Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Friday, June 21, 2002
Demosthenes has put up a post criticizing Instaman for asserting that Palestinian culture is "becoming a psyvchotic death cult".

Aside from a justified complaint that some commentary in the blogosphere is bordering on racism, Demosthenes mainly discusses various hardships that Palestinians are suffering. We all know that it's bad. We all know that there are legitimate grievances. But the reality is, living in a war zone is nasty. If the Palestinians don't like it - which is easy to understand - they should reconsider their war.

But, we hear the constant response, "The Palestinians are oppressed. They're under occupation. What else can they do?"

Well, a people under occupation has four broad strategic options:

1) Acquiescence - make no attempt to resist. This wouldn't be likely to lead to independence or statehood. But it also doesn't lead to the roadblocks, isolation, and hardships the Palestinians are now living with. Believe it or not, those restrictions on Palestinian movement don't happen because Israeli officers hold contests and award prizes for the most creative idea to make life for Palestinians even worse than it already is. They happen because Israel is trying to save lives.

So this strategy gives up what the Palestinians don't have anyway (statehood) and gets tangible benefits in return. It's better for the Palestinians than what they're doing now.

2) Non-violent resistance - To work, this requires access to sympathetic media to publicize your plight, an opponent who has some compunctions about the use of violence, and demands that your opponent can survive accepting. The Palestinians have plenty of sympathetic media. The two most successful recent instances of massive non-violent (or generally non-violent) movements for the enfranchisement of oppressed peoples, in South Africa and the American South, both succeeded in part because of overwhelming support from the Jewish population of the countries in question, and of Jews in foreign countries. Most Israelis are not just willing to give up the West Bank and Gaza, they're almost desperate to, if they can do so and survive.

Non-violent resistance is the best policy for the Palestinians if a two-state solution is an acceptable objective for them. That it would work is a near certainty. All the elements for successful non-violence are in place except for non-violence. And of course it doesn't involve large numbers of Palestinians dying. It's better for them than what they're doing now.

3) Guerilla warfare - violent resistance against military targets. For Palestinians, this would involve mostly attacks against soldiers and military targets in the occupied territories. This would be costly - it would mean the Palestinians would suffer most of the casualties and personal hardships they are now suffering. They would suffer heavier casualties than Israel, as they do now.

However, it would also likely convince Israelis that there is a direct link between the occupation and the terrorism. Presently, Israelis regard outsiders - or Israelis - who say the terrorism will end when the occupation ends as naive or worse. Since in both rhetoric and action, Palestinians make it clear that they don't accept Israeli sovereignty in Tel Aviv any more than they do in Jenin, the Israelis are right to think so.

A disciplined campaign striking at only military targets, and largely or only in the occupied territories, would also imply that its leadership was both strong enough and reliable enough to engage in serious peace negotiations. So this option would have about the same costs as current Palestinian strategy, but a better chance of paying off in statehood. Again, the Palestinians would be better off switching to this.

4) Total war - This is the strategy the Palesinian leadership has actually adopted. Kill any Iraeli at any place or time possible. Obliterate the distinction between military and civilian to a degree that is unprecedented in modern history. This is a dubious strategy if you are miltarily strong, since you can do better in other ways. It's even worse if you are weak. Israel has the capacity to slaughter the Palestinians by the hundreds of thousands any time it chooses to. What stops Israel from doing so is that their civilized restraint is stronger than their desparation. With every 'successful' terror attack, the civilized restraint grows a little thinner and the desperation a little stronger.

Really, the essence of this strategy is to say that the two peoples can never co-exist. It almost demands genocide, or at least ethnic cleansing, as a final result. As an interim result, it leads to massive casualties, martial law, heavy oppression. Large numbers of people like me who formerly supported a Palestinian state have been forced to question our positions. The pro-peace camp in Israel itself has become almost completely impotent.

The Palestinians are now farther away from statehood than when the terror bombing began. At a cost of thousands of deaths and ruined lives, nothing has been accomplished. But that isn't nearly all the damage.

Much of the unemployment and poverty Demosthenes points to is a direct result of the terrorism. Thousands of workers who formerly held jobs in Israel have lost their jobs because new restrictions due to terrorism have made it impossible to get to their place of employment. Thousands more who formerly worked in tourism, the West Bank's largest income source, are now unemployed because tourists, for some reason, don't want to be blown up. In fact, the possibility of a truly viable Palestinian state has probably been extinguished entirely. Since such a state would be small and almost without economic resources, the only real chance for it to thrive would have been by exporting labor to Israel - a nation with a strong economy and a socialist labor legacy that assures even its unskilled workers do relatively well. In the current situation, even if a Palestinian state is established, Israel will look to foreign sources for any labor shortages and use Palestinians only as a last resort. Even if a Palestinian state should arise, the prospects for any kind of success or major improvements in Palestinian lives are remote.

So this is the outcome of the strategy the Palestinians have adopted. Maximum short-term costs. Maximum long-term costs. No benefits. Not only could a better strategy have been chosen, any other plan would have been an improvement. The Palestinians have made the worst possible choice.

Now, Demosthenes can say that the bombers are only a few people and don't act for the Palestinians as a whole. But that isn't for him to say, it's for the Palestinians themselves. And overwhelmingly, they are saying the exact opposite. Every poll shows that Palestinians support terrorism and oppose any kind of negotiated compromise.

Since the Palestinians still massively support terror bombings, I can only conclude that the payoff the bombings produce is, in their minds, worth the cost. And that payoff isn't improved chances of statehood, or reduced oppression. In both areas, the payoff of terrorism has been negative.

The only payoff the bombings get is dead Jews. And for the Palestinians, dayenu. That is enough.

Demosthenes' own example shows it:`Ahmed is twelve: "calm, together and determined to kill Israelis."` Not 'determined to gain independence.' Not 'determined to get an education and help build his country.' Just determined to kill.

In game theory terms, the Palestinians aim only at the strategy which has the worst payoff for their opponents. That the payoff is even worse for themselves they have deemed irrelevant.

And that is why I and many others are reconsidering our past support for Palestinian statehood. It's why Glenn feels they are becoming a psychotic death cult and I pretty much agree. It's why bloggers are saying that the terrorism has to stop and aren't interested in talking grievances until it does. Not because they made a bad choice - anybody can do that. Not even because their bad choice was also immoral. It's because their bad choice has led them into catastrophe and they don't appear to regret it. They have made the decision that the ruin of their current and future prospects as a people is a small price to pay for the joy of murdering Jews. It isn't violence for the sake of their homeland but violence for the sake of violence.