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Monday, June 05, 2006

The Palestinian Arab people's responsibilities

In comments on this posting, VJ claimed that I was demonizing Palestinian Arabs. Although that was not my intent, to an extent he is right, and while perhaps I was not as careful in my wording as I should have been, it got me to thinking about the actual responsibility that Palestinian Arab people (rather than their leaders) have towards a peaceful Middle East.

I strongly feel that nations and peoples have a mass psychology similar to individuals. Sometimes they coincide with their leaders' psyches, sometimes not. These psyches can change over time but it is usually a slow process. Understanding global patterns and knowing how to act properly in any given situation depends on knowing how all the players think and are likely to react, and a fatal mistake that global leaders often make is the assumption that people are all the same and would all act the same way that their own people would.

In a previous posting, I laid out my analysis of the Palestinian Arabs' psyche:
Arab people just want to raise their families with dignity and pride.

The entire brief history of the Palestinian Arabs shows this to be true. The ones who lived in Palestine in the 1800s didn't care that they were under Ottoman rule, they didn't crave independence. After the Jews started coming in serious numbers and the economy boomed, many (I believe most) of the ancestors of today's Palestinian Arabs moved into Palestine from Syria and Jordan, because that was how they could best provide for their families. More moved in under British rule than under Ottoman rule, because economic concerns were far more important than political concerns.

If "independence" was the uppermost concern of Arabs, then why do over a million choose to stay in Israel rather than move to PA-administered areas? As the Clinton team famously observed, "it's the economy, stupid."

The people who have screwed the Palestinian Arabs the most have always been their "leaders." It was their leaders who decided to force them to boycott Jewish goods to their detriment, it was their leaders who kept them in "refugee" camps, it was their leaders who forced them to fight losing battles against the hated Zionists.

The "golden age" of Palestinian Arabs was during the "occupation" - this was when they had good paying jobs, when Israel built them an electrical and safe water infrastructure, when the Zionists used their devious Jewish expertise to dramatically increase the Palestinian Arab life expectancy and slash their infant mortality rates. During Oslo, tens of thousands of Jordanians moved illegally into the West Bank so they could raise their families in the comparative paradise that Israel built for the Palestinian Arabs.

The ordinary Palestinian doesn't care who his leader is or about Zionism or occupation or terror or democracy as long as his basic needs are met.

This is the background needed to understand the Hamas victory.
While I still largely believe this to be true, I did not mention a strong component to the current Palestinian Arab psyche: the effect of decades of government-controlled, institutionalized hate speech against Israel and Jews. Years of blaming Jews for every problem, as well as years of telling people that they should live in a welfare state and that they are owed jobs, money and a country, will have a slow but cumulative effect. Palestinian Arabs are slowly turning from the most creative, ambitious and hard-working of all the Arab people into whining babies. (It is no coincidence that when they were in daily contact with Jews and Westerners was when they have traditionally acted the most maturely.)

Given all this, given the cards they have been dealt by their leaders, by other Arab leaders and by Israelis, what are the Palestinian Arab people's responsibilities? How should they be acting?

No matter what one's situation, one must act like a moral, mature and responsible human being. Growing up in a terror environment no more justifies becoming a terrorist than growing up in a crackhouse justifies becoming a criminal. It may be harder but ultimately we must be held responsible for our own decisions. This is basic.

While I do not believe that the Palestinian people voted Hamas in power because of Hamas' desire to create a Jew-free Middle East, they are in the end responsible for that result. They were aware of Hamas' goals even if that was not the primary factor in their decision to choose Hamas.

If a US state would elect a governor who is a KKK member and who advocates racist laws, even if the people elected him on a "law and order" platform, we would do everything we could to blunt the effect of that election - legally, economically and socially. We would expect boycotts of that state's products, we would expect conventions to move to other states, we would expect the federal government to pass laws to counteract any state laws the governor manages to pass, we would expect ordinary people to react with disgust and horror. Some of these actions would inevitably hurt the people of that state and in the end that is wholly appropriate.

The Palestinian Arabs should be ashamed that the bigoted and murderous Hamas ended up in power. One does not discern any sense of shame, however.

So the first responsibility is to treat a genocidal terrorist group as pariahs and not as heroes.

There is another choice that Palestinian Arabs have: whether to remain pawns in the power plays of their leaders, or to actually work to build their state and their economy.

I mentioned here that Israel's existence was no more certain in 1946 than Arab Palestine's is today, and the circumstances that the Jews lived under were quite difficult. Even so, individually and without a central quasi-governmental plan, they built universities, they built industries, they started projects that would take years to bear fruit. A people who want to be treated as an equal among other nations must act as if they deserve that status - and if they need handouts to reach that goal, the handouts should come from their own people before they demand it from the world.

In other words, their second responsibility is to build things unilaterally, not destroy them.

This posting is already going on longer than I expected, but I must mention that there are many other responsibilities that Palestinian Arabs should be taking on but on a whole are not: protecting their children from violence and from indoctrination into terror groups, teaching tolerance for other people, protesting against the culture of death, protesting against honor killings, stopping the hero worship of terrorists. The lack of responsible actions on the "street" is not the fault of their leaders, but of the people themselves. Until one sees public protests that are against violence and for acting responsibly, until one sees a huge groundswell from the people and from their press to act like responsible human beings, it is not unreasonable to criticize the Palestinian Arabs themselves.