by Jay Johansen | Jan 3, 2009
Peace in the Middle East seems as far away as ever. Politicians and pundits propose new plans to end the conflict, while bemoaning the failure of previous plans.
But through it all, they talk about the "cycle of violence". They routinely describe the problem as: Arabs kill Jews, Jews strike back and kill some Arabs, which prompts the Arabs to retaliate by killing more Jews, and round and round it goes in a never-ending circle. If only we could break this circle, they hope, we could bring an end to the violence.
Efforts at making peace fail because this analysis is so completely divorced from reality. There is no "cycle of violence" in the Middle East, and talking about the problem as if it was such a cycle just makes any proposed solution irrelevant.
Let's try a little thought experiment.
Scenario 1: Suppose that tomorrow the Arabs announced a complete cease fire. They will immediately stop all terrorist attacks on Israel, all rocket barrages across the border, etc. They demand nothing from Israel in response except that Israel likewise cease all military action. As long as Israel does not launch any further strikes against them, they will not strike against Israel. Suppose that Israel has at least some reason to believe the the offer is genuine. What do you think Israel's response would be?
I don't think it's hard to guess. Israel would certainly welcome such a cease fire. If it actually held up, if the attacks on Israel really stopped, there would be rejoicing in the streets of Israel, and the war would be over.
Scenario 2: Suppose that tomorrow Israel announced a complete cease fire. They will immediately stop all military strikes against Arabs. They demand nothing from the Arabs in response except that they likewise cease all terrorist attacks. As long as the Arabs do not launch any attack against Israel, they will not strike against the Arabs. Suppose that the Arabs have at least some reason to believe that the offer is genuine. What do you think the Arab's respone would be?
We don't need to guess. Israel has made this offer many times, and the Arabs have repeatedly replied with a new wave of terrorist attacks.
Israel has made concession after concession to the Arabs. They gave up most of the West Bank to establish a Palestinian state. They gave money to help the Palestinians establish a government in this new state. The Arabs replied by using the West Bank as a staging area to launch new attacks on Israel. Israel gave up the Gaza strip. The Arabs promptly used the Gaza strip as a base for missile attacks. In the Oslo peace meetings Israel offerred the Arabs 95% of what they said they wanted. The Arabs replied by angrily denouncing Israel and launching a new series of attacks.
The simple reality is that this is not a symmetrical relationship. This is not a matter of two groups of people equally at fault in the conflict. Israel wants nothing more than to live in peace. The Arabs wants nothing less than the destruction of Israel. The Arabs attack, and Israel attempts to defend itself. If the Arabs stopped attacking, Israel would stop responding. If Israel stops responding, the Arabs do not stop their attacks. They celebrate that the enemy is weakening and launch a new series of attacks.
A moderate Israeli is one who hopes that new concessions to the Arabs will finally result in peace. A moderate Arab is one who believes that only the Jews living in Israel must be killed, and Jews living in other parts of the world might be allowed to live for a while longer.
© 2009 by Jay Johansen
Veronica Jul 23, 2014
I have to disagree with you , Yaacov.Since peace broke out, tgnihs are much worse. Before "Oslo", how many drive by shootings, bus bombs, supermarket bombs, etc were there?Itis time that we take it all back - take back control over the land, take back the guns, take back teh radio and tv programming, take back teh schoolbooks which teach their children to kill us - and restore soem security.Yes, we have to define "permanent resident" (ger toshav) status more clearly, for the arabs and for all the Phillipinos, Sudanese, etc. But that should not involve giving anyone sovereignty over our country, adn ceratinly shoudl not involve giving those who seek to destroy us weapons and the political freedom to kill us.