Feeling masochist’s pain

September 14, 2006

Yesterday, I watched a BBC news feature from Gaza on Palestinian underage stone-throwers killed by the Israeli army during operations that followed the abduction of corporal Shalit. Narrated in piteous tone of voice, it was clearly calculated to elicit our sympathies. It isn’t hard to find similarly tearful reporting on Palestinian misery – this one, also from the BBC, is entitled “UN warns of Gaza ‘breaking point’ .”

Is Palestinian misery and pain real? It is. But do they deserve our sympathies?

The answer to that question has to be “no,” because Palestinian pain is completely self-inflicted. Should we feel sorry for a horribly shrieking guy who deliberately put his fingers into the door and than shut it tight? He is in genuine, terrible pain, his shrieks are ear-rending – yet we don’t need to feel bad for him. He voluntarily chose to be in pain, and he is fully free to liberate himself from it.

Likewise, should we feel sorry for the people who could have lived as well as any, had they chosen to have peace with their neighbor, but who chose instead the path of terrorism? Do they really need to fire rockets into Israel? Did they really need to kidnap an Israeli soldier and drag him into Gaza, free of Israelis for a full year now?

Yes, I know that, according to the Palestinians, “their land” is “occupied.” Yet a bit of reflection on the well-know facts of history would have helped them to disabuse themselves of that notion. They know full well that the Arabs conquered Palestine in 634, as part of Arab empire-building enterprise – yet the only lesson they draw from that fact is the pride in Arab prowess. But there is another lesson too to be learned – that, as any conquered piece of land, Palestine had pre-conquest owners, who can justifiably claim a title to it.

Spain used to be Arab land; for that matter, India used to be English land. So what? Does it mean that today’s Spain is occupied Arab land, or that today’s India is occupied English land? Not at all. Israel is no more an “occupied Arab land” than is Spain. Of course, Arab population in the West Bank – or Judea and Samaria – is a demographic reality, and the Israelis were fully prepared to acknowledge this by offering to turn over 95% of West Bank and 100% of Gaza to the Palestinian state.

In rejecting that offer and turning to violence, Palestinians became fully responsible for their suffering – just as the masochist is responsible for his; and the very real pain and suffering of the Palestinians deserves as little sympathy as the self-inflicted pain of the masochist – and for the very same reason.

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