Reflecting on the current carnage between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, and on the ongoing violence in the Tripoli Palestinian refugee camps, Ralph Peters has written an article in today’s NY Post claiming that the Palestinians have been victimized for a long time, but not by the Israelis: by other Arabs, and by their own home-grown Palestinian leaders.
There’s no doubt about it, if you study history. The Palestinian refugees have been kept in a state of misery by the fellow-Arabs among whom they’ve stayed for decades (and now generations) as a sort of prominent window display of suffering. The goal? To prove Israeli perfidy, deflect attention from Arab failings, and get the world’s attention and sympathy.
If at any point there had been any true intent to absorb the Palestinians into the local population in the way of refugees almost everywhere (and in the case of the Palestinians the task would have been relatively easy, because they differ so little both ethnically and culturally from the people in the countries in which they found their somewhat dubious “refuge”), it would have been done long ago.
One of the sad things about the Tripoli violence is that it’s an example of the exploitation of the Palestinians by their brethren Arabs. As often is the case with a weakened host, the Palestinian camps in question have apparently been taken over by foreign al Qaeda elements that seem to have been the initial cause of the violence. The camps themselves were previously off-limits to the Lebanese, who’ve steered clear of them in a long-established agreement with the PLO, a group clearly incapable of keeping out even more violent elements than themselves.
As in the case of most long-term welfare recipients, the Palestinians have been ill-served by their singular history of having been on the UN dole for almost sixty years. As journalist (and Hemingway wife) Martha Gellhorn presciently wrote back in 1961 (quoted in this post of mine, which I urge you to read in its entirety):
The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war….[T]oday, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad.
The goad has worked; the Palestinians became masters of propaganda, if nothing else. Oh, and of killing. As Peters points out, now that they’ve had a chance at self-government in Gaza since the Israeli withdrawal of 2005, they have made a bloody (literally) mess of it.
But why expect anything else? Despite their status as victims of their Arab brethren, and as poster children for victimization in general, they have become victimizers—not just, or even primarily, of the Israelis their suicide bombers target—but of other Arabs, and of themselves.
This is not a new story. In fact, it’s a very old one. Arafat was probably the most corrupt and violent victimizer of Arabs in the post-WWII age. He robbed his own people blind, yes, and killed so much of the opposition that many moderate Palestinian voices (and they did exist in greater numbers in the past) were silenced effectively, and forever, by death. (If you are curious to know some of the details, please pull up a chair and read “In a Ruined Country: how Yassir Arafat destroyed Palestine,” an article written by David Samuels that appeared in the September 2005 issue of The Atlantic).
But Palestine was not alone; Arafat’s modus operandi was to wreak havoc wherever he went. Where, for instance, did the name “Black September”—used by the Arafat-affiliated terrorist group that put the PLO on the map with the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre—come from?
“Black September” originally referred to the events of September 1970, in Jordan. The Palestinians are, after all, virtually identical in ethnicity to most of the population of Jordan, and originally Arafat and many Palestinian refugees found a home there. But he tried to overthrow the government of that new home, and so King Hussein saw fit to do a little housecleaning—to the tune of approximately seven to eight thousand Palestinian dead—in September of 1970, eliminating the Palestinian presence there in order to preserve his own rule.
The Left is relatively silent about events such as these—after all, the perpetrators were not the Israelis, so who cares?—but the result was that Arafat and thousands of his troublemakers were expelled from Jordan and took up residence in a little place known as Lebanon, where they proceeded to wreak more havoc. The until-then relatively stable Lebanon has never been the same since their arrival.
Wading back into the history of the formation of the state of Israel always brings out bitter contention and argument. I’ve no desire to refight that battle at the moment, although it almost inevitably comes up in the comments section (and I’ve noticed that posts about Israel tend to be powerful troll-magnets).
So I’ll just say here that, whether you believe the Israelis cruelly drove the Palestinians away, or whether you think the Palestinians—with the strong encouragement of their fellow-Arabs—cooked their own goose by refusing the country they were handed by partition and leaving Israel to make room for the easy Arab victory and takeover they thought would follow, their subsequent history has been as equal-opportunity dealers of destruction, chaos, and death.
So, when do victims such as the Palestinians stop being objects of sympathy and become acknowledged as the perpetrators of misery, some of it their own? When will the world demand that the Palestinians cease riding their victimization and using it as an excuse for corruption and brutality? I think that time is long overdue.
Martha Gellhorn thought so too, back in 1961:
It is hard to sorrow for [the Palestinian refugees] who only sorrow over themselves. It is difficult to pity the pitiless. To wring the heart past all doubt…[they] cannot have wished for a victorious rewarding war, blame everyone else for their defeat, and remain guiltless….
Arabs gorge on hate, they roll in it, they breathe it. Jews top the hate list, but any foreigners are hateful enough. Arabs also hate each other, separately and, en masse. Their politicians change the direction of their hate as they would change their shirts. Their press is vulgarly base with hate-filled cartoons; their reporting describes whatever hate is now uppermost and convenient. Their radio is a long scream of hate, a call to hate. They teach their children hate in school. They must love the taste of hate; it is their daily bread. And what good has it done them?
And remember, that passage was written before the 1967 war.