The difference between people whose personalities tend either toward self-importance or humility may be best measured when they are visiting foreign countries. Israelis have had a chance to see both personality types in the flesh this week in the form of two visiting Americans dignitaries. Both just happen to be African American notables, but their skin color may be about the only thing they share in common.
Jesse Jackson has displayed a good deal of what Israelis call chutzpah while traipsing around the Holy Land. He has lectured Israel's citizens and leaders repeatedly during his well-covered visit, attacking their military and social policies regarding the Palestinians and their leader, Yasser Arafat. He's made a special point to condemn, at every stop, Israel's bombing of a building where senior Hamas terrorist leader Salah Shehadeh was briefly located last week, while saying very little about the horrific string of terror attacks – mostly aimed at civilians – that he masterminded in the past 22 months. Jackson also made a point of swiping at his own government while abroad, blasting George Bush for saying that Arafat is no longer a viable peace partner for Israel.
Sounding more like the pope, or possibly the Big Guy upstairs, than a failed presidential candidate, the good reverend revealed that he is "convinced that Israelis and Palestinians must live together" – as if the end to a hundred-year-old bitter conflict depended on his personal "convictions" about it!
But his silliest, most offensive comments were about Muslim radicals and their regional agenda. He lectured Israelis that Palestinian suicide bombers "are not out to wipe Israel off the map," adding reassuringly that the idea of "pushing the Jews into the sea" is no longer on their minds.
Jackson's timing was a bit off however, since Hamas spokesman Abdel Rantisi said just one day before – as he has many times before – that his group's benign goal is nothing less than the "liberation" of every inch of "Palestine" which, he added for emphasis, "is our land." Of course, the Hamas founding charter, which is only 14 years old, is much clearer. It states in black and white that only Jews whose ancestors lived here before the "Zionist invasion" began over 100 years ago can stay after the land is "set free."
As for suicide-homicide bombers, they are misunderstood miscasts who probably grew up in a ghetto and are just reacting to their disadvantaged upbringings. It is because the Palestinians "have their backs against the wall" that they sometimes resort to "kill and be killed rather than live and let live," Jackson pontificated. In averring this, the civil-rights leader failed to recall one very important historical fact: The Palestinian Islamic suicide binge began in 1994 and reached a previous peak in early 1996 – in the midst of a "land for peace process" that was handing Arafat and company full control over most Palestinians and the land they live on.
Just to show Israelis that not all black American leaders are daft by any means, the good Lord sent us former diplomat and media personality Alan Keyes as well this week. He noticed out loud that Israel is in the midst a terrorist war that was unilaterally launched upon the Jewish state by the Palestinians two Septembers ago. He defended the Gaza Strip attack on Shehadeh, noting that the U.S. had also caused unintended civilian casualties in a terrorist war forced upon her last September. "I don't believe, as an American, that I can impose a burden on Israel greater than the one I would impose on my own country," he said with humility nearly oozing out of his pores.
Further displaying his empathy for the world's only Jewish state, Keyes went on to recall that Nazi Germany had "also located military facilities next to civilian population centers" in the hope that it would deter allied bombings. You can do nothing more to demonstrate to Israelis that you understand who they really are than to bring up the evil Nazi regime.
Adding crème to the cake, Dr. Keyes said that "decent societies" should not be made "endlessly vulnerable to terror" because of their higher scruples, adding that this would only feed the "unconscionable wickedness of the terrorist." Placing a cherry on top of the cake, he opined that the Palestinian people – whose plight has been the main topic of Jesse Jackson's comments all week – are mainly suffering at present because of the "abuse of their leadership."
Israel will take all the tourists it can get at present, famous or not. But those visitors who come not to preach but to learn, and who display some understanding of the deepest truths behind the current conflict, are probably more likely to be invited back again.