Because the Jews destroyed my home. When my home was destroyed I couldn't find my notebook.
- 'Mickey Mouse' character in Hamas video, crying after he had been caught copying in school (translation by Palestinian Media Watch)
The fact that Hamas stole Mickey Mouse to teach children about jihad has garnered a lot of attention, as it should. But I'm interested in the more mundane part: Lost your notebook - blame the occupation.
"The occupation made me do it." This is not exactly the Twinkie defense, but for Palestinians and Israelis it has led to much more dire consequences.
This week, Hamas and Fatah were busy killing each other, despite the Mecca deal and the "unity government" that emerged from it. Nine members of Mahmoud Abbas's security forces were killed by Hamas on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hamas accuses Fatah of "waging war on the new government."
Of course, Hamas also blames all this on the Mossad and the CIA. If only Israel were not stirring things up, there would be tranquility in the Palestinian realm.
The Arab world's penchant for blaming others for its predicament is well known and in striking contrast to the West, which often blames itself for "rage" aimed in its direction. The Arab Human Development Reports, written by Arab scholars for the UN and which frankly highlight Arab backwardness in most categories of development, governance and human rights, are the exception that proves the rule.
THIS RULE is illustrated by Hamas's Mickey Mouse, who says blithely, "We've said more than once that becoming masters of the world requires the following: First, to be happy with our Arabic language, which once upon a time ruled this world."
When, despite this, Mickey slips into broken English and is berated by young Saraa for it, he responds, "But Saraa, this is the language of the advanced world... that understands and invents things, isn't it?"
Saraa then provides the "proper" Arab response:
"No, you are wrong, because you don't know that the Muslims are the basis of civilization. If not for the Muslims, the world wouldn't have got to where it is today."
Self-esteem is one thing, delusion and megalomania another. We see in Gaza what this "development model" means in practice: returning to the Muslim golden era not through education, enlightenment and creativity, but by the sword, through jihad. And to justify jihad, above all, Israel and the West must be blamed for the Arab predicament.
Though it is difficult for us to understand that the Arab world - particularly the Palestinians - has come to such a dysfunctional point, what is harder to fathom is why the West would want to encourage such thinking. When this newspaper, for example, asked the new British ambassador, Tom Phillips, why so many in his country seemed so hostile to Israel, he explained, "with some sadness, as someone here committed to Israel," that "Israel is going to get a critical press as long as it is an occupying power."
This is perhaps hard to argue with, as far as it goes. Israelis don't like or defend being occupiers, so why should anyone else?
But herein lies the rub.
Once occupation has been deemed the original sin, it is assumed that the occupier will not budge until driven out. It follows, therefore, that all people of good will must pressure the guilty party, the occupier, on behalf of the victim, the occupied. Yet what if the occupied is the side perpetuating the occupation, and the occupier the one desperate to end it?
Perhaps it is not surprising that such a role reversal does not compute. But there it is. Even in the days of Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon, it was clear from the actions of both that the latter wanted a Palestinian state more than the former. Indeed, the entire Palestinian post-Camp David terror campaign, including Hamas's current buildup for the next round, has been part of the same war to block the coming of a Palestinian state, not to build one and thus end the occupation.
WHEN FRIENDS of Israel, like the British ambassador, speak of "ending the occupation," they are thinking of two states at peace, Israel and Palestine. When Hamas teaches Palestinian children they must blow themselves up to "resist the occupation," they are referring to Israel's destruction.
Hamas cannot be faulted for hiding this. As its spokesman said on Lebanese television on April 2: "We in the Hamas movement will not accept... an agreement saying that at the end of the day, Haifa, Jaffa and Acre are Israeli cities. [We will] not accept any solution that prevents any future Palestinian generation from acting to liberate... the rest of the Palestinian land, if the current generation is incapable of accomplishing this" (www.memritv.org).
If Hamas is so honest with the West, the West should return the favor. It should blame the occupation's perpetuation on those who would rather kill themselves and others than see it end: on Palestinian jihadists and those who cover for them in the Arab world.
Israel is often asked to provide a "diplomatic horizon," meaning to more clearly describe the Palestinian state it favors, and how to get there. Where, then, are the demands on the Arab world to clarify the more fundamental matter of which occupation it wants to end - the one that began in 1967, or in 1948?
There is an intimate connection between Palestinian leaders' refusal to build a state in the territory they control, the "occupation made me do it" mentality, and the West's tendency to lay blame for a continuing occupation on Israel's doorstep. This cycle of occupation must be broken.
We in the West can't expect the Arab world to break the cycle if we reinforce it by nodding sagely when they say, "End the occupation."
Until the West starts asking, "Which occupation?" and demanding the Arab world prove that the occupation they are referring to is not Israel itself, the cycle will continue.
- Editorial Page Editor Saul Singer is author of the book, Confronting Jihad: Israel's Struggle & the World After 9/11