A Double-Bind Wrapped in a Paradox Hidden Through the Looking Glass
August 17, 2012
This is the second of a three part series on current Middle East realities. The third and final installment will be published on Monday, August 20.
Have you ever wondered why there are never any Palestinian demonstrations against the building of the Israeli settlements? Can you imagine the PR value of a hundred little blue eyed school girls, sitting in the road, shaking in terror as they blocked bulldozers?
The reason those images never materialize is because Palestinians are employed by the thousands in the construction industry building the settlements. Despite billions of dollars meant to stimulate the economy, corrupt Palestinian leaders have managed to siphon enormous sums of money. To deny workers a job would only bring attention to the Palestinian leadership misdeeds- that, and they have no desire to actually taker care of their brethren. Arab nations promise lots of aid in grand public displays of solidarity but don’t deliver. Working construction on a settlement is a guarantee of a steady paycheck. Thus, in what is an ironic reality the settlements are a de facto Palestinian Authority project.
It does not take much to see how this arrangement facilitates the dysfunctional status quo. Israel gets her settlements, Arabs get steady work and all the while, a viable Palestinian state becomes less of an attainable reality.
The arrangement works for everybody. Palestinian leaders find all this perfectly acceptable. Benefiting from graft and corruption is a lot easier than being responsible for roads, electricity, trash collection and infrastructure maintenance. Having to provide those services means less money for the taking. Further, real governance means actual accountability, a concept the Palestinian leadership has never had to deal with- and show no real desire to change that reality.
Does all that sound outrageous and impossible? Think about this: How come suicide bombers ply their evil inside Israel proper and almost never in the hated local settlements? To get into Israel proper means checkpoints, searches and identity checks. To get into a settlement means getting into a car and going to work in a settlement with thousand of inhabitants. Blowing up a settlement means Palestinian jobs are lost- and no one wants that.
All the while, Israelis who publicly complain about Arab corruption are facilitating, encouraging and sustaining the very thing they complain about.
Here is an ugly truth: The ‘peace process’ has never really been about negotiating for an immediate peace. It has been about negotiating and legitimizing the pervasive corruption of the Palestinians and maintaining the status quo for the Israelis. For the Palestinian leadership a peace agreement means their grip on power becomes tenuous, because one pillar of such an agreement is the growth of a Palestinian economy, a middle class. The leadership prefers guarantee permanent poverty for the Palestinians, they prefer to hold on to power. For Israel a real peace accord is a guarantee of social unrest at home and a fragmentation of already fragile political coalitions.
Israel believes in and wants peace but when all is said and done, they are pragmatic. They need the settlements and a source of cheap labor. The Palestinian Territories are a source of cheap labor for Israel and a source of jobs the Palestinians don’t have to develop or pay for. Think of the Mexican Maquiladoras.
The goals and aims of what is best for the Palestinian leadership is also self serving is very different for what is best for the Palestinian people.
As long as the conflict is kept at a simmer, each side gets what they want- and both Palestinians and Israelis are made to pay.
That same truth applies to the Arab league. It is an institution that until now, was designed to protect the staus quo.
We wrote in The Onerous Burden, The Just Man and The Divine Comedy, we discussed morality:
…A blind advocate refuses to see or deal with the very stumbling blocks or impediments which might be the cause of his or her agenda. To the blind advocate only the target of their rage is what matters. They assume no responsibility for any of their own actions which might contribute to the failure of their agenda. In fact, the blind advocate goes out of his or her way to blame the object of their rage and/or hatred for their own misbehavior.
In psychological terms, this is called projection. A person or group, subconsciously assigns their own dysfunctional behaviors, thoughts and emotions to another individual or group. This is a defense mechanism used to protect the individual or group from dealing with their own dysfunction.
Simply claiming a moral high ground is not enough. To own a moral high ground is to act in a moral way. It is actions and not words which distinguish the moral from the immoral. To put it more succinctly, immoral acts are the result of an immoral character.
A friend recently offered up a succinct observation: Clearly, one side has further to go than the other but that doesn’t mean the other side is blameless or without fault.
