alternative to suicide: nonviolent resistance, à la Gandhi. A nonviolent Palestinian movement appealing to the conscience of the Israeli silent majority would have delivered a Palestinian state 30 years ago, but they have rejected that strategy, too.
The reason the Palestinians have not adopted these alternatives is because they actually want to win their independence in blood and fire. All they can agree on as a community is what they want to destroy, not what they want to build. Have you ever heard Mr. Arafat talk about what sort of education system or economy he would prefer, what sort of constitution he wants? No, because Mr. Arafat is not interested in the content of a Palestinian state, only the contours.
Let's be very clear: Palestinians have adopted suicide bombing as a strategic choice, not out of desperation. This threatens all civilization because if suicide bombing is allowed to work in Israel, then, like hijacking and airplane bombing, it will be copied and will eventually lead to a bomber strapped with a nuclear device threatening entire nations. That is why the whole world must see this Palestinian suicide strategy defeated.
But how? This kind of terrorism can be curbed only by self-restraint and repudiation by the community itself. No foreign army can stop small groups ready to kill themselves. How do we produce that deterrence among Palestinians? First, Israel needs to deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay. Second, America needs to make clear that suicide bombing is not Israel's problem alone. To that end, the U.S. should declare that while it respects the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism, it will have no dealings with the Palestinian leadership as long as it tolerates suicide bombings. Further, we should make clear that Arab leaders whose media call suicide bombers "martyrs" aren't welcome in the U.S.
Third, Israel must tell the Palestinian people that it is ready to resume talks where they left off with Mr. Clinton, before this intifada. Those talks were 90 percent of the way toward ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state. Fourth, U.S. or NATO troops must guarantee any Israeli-Palestinian border.
"The Spanish Civil War was the place where the major powers all tested out their new weapons before World War II," said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. "Well, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is the Spanish Civil War for the 21st century. A big test is taking place of whether suicide terrorism can succeed as a strategy for liberation. It must be defeated, but that requires more than a military strategy."
The Palestinians are so blinded by their narcissistic rage that they have lost sight of the basic truth civilization is built on: the sacredness of every human life, starting with your own. If America, the only reality check left, doesn't use every ounce of energy to halt this madness and call it by its real name, then it will spread. The Devil is dancing in the Middle East, and he's dancing our way.