Hamas,  Israel/Palestine,  Your View

What’s to become of the Palestinians? We need to talk about Khaybar.

By Paul M


The Palestinians have a problem.

“You’re kidding! For this we need another blog post?”

Yes, we haven’t talked about this one before.

“Oh really, a new problem?”

No, one of their oldest, we just haven’t talked about it. Which is strange because it’s not just old, it’s also their biggest, most fundamental problem and by “we” I mean everyone, not just Harry’s Place. The problem is hate and when I say we haven’t talked about it, I mean we haven’t talked enough, or perhaps at all, about its consequences.

For reasons of history and choice the Palestinians have adopted a strategy of grievance, hate, refusal and rejection against Israel. That’s not a statement about every individual Palestinian any more than “Russia is xenophobic” is an indictment of every Russian. It’s a true statement, though, about Palestinian society and it’s well documented. Is there hate on the Israeli side too? Certainly, and easy to find, but it’s not state policy or all-pervasive.

Here’s the Executive Summary:

The ADL’s widely-reported 2014 global survey found a 93% prevalence of antisemitism in the West Bank & Gaza.The Palestinian Authority’s Pay to Slay policy is well known. The more you kill, the more you win.

In education, organisations such as the Georg Eckert Institute and IMPACT have been describing the situation for years. While not slow to criticise Israel, they also note steady improvements in the representation of Palestinians, their history and viewpoint in Israeli textbooks. The most recent reports on the Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, show that things are not only bad but getting worse .

The earlier report states:

The latest IMPACT-se analysis of the new Palestinian curriculum found it has moved further from meeting UNESCO standards and the newly published textbooks were found to be more radical than those previously published.

There is a systematic insertion of violence, martyrdom and jihad across all grades and subjects…. The possibility of peace with Israel is rejected. Any historical Jewish presence in the modern-day territories of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is entirely omitted from the textbooks.

The later one notes PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s declaration to the EU that:

if foreign aid is conditioned … over textbook incitement, the Palestinian Authority would finance the printing of textbooks by reallocating funds for water, electricity and communication systems.

How’s that for priorities, but why not when you can blame the ensuing infrastructure crises on Israel?

I don’t really need to tell you that Hamas is not better :

The most extreme, cynical and disturbing aspect of the website is its pervasive indoctrination of the younger generation into the cult of martyrdom – helping to create the next generation of suicide bombers to join the violent jihad.

From the mosques comes a flood of invective and incitement. The same from the political leadership. The media of course, does its part.

This is not new, least of all to anyone on this site. The only reason I’m spelling it out and supplying links is because I know to anticipate accusations of racism! and Islamophobia! (That will happen anyway; the links are for people who respond to evidence by making up their own minds.) So why bother rehearsing it all? Because, as I said, the consequences matter.

The choice to hate has turned into a trap. The cultivation of hate might have been an effective, if unsavoury strategy when Israel was new and weak, the Arab front looked strong and international will was vacillating (some things don’t change). This wall of incandescent fury might have served to create a united Palestinian people and fire them to steamroll over their enemy. But it wasn’t enough.

Donald Trump’s long-overdue recognition of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem was a wake-up jolt, even to people like me who should already have known: This isn’t really an ongoing conflict. Israel won, decades ago. We’ve all just been persuaded to ignore the fact of that. And Palestinian hate and denial that once might have been a useful weapon is now their ball and chain.

Why are they stuck? Simply put, because Israelis are not stupid and they’re not suicidal. (Israeli governments may be stupid sometimes, but they’re not suicidal either.) Once the message sank in that it’s not a conflict over territory or religion any more, if it ever was, but over the right of Jews to exist in their homeland, a door closed on the Palestinians. The absolute rejection of Jewish legitimacy now bars the way to their freedom. No Israeli government of any electable stripe will give them enough sovereignty to continue the fight from a stronger position. The Temple Mount situation is a daily reminder of the folly of that and of what happens when one side looks at olive branches and sees kindling. Yet even if rejection of everything Israeli or Jewish now blocks their progress, there’s no way to stop. Generation after generation has been so thoroughly marinated in it that it’s become a core principle. Jewish evil and Palestinian pure innocence are reality to them. Jews have no roots and no rights, to them, and to suggest anything different is to court destruction.

