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The Palestinian-Israeli War By: Abraham H. Miller
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 21, 2005


Standing around the library of San Francisco's Commonwealth Club while waiting for the reception for Daniel Pipe's November 16th lecture to begin, I noticed an elderly woman hastily walking back and forth, while simultaneously trying to scribble on a piece of folded paper. "What are you doing?" someone who obviously knew her shouted with a tone of dismay across the open, glass-framed room with ceilings that seemed unreachable with one's eyes. "I'm writing some angry questions for Pipes!" she shot back. Her tone and intensity seemed incongruous with her age and small frame.

At least you might want to listen to the lecture first, I thought to myself, realizing that such statements would have no impact on someone who brought their anger to a lecture as one might bring their lunch to the workplace, all wrapped up and ready to be chewed on. San Francisco's Bay Area is full of anti-Israel advocates, from Arabs to aging wannabe communist revolutionaries. Indymedia, the local radical website, had run a call to arms from Paul LaRudee, the head of Norcal ISM, for people to attend with pots and pans to bang during Pipe's speech to make sure nobody could hear him. The call misquoted Pipes from articles in a magazine published by Saudi Arabia.

LaRudee even listed his own phone number to organize everyone. This failed to happen though, thanks to good security and the fact that something unusual happened: most of LaRudee's minions were a no show. Perhaps it was due to the recent suicide bombings in Jordan, or simply too short notice, but the speech went forward without significant interruption.

One thing is still certain. Dr. Daniel Pipes inspires anger! And that is one of his most engaging features.

With Pipes there is no obfuscation, no purposeful ambiguity and no misrepresentation. Pipes doesn't even leave himself room for plausible denial. But then he doesn't afford his audience that intellectual deception either.

As a scholar, Pipes is eminently aware of how the definition of any political situation creates tacit premises. He is exacting in his use of words. The title of his speech was the "Palestinian-Israeli War." It wasn't "The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" or "problem" or "issue."

"War" not only defines the "mode and intensity of the conflict," as we political scientists like to say, but for Pipes it defines his paradigm.

And this, for me at least, defines Pipes. You see, it is possible to hear dozens of speakers take numerous courses and never understand the assumptions that underline a person's positions. Oh yes, you can understand where they stand on the issue; usually you discover that in the first ten seconds. And yes, you will know their interpretation of the history of the Middle East and their view of the causes of the conflict. But there are always those troubling theoretical lacunae that are filled in with some admixture of ideological syrup and a garnish of hope hope, that is, that one's ideology is triumphant.  Even so many sophisticated people, those who were educated at a time when universities were serious places, can't retain the distinction between explanation and justification.

Pipes, in contrast, began with an intellectual paradigm war. It is not the paradigm that many want to hear. It is not a paradigm that derives from Pipes' ideology, or his aspirations, but from his analysis of the situation.

I don't know if Pipes ever read the work of the social psychologist Donald Campbell, but Campbell was an incredibly gifted social scientist, for he understood that all around us are behaviors that are unobtrusive indicators of what we are trying to explain. We just have to understand that such indicators are there and how to organize them.

When it comes to the Middle East most observers don't process data, they process denial. When almost immediately after Oslo, Arafat stopped in a Stockholm mosque to repudiate the Accords and was subsequently caught, he denied what he had said. Those who could not see beyond Oslo were eager to accept his denial. When the PLO did not formally change its position on Israel's existence, those who wanted to believe it had done so, simply saying that the formalities didn't make a difference.

Pipes clarified the issue further:

The PLO's maps without Israel, the textbooks spinning hate, and the creation of a culture of death  these are the realities of an ongoing terror war against Israel.  But those who want to believe that the PLO has changed, see all of this as something separate or peripheral.

Pipes asked what if the paradigm were different? What if the Palestinians were really engaged in a war? How then would they behave?

The answer was patently obvious to any rational person in the audience.

They'd behave exactly as they do; more importantly, they'd behave exactly as they continue to do under Mahmoud Abbas.

In this, Pipes forces you to give up the ether of confusion that has been created around this war. And most people cannot bear to part with it. Compelled to think in ways that are different, they get angry.

Pipes thereby challenges his audience to face reality. His paradigm requires that we look at the Palestinian-Israeli War as it is, not as some may wish it was.

