This is exactly what “the terrorists” want.
I don’t need to identify who is and who isn’t a terrorist in this fight. It’s pretty clear to both sides.
But the real issue is the higher principle that seems orphaned high above the carnage below: Responding to violence with violence is a form of terrorism, and failing to pursue peace despite the violence is also terrorism, too.
You can’t look at this as a conflict that started when Palestinians kidnapped Israeli “teenager” soldier Gilad Shalit and killed two other Israeli soldiers when they successfully destroyed an Israeli tank.
That they took out a tank should, if I were Israeli, concern me. But I’m not.
The fact is the violence has been ongoing by both sides since forever. And both sides are to blame for the carnage.
Palestinians can’t seem to control their fanatics and extremists, and their terrorism continues in the form of Qassam rockets being fired, often unprovoked, across the border at Israel.
They are not very good, but they must be frightening.
Israelis can’t seem to control their fanatics and extremists, and their terrorism continues in the form of the occupation and all its manifestations: The wall, the confiscation of land, the expulsion of civilians from their homes, the killings of civilians when targeting alleged criminals.
'You are a traitor'
Israelis’ bigger problem is the terrorism of “collective punishment.”
No civilized nation starves a people to death simply because some extremists have committed an act of violence.
But Israel does and is trying to starve the Palestinians to death.
And the Palestinians are just as much to blame, too. But there is a significant difference that cannot be forgotten, although it cannot be used as an excuse, either.
Israel has the power and Israelis are the occupiers. The Palestinians are being occupied and do not have the power. In an imbalance of this nature, emotion reigns, reason is thrown out the window, and we have what we now have: Continued violence that not even the wall can stop.
For all of the complaints by Palestinians of collective punishment, so few have stood up to denounce the violence against Israeli civilians. They haven’t done enough to advocate for peace.
They love to be victims. And they have an entire army of fanatics who scream like old ladies dressed in black obayas undulating at funerals. This contingent of fanatics is the guardian of hate.
“How can you support compromise when the Israelis are murdering our people?” one “Palestinian” writer wrote me recently. “You are a traitor.”
The moral answer
You are the traitor when you advocate for violence and confrontation and refuse to compromise. You are the traitor when you applaud the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers or the murder of Israeli civilians. You are the traitor when, in the face of Israeli war crimes, you support Palestinian war crimes in response.
Neither side has the moral ground in this conflict.
Israel’s government clearly has decided to impose a “peace” that is not a peace at all and that will only fuel more conflict. Israel will give the Palestinian extremists exactly what they want, a reason to fight back.
And you are not going to kill those Palestinians, Israel. They’ll just keep coming, and coming and coming until one day, they just might win the way you won, by force of arms, injustice and violence.
Of course, there is always the one solution. The only solution.
Too bad we don’t have Palestinian or Israeli leaders who have the courage to stand up and speak in its defense.
Israel can define a fair and just solution for the Palestinians that will result in a real Palestinian State and that includes a sharing of Jerusalem and that also addresses the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians can accept that just and fair offer and then start using it to push down the extremists who have nourished themselves on the failure of the peace process.
Palestinians must have faith in peace, even when the Israeli government acts as a terrorist state, as it is now doing. Because the imbalance demands that it be so. The fact that they are the occupied means that they must pursue a peaceful compromise even in the face of brutal Israeli government violence.
That is the moral answer.
So too for the Israelis.
'Start acting like human beings'
They have the upper hand and the power. That means that in the face of the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier, the moral response is to find a way out of the violence not by using more violence but through peaceful negotiations.
Saying you will not negotiate with terrorists is condemning all Palestinians as terrorists, and they are not.
But if you continue to say that long enough, as Israel’s governments have, then it just might one day come true.
And then, there is no hope for either side.
There will be more violence, more kidnappings, more killings, more collective punishment, more terrorism and more suffering on both sides.
There might be something else, if Palestinians and Israelis can, for once, stop acting like Palestinians and Israelis, and start acting like human beings.
That would be refreshing. For once in this sick tragedy called a conflict.
Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist, author and satirist. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.