By Louis Rene Beres
Professor of International Law
Department of Political Science
Purdue University

As should be plainly evident from today's barbaric attack upon pasengers on a Jerusalem bus, there is no "cycle of violence" in the Middle East, only frenzied Arab murders of Jewish civilians followed by essential Israeli measures of self-defense. Hamas argues that it was "retaliating" for Israel's prior day's attempt at assassination of a lead terrorist, as if to say that a constituted democratic state and an outlawed terrorist gang are of equivalent legal stature. Yet, such an argument exhibits the perverse logic of an arch criminal who sees no difference between law violation and law enforcement.

Hamas has no right to "retaliate;" it is a flagrantly criminal organization that recognizes no boundaries whatsoever in its persistent targeting of innocents. This should be especially evident to President Bush, whose recent criticism of Israeli self-defense stands in ironic contrast to America's vastly more massive use of force in Iraq. So far Operation Iraqi Freedom has generated almost 3500 Iraqi civiilan casualties as collateral damage to targeted-killing of Saddam Hussein. And Israel is rather more vulnerable than the United States; the entire country could fit comfortably into Lake Michigan.

Civilized societies acknowledge no equivalence between the inexcusable violence of murderers and the indispensable violence of lawful authorities. But what is Israel to do? Now there is even an explicit Arab threat to escalate to biological terrorism. Recently the Lebanon-based Palestinian weekly, Al-Manar, published an article titled: "Will We Reach the Option of Biological Deterrence?" Here, according to a translation by the highly reputable Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Palestinian terrorists plan to deploy such "death-carrying devices near Israeli water resources; the Israeli beaches....the markets and the residential centers." The plain objective, for the Arabs, is " create a balance of horror in the equation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

What is Israel to do? The Palestinian Prime-Minister says that he will not use force against Hamas, and Hamas recognizes only a "One State Solution." For them, all of Israel - not only West Bank and Gaza - are "Occupied Palestine." They state openly, and categorically, that they will not cease violence against "The Jews" until "all of Palestine is liberated." Now, shall Israeli Prime Minister Sharon declare Hamas leadership immune to Israeli self-defense strikes? Is there a national leader anywhere on earth who would conceivably make such a declaration?

All of the Palestinian leadership - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Authority, it makes no difference - share an expressed delight in the murder of Jewish noncombatants. This is because for all of these leaders, the issue is not territory, but religion. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is only superficially about land. More profoundly, it is about GOD, and about Arab unwillingness to allow a Jewish State, ANY Jewish State, in an Islamic region. Under no circumstances are the Palestinians willing to allow Jewish sovereignty over Muslims. Even if the Jews "occupy" a land that is less than half the size of San Bernardino County in California, it is a "cancer" on the World of Islam that must be cut out.

Consider how deliriously the present Palestinian leadership articulates its idea of "liberation." Announced joyously, as if killing Jews were always much more than a necessary evil, this idea is genuinely savored. It is savored in almost every communal context; in family gatherings, in the schools and of course in the mosques. Whatever brings death to "The Jews" is judged to be good, true and beautiful. Violence against Israel need not be specifically purposeful or instrumental. Rather, it is always "delightful" (in the literal meaning of that word) in its own right.

What is Israel to do? Israel must understand all this, and take care not to assume standard military reasoning among its Palestinian enemies or its enemies elsewhere in the Islamic world. Israel, which generally assumes enemy rationality in its counterterrorism and war-planning scenarios, can no longer overlook the fact that this assumption is often incorrect. In the Islamic Middle East, violence within and between states is often self- propelled, generated for its own sake, for what a Fatah Manifesto calls its "healing powers among the people." For many of Israel's enemies, Clausewitz is being replaced with De Sade. For these enemies, violence against Jews is deliciously naked, tantalizing only for the sheer pain its can bring to unbelievers. The aggressivity of this violence is disinterested in strategic gains or losses. Notwithstanding the assertions of all Palestinian leaderships, it is often politically unmotivated. Sometimes it wills only its own will. Lately it is pure frenzy; a "perfect" irrationality.

There exists among Israel's Palestinian enemies a voluptuousness of violence. It is in Israel's immediate existential interest never to lose sight of this primal inversion of normal world politics. Israel's enemies, at least on occasion, are ready to disregard ordinary calculations of cost- effectiveness and military balance. Instead, they are now routinely animated by the most hideously aberrant human needs and expectations. For the Palestinian leadership elites, representing all factions and parties, agony is infintely more important than logic; not their own agony, to be sure, but the agony they can inflict upon "The Jews." Living happily only under the sovereignty of a rancorous hatred, they increasingly prefer the lascivious enthusiasms of cruelty to the gentle possibilities for peace. As soon as violence against "The Jews" beckons, these leaders join merrily together, dreaming contentedly of inferno, slaughter and "paradise."

Curiously, much of the Palestinian leadership tells the truth about its tactics and hopes. Not only Hamas, but also Yassir Arafat and his other brothers-in-arms have sometimes harbored their exterminating sentiments openly. The killing and maiming of Jewish innocents has become their most conspicuous life force, even their raison d'etre. One wonders, reciprocally, why so many people still stubbornly refuse to listen. Even in Israel.

What is Israel to do? There is no cycle of violence in the region, only a continuous and gratuitous murder of Jews on their own land. With a palpable greed for violence, with a feverish greed still unrecognized in Washington, the Palestinian leadership impatiently awaits Israel's dying moments. Nothing less will ever satisy them. Absolutely nothing.


LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. Prof. Beres is the academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.

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