How extremists undermine the Palestinian cause
The fight for Palestine is two-tiered. One battle is on the ground, between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians, with the latter demanding their human rights and seeking statehood, freedom and justice. The other is a political fight that often takes place internally between moderates and extremists, with the extremists seeking to perpetuate the conflict and the moderates seeking to end it.
Why would extremists want to continue the conflict? It is simple, really. The extremists want all or nothing. They are seeking to defeat the enemy, not find a compromise. They don’t care about the suffering caused by the conflict, but they do exploit that suffering to distract the public and ensure reason and common sense are lost.
To the extremist, the existence of continued conflict means they have not lost, while peace and especially compromise would mean they have been defeated. Losing would be humiliating for the extremists — and not being humiliated is more important to them than the many lives that are lost in the violence they advocate.
While the fight for Palestinian statehood has been ongoing for more than seven decades, the battle between moderates and extremists is even more challenging and ferocious. This fight prevents Palestinians and Israelis from bridging their differences and achieving genuine peace. Worse is that the violence and suffering fuels the anger that in turn causes people on both sides to embrace extremist delusions.
There are moderates and extremists on all sides. The extremists are more aggressive, boisterous and loud, but their ranks are smaller. The moderates are the majority but, because they believe in “moderation,” they eschew emotions like hate and vengeance, and they don’t yell or scream the way the extremists do. This means there appears to be fewer of them. The moderates must energize themselves and speak out more loudly. If they fail, the minority of extremists will destroy everything.
This battle is at every level and extremists must be confronted at every opportunity. They cannot be allowed to represent the Palestinian cause.
The fight between moderates and extremists prevents Palestinians and Israelis from bridging their differences and achieving genuine peace.
Last week, I wrote this on my Facebook page and it brought out the extremists in droves: “Praying for peace between Palestinians and Israelis… it’s the people on both sides who suffer and who lose, not the governments… I wonder if Palestinians, Jews, Arabs and Israelis are willing to stand up together and say enough is enough from the extremists on both sides and that the moderates need to have the courage to come together… Peace doesn’t negate the claims or grievances on both sides, but it keeps them from getting worse and it can save lives. As much as I despise (Benjamin) Netanyahu, the settlers, Hamas and all the fanatics, I love peace and saving lives more.”
Extremists on both sides attacked me personally. I was accused by Palestinians of being a “Zionist traitor” and by Israelis of being a “Hamas terrorist.” They attack personally because they can’t attack the message. They never address the specifics of moderate views, but they vilify and bully anyone who disagrees with them. They are only capable of speaking to the emotions of the conflict.
What is worse is that, when a fanatic attacks you, the masses of people who are suffering are so overwhelmed with emotion that they believe the extremists. That is how a small group of extremists controls the larger community. To build support, they have to tightly wrap their extremism with the suffering of the Palestinians — suffering they have been exploiting consistently since Israel’s foundation.
When peace efforts were made, they did everything they could to ensure they failed. Palestinian armed groups sought to justify suicide attacks on Israeli civilians by framing them as a response to Israel’s military actions that killed Palestinian civilians. They knew that suicide attacks would not win the battle, but the despicable carnage they caused would so anger the other side that they would discourage the voices of peace and compromise.
In response, the moderates on both sides must speak out. They must keep the extremists in check. This battle between extremists and moderates must be resolved before peace can be achieved. Moderates need to confront the fanatics everywhere and at every level, and not be bullied or intimidated by the extremists’ lies.
Moderates need to show the world that the suffering we see today is the direct result of the extremists’ actions and violence, which have prevented Palestinians from having a good life and, worse, have empowered the extremists on the Israeli side to control their public too.
As long as extremists exist as a viable force, there will never be a Palestinian state, Palestinian safety, or peace.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania