Israel Report

December 2001         

Deadly Emotional Amnesia

By Tal Ben-Shaharl - December 17, 2001
As Israel was burying its dead following the suicide attacks in Haifa and Jerusalem, Yasser Arafat’s advisor, Mohammed Rashid, and head of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Dahlan, called Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to tell him that the Palestinian Authority was beginning to act. “It will be like 1996,” they assured Peres, referring to the strong measures Arafat took against the Hamas following a series of suicide attacks that left dozens of Israelis dead. Swayed by these promises, Peres and others from the Israeli Left, as well as foreign politicians asked to give Arafat a final chance: a grace period to prove that he is serious about cracking down on terrorism and serious about peace with Israel.

That Peres and his followers fall for such rhetoric is puzzling, to say the least. Had they forgotten what actually happened in 1996? Within months of the arrests, as soon as public outrage over the murders subsided, the Hamas militants were released. Arafat is notorious for his revolving door policy — letting terrorists in through the front door of the jail and releasing them promptly through the same door as soon as people forget that dozens of their victims are no more.

Israeli Defense Minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, suggests that, “We must institute a mixture of harsh Israeli military operations, with massive American pressure on Arafat to reach a cease-fire” and Peres believes that there is a “great opportunity” now to forge a workable cease-fire with Arafat. Once again, showing off their short memories, these politicians forget that Arafat promised his people “the peace of Salahadin.” Salahadin Al Ayoubi, the revered 12th century Arab warrior, drove the crusades away from Jerusalem shortly after signing a peace treaty with them — the temporary peace providing him the time he needed to prepare his army for the assault on the holy city.

Arafat, for decades, has been able to get away with outrageous declarations and murderous policies because people forget — because memories die when emotions subside. Most Americans, urging Israel to negotiate with Arafat, have long forgotten that in 1973 Arafat murdered Cleo Moore, US ambassador to Sudan or that Arafat assisted in the murder of 254 marines and 58 French paratroopers in 1983. Emotions are no longer stirred as they were in 1985 after Arafat’s terrorists pushed the wheel-chair bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, off a ship and to his death. Arafat knows that emotions are ephemeral and he knows that that allows him to get away with murders.

One of the primary responsibilities of intellectuals and politicians is to provide an antidote for emotional amnesia by reminding people of the facts and getting these facts to stick in the collective memory bank. Fleeting public sentiments must not determine governmental policies. Decisions that affect the lives of millions must take into consideration the full context, not merely yesterday’s news. The fight against terrorism, whether in Israel or in the United States, must be systematic and ongoing. Its duration and magnitude cannot be subject to public sentiments. Not even Israel, who defeated the Arab armies in six days back in 1967, can beat terrorism in the period preceding the onset of emotional amnesia. Master terrorists like Arafat are counting on emotional amnesia for the success of their deadly campaigns. Israel has to do what is right and not allow the whimsical public to determine how, and how much, it acts.

Emotional amnesia is the kind of forgetfulness that kills, because it allows the most gruesome history to repeat itself. People forget that murderers, released by Arafat shortly after being arrested, are continuing to massacre Israelis today. For the sake of the free world, for the sake of Israelis and for the sake of the Palestinian people, Arafat and all those who believe in his way, must be removed from power and brought to justice. To give Arafat one more chance is to disgrace all those who lost their lives following each of the many “final chances” that Arafat got.

We can never experience the pain of every parent or child who lost a loved one. We can never do justice to those who lost their lives. The least we can do to honor the dead is to remember them. Remember, even when we no longer weep.

Tal Ben-Shahar, a teacher and lecturer, writes extensively on education, philosophy, psychology and politics and published the book "Heaven Can Wait" in 1998.

©2001 - Arutz Sheva

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