PLO leader Yasser Arafat is no longer able to deny involvement in the thwarted attempt to smuggle at least 50 tons of terrorist grade arms for use against Israel. Even the U.S. is convinced. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the Palestinian Authority is riddled with terrorism and that the recently seized ship of terror proves it.
In fact, there has been a gale of evidence proving that Palestinian society is riddled with terrorism, even though they feigned innocence and continue to feign innocence. In article after article around the world, Palestinian voices can be found decrying “collective punishment” for the terrorizing and murdering of Israelis. This week, under the “collective punishment” banner, they are decrying the demolition of 21 Rafah buildings that were used to carry out daily shooting attacks, along with five bombings in the last month alone. The IDF has been concentrating on the Rafah area, because that is the area from which the two terrorists who killed four IDF soldiers last week came. Even Colin Powell called the demolitions part of Israel’s right of self defense.
Still, Palestinians feign innocence. Even as thousands of Palestinians turned out for the funeral to honor the two terrorists, they bewail the demolition as “collective punishment.” Implicit in the Palestinian complaint is the notion that they are not collectively guilty - that the terrorists are just riff-raff fringe elements dotted among them, like the criminal element that can be found in any large city, as U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni dutifully parroted on his last visit. So just beef up the police force and it’ll all be hunky dory. Right? Another claim is that the terrorism is the product of independent terrorist groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad or Hizb’Allah. Get rid of those pesky “outside” troublemakers and all will be hunky dory. Right? Then there is the claim that terrorism is the product of Arafat’s leadership. Get rid of him, find a seemingly moderate “peace partner” like Nusseibeh or Dahlan or Rajub and it’ll all be hunky dory. Right?
Any explanation that conveniently separates the Palestinians from the terrorism is false. Such an explanation is proposed blindly, as if Palestinians do not “collectively” support the terrorists in their society, as if the Palestinians do not “collectively” celebrate the terrorists in their society, as if they don’t “collectively” and actively create new terrorists in their society. It is proposed as if their textbooks do not “collectively” show Israel wiped off the map, as if their prime time television doesn’t “collectively” urge young boys to strap on suicide kits and become martyrs, as if their radio stations don’t “collectively” play songs like “I Hate Israel”, as if they don’t “collectively” work on crossword puzzles that refer to the “Palestinian port city” of Haifa. It is proposed as if their newspapers don’t “collectively” publish the vilest anti-Semitic tripe since the Nazis and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. as if their spiritual leaders and muftis don’t “collectively” exhort them “O Muslim, Oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!” and as if they don’t “collectively” flock to gory art exhibits, like the one recreating the Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing, to relive and relish the bloody murders and maiming of Jewish children.
Any explanation for Palestinian terrorism that ignores the element of the Palestinian society can only be proposed blindly, as if Palestinians were not “collectively” out in the streets, all smiles and trilling tongues, passing out candies and swelled with pride at the mass murder of thousands of unsuspecting American folk who simply went to work one day. It is proposed as if a vast majority of Palestinians do not support Bin Laden, according to polls, after his crime, as if the Palestinians were not “collectively” shooting off their rifles and congratulating themselves at the destruction of American architectural symbols - symbols as powerful to those in America as the al-Aqsa mosque is to them. Ironic, isn’t it, how Palestinians rejoiced so triumphantly at the transformation of important American architectural symbols into mass graves that lay smoking for weeks, yet they base their claim to Jerusalem on their supposed need to control one of their important architectural symbols, which we infidels should of course be sensitive enough to understand. Or else they’ll kill us.
Palestinian society is riddled to the core with terrorism. There is a vast difference between a society in which hate crimes are perpetrated by a few hooligans who spray-paint walls and a society in which hate crimes are institutionalized, Nazi-style, in its media, its education system, its policing activities, its religious institutions, its artistic endeavors and its reward structures. There is a vast difference between a society that punishes hate crimes and a society in which hate crimes are cultivated, supported, sponsored, generously paid for, rewarded with acclaim, celebrated with art exhibits, t-shirts, rock star status, celebrated in large triumphant funerals and shoved down the throats of its young.
Some make excuses for Palestinian society, claiming that they are a people trying to end what they call “occupation.” Others claim that they are an assorted mix of Arabs attempting to seize control of land that they’ve never ruled before, in order to carve out a country that has never existed before in the heart of another country that already exists, so that they can be in a better position to annihilate that pre-existing state. Well - martyrdom, freedom fighting, militancy, criminality, Islamic expansionism - you can call the motivation for anti-Israel terrorism whatever your level of observation and morality dictates, but the indisputable fact remains that the use of terrorism is irrefutably a collective effort that pervades all levels, ages, stations and persuasions of Palestinian society.
It is therefore entirely fitting that it be dealt with at the collective level. The death cargo on the Karin A, intended to be used to blast Israel to smithereens, is not “the” proof that Palestinian society is riddled with terrorism. It is simply the latest 50-ton shipload in a veritable naval fleet of evidence to that effect. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said “Israel will not be able to tolerate such incidents in the future. They (the PA) must make a strategic decision whether they support terrorism or they are against it.” However, he quickly reassured Zinni that “Israel will continue to aim towards negotiations with the Palestinians based on the Tenet and Mitchell plans,” according to IDF Radio.
It’s obvious that the Palestinian strategic decision is the same as it has always been: in support of terrorism. It’s undeniable. How many more “last chances” are Arafat and his Palestinian Authority to have? The time to “not be able to tolerate such incidents” is not endlessly in the future, endlessly tomorrow, endlessly next time, but now. Right now. The “or else” is long overdue. It’s time for a 180-degree turnaround in policy. To continue on the same diplomatic path is suicidal for Israel. It only emboldens the Palestinians’ terrorist riddled society, while giving them time and cover to gather even more arms and allies.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet that “if the weapons had reached the Palestinian Authority, Israel would have been in grave danger.” It’s long past time for Israel to wake up and scan the horizon. It’s clear that there are nothing but deadly rocks ahead. Rather than being inexorably maneuvered toward the looming death trap at sea, it’s high time for Israel to set sail on a vastly different course, one which entails retaking the territories and making every effort to rid Palestinian society of its institutionalized anti-Semitism and terrorism. No agreements can be made with a people taught hate and armed to the teeth.
The rocks are already scraping the hull. There is no more time for Israel to delay. It’s time for an about-face. It’s a matter of survival.Charlotte West is an Arizona-based columnist.