No sympathy for terror

It is absurd and unconscionable to suggest checkpoints cause terror.

yehuda Rubin 63 (photo credit: )
yehuda Rubin 63
(photo credit: )
The story of the murder of Ahikam Amichai and David Rubin, two off-duty soldiers on a hike, is a reminder of the bloodthirstiness of our enemies. It is a story of terrorists who look for any opportunity to kill Jews, regardless of who or where they are. As it happens, Amichai and Rubin were soldiers, but there is no reason to doubt that the Fatah and Islamic Jihad terrorists who killed them would have been equally eager to kill Israeli civilians, as well. It is this context that a reported comment from a closed meeting at Annapolis comes to mind: "Like the Israelis, I know what it is like to go to sleep at night, not knowing if you will be bombed, of being afraid to be in your own neighborhood, of being afraid to go to your church," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. But, according to the Washington Post, Rice's recollections as a African-American child in the South, being told she could not use certain water fountains or eat in certain restaurants, also made her understood the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians. "I know what it is like to hear to that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are Palestinian," she said. "I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness... There is pain on both sides. This has gone on too long." At first glance, Rice's reported ecumenical empathy may seem entirely natural and appropriate for America's top diplomat. Indeed, empathy for the suffering on both sides of a conflict is warranted. But a second moment's thought reveals part of Rice's comparison to be terribly misplaced and no guide for policy. Just imagine, for example, that Rice were to express even the faintest degree of understanding for the barbaric killing of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, as being the result of "humiliation and powerlessness." Plainly, that would be absurd and unconscionable. But so, too, is to suggest that checkpoints cause terrorism, rather than that terrorism necessitates checkpoints. Checkpoints, the security fence and targeted killings are all security measures that some in the West consider humanitarian atrocities and have even branded as "apartheid." The Russian foreign minister, displaying just one of his government's disqualifications for any moderating role, recently called Gaza a "gigantic prison." It is extremely disturbing that Rice, even in the context of "balanced" sympathy for Israelis, would pile on to this libel of Israel by injecting a racial element into her criticism of such security measures. What Rice should be saying is that Palestinian terrorism victimizes both sides: Israelis directly and Palestinians indirectly, but necessitates defensive Israeli actions that would automatically cease if terrorism were to end. If there is analogy to darker days in the American South, it is to the fear that African-Americans had of being lynched if caught alone in the wrong place, and to the complete lack of confidence that local authorities, if they bothered to catch the killers, would bring them to justice. While the Palestinian Authority has claimed to have arrested suspects in this latest murder case, we have seen how this revolving door works. What credibility do such arrests have, moreover, when the same PA leadership bitterly condemns Israel for killing terrorist kingpins in Gaza, issues posters of Palestine encompassing all of Israel, and continues to broadcast songs describing Israeli cities such as Haifa, Acre and Jaffa as part of "Palestine?" Either the Palestinians are struggling to eliminate Israel, or to build a state alongside Israel. How is Rice encouraging the Palestinians to build rather than destroy when she paints Israeli security measures as "racist?" There is a way to empathize with both sides without resorting to libel against Israel. President George W. Bush did so constructively in his famous speech calling for a new Palestinian leadership in June 2002: "I can understand the deep anger and despair of the Palestinian people," he said. "For decades, you've been treated as pawns in the Middle East conflict. Your interests have been held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come, as your lives get worse year by year. You deserve democracy and the rule of law. You deserve an open society and a thriving economy. You deserve a life of hope for your children." Israel is more than ready to do its part to fulfill this vision. The international community has pledged billions to pay for it. What is necessary is to stop helping the Palestinian leadership make excuses for not doing its part.