In the days when I made my living teaching philosophy, one of the first things I would tell my students is that unquestioningly accepting the ‘common sense’ view inhibits a true understanding of the world we encounter. In philosophical terms, accepting an unrefined picture is called “naive realism”.
Such naiveté seems to have infected mainstream political discourse throughout western Europe and increasingly throughout the United States, the result of which is several demonstrably false beliefs about Israel, Zionism and Palestinian nationalism.
Despite their clear incongruence to reality these mantras are used by journalists and politicians alike to explain Palestinian violence and as a framework for explaining events in both Israel and the wider middle-east.
One popular favourite which is regularly trotted out by so-called informed observers is that Israel needs to give the Palestinians a “political horizon”.
The gist of this idea is that in the absence of Israeli measures which give the Palestinians hope of change on the ground, violence becomes inevitable.
According to this notion, Palestinian Arabs resort to violence out of frustration. It thus follows that while the individual sources of Palestinian frustration vary from settlement construction to the absence of peace talks, to avoid or reduce Palestinian violence Israel must take measures which offer hope to the Palestinians.
Indeed we were treated to a textbook example of this fallacy by no less than John Kerry who briefly blamed the upturn in Palestinian violence on frustration at Israel’s “massive settlement construction”. Kerry also offered to come to the region to
make a complete mess of the one corner of the middle-east he has yet to ruin set up a peace conference.
In one example we have all the elements, Palestinian frustration at Israel and the vaunted solution: moves which hint at the prospect of future change.
There’s no doubt a certain intuitive appeal to this idea, which perhaps explains its widespread acceptance. Yet over-riding problems remain with what might otherwise be an excellent idea- its not true. Something that is obvious to anyone who bothers to do old-fashioned things like opening a history book.
Beginning an analysis with the initial partition of the territory of the Mandate for Palestine in 1924, we find that the grievances cited by Palestinians, such as construction in Jewish neighbourhoods, or a perceived threat to the Al-Aksa mosque, are recycled on each occasion it becomes necessary to explain the Palestinian resort to political violence.
Furthermore, we find also that contrary to what we might think is reasonable or rational, Palestinian political violence has spiked not at the times when despair is at its highest but rather at the very times when a two-state partition (which is supposed to mean peace) seems closer than ever.
This same pattern can be found from Peel, through UNGA181, to Oslo, Camp David, more recently with Palestinian accession to the status of UN observer state, and right now with the raising of the Palestinian flag at the UN. This of course begs the question of why?
It is no secret that the death toll from Palestinian terrorism in the 28 years that have passed since the signing of the Oslo accords dwarfs- by several orders of magnitude- the number off deaths in the 53 years prior to their signing.
Since Israel formally acquiesced to the idea of creating the first Palestinian Arab state in history, Palestinian political violence has become ever more frequent and ever more lethal. Congruent to this has been increased EU and US pressure to “end the occupation”.
As it turns out, Palestinians do not attack Israel because they despair of an unending “occupation” but rather because they sense that victory, i.e. the defeat of Israel, is just around the corner.
Make no mistake the current wave of violence is not attributable to anything other than a Palestinian sense that Israel can be defeated. Despite the diplomatic pressure, we must once more show them that this is a serious mistake.