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Extinguish fires of Mideast hate before more children perish

By Charley Reese Commentary

Published in The Orlando Sentinel, November 8, 1998

 

Israelis will rightly hail as a hero the soldier who drove his Jeep between a car bomber and a school bus, sacrificing his own life to save the lives of more than 40 schoolchildren on a road in Gaza.

Palestinians also should honor the soldier. He saved the children. He also saved the Palestinian cause from a catastrophic blunder from which it probably never would have recovered. All the hard work of Palestinian moderates -- by far the majority -- would have been undone by the mangled bodies of Israeli children.

Palestinian children can die anonymously as far as America's news media are concerned, but Israeli children would not.

If, in fact, the military wing of Hamas planned this attack, then the leaders of Hamas ought to execute them, not only for their evil intent but also for the evil they would have done to both Islam and to the hopes of Palestinians for peace and self-determination.

Adults killing adults is bad enough, but killing children is evil, and too many children, both Palestinian and Israeli, already have died in this struggle over land so arid and rocky most Americans wouldn't buy an acre of it at a bankruptcy sale.

Every single death is another log on the fire of hatred that burns on both sides. And killing has become all too common and casual. There is no moral difference between trying to blow up a school bus and Israeli gunners deliberately shelling a United Nations camp in Lebanon, knowing that it contained more than 100 women and children who had sought refuge. Without a just peace, these fires will burn and consume flesh indefinitely on into the next century. And, inevitably, the fires will spread.

The majority of Palestinians, now led by Yasser Arafat, renounced terrorism and made the even-more-important decision to settle for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. This was the sea change that the hard-nosed Israeli Col. Y. Harkabi wrote about in his last book, in which he warned that Israel would be committing national suicide if it turned its back on this opportunity for peace.

Hamas, however, is a separate organization, mainly a religious and charitable organization that operates a string of hospitals, schools and a welfare system. It has a military wing, and it has never bought into the idea of compromising with the Israelis. Ironically, it was the Israelis who initially encouraged the growth of Hamas in order to divide Palestinians. That may yet go down as one of the Israelis' biggest blunders.

It always has been the Israeli plan to instigate a civil war among the Palestinians. So far both Arafat and Hamas have avoided that. All those extra guns that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now complains about came from Israel.

Right after the Israelis pulled out of Gaza, I had dinner with several municipal officials from Gaza, and they told me that Israelis were selling guns to anyone who wanted them in Gaza. Why? To make a civil war more likely, they said.

Arafat's task of dealing with terrorism is complicated by a number of factors. One, the areas under Palestinian authority are isolated spots, surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory. Two, the Israeli government itself has continued to commit acts of terrorism, assassinating one Hamas leader in Gaza and attempting to assassinate another in Jordan. It has also continued to confiscate land and expand settlements. This, of course, provokes retaliation.

No country in the world can be 100 percent successful in preventing terrorism. Thus, no matter what Arafat does, the Israelis can always say it's not enough. Israelis need to quit playing gotcha and make peace.


[Posted 11/07/98 12:58 AM EST]

(c) 1998 Orlando Sentinel Online


Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/1108rees.htm

 


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