Arab News (Editorial)
March 7, 2008 - 6:46pm§ion=0&article=107574&d=7&m=3&y=2008

Arabs are often accused of being too emotional over the Palestinian situation rather than calculating and manipulative like the Israelis. It is a notion to which many Arabs subscribe as well, seeing it as a major reason for Israel’s continued dominance over the Palestinians.

It is, in fact, impossible not to be emotional in the face of the suffering and injustice endured by the Palestinians, especially at the moment with the brutal slaughter in Prison Camp Gaza? Only the inhuman can remain unmoved.

But the theory of overemotionalism is not so simple. It is not a straightforward case of weak, divided, emotional Arabs outmaneuvered by calculating, manipulative Israelis.

Events in Gaza provide evidence of that. The Israelis are being just as emotional and illogical as anyone else — indeed far more so. Their response to the rocket attacks from Gaza has been one of cruel, bullying blind rage — a mad outburst of bombs, tanks and missiles, killing well over a hundred men, women and children in response to just one Israeli killed. Hysterical threats of a “holocaust” in the Strip attest to a political mindset that is out of control, illogical and in conflict with Israel’s own long-tern interests.

This highlights another reversal of accepted opinions. Far from being the masters of skilful manipulation, the Israeli have, in fact, allowed themselves to be manipulated by a calculating Hamas. The latter does not want the two-state solution that Washington hopes to broker and the Israelis and the government of President Mahmoud Abbas are apparently willing to accept — and has found the perfect way to prevent it. It fires homemade rockets into Israel; the enraged Israelis respond with gross brutality; and President Abbas is forced to stop negotiating — at least while the Israelis bring terror to Gaza.

Ostensibly, things have now moved on. The Palestinian and Israeli governments have decided to talk again following the Israeli pullout from Gaza. With that the peace process is apparently back on track rails. But for how long? The Israelis say that there will be no further attacks on Gaza if Hamas stops its rocket attacks. That is dangerous language. It is an invitation to Hamas to fire even more rockets. Hamas needs Israel to be as brutal as possible. It needs it in its own struggle with Fatah for Palestinian hearts and minds. It gives it martyr-appeal while making Fatah seem treacherous for negotiating with the enemy. Moreover, the last thing Hamas wants is a Fatah government that can deliver a peace deal. That could spell death for Hamas.

President Abbas has taken a risk for peace; he has agreed that restarting talks should not be dependent on a Gaza truce. That demonstrates his commitment to peace. If the Israelis really want peace as they claim, they too have to show commitment. They have to stop responding with murderous hysteria to Hamas’ calculated taunts. They have to get on with the negotiations regardless of what is happening on the ground (or in the air).

If they are not prepared to take the risks for peace that they always demand the Palestinians take; if they are not prepared to lay emotion aside and continue negotiating regardless of the rockets, the world will be outraged. Indeed, it will also wonder whether they are deliberately rising to Hamas’ bait to prevent the peace process going further.


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