Monday, August 28, 2006

The Palestinians: loving death, loving life

It's been said before in parts of the Arab world, by Hezbollah leader Nasrallah and others: "We are going to win because [the Israelis] love life and we love death."

Loving death: what an amazing thing to brag about. It's a boast that's meant to make the listener cower in awe of the bravery of the speaker, and to feel as though opposing such a person would be futile.

How can one deter or fight an enemy with such determination, one who's not even wary of death? And this love of death is not just a macho pose or hyperbolic rhetoric (although it's at least partly that); suicide bombers have definitely put their money where their mouths are in that respect. The Palestinian indoctrination of children has been an education in the veneration of death, and has borne fruit in this desire for martyrdom.

It goes without saying that such an attitude isn't healthy for a society. In a less looking-glass world, it would in fact be a sign that such a culture was about to get its wish--that it was on the brink of extinction. Why? In the past, self-preservation and the desire to live, both as individuals and as a group, was one of the basics for societal survival.

It's true that all societies require a certain amount of sacrifice, as well. For example, in order to keep both internal law and order, as well to defend the group against attacks by outsiders, there always needs to be a certain number of people who are willing to give their lives in order to protect the others (these people can be conceptualized as sheepdogs, in a metaphor that was discussed previously, here).

But in most societies, these protectors are far from eager to give up their lives. As General Patton famously said, "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his."

Exactly and precisely. Patton was one of the least PC military men who ever lived. He was controversial even back in WWII, when political correctness was hardly a gleam in the Left's eye. But now even the military is far more PC than it ever was; in recent decades, the military has become more reluctant to make "the other bastard" die for his. Like it or not (and Jacksonians don't like it), the gloves are on when we've fought the wars of this century, at least so far.

One can only conclude that if the Palestinians, Hezbollah, and Iran had the weaponry the US has, they would not hesitate to obliterate anyone they perceive as having wronged them, shamed them, or gotten in their way. Their love of death is not limited to seeking their own deaths; they definitely embrace the deaths of their enemies.

And in a more Darwinian and less PC world, the Palestinians' love of death, their lack of advanced weaponry, and their aggressiveness towards an enemy who does possess that weaponry would long ago have resulted in their getting their wish: death. Their own deaths, and the death of their society.

But in a strange ironic twist, such a culture can continue to exist if it faces an enemy that has such a love for life that it refuses to unleash its own arsenal on those who would seek to destroy it. So Palestinian society is protected by the reticence of its enemy, even as it declares that enemy to be ruthless and evil. It counts on that reluctance, that "love of life"--even the life of the Palestinians--to allow Palestinian society to live to fight another day.

The picture is a dismal one, to be sure. So I'm going to clutch at a tiny ray of light; I'll take it wherever I can find it. This time it's from Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad, of all people (hat tip: Captain Ed.)

An article in the Jerusalem Post quotes Hamad as complaining that Gaza is "caught in anarchy and thuggery." What's new about that? Simply this: Hamad isn't blaming the Israelis, he's blaming the Palestinians themselves.

This is different, especially for a Hamas spokesman. Those in Israel who advocated the withdrawal from Gaza hoped this would be one of the benefits: Palestinians taking responsibility for their own failures. Without the convenience of being able to blame the occupation, the Palestinians would have to face their own flaws (I wrote about this previously, here)

Here's a quote from Hamad:

"We're always afraid to talk about our mistakes," he added. "We're used to blaming our mistakes on others. What is the relationship between the chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, indiscriminate murders, theft of land, family rivalries, transgression on public lands and unorganized traffic and the occupation? We are still trapped by the mentality of conspiracy theories - one that has limited our capability to think."

It's not that Hamad has suddenly become an Israelophile (if he had, it might be his own ticket to death). Perhaps he just wants Palestinian society to reform, the better to attack its old enemy.

But perhaps not; I like to think not. And this final quote from Hamad lends credence to that possibility. It sounds to me as though it might even be a crie de cour, his reassertion of the energy of life rather than death:

Addressing the various armed groups in the Gaza Strip, Hamad concluded: "Please have mercy on Gaza. Have mercy on us from your demagogy, chaos, guns, thugs, infighting. Let Gaza breathe a bit. Let it live."

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