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Posted: 8/18/2001 5:34:11 PM EDT
The New Republic Post date 08.16.01 | Issue date 08.27.01 Bombs by the Editors http://www.thenewrepublic.com/082701/editorial082701.html There is only one state in the world today that chooses to be without a border, and it is the state of Israel. It lacks an eastern border, and this lack, this extraordinary porousness, is owed to Israel's view, honored by its governments of the left and its governments of the right, that its conquest of Palestinian territories in 1967 (they were then Jordanian and Egyptian territories) was provisional, and that the annexation of these densely populated and increasingly hostile lands is not an Israeli objective (almost the entirety of their Palestinian population already rules itself), and that the disposition of these lands must await a treaty of peace. Israel has elected to keep itself porous. It has never exulted in its occupation. It has made use of its occupation to make itself safer, and otherwise borne its costs. But those costs are becoming insupportably high. Through Israel's open door Hamas now enters. Since last September, there have been 66 Palestinian suicide attacks against Israel and Israelis. Some of them have been foiled, some of them have succeeded in their savagery. Last week a Palestinian from Jenin had himself photographed with a gun and a Koran and strapped explosives wrapped in nails around his waist and drove on the back of a motorbike into the heart of Jerusalem and blew up a pizza joint crowded with lunching families. In Palestinian towns, the carnage at the corner of Jaffa and King George was a cause for celebration in the streets. Senior Palestinian officials explained that the blame for the atrocity at Sbarro belonged to Ariel Sharon. Then the world braced itself for Sharon's wrath, for the brutality of his retaliation. And something unexpected happened. The brutality never materialized. Sharon ordered Israeli forces in East Jerusalem to occupy Orient House, the address that has come to represent the Palestinian aspiration to sovereignty. (The Palestinians struck at children, the Israelis struck at symbols.) Israeli F-16s destroyed an empty police building in Ramallah and nobody was injured. For a few hours Israeli tanks entered Palestinian territory and leveled a few buildings in Jenin, a poisonous place from which many of the recent "martyrs," that is, murderers, have hailed. The Israelis left after three hours. No life was lost. In an overdue attempt to put an end to the regular Palestinian shooting at Gilo (a neighborhood in Jerusalem and in no sense a "settlement," as reporters sometimes describe it), Israeli troops positioned themselves threateningly outside the towns of Beit Jallah and Beit Sahur, and then they did exactly nothing. Some wrath! Whatever the reasons for Ariel Sharon's restraint, it is clear that he is not living up to his reputation as a worshiper of force. So far.
Link Posted: 8/18/2001 5:49:13 PM EDT
For months now, critics of Israeli actions have liked to point out that anti-terrorism is a tactic and not a strategy, that anti-terrorism alone will not bring the region closer to peace. They have decried Israel's policy of striking at Palestinians who are about to strike at them, calling these killings "assassinations." The appellation is morally idiotic. Preemption is a duty of self-defense. If somebody is coming to kill you, an old Jewish adage teaches, kill him first. A government, in Israel and in any other country, that did not preempt the killing of its own citizens would be a profoundly delinquent government. That is how a government protects its people: by being stronger and smarter and swifter than its people's enemies. But the fact on the ground, again, is that the Palestinians are acting viciously on their rage but the Israelis are not acting viciously on their grief. The Palestinians, indeed, seem to have become intoxicated by their violence. Their politics, if that is the word, has taken on a weird, delusional quality. When the Israeli tanks rolled out of Jenin after their brief show of force, Palestinians in Jenin (as Clyde Haberman reported in The New York Times) described it as a "retreat." They attributed it to their own "heroic resistance," when there was no physical evidence of gunfire. They screamed that the Israelis had killed two or three people, when nobody died. They fumed that the Israelis had taken 70 Palestinians with them, when none were missing. People cannot have a grasp of peace when they do not have a grasp of reality. Meanwhile something very different happened in Ramallah. In the Israeli air raid on the Palestinian police station, two bombs were dropped. One exploded, but the other did not. An Israeli military official told The Jerusalem Post what happened next: "In order to prevent innocent people from getting hurt, the IDF notified the Palestinian Authority of the unexploded bomb through its liaison officers." After a Palestinian bomb that killed innocent people in Jerusalem, then, the Israelis warned the Palestinians of a bomb that might kill innocent people in Ramallah. The political situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be clear, but the same cannot be said about the moral situation.
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