In 2005, Palestinian Arabs were given autonomy over the Gaza Strip for the first time in their history. To make it happen, the Israeli government forcibly removed thousands of Israelis from the area. Without military protection, Jews would be murdered by Palestinians, who prefer their land Judenfrei.
As Jews were being evicted from their homes, some began to dismantle the farms and hothouses they’d built, reluctant to hand over years of hard work. In the name of peace, however, American Jewish donors purchased the 3,000 remaining greenhouses that stood over 1,000 acres for $14 million and gave it to the Palestinian Authority, gratis. A large portion of the donations were earmarked for “crucial equipment like computerized irrigation systems” and other modern farming systems for Palestinians.
As soon as the Jews were gone, mobs of Palestinians showed up and broke windows, stole irrigation hoses, water pumps, and everything else they could get their hands on, destroying everything they could, as “police” stood by and watched. This happened before Hamas came to power. Before any blockades.
By 2007, the unity government between the PLO and Hamas had fallen apart after the latter won a landslide election in 2006 and began defenestrating its political opponents. It was a warning. There has not been a real election in the West Bank since. And it’s a good thing because Islamists would surely grab power there as they had in Gaza. Joe Biden likes to say that Hamas doesn’t speak for Palestinians, but the ugly truth is that Hamas is a far better ambassador of the Palestinian people than the “moderate” Fatah party, which we prop up with billions of dollars.
I thought about all this when reading Sen. Rand Paul’s hopelessly naïve piece in The Federalist today. Paul contends that peace between Israel and Arabs is contingent on promised “prosperity” for Palestinians. He mentions the word “prosperity” eight times, in fact, contending that “non-Hamas Palestinians must hear a message of hope of what could come if they renounced violence.” The libertarian senator then unsheathes this pollyannaish suggestion: “[I]nstead of dropping leaflets to a million Palestinians to flee or be bombed, perhaps we might consider leaflets announcing the prosperity and benefits if they choose a government that recognizes Israel and renounces violence.”
Palestinians have been hearing this message nonstop since 1948 — if not since the 1920s. Many of the Arabs who immigrated to British Palestine from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were lured by the promise of the “prosperity” that was being created by Jewish newcomers. Once there, fueled by the propaganda and lies of their leaders, they created an intractable situation. Before there were any “open-aired prisons” or “occupied territories,” there was terrorism and massacres of Jews. And, still, when offered a state in 1948, with the promise of self-determination and prosperity, they rejected it and tried to annihilate the region’s Jews.
Paul’s belief that Palestinians are itching for “prosperity” is reminiscent of the neocons’ belief that the Islamic world was longing for Western-style “democracy.” No doubt, many innocent civilians are interested in peace and safety. But for most, the frame of thinking about the world and the logic employed to make sense of it are on a different wavelength. If they weren’t, Palestinians would have built a prosperous nation a long time ago. They had every chance to do it.
Palestinian statehood was on the table after the 1967 and 1973 wars, and in the early 1990s and the early 2000s, and a bunch of times in between. It was offered in exchange for the recognition of Israel and the renouncement of violence. Just as it didn’t happen then, it can’t happen now. No Palestinian leader can agree to a deal on statehood because they would surely be deposed and murdered. The Palestinians’ self-destructive embrace of the “right to return” (an idea tied to the historical myth of “Nakba”) and/or Islamist fundamentalism makes peace virtually impossible.
But what’s stopped the Arabs of Gaza or the “West Bank” from achieving prosperity? There are hundreds of stateless minorities in the world. Very few turn to violence. Many thrive. The Jews and Arabs lived in similarly desolate places before the partition, but in the decades since, Israel’s GDP per capita has risen to be on par with South Korea, Spain, and France. Jordan is on par with El Salvador, Namibia. Egypt is on par with Mongolia and Gabon. Is that also the fault of Zionists?
Indeed, like any free nation, Israel makes mistakes, but the idea that it stands in the way of Palestinian success due to bigotry or colonialist intentions or a racial grudge is a paranoiac conspiracy spread by Middle East leaders and Western intellectuals. They would like nothing more than a peaceful neighbor.
Every Israeli restriction on Gazans has been implemented as a reaction to violence by Gazans. When you send Gaza concrete, they don’t build skyscrapers, they build tunnels and military bases under hospitals. They tear down streetlight poles and dig up water pipes to make casements for rockets. Tens of thousands of them. When you allow shipments of necessities, they smuggle in explosives and weapons from Iran.
Gazans are unwilling to build the basic infrastructure necessary for themselves despite receiving hundreds of millions in aid. Israel can only cut power off in Gaza because Israeli power companies provide that electricity (often for free.) The same goes for clean water. Gaza water comes through pipelines from Israeli desalination plants. The notion that Israel is engaged in “genocide,” as you can see, is preposterous in every conceivable way.
Perhaps the only way to implement hope and “prosperity” for the Palestinians is to tighten the occupation of Gaza and create basic civic institutions that make it possible. If, as many Democrats claim, Hamas is not the true agent of the Palestinian people then Israel would be liberating them from a violent cult. But, of course, this would be met with condemnation from the world — not to mention it would mean Israel putting its own citizens’ lives in danger.
Rather, Israel is asked to create an independent state for a people who are incapable of living in peace with Jews, or anyone else. A Gazan nation would be a place where Iran sends deadlier missiles and, one day, nuclear weapons. At this point, acquiescing to any independent Palestinian state would be suicide for the Jewish state. No responsible nation would do it. And a leaflet isn’t going to change anything.