Ray Hanania's call for "changes" in the Palestinian-Israeli paradigm that appeared on this page Tuesday appears to be a plea for calm reason and moderation. But it quickly revealed itself to be little more than a flimsily disguised excuse for Palestinian excesses and failures.
While sincere efforts at "even-handedness" distort the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these distortions fail to consider the most essential ingredient for a lasting settlement: the truth.
Take, for example, a seemingly impartial observation: "Palestinian extremists have always used violence as a response to Israeli actions. Israeli extremists have always used the violence to justify more violence, more home demolitions, more land confiscation and more illegal settlements."
It is a twist on the old "cycle of violence" argument, but one in which Israel is both responsible for initiating the violence, to which the Palestinian extremists merely respond, and for perpetuating it by using such responses to justify even more violence.
The implication is as clear as it is fallacious: Without Israeli provocation there would be no violence on the part of Palestinians, whose extremism is simply an expression of their rage at Israeli excesses.
Hanania does bemoan the loss of life but blithely obscures real differences between the attitudes and conduct of the two sides. While Palestinian civilians have been hurt by the actions of Israel's armed forces, they are never the purposeful target such action.
By contrast, Israeli civilians are almost invariably the intended victims of Palestinian violence. When Palestinian bystanders are inadvertently hit during Israeli operations, which without exception are planned to pre-empt, or respond to, terror attacks, there are always official expressions of regret and contrition. Frequently, there are official inquiries into alleged misconduct of the IDF and security services, and offenders have been punished.
No such similar conduct is evident – or even imaginable - on the Palestinian side.
Grief vs. glory
Likewise, the image of " …parents crying over the death of their children" fails to differentiate between the universal grief expressed in Israel at the loss of life; and the ever more pervasive culture of death in Palestinian society, including the glorification of homicidal suicide "martyrs," as well as expressions of pride and joy from parents of those who chose "plastique" as the preferred pathway to paradise.
Hanania expresses a yearning for "an Israeli leader who has the courage to do what needs to be done", but one can but wonder what he dreams of. Over the past few months an Israeli leader unilaterally withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip, removed the IDF from the border with Egypt and obliterated all the settlements there, turning thousands of Israelis citizens into refugees in their own land.
The Palestinian response to all these: the election of Hamas – a terrorist organization who's founding Charter calls for the elimination of Israel. This fact gives lie to the myth that settlements are at the root of Palestinian animosity toward Israel.
Today, the objective facts are on the table for all the world to see: Removal of settlements has done nothing to reduce Palestinian enmity towards Israel –if anything, quite the reverse.
There is nothing new in Palestinian attempts to draw parallels between mainstream Israeli politicians (both right- and left-wing) and Palestinian terrorists. For instance it is certainly true that most Palestinians believe Yitzhak Rabin was a terrorist, and compare the Likud to Hamas, but the Palestinians who make this obscene comparison, conveniently ignore the fact that no Likud suicide bombers have blown themselves up in crowded casbah-cafés yelling "Jabotinsky is Great."
And lest we forget the secular democratic foundations of the Likud, it was a Likud government that signed the first peace agreement with an Arab state – a rather uncharacteristic move for a terrorist entity.
Substance and reality
Labels cannot change substance, and in the final analysis it is substance that determines the reality. It may be in vogue to accuse former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of "undermining" the Oslo accords and "provoking" Palestinian violence.
But the facts are a little different. Palestinian violence soared to unprecedented heights during the pre-Netanyahu period, under the Rabin and Peres governments, and plummeted dramatically during the Netanyahu administration to the lowest post-Oslo levels ever.
It only began to rise again during Ehud Barak's term, significantly after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and Barak's far-reaching peace initiative at Camp David.
Thus, contrary to the Palestinian rendition of history, it seems that Netanyahu's policies deterred, rather than provoked, Palestinian violence, which appears to have erupted whenever more accommodative Israeli governments were in power or more accommodative Israeli policies were in play.
There is, however, a final thought regarding the essential asymmetry between the national endeavors of Israelis and Palestinians: Against all odds, Israelis succeeded in establishing a state despite ferocious Arab and Palestinian opposition. On the other hand, the Palestinians, have failed to establish a state despite manifest Israeli acquiescence (and at times even active endorsement) and massive international support.
While it is true that Israel has received a great deal of foreign aid, conditions in this country have remained dauntingly difficult. Yet Israelis have built an advanced industrialized country, with the world's highest per-capita rate of scientific publications and patents filed. The county is a world leader in agriculture, hi-tech and medicine.
Sadly by contrast, despite being the world's highest per capita recipients of international aid the Palestinians have excelled at producing crazed martyrs, corruption and… well, little else.