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Monday, August 06, 2007

It's OK - Olmert doesn't care about Christian feelings either

For all Jews who are insulted that Ehud Olmert is amazingly inconsiderate about the strong feelings that Jews have towards Hebron and other Jewish holy places, and that he appears to care more about pleasing Arab Muslims who want to see the entire Middle East to be Jew-free than about the citizens that he is supposed to be defending....

Don't worry; Olmert is equally inconsiderate about Christians.

One of the requests that Abbas made of Olmert today was to allow the terrorists who desecrated the Church of the Nativity in 2002 to return to the West Bank.

Abbas, according to sources in Olmert's office, called on the prime minister to release more security prisoners, beyond the 250 who were let go last month, and to allow the return of some 20 Palestinian gunmen who were deported in 2002 to Europe and the Gaza Strip after they holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.

Olmert, again according to his office, said he would consider these requests. Abbas also asked him to remove checkpoints in the West Bank and to allow Palestinians more freedom of movement, something Olmert said he would discuss with the defense establishment.

While this news may be buried in the bottom of the Israeli news stories, it is at the top of the Palestinian Arab news articles.

As usual, the West completely misses the importance of symbolism to Arabs.

If Olmert allows the Church of the Nativity terrorists back into the West Bank, he is thinking like a Westerner - it is a small, almost meaningless price to pay for some pretense of an illusory "peace."

But to the Arabs, it means that the terrorists end up not being punished at all; their five years of exile were just a tiny blip in a worldview where perceived slights from the 15th century still rankle. It means that in yet another battle between the West and Islam, Islam has won. It means that Arabs can get away with demeaning the Christian religion with impunity.

Symbolic victories, to Arabs, are indistinguishable from real victories - the entire point of a battle is honor, and the honor that was temporarily lost by these terrorists being sent away will be restored, and then some. They will be hailed as heroes if they return to their old homes, and no Palestinian Arab would even consider denouncing them.

While they remain abroad, there is a small deterrent against PalArabs desecrating Christian holy places. As soon as they return, that disincentive disappears, and we can expect that next time there will be no hesitation in using priests and nuns as human shields, or using church grounds as weapons repositories. On the contrary - we can expect that the terrorists will be celebrated and cheered by the Arab masses.

Symbolism intersects with reality because PalArabs will react in real terms to symbols. The Western idea that symbols are not important does not work when dealing with people for whom symbols are of supreme importance. As a result, the enemies will always be emboldened and heartened by their symbolic victories, making it much harder for the civilized world to win the real war. Every Western concession to "peace" almost inevitably turns into a new weapon of war.

Too many times, we fall into the trap of not understanding the enemy.