While I understand Palestinians who argue with me that the Israelis have killed more Palestinians than Palestinians have killed Israelis, I also feel it is more important that the Palestinians clean up their own house before pointing any fingers of accusation.
What that means is that Palestinians have a moral responsibility to first acknowledge the injustices committed by their own before pointing to injustices committed by Israelis.
Then and only then can the cry for justice resonate with a powerful moral depth. If Palestinians can stand up for the principle of justice and speak out against the killing of Israelis, then their cries for justice when Israelis kill Palestinians will carry the moral weight of righteousness.
But when Palestinians only complain that the Israelis have committed crimes, and close their eyes when Palestinians commit similar or worse crimes, it is hypocrisy and their cries for justice ring hollow.
The failure of Palestinians to stand up and denounce injustice across the board is exactly why many in the Western world shrug their shoulders at the recent report by the Israeli civil rights organization B’Tselem that 660 Palestinians were killed, including 141 childre, in 2006, three times more than the past year. In comparison during 2006, only 23 Israelis were killed, down from 50 the previous year.
These are stunning statistics that address the true imbalance in power between Israel’s excessive use of force in the Territories and the often more dramatic acts of violence by Palestinians.
Although Israelis also shrug off this tragic and lopsided toll, the fact remains these numbers beg the question, “Who is more engaged in violence, Palestinians or Israelis?”
But that question can never be answered because of the Palestinians' failure to address their own actions and misdeeds.
This week, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to pursue peace and resumption of negotiations, Palestinian extremists in the Gaza Strip fired Qassam missiles into Israel to provoke conflict and block peace.
This time, the Qassam rockets were fired by Islamic Jihad, a religious terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel, secular Muslim institutions and all Christians. Islamic Jihad shares the same corrupt vision of Hamas, which managed to slip into government control by exploiting the “societal disarray by suffering” of the Palestinian public.
Crack down on extremists
It’s the story of the Palestinian tragedy. The Palestinian leadership engages in peaceful negotiations to lift Palestinians out of their misery and suffering, only to be embarrassed and undermined by freelance terrorists, many allied with the so-called “Hamas Government.”
If the Palestinian National Authority has any legal authority, and if it is in fact a “government,” then its first responsibility should be to crack down on these extremists firing Qassam rockets into Israel.
No one in Palestinian society has a right to engage in violence against Israel, except the government. That’s not to say that Abbas should authorize a war against Israel. It is to say that there is a legal principle of authority here that must be enforced and respected.
Those individuals firing Qassam rockets at Israel are criminals because they are violating Palestinian laws against violent behavior. It is not resistance to fire Qassam rockets into Israel when at least one major force in the Palestinian government is engaging Israel in peaceful negotiations.
Qassams not justified
Individuals have no legal right to engage in any form of violence when they have a government.
The history of Hamas and other Palestinian extremists is clear. Whenever Israeli and Palestinian governments have taken steps towards a negotiated peace, Hamas and the extremists have used violence to derail peace.
The Qassam rocket is no different than the suicide bomber. Neither is justified.
That means that Abbas is obligated to crack down on those extremists. To arrest them. To disarm them. To even jail and prosecute them, because while those terrorists hide behind the noble claim of “resistance,” their real motivation is the intentional destruction of the peace process.
If Palestinians want justice in the New Year, they must change. It may be unfair that they are being killed at a rate 11 times faster than Israelis, but life is unfair. Yet unfairness can be overcome.
Stand up to renegades
Palestinians must fight for principle, not plight. Palestinians must change how they respond to the crisis around them. The majority of Palestinians are not engaged in the violence. The violence is orchestrated by small bands of extremists, mostly associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad but some associated with the mainstream political groups.
Yet these extremists remain as renegades operating outside of Palestinian law. They should be arrested, jailed and prosecuted.
Palestinians must stand up to these renegades who are destroying the hope for a Palestinian independence as surely as the illegal Israeli settlements of Ariel, Har Homa, Gilo and hundreds of others threaten the future state’s sovereignty.
And before Palestinians should demand the release of the thousands of political prisoners held in Israel concentration jails, they should first demand the release of the Israeli soldier being held by Palestinian terrorists.
That is the stand of the principled, moral and the just.
Some Israelis will debate the legality of these settlements, but it is a debate better saved for the future. Instead, Israelis should now be addressing the B’Tselem report in their own context, asking themselves if Israeli policy in the occupied territories has been as just.
Ray Hanania was named 2006/2006 Best Ethnic American Columnist by the New American Media. He can be reached at www.hanania.com