Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stuff I Just Don't Get 

I do my best to stay informed -- which means reading a lot of blogs, of course -- but there are still a few hidden truths in this world that I just don't get.

Earlier today I happened to bump my brain on just such a low-hanging mystery. I was background googling another post I'm hoping to write later -- if I can stay awake long enough -- when I came across this gem, an oldie but a goodie from 2004. Arab News had an article explaining, entirely without irony, how the death of "Hamas Spiritual Leader" Sheik Ahmed Yassin had forced open the very Gates of Hell:

Believe what you want, Condi, and remain mired in your ignorance of the fact that Yassin was merely the spiritual leader of Hamas -- Hamas being not just a resistance movement like any other, that has resorted to revolutionary violence to free its people from an already 37-year old brutal occupation, but also an organization that spends millions of dollars on schools, clinics, orphanages, mosques, food distribution, sports leagues and other social programs to help a people that have been pauperized by that very same occupation.
People really seem to buy this idea, that a little bureaucratic busy work -- raising money for Hamas midnight basketball and such -- somehow renders terrorists immune to criticism or consequence. Raise enough money to name an orphanage after a suicide bomber and suddenly the world loses the ability to distinguish between your philanthropic and misanthropic endeavors. Which makes it all the more puzzling to me when criticism time rolls around that no one seems to cut Israel's sadly socialist government any slack, apparently not noticing that Israel also runs schools, clinics, orphanages, lotteries, airlines and probably even mosques too. I just don't get it.

Here's another one: the democratic Western World is often lectured that Hamas leads a democratically-elected government. This frequent reminder is apparently necessary, lest the West forget that no one is allowed to punish democracy-loving Hamas voters by withholding donations to the Arafat Memorial Ammunition Fund, since that would amount to "not respecting their democratic choice." This is especially true whenever Hamas henchmen -- the ones who aren't in the government, for sure -- decide to launch Kassams at us Israelis based on their democratically guaranteed freedom to prefer us dead. Sure, the Palestinian people have elected an uncompromising party committed to unending terrorist attacks against the Jews of Israel. But that's their Democratic right.

Besides, didn't Thomas Jefferson say that liberty requires that trees should be watered with blood, or something like that? And if "democratic" Israel elects a government that chooses to defend itself against those same tree-watering attacks, that's grounds for an immediate academic boycott, or at least a snub of Israeli vintners at next year's French wine tasting competitions, am I right?

Which brings me to another puzzler: boycotts and collective punishment. When Israel takes criminal actions like security searches to stop ALL Palestinians from carrying out suicide bombings, just because one bomber blew up, a lot of seriously sophisticated people go positively ballistic -- figurative speaking -- about the issue of collective punishment. Yet when it comes time to take action against Israel for this collective crime, how is it that these same collective-punishment-hating people are suddenly pro-boycott? Am I missing something? I had thought that a boycott was a collective commercial punishment of every member of a group, even those who had nothing to do with the alleged sin in the first place. I guess it doesn't count in this case, since although the boycott is applied to everyone, it's only enforced one at a time. (Yeah, sorry. That's the best explanation I can come up with -- I know some AUT academics will differ with me on the grounds that every Israeli is collectively guilty of participating in the ultimate sin, occupation, by existing, but much the same could be said of Palestinians, who collectively fail to stop their fellows from exploding.)

Why is the weakness of an Arab government its strength, but the strength of a Jewish government its weakness? Whenever it has come time for Palestinians to deliver on a negotiated commitment -- let's say, to stop attacking Jews with suicide bombers, or to confiscate unauthorized weapons from four- and five-year-olds at their political rallies -- the world has typically given them an automatic mulligan to skip over any particular odious chore and move straight ahead to the next task of extracting more from Israel. Why? Because everyone knows that Abbas, or Arafat, or Haniyeh or the Rais-du-Jour is simply too weak to be expected to carry out commitments he has agreed to -- such a weak leader can't possibly be expected to survive asking his people to give up even a sliver of their dreams of destroying Israel.

Israel, on the other hand, due to its great strength -- a Nietzschean strength built on decades-worth of that which continually didn't quite kill it -- is expected to go beyond mere fulfillment of its committments. These are known as confidence-building measures, and have succeeded in building great confidence in the Palestinians that they can get pretty much whatever they want out of Israel if they just wait long enough and host enough European diplomats.

Another thing I don't get: are the Palestinians really the completely helpless charity cases they frequently make themselves out to be, who couldn't get by without handouts from America, France, Belgium and Somalia? Or are they instead the powerful fighting force they also claim to be, regularly boasting of their plans to destroy a neighboring nation -- the one with the world-respected military and the yarmulkes?

Why is Zionism, a Jewish nationalist movement, globally vilified for being a racist impediment to the achievement of Arab nationalism's central dream: creating a 23rd Arab state with no annoying sovereign Jews nearby?

Lastly, if the world's governments really feel it is so important not to pre-judge negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians (I know, I know, but maybe in another decade or two) why are the world's embassies in Tel Aviv and not in Israel's capital, Jerusalem? Somehow, we are told, doing so would pre-judge the negotiations. What negotiations? I was unaware the world agreed with Palestinian maximalists that all of Jerusalem, as opposed to just the disputed eastern half, was somehow up for negotiation. After all, the western part of Jerusalem (where embassies could be put) has been in Israel's hands since the very beginning, and certainly before the events of 1967 that everyone insists is the part we're supposed to negotiate. Does the world really desire negotiations here in which Israel is pre-conditioned to actually LOSE territory it held before the war -- its capital city -- even after a war that it WON? Because that's what it looks like to me.

But then again, I just don't get it.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: