Another Tack: Denial of adversity

Marie Colvin focused in the Sunday Times five days ago on what Israel's proponents of further retreat (a.k.a "disengagement," now updated euphemistically to "convergence") studiously and deliberately obfuscate - the bottom-line consequence of gratuitous territorial gifts to mortal foes. Colvin - never renowned for her love of Zion, covered conflicts in Kosovo, East Timor, Chechnya and Sri Lanka, where she lost an eye - ventured a tad beyond the reinstated Green Line to visit what became of Morag, one of the spirited settlements laid to waste by Sharon, Olmert et al. "Four green flags of the extremist Palestinian party Hamas were flying last week at the gate of a military training camp built on the ruins of Morag," she opened. "Inside the camp, recruits from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, ran mock attacks over dunes covered in dry grass. One of them stopped to launch a rocket-propelled grenade." Colvin stresses that "the base is no makeshift encampment. A telecommunication tower rises from a dune; loudspeakers broadcast from masts… the stones from the old homes have been painted white and used to make guardhouses. Even the settlement's gate has been cannibalized; now it swings open to Toyota pick-up trucks bringing more armed men in uniform." A senior al-Qassam honcho explained to Colvin that his outfit's deadly designs vis-a-vis Israel haven't changed one iota since Hamas's ascent to power. However, if the word of an unnamed hotshot doesn't suffice, we can climb higher in the Hamas hierarchy to hear likewise. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud a-Zahar expounded last week, in an interview with China's Xinhua news agency, on his "dreams of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall of my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it." His is the "dream to have our independent state on all Palestine… This dream will become real one day. I am certain of this because there is no place for the state of Israel in this land." Lest anyone belittle this as an isolated slip, a-Zahar underscored and elaborated his comments in Lebanon's al-Mustakbal. The most the Hamas regime can offer Israel, according a-Zahar, is a "temporary cessation of hostilities," in which "the Zionist entity would be countenanced temporarily but gradually be pushed into narrower confines. Borders can only be provisional," because "there's no place on earth for the state of Israel." COLVIN MIGHT not have realized how in sync her interlocutor was with his bosses, but she obviously didn't misinterpret the mood in what became of Morag. After what she saw and heard, Colvin reckons that "Israelis contemplating the evacuation of West bank settlements will shiver at the discovery that al-Qassam fighters now live and train on the ruins of a place that was home to 37 Jewish families." That, however, is where she gets it all wrong. Reasonable folks would indeed be shaken to the core and rebuff those who uprooted the most dedicated of their compatriots in order to facilitate genocidal preparations against the entire national aggregate. But Colvin misjudged us. Israelis, alas, are neither reasonable nor even normal. It's not that our nonchalance is born of extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. Instead it's the product of denial of adversity. We pretend we have nothing to worry about except for child subsidies and old-age pensions. Our media aids and abets our escapist penchants. Colvin's report received no resonance in the country that surrendered Morag to cold-blooded mass-murderers. A-Zahar's latest pronouncements didn't feature in our public discourse. We don't listen to the likes of him, especially when he spitefully spits his truth in our face. We systematically eschew painful reality. That's why in the recent elections we did just what Hamas kingpin Khaled Mashaal exhorted us to do: "vote for parties that favor retreat and not for right-wing parties which oppose retreat. Israelis who want to avoid a prolonged conflict should vote for retreat now," he advised. True, we didn't award the retreat-advocates an unequivocal landslide, but with adroit parliamentary machinations they can amass a razor-thin majority to expel 100,000 Israelis from Judea and Samaria. That in turn would bolster Mashaal's conviction that Israel will destroy itself. "Israel hasn't got the stamina to withstand a protracted struggle," he asserted in a Lebanese TV interview. "Arabs have the tenacity needed for the long haul. The Arabs will never be broken, nor yield to Israeli and American terms. Ultimately it'll be Arabs who impose their terms on the enemy…We have spiritual and material resources and we will prevail." How does Mashaal know he's right? Disengagement, he asserts, proves his contentions. "Were Israel strong, it wouldn't withdraw. But Israel is in deep crisis. It cannot defeat the Palestinians or break their spirit." This is the morale-boosting message Israel sent its neighbors when it ceded strategic assets to still-viable enemies. Unbeaten armies don't give up vital holdings, especially in an unconcluded war. That's how conventional logic operates. Even Mashaal's logic. You can't fault him for not figuring us out. You can't fault Colvin either. Her assumptions about what should send shivers down our spines are based on the norm. Israelis, though, are an anomaly. This is why so many among us could go to the polls and ignore the inimical candor of the recipients of our largesse who vow to annihilate us. Far from shivering about preparations to expedite Israel's obliteration, half its citizens exude glee at the prospect of creating more Morags for Hamas's future fortification. No one else like us in the world.