In the newspapers of March 12 we read King Hussein's declaration that Israeli refusal to accede to the latest demands of St. Arafat would bring "inevitable violent resistance" from all Arabs. Hussein was seconded in his threat by Egyptian President Mubarak, who said that if Prime Minister Netanyahu proceeded to build apartment houses in Israel's capital city of Jerusalem, "There will be violence, and Arafat will never be able to control it." In the newspapers the very next day (March 13) we read that a soldier in Hussein's army, as if acting to vindicate the prophetic power of his king, had shot dead seven Israeli schoolgirls.
Ordinarily, such a sequence of events, had it victimized people anywhere else in the world, that is to say, people other than Israelis, would undoubtedly have provoked widespread and very savage comment on the ethical, if not legal, culpability of Mubarak and Hussein for incitement to murder. After all, when Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated, journalists and politicians the world over (including Israel) assigned blame for "incitement" of his murder to virtually every voice, in Israel and elsewhere, that had been raised against his policies of preemptive concession and endless appeasement.
But the reaction to the murder of these seven girls following immediately upon the Arab leaders' not very subtle call for violence brought virtually no censure of Hussein and Mubarak. On the contrary. All too typical of the response from the ethical idealists among scribblers on the Middle East was that of Anthony Lewis (New York Times, 14 March). Lewis paused as briefly as possible over the seven dead girls--for him they were so much blood under the bridge--just long enough to wish that "there could be grief without politics in the Middle East." But since Lewis belongs to that school of moralists who think that virtue consists in wanting others to be good rather than in being good oneself, he immediately proceeded to make politics out of grief--and politics of the most perverse, Orwellian kind imaginable. Instead of assigning blame to Hussein and Mubarak for instigating violence on those rare occasions when Israel does not immediately succumb to Arafat's demands, he actually commended them for their great prescience, wisdom, and moderation in prophesying violence. Such logic is hardly surprising from someone who has written scores of articles insisting that war criminals be brought to justice--in the former Yugoslavia--while giving himself prodigally to apologetics for Yasser Arafat, one of the major war criminals of the twentieth century.
Arafat, who has both directed and praised killers of Jewish children even more savage than the Jordanian soldier (remember the murders of thirteen mothers and babies at Kiryat Shemona and twenty schoolchildren at Maalot in 1973, and the Avivim school bus attack in 1990, and the Dizengoff bombing organized by his special hero "the Engineer" exactly a year ago?) was at the ready with an "explanation" of the blood shed by the Jordanian. The murder occurred--so Arafat was quoted in the left-wing Israeli paper Ha'aretz--because the Israeli government has been creating obstacles to the "peace process" by building in Jerusalem and, in general, refusing to abolish itself in strict accordance with the Arab timetable.
Meanwhile, the august powers of the world, in perfect accord with Arafat, hastened to remind everyone that neither the murder of these innocents nor the unscrupulous inciters to murder would divert them from the really important issue: namely, those apartments to be constructed in Jerusalem (on land neither inhabited nor cultivated, and owned mostly--76%--by Jews). In the papers for March 14, we read that "the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution to censure Israel's plan to build a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem." This is the very same international organization which looked on with perfect equanimity, if not satisfaction, back in 1948 when the Jordanian invaders began their nineteen year occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem by destroying every Jewish house of learning, every synagogue, every Jewish cemetery. All of which should remind us of the fifty year old maxim about the unending Arab war against Israel: "When Jews build, it's bad; when Arabs destroy, it's good."
Edward Alexander is professor of English at University of Washington.
His most recent book is THE JEWISH WARS: REFLECTIONS BY ONE OF THE BELLIGERENTS.[Available from the Freeman Center Book Department at a 20% discount off the cover price of $29.95.]