As Pipes explained, the reality is that diplomacy hasn't worked. Oslo made the situation worse because it was based on the premise that in the end if you could provide the Palestinians with equality and autonomy and the Israelis with recognition and security, you could have peace. You can't have peace as long as the Palestinians believe that ultimately they can and will destroy Israel. Then, Oslo becomes not a means to peace but a means to attaining strategic advantage.

After Arafat, the consensus view was that the conflict changed. I too recall such unbridled enthusiasm among Jewish liberals for the dawning of a new era. From the leadership of Jewish organizations in San Francisco to Berkeley's Rabbi Stuart Kelman, who admonished his congregation about attending an interfaith rally against terrorism that brought Jerusalem Bus 19 to Berkeley to show the carnage, the mantra was the same. Arafat was gone. There was new leadership among the Palestinians. They should not be reminded of past acts of violence (such as having to confront the burned out shell of a homicide-bombed bus) when the way is now open to "negotiations."

Pipes submits that the paradigm has not changed, and the behavior of the Palestinians only confirms this.

President Bush has articulated a vision of the end of the conflict, but, as Pipes notes, President Bush is unclear as to how to get there short of rewarding the Palestinians and restraining Israel.

The current negotiations are based on the premise that if you reward the Palestinians, then their leadership gains credibility and the masses will follow them to the negotiating table.

Pipes sees two flawed assumptions here: first, that the goals of the Palestinian leadership have changed simply because some of their rhetoric and tactics have changed; second, that the present leadership can deliver the Palestinian population.

Pipes noted that the masses in Egypt got most concerned about the Arab-Israeli conflict after the Camp David agreement with Sadat, and that all the aspirations of trade, tourism and cultural exchange between Egypt and Israel that were to flow from that agreement have still not materialized because the Egyptian population is not interested and the leadership cannot bring them along-even if it so desired.

For the Palestinians, seven years of negotiations have transformed a once dispirited population to one that sees victory in the offing. Oslo has brought violence and death as dual tragedies to be suffered by both Israelis and Palestinians.

The only way to win a war is to have a final, indisputable and complete victory in Pipes' view. That means getting the Palestinians to accept that they cannot destroy Israel, that Israel is there to stay, and that they must accept its existence. They must be deprived of immersion in a process that rewards their violence and gives them hope to fight another day for Israel's destruction.

The way to achieve this can be militarily, but it can also be through other means according to Pipes. The essence is to convince the Palestinians that the goal of Israel's destruction is not achievable.

There are only two outcomes to this war in Pipes' view: Either Israel will conclude that the hostility of Arab nations and their European sympathizers bought with petrodollars makes the Zionist vision untenable and Israel will not survive; or, the Palestinians will find that their goal of destroying Israel is not attainable and it only perpetuates an intolerable situation for them and their children.

These are the only two long-term solutions.

As for the current rounds of diplomacy, Pipes argued that diplomacy in time of war is doomed to failure, especially when one side seeks the destruction of the other without cessation.

Until the Palestinians cease their fixation on the destruction of Israel, there should be no financial aid, no recognition of a Palestinian state, and no quick fixes that provide short-term rewards for Palestinian violence. Pipes also sees current aid, recognition and the amelioration of conditions as positive reinforcement for terrorist violence.

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinians' ensuing orgiastic celebration that brought a total destruction of the infrastructure the departing Israelis left them is just such a case in point. The festivity over Israel's withdrawal in the form of celebratory violence transforms a move toward peace into both a sign of weakness and the symbolic triumph of terrorism.

The celebratory violence of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza further underscores the irrationality of the Palestinian mindset. It is better to destroy what the Israelis left them than to risk using it to improve their lives and the quality of life of their children.

Listening to Pipes, one is intellectually compelled to ask his opponents to offer their own paradigm to explain the conflict and its resolution.

Instead of feeding their own anger and denial like the woman I saw before the speech, they might confront the reality that while they are engaged in dismissing each act of Palestinian violence, seeing each celebration of suicide bombing as peripheral, and referring to every attempt at building a Palestinian military response as inconsequential, they have created not an intellectual framework of explanation but a self-indulgent delusion that panders to their own emotional needs.

It was a great speech.

Abraham H. Miller is a contributing writer to the Israel Resource News Agency, an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and a former consultant to the National Institute of Justice on political violence and terrorism.

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Abraham H. Miller is emeritus professor, University of Cincinnati. He has written extensively on the Middle East for both academic and popular venues.


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