From her Unsealed Room, AKSommer glances over at Gaza, notices a Fatah gunman pathetically pleading, prior to being dragged out into the street and shot in the head by Hamas, “We’re not Jews!” Remarked my Jewish deskmate, when I related this tale to him tonight at work, “Well, you are now.” (Jules Crittenden)
One of the enduring word-pictures of the recent fighting in Gaza has been that of militants on both sides being forced to jump from high-rise buildings in a kind of 21st century version of walking the plank. If you were to recreate the scene in a movie the soundtrack of the militant falling to his doom would go: "but I'm not a JOOOoooooo". Thud. Funny, until you realize it is not stylized cartoon violence but a man being disabused of the last illusion. That anything but the ability to defend one's self makes a difference when confronted by evil.
Richard Landes quotes a despairing Egyptian author. He should despair. Gaza borders on Egypt.
“This is what we said: It starts with the Zionist enemy who is occupying the Holy Land, and then the violence and the hatred spread dangerously, like fire, in the psyche of the one over which they have gained mastery. They consume everything around them - and the first thing they consume is the light of reason. The individual loses his natural balance, which is based on the balance between peaceful tendencies [that encourage] peace, and angry tendencies that incite to violence…
“Thus we observed, and gave our blessing to, the conflagrations of violence and hatred, and they extended from [being aimed at] the Zionist enemy to [being aimed at] anyone who befriended it or helped it - even if they helped us as well, and even if it was someone on whom we depended for medicine, food, and everything.
“Our violence and hatred extended to America, England, and the other Western countries, and there is a BBC journalist who is still a prisoner of our jihad-fighting organizations…”
Oh yeah, him. I don't want to make too light of his troubles, but it shows you can't run between the raindrops. What did another BBC journalist say when being shot in Saudi Arabia? "Don't shoot, I'm a Muslim". Maybe Rick Blaine had it right when he told Ilsa that 'this thing is bigger than the both of us. The problems of two little people don't come to a hill of beans in this crazy world.' And that's what it is. Crazy.
And I think it is only fair to point out that the humiliation had been cruel and cumulative. The Ottoman Empire was a long time declining and when the Europeans walked all over the Arabs, it might have seemed like things couldn't get worse. But they could. The Jew, a civilization that had probably been written off in Middle Eastern history, returned in the 20th century. At first it seemed they would be easy to defeat. So few and in so small a place. But the incredulity of defeat turned to anger then rage. And then they started building a revenge palace in the mind.
The more intelligent and far-seeing, like the Egyptian writer quoted above, may have understood that the reform of Arab society was tied up with the ability to come to terms with Israel. But nobody likes the long road. One charlatan after the other rose up with their nostrums. At first the idea was the Jews must have won because they had modern weapons. So Nasser got the best that the USSR could offer. And when he lost, the desire for revenge, for self-affirmation became a mania. Eventually regional politics lost patience and hope with their states, and the terror groups promised yet another shortcut. Arafat and his ilk would liberate Palestine!
Sooner or later it became clear that wasn't going to work either, and despair has found a new champion. Islamism. This time they are going to win. The very basis of the Middle Eastern identity, a notion as mystic as Mother Russia, was going to drive the invader out. We all know what will happen to the Israelis if they lose. But have we given any thought to what happens if they win -- again? To some extent that is an outcome fraught with even greater peril. Because I can't imagine the screech of frustration that will rise, even up to skies, if radical Islamism is uncermoniously cast into the trashcan of history.
But as the Egyptian writer above points out, the fires of rage are consuming the Arab societies themselves. They strike out at others, even their benefactors. They strike out at their sectarian rivals. And finally they strike out at themselves. I know it will be argued that, see here, Hamas has won the round. But for how long? Inevitably factions will arise, disputes will surface and the arbiter is the gun, the soldering iron and the electric drill. Or when available, the high rise building with an open window. A few may hope that the dehumanization is temporary. All will be cleansed and forgotten in the blessed moment when Palestine is free of the Jew. It is akin to the longing for the Last Trumpet of Judgment; the final attainment of Communism. But the earth disappoints. The world will never deliver the completeness of our dreams. Terrorism will befoul the land of the Arabs and what if the Jew remains? What despair would be equal to the tragedy? And yet ...
All they have to do, with their hundreds of millions of talented people, is to spend a generation in peace, studying, building, using their vast oil wealth well and they will have grown so strong that they could crush Israel in a moment. But in the process they would have grown so wise that they would probably have no more need to do so. They will have regained their self-respect without recourse to dreams of murder. And then they will see Israel for what it is. A small, dusty patch of soil which is the sole refuge of a battered people, and extend their hand in sympathy.
Of course, none of this is likely to happen. The screaming will go on. Thud.