As a free society, Israel looks to other free societies for guidance when needed. By contrast, the Palestinians turn to other broken and dysfunctional Arab regimes when they need guidance
The Palestinians have a very long, long way to go. They have been subject to leaders who have exploited them for personal gain and as as front line so that other dysfunctional and broken regimes might keep their own citizens rage focused outward. The easiest way to manipulate populations is to wave the flag and invoke religion. Nothing brings hate to the fore more hate than those things and nothing leaves a wound so open for so long.
The blogger Shrinkwrapped, in Who is Samir Kuntar writes
I emphasized the joy and hatred in their voices for a reason. It is hard for anyone with normal sensibilities to comprehend how someone can feel joy and hatred while smashing in the head of a 4 year old child?What kind of pathology can cause a society to celebrate such evil? The myth of the poor, wretched Palestinians, driven to suicide bombings by despair, persists among the foolish of the West. For Palestinians, murderers are not wretched, they are heroes…
A Palestinian grade school teacher was interviewed on BBC radio this morning and the interviewer asked if perhaps it was a mistake to elect Hamas, considering the hardships the teacher was facing. He has five children, there is no food in his house, and he doesn’t know when he will be paid because the donor countries have cut off funding for the PA until Hamas gives up their dream of murdering Jews. His response was that Hamas represents the Palestinians highest aspirations; they are willing to give up their lives for freedom. Noble sentiments; however, the freedom they seek is the freedom to murder, not to build, and no one should mistake their goals…
How this tragic reality came to pass is no secret. Teach hate, preach hate and the result is inevitable. Another generation is sacrificed so as to feed the immoral gluttony of dysfunctional, self serving leaders
Israel, by design or by accident, continues to be the Palestinian dysfunction enabler and contributes to the problem. To be clear, this isn’t only about Israel. Western nations as whole have enabled Arab world dysfunction way past the Israeli border.
Iran fought a war that resulted in the death of over a million people, many of them children, used as fodder. The choice to use children as land mine detectors was not the result of their aversion to America or Israel.
In Algeria, the GIA did not rape and dismember thousands of children because of America or Israel.
Saddam did not invade Kuwait, or threaten Saudi Arabia because of America or Israel.
Poison gas was used in Yemen, in the 1960’s. The perpetrator? Our friends, the Egyptians.
We did nothing and there were no consequences for the tragedies that occurred. That too, is immoral.
Perhaps most immoral of all and the Mother of all Enablers is the United Nations. By singling out Israel as the world’s great villain, an argument can be made how Arab regimes have by themselves reduced the United Nations to irrelevance. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, China and the Russian Federation, all with records of severe human rights violations are set on pedestal, as if they were in a position to judge Israel, an island of a thriving democracy surrounded by a sea of tyranny and dysfunction. The United Nations has become the world’s largest canvas of Salvador Dali , the great surrealist.
In our world, environment helps to shape values. The values found in free societies are very different than the values taught in dysfunctional, oppressive and repressive regimes. The values of free societies are passed on to free citizens. We engage in free dissent, debate, argue and we are free to challenge each other, our government and especially, ourselves. We are free to formulate our own opinions and if we wish, we are free to change those opinions.
As simple as that sounds, there are nuances. Israel is a nation founded first by a people escaping persecution and later came into being after the Holocaust. The decimation of a people in a conflict that took up to 50 million lives left a mark on people still smoldering. There is virtually no family of European descent in Israel that has not been directly affected. People who only wanted to forget a terrible past and move on are reminded of it everyday by people who promise another. Notwithstanding Israel’s democratic nature it was inevitable their priority would be security- whatever it took.
We cannot continue to enable the dysfunctional and broken behavior of the Arab world and Palestinians regimes. Subjugation, repression and hate are a part of everyday life in those societies. There are consequences to playing with fire.
When we compare the values of the western free societies with the dysfunctional and oppressive values that are force fed in much of the Arab world, we have to ask ourselves a question: Are those values lacking, or are they absent from the Arab societies of today? There is a big difference between lacking values and the absence of values. If the values are simply lacking, they can be replaced fairly easily. If those values are absent, well, that is a whole other thing. What are we doing to fix the problem?
