August 8, 2002
Food for Thought
The motive driving suicide volunteers is revenge. They have stopped fighting to liberate Palestine.
They have suspended the dream of a state. They now dream of killing as many Jews as possible, of revenge, of making life in Israel impossible -- and they truly believe they can do it.
Let me, as accurately as I can, describe a conversation I had with a Palestinian peace activist over dinner in a European capital one Friday night in mid-June. We have known each other for quite a few years, and I have always had deep respect for his views, hence the importance I attach to what he said that night, despite the three glasses of wine that went down with his meal.
The Zionist experiment, he told me, is over. The Palestinians have discovered a strategic weapon: suicide bombers. Once anathema, they are now considered heroes. The shahids (martyrs), once seen as religious fanatics, are now nationalist freedom fighters. Moreover, he continued, they are growing in legitimacy all the time. The Arab world understands them and even some Europeans seem to. The Israelis have F-16s; the Palestinians, suicide bombers. The equivalency is obvious to all.
Now, he continued, there are thousands out there waiting in line to kill as many Israelis as they can, to make your lives hell on earth. They belong to no organization, but want revenge and are prepared to die for it. You think you are going to stop them by punishing their parents. You are wrong. You won't even know who they are or where they came from.
We are going to hit you everywhere we can: gas stations, theaters, parks, wedding halls. It will be one funeral after the next.
And then, while you are reeling, the 1.5 million Palestinian allies, the Israeli Palestinians, our brothers and your enemy, will rise up as well. They are just waiting for a sign from us. They know you better than you know yourselves. They speak your language and know every street in every one of your cities. And they will join at the right time. Make no mistake about it.
And then what does Israel do? Transfer? Can you imagine CNN and the BBC reporting live as the Jews transfer truckload after truckload of Palestinians over the border? Your country will lose all legitimacy. The Arab world will go to war against it. You will be a pariah, worse than South Africa under apartheid. Your generals will be tried for war crimes. The world will impose sanctions. Your F-16s will run dry of fuel.
Your people will leave in droves, especially professionals. The Zionist experiment is over.
That, in essence, was what was said. Was he entirely serious? Who knows? Was he trying to ruin my meal? Perhaps. But there are several harsh truths there and, in tune with the old adage that when wine goes in, secrets come out, I took note of the following: Advertisements in the Palestinian press against suicide bombings signed by several hundred Palestinian intellectuals notwithstanding, suicide bombings have the full support of the Palestinian people, including some intellectuals. It has become almost politically correct. Soldiers die in battle. The suicide bombers are soldiers, their deaths are legitimate and the killing of civilians is legitimate, they say. Israelis do it with tanks all the time.
The strategy is to push Israel into responding in a way that would turn it into another South Africa, a pariah state. The goal is no longer to draw international intervention, which the Palestinians have been trying to do since the outbreak of the current conflict, but to achieve Israel's international isolation -- to strangle the country diplomatically, economically and morally while managing, with great dexterity and skill, to maintain the image of the Palestinians as victims.
If this thinking has indeed penetrated serious Palestinian circles, we are in for a long and hard period. But it will not follow the outlined scenario. Israel will build a fence, increase its vigilance, take security measures, exile the families of suicide bombers, maintain a constant presence in Palestinian-controlled territories if suspected terrorists are there, maintain the stranglehold it has over the cities and the roadblocks that makes it impossible to move from point to point. There are a million steps between suicide bombers and transfer and yes, there will be casualties. But Palestinian suicide bombers are not going to defeat the state of Israel. And, incidentally, there are gas stations on both sides.