Late in the eighties I was taking a course in American history after 1945. One of my fellow students was a bright, interesting Palestinian. We had become acquaintances and spent a fair amount of time after class discussing various topics. He was not in my mind anyone much different than other students. He was a good guy. While he was a Muslim, and a believer he wasnâ€™t what I would call devout and certainly not radical. Needless to say eventually the topic of the class turned to the Arab Israeli conflict and the professor gave an entire class period over to this young man to give a presentation. It was quite good, if one sided, at showing the conditions in the refugee camps, various atrocities committed by the Israeliâ€™s and Israelâ€™s refusal to negotiate in good faith. He was quite effective at arousing the sympathies of the class, including mine. The discussion after that turned into a chance for the more left leaning members of the class to give monologues about their deep sympathy for the Palestinian people and the brutality of the Israeliâ€™s.
Finally I spoke up as the discussion, such as it was, began winding down. What I asked was, â€œif the Israeliâ€™s ceased all the practices you complain of, and went back to their 1948 boundaries would you acknowledge Israelâ€™s right to exist.â€ He then became animated and said no and began reiterating everything he had been saying. I stopped him and said, â€œthen if you and the rest of your people cannot and will not stop fighting until Israel is destroyed then this will go on. The Israelis cannot afford to take their foot off your neck; to do so would be suicide.
Most of the class was embarrassed, and sore at me, I could tell, though many were nodding in agreement. They werenâ€™t really sore because I had said something awful; they were irritated because I had revealed something awful, the mind of the fanatic. It embarrassed them. I would have never thought of him as a fanatic before that, I would have considered him a pretty good guy. He said he planned on going back to join the resistance.
Israel wonâ€™t stop its operations (not this specific one, I mean in general) because they canâ€™t. That doesnâ€™t make me comfortable, I still see the sickening images of those children in that bus destroyed by the IDF last week. Itâ€™ll keep happening and I donâ€™t think there is anything Israel can do about it; it is all up to Israelâ€™s enemies. Possibly Israel should never have come into being, but they exist, and until that is accepted the IDF will have to be the most frightening force in the Middle East and they will have to actively defend themselves. The margin for error on their part has to be kept large, because failure means genocide.
So whatever one thinks is the best role for us in the Arab Israeli conflict it has to deal with the fact that many of the actors we wish Israel to negotiate with have no interest in a solution. My acquaintance above is not alone:
We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you. – Former leader of Hezbollah, Hussein Massawi
The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct â€˜Palestinian peopleâ€™ to oppose Zionism. – PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein
And even close to home I suggest we have some issues:
Islam isnâ€™t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran â€¦ should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth. – CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad
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