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Palestine: Dissociative Identity Disorder? By: David Solway
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 12, 2009

Mark Twain famously observed in The Innocents Abroad, “If these Arabs be like the other Arabs, their love for their beautiful mares is a fraud. Those of my acquaintance have no love for their horses, no sentiment of pity for them, and no knowledge of how to treat them or care for them.” His conclusion: “weep for the sentiment that has been wasted upon the Selims of romance.” It is no great stretch, I fear, to extrapolate to the present and apply Twain’s observations to the current Palestinian attempt to mount a State, let alone to care for it.


This is not meant as an insult. There is every objective indication that a self-divisive and volatile Palestinian state, assuming it does not evolve into another Middle East terror enclave—a very large assumption—could only survive on international life-support if it were not to flatline in record time. Indeed, Palestine may one day look like a state, but it is doubtful that it would ever be anything more than a political hologram, a three-dimensional projection produced by a two-dimensional strip of paper, called a “Peace Accord.” Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat makes loud noises about the Palestinians being ready for the “end game,” but I am afraid there will be no dancing in the end zone for his people. They will fumble the ball on the way in, as they have repeatedly since the time of the Peel Commission.


Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute, agrees with this pejorative, which is to say, realistic, assessment. In his Policy Focus Paper #78 for the Institute, The Palestinians: Between State Failure and Civil War (December 2007), he writes that “Although the PA, since its creation in 1994, has functioned as a de facto state with a parliament, executive, judiciary, governmental bureaucracy, and security forces, it has…increasingly exhibited many of the pathologies typically associated with the phenomenon of state failure,” being unable “to fulfill the most important functions of a state: to provide for the welfare and security of its people.”


The clearest signs of the weakness of the PA, he continues, were what Palestinians refer to as the four F’s: fawda (chaos), fitna (strife), falatan (lawlessness) and fassad (corruption). None of this will end, Eisenstadt cautions, until far-reaching political reforms are achieved, including “the inculcation of a culture of political compromise, and strong leadership—conditions not likely to be fulfilled soon.”


How is it possible that our political leaders cannot be aware of what is so glaringly obvious? Owing in part to the adoption of the Palestinians as the Noble Savage du jour and the foster children of Western bad conscience—the new Selims of romance—and in part to the construction of a fiction to appease Western electorates, the underlying truth is that the Palestinians have been sanctified at the expense of Israel and this is their warrant for existence. What the Palestinians have going for them is the latent—and often manifest—hatred of the Zionist enterprise in much of the world, which is only the contemporary permutation of an age-old antisemitism that Palestinians can tap into and  exploit to their own advantage. This is why the Palestinian narrative of the struggle for self-determination and what it regards as a “reasonable” (read: unreasonable) arrangement with respect to borders and refugees has taken.  


But it is a narrative that is belied by the Palestinians’ behavior at every level of engagement, whether at the negotiating table with its unbudgeable stipulations, in the mosques with their incendiary Friday sermons, in school curricula and local media pledging the destruction of the Jews—all contradicting their public statements bruited to the western Press assuring peace and co-existence should Israel comply with their demands. The Annapolis promise that Israel would live in “a sea of peace” does not compel assent. Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the mayhem that ensued suggests otherwise.


Sometimes it is hard to determine what the Palestinians themselves believe or if they suffer from a terminal condition of split-personality. For they do present a major puzzle. Are they canny or uncanny, cunning or schizophrenic?

Are they shrewd and cynical manipulators, thinking they can eventually defeat Israel by erosion? Or, as often seems the case, are they merely incapable of coming to terms with reality, divided not only among themselves but in themselves as well? Is the disorder from which they suffer macro-political or micro-psychological? Or both?


Small, local events in particular have large, analogic significance. Following prayers at the Temple Mount, a crowd of 150 Arab-Israelis, protesting the Israeli excavations to repair a collapsed walkway in the area and shouting Allahu Akbar, pelted their own buses sent to take them home. Palestinian protestors also stoned a bus carrying a “Peace Now” delegation which had come to Hebron to join a pro-Palestinian, “anti-settler” demonstration. In the Israeli satirical YouTube cartoon Ahmed and Salim, the two bungling mock-terrorists inadvertently place a bomb on a Palestinian rather than an Israeli bus. There is a profound truth in this episode for the Palestinians can be counted on to scuttle their own best hopes time and time again. One gets the impression that if Palestine were ever to become a state, it would be the largest insane asylum in the world.


But insanity is not an exclusively Palestinian prerogative. There is plenty of it to go around in Israel too, typified by the proposal of Shlomo Avineri, a leftist professor at Hebrew University, which envisages neither the two-state solution nor, as former ambassador Martin Indyk has proposed, a Western or international trusteeship for Palestine, but a Saudi Protectorate. Avineri is correct when he recognizes that the structure of Palestinian society lacks “the basic ingredients of tolerance, legitimized pluralism and the understanding that differences are not to be decided by force and coercion.” The proliferation of Palestinian militias and clan gangs make the possibility of a “functioning body politic totally unrealistic.”


Avineri’s conclusion, however, does not follow; it is, not to put too fine a point on it, entirely demented. A Saudi Protectorate would bring the Wahabbi terrorist machine immediately adjacent to Israel’s borders and create a far more alarming situation than what exists today. Nor are tolerance, pluralism and the peaceful reconciliation of difference mainstays of the Saudi regime.


There is an old joke about the Arab scorpion who hails a Jewish carp to ferry it across the Jordan river. “But you will sting me,” the carp protests. “Why would I do that,” the scorpion counters, “since it would cost me my life?” The carp agrees and is duly stung in the middle of the river. As they are about to sink for the third time, the carp asks, “Why then have you stung me?” “It’s the Middle East,” the scorpion replies.


Madness in the Middle East is pandemic. In the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, one might say that the Palestinians are driven by their demons, the Israelis are seduced by theirs. Nevertheless, despite the political lunacy of the previous Kadima Israeli leadership and the moral and intellectual delirium of the Israeli left-oriented professoriate, the subversive media and the ubiquitous “Peace” movements with their self-defeating convictions, there are still, judging from the last election which brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power, enough sane and resourceful Israelis to provide some hope for the country’s continued survival and prosperity.


But this is contingent on the recognition that the Palestinians, given the dissociative syndrome they continue to exemplify, do not constitute a responsible negotiating partner. One should not expect Norman Bates to begin acting like the Dalai Lama.


It may be possible under certain conditions to treat, but it is not possible under any conditions to treat with, those who remain in the grip of so rampant an epidemiology.

David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. A new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, will be released by CanadianValuesPress this fall.

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