As a society, we are accustomed to thinking in nationalistic terms. We think our conflict is with the Palestinian nation, and we have to emerge victorious. At the very least, we have to make sure no one discovers our defeat. That might sound reasonable to us, but it is how we do things, not they. We are in confrontation with a society of a different kind.
What they hate
Let me quote Salman Rushdie: “Fundamentalists aren’t satisfied with destroying buildings; They want to destroy much more than that. These people oppose – and this is just an abbreviated list – freedom of speech, multi-party political systems, voting rights for all, government accountability, Jews, homosexuals, women’s rights, the theory of evolution, sex.”
I would add the internet, two-piece bathing suits, television with more than one channel, books by John Irving and John Grisham, the poet John Donne, moderate Islam, gun control, Supreme Court, America, satire (especially caricatures), couples who kiss in public.
This is what we are facing. It doesn’t matter if you call the Israeli reaction convergence, disengagement, withdrawal or eviction. The fact is that there is no glue on this earth that can connect two groups of people who believe in totally different things. The idea that we will educate them is no more realistic or reasonable than them educating us.
The ideal world
It’s not a particularly good feeling. I would prefer to live in a world where people who are very different know how to get along, to reconcile differences and close gaps, how to smile and to be tolerant when faced with the other’s craziness. But alas, that is not the world that I live in, and neither do you.
As a way of avoiding this oppressive reality, the left and the right have invented their own brands of Palestinians. The right has invented the Palestinians that in the end will be forced to surrender to our spiritual superiority. In a duel of faith and commitment, the Palestinians will break, if only because their God is weaker than our God.
The left, for its part, has invented Palestinians who deep inside are just like us. We’ll just talk to them for a bit longer and before you know it, they’ll adopt liberal values, download U2 songs to their iPods, support women’s lib and become a democratic, Western society yearning for peace.
Ain't going to happen
These are two things that won’t happen, at least not in any foreseeable future. We have tried both approaches too many times, and they failed miserably. For our efforts we got more terror and its objective – simply – is to frighten us. We are supposed to be afraid to live, to love, to ride buses, to live our lives. The terror is also supposed to show us that we are weak and spoiled and we don’t believe in anything.
This is the reason that terror organizations are so terrified by the convergence plan. It sends a clear message that we have decided to decide that our fate, despite all their efforts, is still in our hands.
One of the problems of the convergence – how shall I put this – is that it’s really boring. It lacks the fiery dogma of faith expounded by the religious Zionists. Nor does it contain the magnanimous hope that characterizes the peace bloc. Instead, we have a cold, technical, uninspired solution.
The barrier is the continuation of the security guard at the entrance to the shopping mall. It’s job – to tell 3 million Palestinians to “open your bags please.” We know, sadly, that this will not stop terror but in most cases, the bomb will explode elsewhere and fewer people will die.
It’s a little depressing to thing that the entire Middle East peace process has been reduced to a matter of security, but that’s life. Shrinking Israel’s borders is far from being the magic bullet. It will reduce the threat but not obliterate it.
The president of the United States is the most heavily guarded person in the world and yet, John Hinkley, an insane man with a gun, managed to shoot, and nearly kill, Ronald Reagan. For the record, he did it to show his unrequited love for actress Jody Foster.
Hinkley’s action is no more or less logical than any other terror attack. They are all psychos; the terrorists are just psychos with ideology. This is also the reason that after we converge we will continue to see live TV coverage of high-speed chases after terror suspects. The difference is that we’ll see fewer of them.
Paul Simon has a line that I like a lot: “Why am I soft in the middle when life around me is so hard?” No one does irony like Simon. He’s trying to say that, with all due respect to being "open," sometimes the only way to preserve your humanity is to cut yourself off from it.
The real danger
We tried so hard to change the Palestinians and in the end they changed us. They turned us more religious, more violent, more isolated and obtuse. In the long run, this poses a bigger danger to us than all the Qassam rockets that landed in Ashkelon.
Of all the things that have been said and will be said about the Palestinians, this is the most difficult: It is impossible to live with them (at least not with those who voted for Hamas and its platform), not through occupation and not through signed agreements.
It is possible – we fervently hope – that things will change with time and the day will come when they will become a humane society where psychiatric treatment is provided for the mother who expresses pride in her son for blowing himself up.
Until then, there is no solution. The Palestinians’ rights must be guaranteed and they must receive as much humanitarian assistance as possible, but we have no way of partnering with them. Of the advantages of the convergence plan, this may be it’s most prominent: It doesn’t claim to solve the problem, just slightly improve the current situation.
At this point, that’s all we can ask for.