Wednesday, January 30, 2002

UMMMM: In a completely perverse way, is the female suicide bomber evidence of the Palestinians being way more enlightened than the rest of the Arab world? I mean, this is probably a completely inappropriate episode with which to make this point, but I've always heard that the Palestinians are more industrious and entertaining than the rest of the Arab world. Which is why no other Arab country wants to let them in. I am reminded of Ralph Peters' hard-nosed and probably counter-intuitive analysis of Israel-Palestine:

A functional compromise between Israelis and Palestinians was impossible when the fanatics were merely on one side, and now they compose the decisive elements on both sides. Barring cataclysms, an Israeli born as this essay is written is likely to wade through his or her entire life in an ebb and flow of conflict. Meaning well, and behaving foolishly, we plunged into the Arab-Israeli conflict as an "honest broker," although neither side can accept the compromises required by such brokering, while our baggage as both Israel's primary supporter and the long-time backer of many of the most reprehensible Arab regimes is a debilitating handicap to mediation. We declare that stability in the Middle East is critical, no matter if it is impossible without a Carthaginian peace imposed by one side or the other.

The Israelis and the Palestinians can coexist. They already do. But their coexistence is of a different, dynamic nature that belies the meaning we attach to the term. Their struggle fulfills both sides. The Palestinians will never be satisfied, no matter how much they might regain, and the siege mentality Israelis affect to deplore may be essential to the continued vigor of their state. For both factions, struggle and the self-justification it allows may be the most fulfilling condition.

Americans assume that violent disorder is an unnatural state that must be resolved, but high levels of violence in a society or region may simply maintain a different kind of equilibrium than that to which we are accustomed. At the very least, periods of violence may be lengthy transitions that cannot be artificially foreshortened. We need not condone violence to recognize that it is not an artificial imposition upon human nature, nor will insisting that violence is unnatural make it so. We know so little about the complex origins of violence that our beliefs about it are no more than superstitions. Whether in regard to the violence of the man or the mass, our theories attempt to explain it away rather than to understand it. The Middle East may be inhumane, but it is one of the most explicitly human places on earth.

No comments: