Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Lessons of Terror, Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King

Last Sunday the Chicago Tribune headlined this article alluding to a policy shift in Israel's seemingly never ending battle against terrorism.
The article reports this statement from the Israeli government:
In the same statement Thursday that called Arafat "a complete obstacle" to peace, the government said: "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has today instructed the security forces to Act relentlessly, continuously and determinedly to eliminate the terrorist organizations and take all appropriate measures against their leaders, commanders and operatives until their criminal activity is halted. The aforementioned activity will continue night and day, uninterrupted."

Since a suicide bombing last month that killed 22, the Israeli military has killed a dozen more Hamas leaders, including a (failed) assassination attempt on Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the group's spiritual leader. And for the first time, polls suggest that the policy of targeted killings, enjoys comfortable support amongst the Israeli public. It seems that after three years of countless attacks directed at civilians in cafes, Passover dinners and everyday bus riders, the Israeli public has said "enough!" In other words, it's time to take out the trash.

It seems likely that this (quiet) shift was on some level, influenced by the Israeli public taking a long look at the United States successes in Afghanistan and Iraq as a model for fighting terrorism. We have been attacking terrorism where it grows for two years now and have (quite to my amazement) not suffered another attack on U.S. soil; something that, after 9/11/01 seemed like a not too distant inevitability.

There is a lesson in this for us as well. A policy of appeasement and restraint does not end terrorism. On the contrary, it encourages it. If suicide bombings win concessions, then one can expect more suicide bombings. Restraint, or trying to understand "why they hate us" is not an effective combatant. Hamas has zero interest in living in peace with Israel, but instead seek to live on their ruins. (The Palestinian majority has this goal as well and if you poll Al-Qaeda, you'll find about 100% that would like to see us Infidels exterminated) The U.S. had already suffered a string of attacks throughout the 90's (African Embassy bombings, WTC bombing in '93, and the USS Cole attack) and reacted with hardly a shrug. That policy earned us the horror of 9/11. There are no negotiations with those whose demands start with your destruction.

Just as there are lessons that the United States and Israel can take from each other, there are lessons that the Palestinians would be wise to consider as well. Not the least of which is the realization that Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian policy of violence has brought nothing but more violence, more misery, and less hope. It may be time for them to take a page out of Martin Luther King or Gandhi's book.

Israel is a free society. Can you imagine, in this world of instant news, the ripple effect that a policy of peaceful Palestinian protest would have on world opinion? Now imagine the results of that policy beamed to millions of TV's around the world by Al-Jazeera and CNN a-like. Could Israel continue to fire rockets and drop bombs on the homes of suspected leaders, without a serious international backlash? Would world opinion not turn against Israel overnight if they continued to ignore Palestinian civil rights in the face of non-violent protests?

Perhaps Palestinians are treated as second class citizens by some in Israel, but they do have the right to get jobs and make a living, and there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children attending Israeli schools, an opportunity many neighboring Arab countries deny them. In Israel, Palestinians have rights, including the right to free assembly. It is time for change, and somewhere amongst the militants there must be a leader, one who can look to history's civil rights movements for the model to success. American blacks were much more oppressed than the Palestinians, but they managed to secure their rights without resorting to suicide bombs.

India took a similar road in gaining their independence from colonialism as Dinesh D'souza observes in his book "What's So Great About America:"
"They (India) did not secure their freedom by inflicting a military defeat on the West. This they did not have the power to do. They won by appealing to the principles of the West, including the principle of self-determination, and by shaming the West into relinquishing its empire and granting independence to its former colonies."

Martin Luther King exploited the same hypocrisy in the United States. Our Declaration of Independence proclaimed that "all men are created equal," but not all of the United States lived that way. By declaring this right as fundamental, the enforcement of it must follow, for it is the foundation of the rule of law and, by extension, the foundation for basic human rights. For a free society to deny this is to deny its own legitimacy. The civil rights movement forced the country to confront this question, and face either a constitutional crisis, or democracy.

D'Souza also notes in his book, "If Hitler had been ruling India, Gandhi would be a lampshade." By the same token, if Saddam had been ruling Israel the Palestinians would have long ago choked on sarin gas. Fortunately though, Israel is not Iraq, and saying a bad word about the government will not get you and your family torturously murdered. Opportunity is there, so instead of exploiting the openness of the Israeli society to bomb them, they would be further ahead to use the morals of that society against them -- not pass out candy and dance in the streets when a suicide bomber successfully detonates himself. But this cannot happen until the Palestinian movement becomes united in a two state solution. So far, they haven't been.

I will be going to see Dinesh D'Souza speak at my alma mater, Monmouth College (IL), in October and will review it here.

Also Chicago Tribune links tend to expire quickly, if anyone who wants to see the above linked article after it's gone, let me know.


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