Youssef Ibrahim, the kind of Arab journalist one does not often find, writes a (perhaps wish-informed) summary of the reaction of the Arab press to the latest conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Dear Brethren, the War With Israel Is Over
BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM
July 7, 2006
As Israel enters the third week of an incursion into the same Gaza Strip it voluntarily evacuated a few months ago, a sense of reality among Arabs is spreading through commentary by Arab pundits, letters to the editor, and political talk shows on Arabic-language TV networks. The new views are stunning both in their maturity and in their realism. The best way I can think of to convey them is in the form of a letter to the Palestinian Arabs from their Arab friends:
Dear Palestinian Arab brethren:
The war with Israel is over.
You have lost. Surrender and negotiate to secure a future for your children.
We, your Arab brothers, may say until we are blue in the face that we stand by you, but the wise among you and most of us know that we are moving on, away from the tired old idea of the Palestinian Arab cause and the “eternal struggle” with Israel.
Dear friends, you and your leaders have wasted three generations trying to fight for Palestine, but the truth is the Palestine you could have had in 1948 is much bigger than the one you could have had in 1967, which in turn is much bigger than what you may have to settle for now or in another 10 years. Struggle means less land and more misery and utter loneliness.
At the moment, brothers, you would be lucky to secure a semblance of a state in that Gaza Strip into which you have all crowded, and a small part of the West Bank of the Jordan. It isn’t going to get better. Time is running out even for this much land, so here are some facts, figures, and sound advice, friends.
You hold keys, which you drag out for television interviews, to houses that do not exist or are inhabited by Israelis who have no intention of leaving Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv, or West Jerusalem. You shoot old guns at modern Israeli tanks and American-made fighter jets, doing virtually no harm to Israel while bringing the wrath of its mighty army down upon you. You fire ridiculously inept Kassam rockets that cause little destruction and delude yourselves into thinking this is a war of liberation. Your government, your social institutions, your schools, and your economy are all in ruins.
Your young people are growing up illiterate, ill, and bent on rites of death and suicide, while you, in effect, are living on the kindness of foreigners, including America and the United Nations. Every day your officials must beg for your daily bread, dependent on relief trucks that carry food and medicine into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, while your criminal Muslim fundamentalist Hamas government continues to fan the flames of a war it can neither fight nor hope to win.
In other words, brothers, you are down, out, and alone in a burnt-out landscape that is shrinking by the day.
What kind of struggle is this? Is it worth waging at all? More important, what kind of miserable future does it portend for your children, the fourth or fifth generation of the Arab world’s have-nots?
We, your Arab brothers, have moved on.
Those of us who have oil money are busy accumulating wealth and building housing, luxury developments, state-of-the-art universities and schools, and new highways and byways. Those of us who share borders with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, have signed a peace treaty with it and are not going to war for you any time soon. Those of us who are far away, in places like North Africa and Iraq, frankly could not care less about what happens to you.
Only Syria continues to feed your fantasies that someday it will join you in liberating Palestine, even though a huge chunk of its territory, the entire Golan Heights, was taken by Israel in 1967 and annexed. The Syrians, my friends, will gladly fight down to the last Palestinian Arab.
Before you got stuck with this Hamas crowd, another cheating, conniving, leader of yours,Yasser Arafat, sold you a rotten bill of goods — more pain, greater corruption, and millions stolen by his relatives — while your children played in the sewers of Gaza.
The war is over. Why not let a new future begin?
The reason that I say this is perhaps a bit of “wishful thinking” is that, however true for some voices, is not exactly an accurate depiction of a current Palestinian isolation. In addition to the Syrians and the Iranians (granted, not Arabs, but Muslims), and all the voices of global Jihad and the Islamist’s dream of a world under Sharia, there are the usual enablers in the West — the conspiracist, anti-American, “third-worldist” left that hungers to demonize Israel and broadcast the victimization of the Palestinians as a war drum, and a European press which can’t help but jump on the bandwagon.
But let’s say there is a population of the Arab intelligentsia that does think this way, that really has changed its mind on this issue. I think the least they could do for the Palestinians, rather than treat them like pathetic loosers, is to apologize to them for the long years that they encouraged them to behave in such self-destructive ways, the ways that Arab intellectuals and political leaders participated (even drove) the formation of a Palestinian identity around victimization (to the point of imprisoning them in concentration ["refugee"] camps), and making the Palestinians the victim sacrificed on the altar of Arab pride.
Then maybe the Palestinians wouldn’t feel so alone and betrayed on the one hand, and these enlightened Arabs could start their chastizement of Palestinian irredentism with a mea culpa, on the other. Then the criticism might be more palatable, and attractive enough to encourage like-minded Palestinian leaders to resist the siren song of the Islamist death cult of which they are the “nation of priests.” That strikes me as a more promising path to a flourishing and democratic Arab world.