Friday, June 13, 2003
Heads I win; tails you losePerhaps the feature of New York Times-style liberalism that I dislike the most is the assumption that nobody is ever responsible for anything they do -- except for conservatives, "right wingers," "hard liners," or whatever other epithet is used to describe the Times' enemies. Everyone else is a victim of circumstances, reacting to provocations but never acting. The Times carried an editorial yesterday, on the Middle East, which embodies this attitude perfectly. (I've ranted about this attitude before-- it's endemic to, but not unique to, the Times -- but blogs are good for beating dead horses, if nothing else.) The Times writes:
The deadliest blows so far have come from Palestinian terrorists. Yesterday, a Hamas suicide bomber killed at least 16 people and wounded nearly 100 on a rush-hour bus in central Jerusalem.See, Ariel Sharon is bad, because he chose to respond. (Though at the same time, the response was "reflexive," because that way the Times can portray it as mindless.) But as for the terrorist acts themselves, or Abbas's failure and/or inability to stop them, the Times has nothing to say. But note that these acts, according to the Times, have no impact on the "peace initiative." Why not? Because, you see, Israelis should be mature enough to shrug off the terrorist bombings. But Palestinians? They're not capable of handling Israel's retaliatory strikes. It will just set them off. And will they blame the people who brought the strikes upon themselves -- namely, Hamas? No. It will just undermine poor Mahmoud Abbas, their supposed leader.
Now, in a sense that should be flattering to Israelis, right? I suppose in a sense it is. Israelis are being called mature and responsible, while Palestinians aren't. But in a larger sense, it undermines the entire process. If Palestinians are just children, incapable of self-control, of discerning right from wrong, then how can anything ever be accomplished? Only one way: for Israel to assume responsibility for everything that happens on both sides, to make all the sacrifices, to ignore every provocation, and then to pray for the best.
The Times goes on:
Ignoring strong pleas from Washington, Mr. Sharon has now twice ordered Israeli forces to rocket cars carrying suspected Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.Aside: suspected? Has anybody denied that the targets were members of Hamas?
Challenging the new Palestinian leadership to take over security responsibility for Gaza is one of the first concrete tests of the road map. Sending in Israeli forces as if nothing had changed needlessly damages the credibility of Mr. Abbas and of the whole Bush peace plan. If it is not evident to Mr. Sharon by now that military reprisals alone can never bring Israel security from suicide bombers, the White House must do all it can to help him understand.So again, note that in the view of the Times, the attacks don't challenge the credibility of Abbas, but Israel's responses to them do. That's because all that matters is whether Palestinians trust him; whether Israelis do is of no concern to the Times.
And while it's certainly true that Sharon's use of a military response hasn't eliminated the Palestinian practice of homicide bombings, it's just as true that Israel's attempts at negotiation haven't succeeded, either. The White House must do all it can to help the editors of the Times understand that point.
Nobody expects Israel to tolerate terror against its people. But terror can be more effectively rooted out if responsible Palestinian leaders like Mr. Abbas are strengthened, not undermined. It is easy to see why Hamas would like to make Mr. Abbas look irrelevant. But Israel should be doing all it can to strengthen his hand because in the long run that is in Israel's own interest.No, nobody expects Israel to tolerate terror -- except, of course, for the New York Times, which is asking Israel to do exactly that. And for what? For the mere hope that Israel's toleration will give Abbas the strength and credibility to end terror, and that he will choose to do so. (After all, Yasir Arafat had strength and credibility -- but what has he used it for?)
The obvious place for him to start is Gaza, where Hamas is based and where the Palestinian Authority's security forces are strongest. To build a Palestinian political consensus against terror, Mr. Abbas needs to show his people that his conciliatory words have brought a change in Israeli behavior. Regrettably, Mr. Sharon's latest actions demonstrate just the opposite.I thought that what Palestinians wanted was an end to settlements; well, Sharon's "latest actions" include language and steps towards dismantling some. But apparently the "Israeli behavior" that was so offensive was actually Israel responding to terrorist attacks. The Times considers the Palestinians to be so hypersensitive that Israel's mere self-defense is what needs to "change."
In short, the only side that needs to do anything is Israel. It's up to Israel to prove its good faith to Palestinians by not responding when terrorists kill Israelis. Not only don't Palestinians have to prove their good faith to Israel, but in fact Israel must assume that Palestinians won't act in good faith, accept it, and assume that Abbas is acting in good faith, and then help him prove his good faith, not to Israel, but to other Palestinians. A little one-sided, don't you think? When do we get to the point where Palestinians stop blowing up Israeli buses?
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