Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Positives And Negatives In The Middle East
Over at Michael Totten's place, Israelis and Lebanese have been talking to one another at great length. The discussion is heated sometimes, as you'd expect; but, as Michael points out, the discussions are, on the whole, more civilized and respectful than, say, discussions between liberals and conservatives here in the United States.
I'm very much encouraged by this. The Internet has become something that never before existed: a means for people all over the world to communicate with one another, in perfect safety, even among declared enemies and across cease-fire lines.
Sure, there's a lot of progress to be made; no one would deny that. But they're talking... which is a vital first step. Israelis will see for themselves that Lebanese are not monsters, and vice versa.
A lot of good can come from this, and my hat's off to Michael for providing the forum (and the congenial environment) to make it happen.
In the meantime, Palestinians continue shooting at one another over -- what? Unpaid salaries? Frustrated political aspirations? No, this time it seems to be retaliation, pure and simple -- Fatah against Hamas, retaliating for what Hamas did to Fatah:
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Hundreds of Palestinian security men loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas went on a rampage against the Hamas-led government Monday, riddling the parliament building and Cabinet offices with bullets before setting them ablaze in retaliation for an attack by Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip.Maybe I'm just cynical, but it doesn't sound like this Palestinian-Palestinian violence is going to end any time soon. And will the press ever get around to attributing this to a "cycle of violence"? (Later -- in the exception that proves the rule, the Wall Street Journal has indeed called it a "cycle of violence"... by way of wondering whether anyone else will call it that. Touché.)
In Monday's unrest, hundreds of members of the Preventive Security force shot out the windows of the parliament building before storming the two-building Cabinet complex, where they smashed furniture, destroyed computers and tore up documents. No casualties were reported.
Shooting wildly in the air, the mob then set fire to one of the Cabinet buildings, gutting the fourth floor. When a fire engine approached the scene, one gunman lay on the road, preventing it from reaching the building.
"Every time they touch one of ours in Gaza, we will get 10 of theirs in the West Bank," said one member of the Preventive Security force. Dozens of gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a pro-Fatah militia, joined the mob.
The crowd also set fire to the parliament building and a Hamas office. Both blazes were quickly contained. Abbas' presidential guard later arrived to guard the burnt-out parliament and Cabinet buildings.
Late Monday, Fatah gunmen briefly abducted a Hamas lawmaker, Khalil Rabei, after attacking his office and setting it on fire. Rabei said he was kicked and threatened before he was released.
I've been expecting something like this for a while now. Yasser Arafat, whom I am pleased to have outlived, set up a Palestinian culture that rewards and glorifies violence; we now have legions of young Palestinians that, it seems, cannot think of any other way to solve their problems, or even to get attention.
And Israel has nothing to do with this. Sure, there will be attempts to drag Israel into purely Palestinian affairs... but for once, that doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps the Palestinians have crossed an important threshold: the realization that they cannot blame Israel for everything.
NOTE: some lengthy updates to this post have been separated out into a different post, which you can find here.