Recently, the Arab News featured a story where the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Al-Kidwa (who used to be the Palestinians’ “Permanent Observer” to the United Nations and, I am told, is Yassir Arafat’s nephew and a virulent anti-Semite, who used to regularly spew vile anti-Jewish screeds there), said that the PA will not be disarming the various and sundry armed groups currently waging their terrorist war against Israel.
This should put the final nail into the coffin of the Road Map to Peace. Those agreements laid out a process for the end of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the eventual creation of an independent state, and were welcomed by all parties back in 2002. And three years later, Israel has made strides to every single obligation upon it, while the Palestinians have hemmed and hawed, cheated and retreated, and now are openly renouncing the one key element of the first phase: an end to violence.
A lot of people have given up hope (or never had any hope) for a truly free, independent, and peaceful Palestinian state. While I understand that, and am often tempted to agree with them, I don’t want to give up hope just yet. I want so much to see the conflict end, and the poor, suffering people of the Middle East to finally live free.
With that in mind, I think it’s time someone gave the Palestinians a history lesson.
What they are trying to do is something that is very rare in history, but has happened before. They are trying to create a free nation out of an occupied territory by the use of diverse militia groups loosely united in a common cause. The problem with that is while these groups have a general agreement on getting the other guys out, they each have their own ideas about what sort of government should replace it — and what part each of their groups will play in setting it up and running it.
Ironically, from a historical perspective, the results (if they are successful) are pretty good. Two nations today came from such roots, and things worked out pretty well for them.
In the late 18th century, the United States won its independence from Great Britain. The initial government — the Articles of Confederation — were the result. They resulted in a very weak central government, and no standing military. Several militias and veterans’ groups didn’t agree with some of the way the government was doing things, and took up arms as a result. It wasn’t until Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion were put down that the notion that the federal government of the United States of America was here to stay.
In the middle of the 20th Century, Jews fought fiercely for the re-creation of the ancient Jewish homeland against the British occupation (I’m sensing a theme here). Numerous groups, gangs, militias, and other movements each fought their own battles against the British, sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing. But when the British finally did pull out and the modern state of Israel was created, several of those groups did not agree with the government that was created. They posed a credible threat to the stability of the nascent state, a threat that was finally ended when Jew indeed took up arms against Jew and put down the dissidents, culminating in the attack on the Altalena.
The first obligation of any nation is to be responsible for the events that occur within its borders. Dissent is to be tolerated, even embraced, but armed dissent must be suppressed. The existence of private military forces are a grave threat to any nation, especially one newly born from violence. The United States Constitution even makes it clear — “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” The right of the people to keep and bear arms is critical to freedom from tyranny, but they must not organize into private armies without government regulation. A well-armed populace is a sheathed sword against tyranny, but a private military is a knife to the throat of a government.
The Palestinians, if they are truly interested in becoming a free and independent state, need to look at these two examples and realize that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (whom I thought had renamed themselves the “Yassir Arafat Martyrs Brigade”) have long outlived their usefulness (granting them that they ever had any, which I don’t think they did) and must be disarmed at the least, most likely disbanded, and crushed if necessary.
It all boils down to a simple question: what do the Palestinians want more — to create a nation of their own, or to destroy Israel? Golda Meir once sadly predicted that “peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.” Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I still hope that time is near.
(Thanks to Laurence Simon for some key tidbits that helped me firm up the Israeli history and the background on Nasser Al-Kidwa. He gave me the key info I needed to track down the full details.)