Don't Panic October 16 2002

Has the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation had any results?

The Palestinian uprising (aka the Intifada) just reached its second anniversary.

Traditionally, second anniversaries are celebrated with gifts made of cotton. But do you think Israelis or Palestinians bought each other nice button-down shirts to mark the occasion? Of course not. They didn't even buy cards. Where's the love?

Party animals that they are though, thousands of Palestinians took to what remains of their streets to celebrate the anniversary. And boy-oh-boy, there's a whole lot to celebrate! Since the uprising began, 1,500 Palestinians and 600 Israelis have been killed. Relative to the size of Israel's population, the Intifada has had a death toll roughly equivalent to 10 9-11 attacks. The Palestinian death toll, relative to the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is the equivalent of nearly 50 9-11s. Happy anniversary!

The staggering death toll is the result of a brutal and pointless tit-for-tat. Palestinians attack Israeli civilians in the name of God and an independent state because they can't inflict any meaningful damage on Israel's infinitely superior military. Israel's military attacks Palestinian targets (people and buildings) that it says are responsible for terrorism, killing scores of civilians in the process. The Israeli government also sees Palestinian terror attacks as further justification for occupation.

The anniversary "celebration" saw Palestinian leaders making boneheaded declarations about how they would beat the Israelis using force. Sheikh "Yer Booty" Yassin, the so-called spiritual leader of Islamic militant group Hamas (I say "so-called" because I don't really see how an organization that murders Israelis on buses or in supermarkets has any spirituality) declared that Intifada was essential to facing down Israel. The Sheikh seems to have forgotten that the Intifada has turned the Bush administration almost completely against the Palestinian cause, and that the U.S. is the only country capable of influencing Israel on their behalf.

Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat has been no more smart or effective. His only obvious skill is the ability to stay in power while Palestinians suffer. Though Palestinians blame Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for sparking the Intifada by visiting Jerusalem's Temple Mount in September 2000, it was Arafat's stubborn refusal a few weeks earlier to negotiate with Israelis at the President Clinton-brokered Camp David peace talks that virtually guaranteed a violent uprising. With Palestinian health and living standards slipping backward, the Intifada has shown that, when it comes to governing Palestinians, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are as effective as the Sports Authority.

Never one to let other people hog the stupidity ... wait, hogs aren't kosher. Let's start again. Never one to let other people horde the stupidity, Prime Minister Sharon has ensured that the only constituencies satisfied by his tenure are arms and coffins manufacturers. Sharon has repeatedly promised that employing deadlier force than his predecessors would halt Palestinian violence, but that strategy has been an utter failure.

What little there was of the Palestinian infrastructure has been mangled, and civilians are continually killed in missile and tank attacks on Palestinian targets. Sharon has no workable plan for getting Israel out of this mess and has flat-out ignored other people's efforts (most notably, the Saudi plan for full peace and recognition from Arab countries in exchange for an Israeli pull-back to 1967 borders).

Happy anniversary!


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