- Nov 22, 2003
Mark Steyn: If only they had refused to indulge Arafat
The myth that the Muslim world's problems are directly linked to the Palestinian question has gone up in flames, argues Mark Steyn
July 26, 2006
A FEW years back, when folks talked airily about "the Middle East peace process" and "a two-state solution", I used to say that the trouble was the Palestinians saw a two-state solution as an interim stage en route to a one-state solution. I underestimated Islamist depravity. As we now see in Gaza and southern Lebanon, any two-state solution would be an interim stage en route to a no-state solution.
In one of the most admirably straightforward of Islamist declarations, Hussein Massawi, the Hezbollah leader behind the slaughter of US and French forces 20 years ago, put it this way: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."
Swell. But suppose he got his way, what then? Suppose every last Jew in Israel were dead or fled, what would rise in place of the Zionist entity? It would be something like the Hamas-Hezbollah terror squats in Gaza and Lebanon writ large. Hamas won a landslide in the Palestinian elections, and Hezbollah similarly won formal control of key Lebanese cabinet ministries. But they're not Mussolini: they have no interest in making the trains run on time. And, to be honest, who can blame them?
If you're a big-time terrorist mastermind, it's frankly a bit of a bore to find yourself deputy under-secretary at the ministry of pensions, particularly when you're no good at it, and no matter how lavishly the European Union throws money at you, there never seems to be any in the kitty when it comes to making the payroll. So, like a business that has over-diversified, Hamas and Hezbollah retreated to their core activity: Jew-killing.
In Causeries du Lundi, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve recalls a Parisian dramatist watching the revolutionary mob rampaging through the street below and beaming: "See my pageant passing!" That's how opportunist Arabs and indulgent Europeans looked on the intifada and the terrorists and the schoolgirl suicide bombers: as a kind of uber-authentic piece of performance art with which to torment the Jews and the Americans. They never paused to ask themselves: Hey, what if it doesn't stop there?
Well, about 30 years too late, they're asking it now. For the first quarter-century of Israel's existence, the Arab states fought more or less conventional wars against the Zionists and kept losing. So then they figured it was easier to anoint a terrorist movement and in 1974 declared Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation to be the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people", which is quite a claim for an organisation then barely a decade old. Amazingly, the Arab League persuaded the UN, the EU, Bill Clinton and everyone else to go along with it and to treat the old monster as a head of state who lacked only a state to head.
It's true that many nationalist movements have found it convenient to adopt the guise of terrorists.
But, as the Palestinian movement descended from airline hijackings to the intifada to self-detonating in pizza parlours, it never occurred to its glamorous patrons to wonder if maybe this was, in fact, a terrorist movement conveniently adopting the guise of nationalism.
In 1971, in the lobby of the Cairo Sheraton, Palestinian terrorists shot Wasfi al-Tal, the prime minister of Jordan, at point-blank range. As he fell to the floor dying, one of his killers began drinking the blood gushing from his wounds. Doesn't that strike you as a little, um, overwrought? Three decades later, when bombs went off in Bali, killing hundreds of tourists plus local waiters and barmen, Bruce Haigh, a former Aussie diplomat in Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, had no doubt where to put the blame. As he told Australia's Nine Network: "The root cause of this issue has been America's backing of Israel on Palestine."
Suppose this were true: that terrorists blew up Australian honeymooners and Scandinavian stoners in Balinese nightclubs because of "the Palestinian question". Doesn't this suggest that these people are, at a certain level, nuts? After all, there are plenty of Irish Republican Army sympathisers across the world (try making the Ulster Unionist case in a Boston bar), yet they never thought to protest against British rule in Northern Ireland by blowing up, say, German tourists in Thailand.
Yet the more the thin skein of Palestinian grievance was stretched to justify atrocities halfway around the world, the more the Arab League big-shot emirs and EU foreign ministers looked down from their windows and cooed, "See my parade passing!"
They've now belatedly realised they're at that stage in the creature feature where the monster has mutated into something bigger and crazier. Until the remarkably kinda-robust statement by the Group of Eight and the unprecedented denunciation of Hezbollah by the Arab League, the rule in any conflict in which Israel is involved - Israel v PLO, Israel v Lebanon, Israel v (Your Team Here) - is that the Jews are to blame. But Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian opportunism on Palestine has caught up with them: it has finally dawned on them that a strategy of consciously avoiding resolution of the Palestinian question has helped deliver Gaza and Lebanon and Syria into the hands of a regime that's a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Zionist entity.
Cairo and co grew so accustomed to whining about the Palestinian pseudo-crisis decade in, decade out, that it never occurred to them that they might face a real crisis one day: a Middle East dominated by an apocalyptic Iran and its local enforcers, in which Arab self-rule turns out to have been a mere interlude between the Ottoman sultans and the eternal eclipse of a Persian nuclear umbrella.
The Zionists got out of Gaza and it's now Talibanistan redux. The Zionists got out of Lebanon and the most powerful force in the country (with an ever-growing demographic advantage) are Iran's Shia enforcers. There haven't been any Zionists anywhere near Damascus in 60 years and Syria is in effect Iran's first Sunni Arab prison bitch. For the other regimes in the region, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria are dead states that have risen as vampires.
Meanwhile, Kofi Annan in a remarkable display of urgency (at least when compared with Sudan, Rwanda, Congo and others) is proposing apropos Israel and Hezbollah that UN peacekeepers go in to keep the peace not between two sovereign states but between a sovereign state and a usurper terrorist gang. Contemptible as he is, the secretary-general shows a shrewd understanding of the way the world is heading: already, non-state actors have more sophisticated rocketry than many EU nations; and if Iran has its way, its proxies will be implied nuclear powers. Maybe we should put them on the UN Security Council.
So, what is in reality Israel's first non-Arab war is a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow: the EU and the Arab League won't quite spell it out but, to modify that Le Monde headline, they are all Jews now.