Forwarded from The Jerusalem Post of July 22, 1997
The outrage of Western governments, including Israel's at the news that the Palestinian Authority had condemned to death anyone selling real estate to a Jew, was brief, muted, and certainly did not interrupt the various kinds of support these governments give the PA. Much less did the PA's campaign of extermination against those who sell to Jews lead any of these governments to question the PA's legitimacy. This attitude amounts to collaboration in the physical elimination of Arab moderates.
Since the purpose of Western governments' - including Israel's - support of the PA is precisely to encourage moderation and normal relations between Arabs and Jews, the PA's killing of just the Arabs who deal most moderately and normally with Jews obviously defeats Western purposes. And yet Westerners seem ready enough to lend a hand to their own undoing. Unfortunately, this has been going on longer than most of us have been alive.
In 1921, the British chose to create a Supreme Moslem Council to exercise a variety of powers over the Arab population of Palestine. As the grand judge or mufti of this precursor to the PA, they appointed Amin el-Husseini, whom historian Paul Johnson describes as "a dedicated killer who devoted his entire adult life to race murder." The mufti's greatest legacy, however, was not a great body count of Jewish settlers, nor even the fact that he organized a "Moslem-SS legion" that fought on Hitler's side. Rather, it was, in Johnson's words, "the systematic destruction of Arab moderates.... By the end of the 1930s Arab moderate opinion had ceased to exist...."
As for the British, having creating a monster, they continued to treat him as the legitimate representative of Arab opinion. And through murder he did effectively control his fellow Arabs. How sad that the British were not secure enough in their own conception of legitimacy to apply it to the Arabs.
The history of the Third World is a sad refrain to all this. Western governments are always searching for the authentic representatives of peoples struggling for independence and dignity. But whom do they choose as recipients of money, invitations, and indulgence? In the 1950s the US Central Intelligence Agency placed its bets in Algeria on the National Liberation Front, and helped make its theoretician, Frantz Fanon, into an idol for two generations of intellectuals. Moderates like Ferhat Abbas were of little interest Meanwhile the FLN massacred Arabs who had friendly relations with Europeans and made itself the sole power amongst the Arabs.
Once the French government acquiesced in the elimination of the moderates, the option of getting along with the Arab population vanished. The French had to kill, or be killed, or leave. They left Algeria in the hands of a gang that has tyrannized it and impoverished it. Similar things have happened throughout Africa and Asia.
It is noteworthy that Western governments tend to continue supporting such regimes of thugs despite horrors. The British supported Idi Amin until nearly his overthrow, while the French support Algeria even now. The excuses are always more complex than the results.
THE Israeli government's relationship with the PA is complex indeed. On the one hand it officially views the PLO as a terrorist organization; on the other hand, it considers the PA a government sovereign enough that it calls its leader "president" and does not question its internal practices. Yet the PA is nothing but the creature of the PLO.
The reason for treating the PA as if it were something other than a criminal organization writ large, for treating it as if it were the legitimate representative of ordinary, decent Arabs is the deep, fervent hope that it will become just that. There are reasons for such hope. Clearly, peaceful coexistence with the Jews is the prerequisite for the Palestinian Arabs' prosperity.
Perhaps as more and more Palestinian Arabs gain an economic stake in peace, they will influence the gangsters who sit atop the PA to moderate their behavior. And then there is time itself. If the peace process goes on long enough, even the least moderate Palestinians will lose their roughest edges.
The killing of Arabs who sell land to Jews - gangland style without even the trappings of legality, but with official approval of the PA - confronts these hopes with harsh reality and highlights the self-contradictory nature of Israel's relationship with the PA.
Grant, for the sake of argument, that the peace process and economics indeed produce moderates. But what good is that if the PA kills them? And if the PA is in the business of killing those inclined to deal with Israelis on a businesslike basis, what is the Israeli government doing to Palestinians and Jews alike by supporting the PA? (c) Jerusalem Post 1997
Angelo M. Codevilla directs the Division for Research in Strategy at the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Jerusalem and Washington.