Monday, April 15

Israeli and Arab Propagandists, European Intellectuals, and Some Very Unhappy "Campers."

I have abandoned my attempt to articulate a clear position on the current conflict and a way forward. For now, I am content to defer to former Israeli Prime Minister Barak's experience and endorse his position as described in the New York Times yesterday (see "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" below"). So, until there is a major development in the region, I will stop writing about it. Others with more time and better information are doing the job better than I could. To wit:

Writing in today's Telegraph, Barbara Amiel (Lady Black) identifies seven sources of the current European antipathy towards Israel's position. Every once in a while (usually after reading something by David Frum, Barbara Amiel, or Mark Steyn) I reflect that maybe there is hope for Canada after all. Of course, the fact that, of these three, only Mark Steyn spends any significant amount of time in Canada probably says something.

In related news, The National Post sent a reporter into the Jenin area to try to make some sense of the conflicting reports coming out of that city. His article is revealing in its lack of any real revelations. For now, it is "he said, she said" and neither the official Israeli Army news outlet nor hysterical Arab rumor-mongering seems particularly reliable. Based on this reporter's story, however, which graphically illustrates how a propaganda-induced victim-mentality and a lack of verifiable information can combine to produce a potent strain of mass hysteria, I would give the credibility edge to the Israeli news sources, but it is a close call.

As for the official Arab news agencies, I never had much faith in them and my incredulity is reinforced by this story, which quotes Saudi Prince Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud describing the enforced isolation of PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the current Israeli military offensive as "the greatest crime in the history of humanity." With allies like these, American unilateralism is looking better and better. I am not denying that the Israeli incursion into the disputed territories has resulted in civilian casualties. I am even prepared to accept that, once the dust settles, there may be a much higher death toll than the IDF is currently admitting, although nothing will be known for sure for several weeks and possibly months. However, it is important to keep things in perspective; as Nissan Ratzlav-Katz chronicles here, such unfortunate civilian deaths have accompanied every military operation in recent memory, from Grenada to Afghanistan. Any attempt to equate the events of the last week to The Final Solution, Stalinist purges, or Iraq's treatment of its indigenous Kurdish population gives blinkered fanaticism a bad name.

While I am writing on the topic for the last time, I want to make one more point about Jenin and similar settlements that has been nagging me for a couple of days now. The media consistently refers to these cities as "refugee camps." From this description, one would expects the "camp" to consist of temporary residences, pitched tents, trailers, and the like, yet television coverage shows the "camps" actually to consist of housing not much different from that found in parts of Israel or in more established arab communities in the West Bank and Jordan. A quick investigation reveals why this is so. Most of these "refugee camps" have actually been settled for more than 50 years now, long enough for their residents to put down roots and for the communities to take on all the trappings of permanent settlements. It makes no sense to continue to refer to places like Jenin, in which two generations have been raised to adulthood and which are physically indistinguishable from other towns in the region, as "refugee camps." By the same criteria, many Israeli towns could still be referred to as "refugee camps" for fleeing European Jews. If the Palestinian Authority's oil-rich allies were so concerned about the plight of these "refugees," they could have taken them in decades ago or spent the last 50 years building up the infrastructure of the camps/cities and creating a real Palestinian state. Of course, this would have required abandoning their very real hope, shared by Arafat and Hamas bombers alike, that these "camps" really are just places for Palestinians to wait until the destruction of Israel.