John R. Cohn
It's hard to follow the Middle East and not have sympathy for the plight of Arab Palestinians. For 60 years, they have suffered as a result of their approach to the unremitting conflict with Jews and Israel.
As Abba Eban famously observed, "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
But The Philadelphia Inquirer, like much of the world, has been blinded by its sympathy for their unfortunate circumstances, absolving them of responsibility for their actions and repeatedly mischaracterizing the conflict as a result.
In its coverage of threats to Palestinian funding resulting from the impending formation of an elected Hamas government, the Inquirer reported on increasing problems with medical supplies that would adversely affect "average Palestinians" ("Cutoff of aid to Palestinians undermines human services," Feb. 28).
Quoting a departing Palestinian health minister, the Inquirer reported, "The public will be affected more than Hamas, and the public will have sympathy for them. The public will feel that they are being punished for their choice - and that will backfire."
Hamas is a self-proclaimed terrorist organization that refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist, and renounces previous agreements intended to lead to a Palestinian Arab state. A substantial majority of "average Palestinians," well aware of Hamas' rejectionist positions on key issues, nevertheless voted for them in the recent election.
Average Germans elected Adolf Hitler into power in the 1930s. In the 1940s, average Germans, Poles, Hungarians and others participated in Hitler's final solution, while average Italians, Danes and Bulgarians took steps to thwart it. The result was that a far higher percentage of Jews from those countries survived World War II.
Average Japanese supported the Emperor's march across Asia during the last century, and they suffered the consequences as their cities were bombed by Allied forces fighting back during World War II, culminating in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
By contrast, average Italians resisted their alliance with Germany, deposing Benito Mussolini within days of Allied forces landing on the Italian mainland.
A guiding ethical principle throughout human history is that people are, indeed, responsible for their own actions. And actions have consequences.
In 1948, Palestinians rejected partition of Jewish and Arab areas. A war ensued, and Israel was created as a historic homeland for the Jewish people. For the next 19 years - despite the fact that no Jews were in the territories beyond the 1948 armistice lines - there was no attempt to create a Palestinian state.
The June 1967 war prompted negotiations over several decades, eventually leading to the 1993 Oslo accords, again committing to a Palestinian Arab state. In 2000, the Palestinians' popular leader, Yasser Arafat, again rejected statehood over disagreements concerning the proposed borders. The last five years of bloodshed resulted, with average Palestinian Arabs encouraging their children to strap on bombs to murder other children.
For 60 years, the Palestinians could have had a state, but they repeatedly rejected it, most recently because of claimed unhappiness with the proposed borders of their new country. But that was, in truth, still a border dispute. It was not a war to end Israel's occupation, which could have happened years ago. With the election of Hamas, it is also undeniably - as it was in 1948 - a war to end Israel's existence.
The best way to bring an end to this conflict is to let average Palestinians choose leaders open to compromise and against war. In the meantime, they remain responsible for their actions.
This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.