For many years, the leading Arab powers used the Palestinian people and the conflict with Israel to serve their own goals, generally repression at home and aggression abroad. Again and again, the Palestinians were asked to serve as cannon fodder against Israel to serve the agenda of the Arab states, which refused to consider peace with Israel. Today, much of the Arab world seeks peace and a new engagement with other nations, while Iran has embarked upon an ideological crusade to dominate the region. Through their proxy force, the terrorist brigade called Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Iran is engaged in an ugly act of aggression that has seen over 900 rockets fired at Israeli communities this week alone. The collateral damage of this fighting is borne by the Palestinian people, and it seems to me that it is time to ask, why do we put up with being used in this way?
I have reason to understand how these foreign states manipulate the Palestinian people. When I was a child, our family was forcibly moved from our East Jerusalem home to the Shuafat refugee camp, not by Israel, but by Jordan. Today, Gaza has devolved into a base for terror groups that follow an Iranian, not a Palestinian, agenda. About a quarter of all PIJ rockets launched in this week’s fighting fell short and landed within Gaza; at least four Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed in Gaza on May 10 alone as a result of failed rocket launches. And yet day after day and night after night, the brutal rocket onslaught continues, rendering normal life impossible in many Israeli communities, necessitating a targeted defensive response from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Operation “Shield and Arrow,” that has brought daily life in the Strip to a screeching halt.
Strategically, the tragedy of the ongoing escalation represents a loss of opportunities, political and economic, for the Palestinian people. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have much in common with Israel, the Middle East’s most remarkable economic success story that can’t be attributed to fossil fuels. The Palestinians have repeatedly been invited to join their neighbors in a zone of peace and prosperity, which the late Israeli statesman and peacemaker Shimon Peres called “the New Middle East.” Simultaneously, the Palestinian leadership at least three times (in 2000, 2001, and 2008) rejected comprehensive peace agreements with Israel that would have created an independent Palestinian state, solved the refugee problem, and ended the crisis. Instead, our leaders – the terrorist mastermind Yasser Arafat and the perpetual dictator Mahmoud Abbas, now serving the nineteenth year of his four-year term – have committed us to endless war.
What is happening in the Middle East right now is very simple. The theocratic regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran, not content with quashing women’s dignity and hanging youthful protesters at home, seeks to impose its apocalyptic medieval vision upon the whole region. Just as the terrorist factions that claim Palestinian leadership were used as enthusiastic pawns in the fascist-style wars of aggrandizement waged by the pan-Arab regime of Gamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt and the Ba’ath totalitarianism of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, PIJ and Hamas are now attempting to pull the Palestinian people into Iran’s bloodthirsty schemes. I have a better idea. Let’s give our families and our children peace and prosperity, not projectiles and pain. Let’s have an agreement and understanding with Israel, instead of endless fighting and religious tyranny under Iran.