July 09, 2006

Palestinian Body Armor


In a FoxNews report about Israel's attempt to rescue a kidnapped soldier and prevent rocket attacks, civilian casualties among Palestinians are used as propaganda against Israel:

The Palestinian casualties, while mostly gunmen, include civilians. On Saturday a woman and her two children were killed in a blast at their house and four other family members were wounded.

Israeli military officials said they weren't responsible. They said the only military activity in the area was a successful airstrike on a cell firing anti-tank missiles.

In Gaza City, hundreds of people joined a funeral procession for the family. The body of 6-year-old Rawan Hajaj was carried on a bloodstained stretcher, her face exposed and body covered in a flag of the Islamic Jihad militant group. In a show of unity, gunmen from rival Palestinian factions fired into the air.

Late Saturday, the United Nations accused Israel of widespread human rights violations and hardship to civilians. It said the operations "have seen innocent civilians, including children, killed, brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and ... will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society."

Israeli officials rejected the criticism.

"Anybody who calls this operation disproportionate has no clue about the facts on the ground. We have been attacked and bombarded for months and weeks," Cabinet minister Yitzhak Herzog said Sunday. "With all due respect to all those who criticize us, if anything of this nature would have happened in their homeland, they would have acted much worse."

Totally ignored by the U.N. and the article is how Palestinian terrorists use fellow Palestinians as human shields and how Palestinian culture teaches children to put themselves in harms way.

This Reuters report provides some light:

A dozen small boys, not yet teenagers, were among relatives gathered at a funeral in Gaza on Friday for a young man killed in clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops.

Asked if they would learn from the death of 19-year-old Mohammed Maher Shahine, killed while watching Thursday's fighting as Israel stepped up an offensive in the strip, the boys answered almost with one voice.

"No. We want to be martyrs too," they said, seemingly oblivious to the danger of following around bands of gunmen as they battle more powerful Israeli troops, who are backed by tanks and helicopters.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs keeps track of such sentiment. This week he posted recent photos of Palestinian boys acting as human shields for terrorists. Johnson also maintains a slideshow called Palestinian Child Abuse that catalogs photos of children being militarized and prepared for "martyrdom" by their families and culture.

What leads parents to sacrifice their children? What leads Palestinian boys to say "we want to be martyrs too"? Robert Tracinski recently wrote an excellent examination of The Suicide Bomb Morality -- and it's not just Palestinians who hold selflessness in high regard.

[T]he worship of suffering is the world's disease, a very old affliction that has evaded our cultural immune system by disguising itself as a morality. That morality is accepted as uncontroversial in today's world, and you hear it, and probably nod in agreement, whenever someone tells you that self-sacrifice is the essence of moral virtue. ...

The Palestinians show us a society based on sacrifice in its purest, most fanatical form. It is a society built around a single moral model: the suicide bomber, who is lionized on billboards, on television, in popular songs. And this is not just the propaganda of the corrupt Palestinian rulers. One of the delegates elected to the Palestinian parliament in the populist upsurge for Hamas was Umm Nidal, the "mother of martyrs," who has sent three of her sons to kill themselves in terrorist attacks on Israel, proclaiming that their "sacrifice...makes me happy."

For the great mass of Palestinians this worship of sacrifice is sincere. By rejecting every chance at peace and coexistence with Israel--breaking every truce and turning down every peace offer--they have lost everything and gained nothing. Taking the suicide bomber as their moral model, the Palestinians seek to emulate his fate: in their lust to destroy Israel, they are willing to accept the utter destruction and collapse of their own society.

Look to the other side of the security barrier and you see a very different society. While the Palestinians raise their children on visions of blood and murder, the Israelis are largely preoccupied by the business of producing, creating, making a living. Consider, for example, the vast Gaza greenhouses handed over from the departing Israelis to the Palestinians. In the hands of the society that "made the desert bloom," these greenhouses produced millions of dollars worth of produce. Under Palestinian control, they were looted and their products have literally been left to rot. As with the Cold War examples of East and West Berlin, Gaza and Israel offer side-by-side laboratories for opposing moralities.

The contrast to America--a nation founded on the right to "the pursuit of happiness"--is even more vivid. When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1832, he reported that the moral doctrine of "self-interest properly understood"--not hedonism, but a version of rational, benevolent self-interest--was "universally accepted": "You hear it as much from the poor as from the rich."

The distinctive model for American culture is not the suicide bomber but the "self-made man": the entrepreneur who achieves prosperity by hard work and ingenuity. Implicitly, we recognize that the proper business of life is not sacrifice but achievement. This is the actual code by which most Americans live.

The tragedy is that we don't recognize it.

UPDATE -- July 10: From the Jerusalem Post: Palestinian suicide strategy by Barry Rubin. (via Robert Tracinski)

Every day Western governments, media and academics try to impose this model on Palestinian behavior, politics and ideology. Yet it just doesn't work. The things many in the West think motivates Palestinians - getting a state, ending the occupation - are of no interest in their own right. Indeed, the only way to maintain the pretense is a combination of amnesia and abandoning of the kind of rational analysis used to view any other political situation in the world.

I must add that in private (though virtually never in public) Palestinian intellectuals sound a lot like me. Over and over again, one hears disgust, despair and profound cynicism along the lines described below.

Given the current Palestinian ideology and strategy the conflict is unsolvable, and there is no way to stop the violence. On the other hand, as a result, Palestinian tactics are unworkable, politics are disorganized, and military strategy is self-defeating. The Palestinians can harass Israel, but not much more.

Posted by Forkum at July 9, 2006 04:35 PM