TCS Daily

The Blood of Martyrs

By Lee Harris - August 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Banners are flying today in Gaza that read: "The blood of martyrs has led to liberation." They are the banners of the popular militant Palestinian group Hamas, and they enunciate an unpleasant truth that proponents of the so called peace process would be well advised to ponder. Translated from the language of hagiography, the message of the banners is blazingly transparent: Terrorism works. It gets us what we want. Look what the intifada was able to achieve: the liberation of Gaza. Just think what more terrorism can do for our cause. If the blood of martyrs has led to the liberation of Gaza, may we not expect the blood of martyrs to lead to the liberation of Jerusalem. As the popular Palestinian T-shirt says, "Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem."

Now there may be all sorts of good reasons for the Israelis to order the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip, just as there may be all sorts of good reasons for the Bush administration to consider this as a step forward on the famous roadmap of what we are fond of calling the peace process. But all these good reasons notwithstanding, it is still necessary for us to grasp the fact that, from the Palestinian perspective, the liberation of Gaza is a triumph for those who were willing to blow themselves up (along with any innocent bystanders) in the name of the liberation of Palestine. Furthermore, it is equally necessary for us to realize that it would be insane for the Palestinians to interpret the Gaza pull out as anything other than a victory for those among them who urged violent resistance as opposed to negotiated settlements.

A child who has discovered that by screaming at the top of his lungs he can bring his parents to make concession to him is apt to continue to deploy the same policy whenever his parents attempt to thwart his will. He has learned a trick that infallibly works for him, and why should he abandon the use of this trick so long as it brings him success?

It is absurd to blame human beings, of any age or of any background, for continuing to pursue a policy that has been rewarded with success each time that it has been tried. If you have taught a dog to fetch a stick by giving him a treat each time he brings you back the stick, it seems a bit ridiculous to scold him for making the inference: "If I fetch my master a stick, I will get what I want."

Similarly, it would be nonsensical to explain to those waving the Hamas banner that the blood of their martyrs had nothing to do with the current liberation of Gaza. As the Palestinians watch Israeli soldiers removing Israeli settlers from their homes, is it possible that they cannot fail to see this as an act of national desperation on the part of Israel?

If there is a roadmap to be found in all of this, it is a roadmap that informs the terrorists that what is required in order to defeat the West is just a bit of patience and persistence -- and, of course, the blood of future martyrs. This, of course, is not how the Bush administration sees it, nor is it how the current Israeli government sees it. But it is certainly how the militant Palestinians see it -- and, in the end, it is their interpretation of the Gaza pull out that will matter.

We can tell them that it was Western goodwill and Israeli generosity that had prompted the withdrawal; but the militants will conclude that their triumph was their own doing, brought about by Yasser Arafat's Intifada.

The Israeli government can explain to them that they are evicting the Jewish settlers in the interest of a future harmonious relationship between a Palestinian state and the state of Israel, but what the militants are witnessing with their own eyes is an Israel that is so bitterly and profoundly divided by the Gaza withdrawal that it may lose forever the solidarity of national sentiment that is absolutely critical to its future survival. What greater boon could the militants ask for than for Jewish blood to be shed by Jewish hands in an Israeli house ferociously divided against itself?

The West may try to explain to the Palestinian militants that we are fighting a war against terrorism, but they are all aware that in this so called war against terrorism the West has decided to turn a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism, just as it turned a blind eye to the terrorism of the African National Congress. It is the West that first taught the rest of the world that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter -- and few have learned this lesson better than the Palestinian militants.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, as the redneck saying goes -- and that is the point of those Hamas banners about the blood of the martyrs. They are celebrations of the Palestinians' peculiar institution of terrorism which, because it is far from being broke, is equally far from ever being fixed.

Lee Harris is author of Civilization and Its Enemies.


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