Palestinians in Gaza prepare a kite amid protests at the border fence, June 8, 2018..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
With Hamas’s “Kitetifada,” Palestinians are pushing new frontiers in terrorism, again – while giving nationalism a bad name, again.
It’s become a routine surprise to watch the world overlook Palestinians’ assaults on international norms. One day their goons threaten Argentinean soccer stars – and everybody blames Miri Regev for the “Messi mess.” (Even while criticizing her grandstanding, let’s acknowledge that boycotters don’t need her to prompt their thuggishness.) Before and after that debacle, Palestinians violate the Geneva Convention’s ban on attacking foodstuffs or crops, and everybody blames Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu for the American embassy to Jerusalem move.
We should be used to this selective perception and moral prosecution-as-persecution. Still, it’s disappointing that many who renounce nationalism because they dislike Trump’s aggressiveness nevertheless tolerate Palestinians’ violence.
It’s become one of this spring’s big underreported stories. Once again being honest, exposing the “March of Return” as an attempt to destroy its neighbor, Hamas launched hundreds of combustible, often poisonous kites and balloons.
The kites – in a touch no novelist or anti-Palestinian propagandist would dare concoct – were exposed by Adele Raemer of Kibbutz Nirim and other intrepid bloggers as gifts from the Japanese people to Gaza’s children. While Israel’s air defenses have intercepted as many as 500 burning kites, another 300 or so have set more than 270 fires, destroying 2,510 hectares of land, including vast parts of the Be’eri Crater Nature Reserve. Once known for its red carpets of anemones every February, its gazelles, its porcupines, its turtles, the reserve is now scarred by tens of hectares of newly blackened wasteland.
The Geneva Convention’s 1977 protocols proclaim: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works... whatever the motive.”
Mocking those who turn swords into plowshares, Hamas makes toys into rockets. From terrorist tunnels to combusta-kites, its perverse creativity evokes Maxwell Smart’s Get Smart catchphrase: “If only they could use their genius for goodness instead of rottenness.” It’s a stunning metaphor for the two competing nationalisms and the choices their respective leaders keep making: Zionists sow and reap – Palestinian terrorists burn and destroy.
Of course, human life is more precious, and most countries have long indulged the Palestinian terrorist epidemic, which helped routinize attacks on the vulnerable as a political tactic. Since the Palestine Liberation Organization’s founding in 1964 – three years before the Six Day War – Palestinians have taught the world’s totalitarian thugs how to target innocents. In the 1960s and 1970s, the PLO specialized in violating airports, airplanes, schools and popular events – notably the 1972 Munich Olympics. By the 1990s, Hamas focused on suicide bombs in buses and cafes.
Now, they’re turning on nature. If there was an “Ignoble Prize,” the Palestinians – and their homicidal leaders -- would have won it by now. One wonders if there’s an internal Palestinian conversation wishing their people would be known for contributing something constructive to the world.
Instead, the Palestinian movement has turned many observers into practitioners of Orwellian double-think. Good people, who abhor killing, justify Palestinian terrorism, including this new “Kitetifada.” Naively judging the purity of the motive by the extremism of the act, too many assume that the Israelis must be extraordinarily brutal to trigger the kinds of reactions they have – why else would someone strap on a bomb-filled vest and walk into a group of people? Why else would that mass murderer’s parents and society celebrate such evil? Such amoral illogic contradicts America’s great UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who, refusing to blame the victim, didn’t condemn “the accused at all – but the accusers.”
Today, Palestinians’ nihilistic nationalism is particularly problematic. As many in the West lose faith in nationalism, the cognitive dissonance involved in justifying Palestinian crimes against humanity to advance their national goals takes its toll on many Western supporters – even if they won’t admit it. This is particularly so when many rational observers would conclude that if only Palestinians accepted Israel’s existence, they probably would have secured a Palestinian state long ago.
All this enabling and apologizing causes subtle but significant collateral ideological damage. It hollows out faith in nationalism, especially among liberals. While doing intellectual flip-flops to justify Palestinian brutality, “we” the enlightened Western multiculturalists decide “their” primitive nationalistic expressions are as beneath “us” as our political rivals’ Trumpian immigration restrictionism and white privilege. It’s now fashionable to define nationalism at its worst, claiming it bonds humans at their most dyspeptic. In fact, liberal nationalism has long sought to mobilize humans to be our best.
Unfortunately, critics of America’s president, Israel’s prime minister, and other right-wing nationalist leaders cannot see beyond them to appreciate that liberal nationalism is not defined by one leader, and that Trump’s lowest-common-denominator Yahoo nationalism is not liberal nationalism.
The word “patriotism” is insufficient – anyone living anywhere can love a country or a homeland. “Liberal nationalism” emphasizes that, for the small select group of world democracies – especially idea-based democracies like the United States and Israel – love of country is inextricably connected to love of certain ideals. How tragic that even as Palestinian nationalism continues to showcase nationalism at its worst, it gets a moral pass from the world, while Jewish nationalism – i.e., Zionism – which remains democratic, pluralistic, and liberal despite its flaws – has become the world’s punching bag.The writer is the author of the newly released
The Zionist Ideas, an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society. A distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, he is the author of 10 books on American history, including
The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s. www.zionistideas.com