What about Israeli wrongdoing? Apartheid, genocide, ethnic cleansing, land theft, child murder and all-purpose oppression? It doesn’t matter. All of that, to use the vernacular, is bullshit, but it wouldn’t change anything if it were true. None of those slurs alters this basic fact: All that matter are Palestinian declared intentions, Israel’s will to stop them and their incapacity to choose another path. Those are the three axes that pin the Palestinians to their point in space.

What about the Palestinians’ friends in the west and elsewhere, who amplify all those same slurs? They do matter, but not because they can deliver Israel bound & gagged. They can’t. They matter because they bear a good share of responsibility for leading the Palestinians into the quicksand and keeping them there, prolonging everyone’s misery. By encouraging them to keep fighting a war they’ve long since lost and by adopting every malformed phantasm of Palestinian resentment, they’ve walked with them hand in hand. The difference of course, is that it’s the Palestinians that are paying the price. Israelis are often lectured that it’s the duty of a friend to put them straight when they are going wrong. Where was the tough love for the Palestinians?

When the army of the Prophet swept through the Khaybar oasis, hate put the spur to his horses and sharpened the edge on his swords, and set the relationship between Muslims and Jews for the next millennium and a half, but impotent hate only clarifies its target’s vision and hardens his resolve. The Palestinians can see that what power they have is trickling away, it’s obvious in their panicky response to the Abraham Accords and any other sign of Arab “betrayal”, and even their fury at the suggestion that UNRWA might outsource some of its activities to other agencies. Hate on top of powerlessness weakens their position, but in defeat they can’t give it up.

So what is the future for the Palestinians? Where does all this leave the two-state solution, first of all? It leaves it dead. Israel has been told endlessly that it mustn’t do certain things because they will destroy the prospects for two-states, but nobody thought to tell the Palestinians that they mustn’t hate for the same reason. People who want to will put the blame on Israel, but the end result will be the same: Nations don’t choose suicide willingly and while would-be murderers of Israel may be plenty their means are insufficient. Beyond that, predicting the future is for fools but there’s little sign that Palestinian dreams will come true. Israel has been getting stronger, not weaker. More and more Arab countries, quietly or in public, are deciding that they can’t subordinate their own interests to Palestinian ones forever. Even Arab-Israelis are gradually starting to integrate more, joining the economy and the army and embracing politics that aren’t zero-sum dead ends. If Israel responds thoughtfully those numbers will only grow. If the Arab world moves on without the Palestinians there’s little reason for Europe and America not to follow suit. Do the Palestinians understand their bind? I doubt it, but they can’t leave their cage by either possible exit and I can’t see how anyone else can get them out. I truly wish they could; I don’t enjoy their suffering and a perpetually bitter and hopeless Palestinian enclave is going to continue lashing out at Israel forever. But not all stories have happy endings.

In medicine there exists something known as a sequestrum. A piece of tissue dies and, instead of the usual process of breakdown and resorption, it mummifies in place. It has no future role in the surrounding body except as a source of inflammation and pain. Is that what the Palestinian people have to look forward to, to be a permanent, irreducible focus of inflammation and hurt in the Middle East? How do we spare them and the Israelis that?



This piece was written before the death of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, but if I’d started writing it today it would have come out exactly the same. From the shrieks of Murder! by everyone from Mahmoud Abbas to Rashida Tlaib to the right-on Susan Sarandon; from the forthright libels of Al Jazeera, the “news” source to which Abu Akleh lent her services for 25 years, to the more veiled insinuations of once-reputable outlets like the BBC and Associated Press, it’s the proof you didn’t need. The Palestinians demonstrate their enduring ability to bruise and blacken Israel, and they get … nowhere. It couldn’t be clearer that the PA, never mind Hamas, is not thinking about coexistence. For all their talk of fairness, justice and rights, the West’s thought leaders’ stampede toward verdict before trial shows again how flexible their principles are in service of their politics. In the process, they make any thinking Jew wonder what future there is for the diaspora. And so we go on, hate and pointless violence that serves only to take the Palestinians further from a future worth having. The pain they inflict and suffer has become their substitute.