Monday, June 10, 2002

So- we're back here again. This isn't overly surprising considering the bus bombing, but it does raise the question of what exactly the Israelis hope to accomplish at this point that they couldn't have done during the earlier blockade. Arafat apparently tried to make some changes to the PA to take the heat off the Authority and by extension himself, but at this point I don't see it making a difference. Even if Arafat were truly inclined towards peaceful negotiation and rapproachment, how could he hope to accomplish anything when most of the terrorist organizations seem to save up the larger attacks for the times when Israel is negotiating with an arab leader and/or the United States?

In some respects, this highlights the problems of any war on terrorism, whether it's the United States or Israel waging it. Both countries have been fixating on leaders (or figureheads), figuring "cut off the head and the body will fall" or at the very least that nothing can happen without the support and planning of the leadership. Considering there's no way that Israel and the U.S. couldn't know that the cell structures of modern terrorist organizations are specifically created so as to avoid that situation, and considering that they would also know that control "from the top" is difficult at best and impossible most of the time, why does the rhetoric continue to circle around the leadership? Even if Arafat was complicit in some terrorist bombings, blaming him for all of them just doesn't make sense: there's no possible way he could stop them even if the P.A. was spectacularly efficient, and even if he headed up the organizations that carry out the bombings (the connections seem loose at best for most of them) getting rid of him wouldn't solve the problem.

Every time I hear someone talk about "getting rid of Arafat" I wonder whether they've throught through what that would mean. Yes, somebody sometimes remembers that what would replace him probably wouldn't be a better spokesman, but perhaps a more militant one.Still, most people seem to be forgetting that the possibility also exists that no other spokesman will appear. Who would want the job of getting all the blame for bombings that you can do little about, especially if you're one of the extremists who's more interested in the bombings themselves? A real possibility (that people acknowledge about most of the region but is ignored in regards to the Palestinians) is that no leadership will arise at all, and that the whole thing will break down into violent anarchy. Israel is worried that Arafat's continuing leadership will only encourage more bombings, but it's pretty obvious that a violent, anarchic West Bank would not only be an ideal breeding ground for terrorism, but a possible deathtrap for the Israeli army. It would also be the perfect P.R. tool for anybody trying to use Palestinian suffering for their own political ends, and the spectre of Arafat-as-Martyr is a danger that the punditocracy seems to only briefly acknowledge before going back to the old "should we get rid of Arafat" question.

Then again, maybe "get rid of Arafat" is actually veiled language for something more ominous. Not necessarily on the part of the Israelis (whose lives depend on the outcome) but the "moral clarity" types who think that if only you shoot enough visible terrorist analogues like Arafat, the real terrorists will give up without a fight. This isn't necessarily the case, but I do wonder sometimes.

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