The Arab world is at a loss as to why we cannot accept they are ‘just like us’. They cannot understand why we reject many of their values and bigotry. They cannot understand the magnificence of a pluralistic society. They seek a class based society where dysfunction rules- forcefully, if necessary. Arab influences are at the top of the that heap. With western rejection of those values comes frustration, and with that frustration, violence often follows. They see the rejection of their values as a rejection of themselves- they do not see or understand that by rejecting the ugly values they have had forced upon them, they can only elevate themselves. We dare not say these things to dysfunctional regime leaders for fear of offending or alienating them. But who are we offending? Who are alienating? Mostly, leaders and regimes who deserve to be offended and alienated.
When it comes to the Palestinians, are Israel and the west enabling the dysfunction? Do we continue to exploit that dysfunction to our advantage? Or are we willing to get into the dirt and try and fix things?
Doing nothing is a choice, one that will inevitably lead to tragic consequences.
When violence or threats of violence are considered legitimate forms of political or social expression, inevitably violence or threats of violence will manifest themselves. Terror has becomes an accepted form of political and social expression, that status granted by those who most profess to be non violent or peaceful. When we do nothing to deal with terror, that evil will eventually find it’s way here.
How do we deal with terror? We refuse to accept and condemn the perpetrators. There are no root causes for evil- immoral acts are the result of an immoral character. When we allow the perpetrators of terror to air their grievances we are enabling that terror as an acceptable form of expression.
When we deal with dysfunctional regimes so as to exploit a self serving opportunity, we are enabling that regime and maintain the status quo.
To be clear, it is the regimes that are at fault:
Dr Sanity, in A Most Ingenious Paradox:
It is a most ingenious paradox of life that most civilized societies and cultures encourage and support the individual in the pursuit of his or her own life, happiness and psychological growth. These societies do not lay claim to an individual’s life for the glory of the state; and in turn all members of the societey benefit as the culture’s productivity, wealth and benevolence all increase.
In other words, paradoxically, those political, economic, cultural and religious factors that encourage what is best for individual growth and maturity, are exactly what encourage the positive evolution and maturation of societies and cultures.
…Mature psychological defenses enable a creative solution to conflicts in ways that are positive for both the individual and his or her society. This is exactly what the immature defenses–such as denial, projection, paranoia do not do. On the contrary, such defenses almost always in the long run cause not only damage to the individual’s developing self, but they also eventually destroy the fundamentals of civilized behavior that can hold a society together and give it a future.
When we think back to the heady days of the toppling of the Berlin Wall, we don’t for one minute think of the speeches, government edicts or radio broadcast that were made at the time. We recall with crisp vivid memory the images of sledgehammers wielded by young and old attempting to pulverize hardened concrete. We recall images of East Berliners, choked for decades by tyranny being hoisted over the wall by young West Berliners who seemingly never tired.
When the Wall came down and in the days that followed, it was clear that no government had beat their ’swords into plowshares.’ What we saw was only made made possible by individuals who believed that they were capable of greatness, not only for themselves, but their fellow man.
Palestinian mobs are not the same as Palestinian individuals. That is why there is such an effort to poison kids minds with hate and that is why there is no Palestinian middle class. Unleashed, a healthy Palestinian community has an unlimited potential.
We cannot continue to enable these dysfunctional regimes. Rather than enable the Arab and Palestinian leadership and regimes it is high time they were told the truth: To continue along the same path is ensure decades more of failure. If we don’t do that there will be hell to pay down the road.
The Palestinians are victims of decades of dysfunctional leadership, both political and religious. They are very different than American Muslims.
In an ongoing exchange a friend recently wrote and said
…You say your intention is to make a positive difference. If that’s the case, then the first thing you need to do is try to truly understand the people you want to help. You cannot do that without knowledge, nor can you simply insist that they adopt your worldview—well, technically you can, but it’s unlikely to be a fruitful endeavor.
If you cannot understand American Muslims, then there’s no hope that you’ll ever even begin to understand Muslims in other parts of the world. We (collectively) are not specimens that can be studied in a clinically detached way, like so many mice in a lab—we’re messy, emotional, imperfect, often irrational human beings. IOW, we’re just like you. And like every other soul that has entered this world screaming & gasping for breath, we’re seeking comfort & security, as we try to fumble our way along the path back home.
We are addressing certain dysfunctions in certain places. At times it may seem the dysfunction represents a monolithic expression of a culture or religion.
It is not.
Someone I respect made the remark of the Palestinians,’We have two choices. We can kill them or we can fix them’.
Sometimes, that means fixing ourselves first. The status quo is not good enough.