The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 01, 2002  

Militarist, Colonialist, Imperialist

Jeff Jacoby, not known as a voice of reason or restraint when it comes to matters respecting, well, anything, went all out in his Friday column, “Prerequisite to Mid-East Peace,” in which he advocates subjecting the Palestinians to “pulverizing defeat . . ., occupation[,] and transformation.”

The essay, which begins with the obligatory quote from George Orwell and ends with thoroughly unwarranted self-satisfaction, seethes with contempt -- hate, even -- toward the Palestinians, a condescending smugness, and a patronizing tone of unabashed imperialism.

He writes:

“As a prerequisite to peace, Palestinian culture must be drastically reformed. The venom of the Arafat era must be drained. Persons implicated in terrorism must be punished and ostracized; democratic norms must be instilled; the virtue of tolerance must be learned. There is only one way to effect such wholesale changes: The Palestinian Authority has to be dealt a devastating military defeat, one that will crush Arafat and his junta and shatter forever the Palestinian fantasy of ‘liberating’ Israel and driving the Jews into the sea.

“Then the Palestinian territories must be reoccupied, the terror chieftains executed, and the putrescence of Arafat and Hamas flushed away. That will make it possible to rebuild the structures of civil society -- the legislature, the courts, the police, the media, and, above all, the schools -- from the ground up. The Palestinian polity can become a true liberal democracy, one committed to pluralism, civil rights, competitive elections, and the marketplace of ideas. When that happens, peace with Israel will be a given, and no one will fear a Palestinian state.”

Although we find Jacoby’s remarks highly disturbing, we hope his newfound appreciation for the ability of the Palestinians to create and sustain a genuinely democratic polity -- the first in the entire region -- will take hold among the chauvinistic, ethnocentric, and xenophobic neoconservatives with whom he has so often made common cause.

Jacoby’s model for this dramatic and, for Israel at least, painless transformation: the post-World War II U.S. occupation of Japan. Yes, Palestine is the new Japan. Of course, no matter that Japan at the end of the war was an isolated island nation with a well-educated and homogenous population and a pre-war history of considerable relative prosperity, whose nearest neighbors, particularly those with reason to take a suspicious view of Japan, China and North Korea come to mind, were economically devastated and spent decades in self-imposed hibernation.

Jacoby concedes “there are differences, of course,” the most notable of which he asserts is that “no one proposes to drop an A-bomb on Gaza,” implying, we think, that it should be easier for the Palestinians to recover from their decimation at the hands of the Israelis than it was for the Japanese to rebuild their country after the war. Oddly, however, Jacoby neglects to mention that the unidentified “no one” in his observation has the capacity to attack its soon-to-be colony with nuclear weapons should it choose to do so.

“Pulverizing defeat followed by occupation and transformation,” Jacoby concludes, apparently with a straight face. “It would be a blessing to all the peoples of the Middle East -- to the Palestinians above all.”

We wonder how many Palestinians will have to die during Jacoby’s proposed devastation and occupation before they grow to appreciate the blessings he has in store for them.

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