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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?mador=4&datee=10/08/00&id=96153

Only through force

By Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz 10/08/2000

It is not the acceptable thing to say, but this truth must be stated: Only through force have the Arabs achieved what they have achieved, throughout the Arab-Israeli conflict, and certainly in the last 30 years. From Yom Kippur of 5734 (1973) to Rosh Hashanah of 5761 (2000), not only has violence paid off for the Arabs, but we have also shown them that violence is the only way open to them.It has always been said among us that "the Arabs only understand force." Indeed, it turns out that force is our only official language even if Israeli leaders have always taken care to emphasize that "the Arabs will not achieve anything through force."

Recall, for example, the statements made by then defense minister Yitzhak Rabin at the height of the Intifada, that the Palestinians would achieve nothing with rocks: Not since the Stone Age has so much been achieved using rocks.

Some trivia: Israel would never have withdrawn from all of Sinai had it not been for the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. Israel would never had conducted negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and signed the Oslo agreements were it not for the Intifada. And Israel would never have left Lebanon were it not for Hezbollah's bloodletting. Because that's how we are, we give up only when the price in blood shoots skyward. All of Israel's moves toward peace, and in particular all of its concessions, came only after especially painful cycles of violence. The conclusion from this is chilling, and the message that it sends to the Arabs is horrifying.

It is very easy these days to cluck one's tongue and denounce the violence of Israeli Arabs. Throwing stones and smashing streetlight are indeed acts worthy of denunciation. Blocking traffic arteries is improper. Jews on the left and the right are shocked, simply shocked. But who could point to another way available to one-fifth of this country, citizens of the state, after 25 years of discrimination and humiliation? Now at least a commission has been set up.

After their next outbreak of violence, which is certain to be even sharper and more painful, the state will remember that more should be done. It certainly cannot be said that they did not first try nonviolent means. Twenty-five years of exemplary, almost exaggerated loyalty, almost groveling obedience to the state whose wars are not their wars, whose national anthem is not their anthem, whose language is not their language, whose holidays are not their holidays - and for all this it treats them the way it does. Now their youth have started out on the road to violence and it is paying off for them. They know they get nothing without it. Now they are also proving, as their brothers in the territories proved long ago, that it is Israel the strong that achieves nothing through force.

This weekend the actor Mohammed Bakri, who has performed in Israeli theaters for years, wondered whether he was wrong all along and should have chosen the path of violent struggle and joined the PLO in his youth. The cup of insult and humiliation runs over even for him, an Israeli success story. Last week he once again did not stand in the way of his son when he went out to the road to throw rocks at the Border Police officers who surrounded their village. Bakri is not alone in having these thoughts. One cannot blame him: We taught Bakri and his generation that force is the only way. They restrained themselves and tried other ways for long enough, but we insisted: only through force.

How much more true this is for Palestinians in the territories. The first 20 years of the occupation passed by pleasantly for us. Obediently and submissively, they washed our dishes, cleaned our streets and built our homes, and we thought that's how it would continue for eternity. Then the Intifada came and hit us in the face. After 1,148 Palestinians and 154 Israelis were killed, we agreed to conduct negotiations with the PLO. Only after the next great bloodletting will we agree to allow them to establish a state in the 1967 borders, as is their right.

Is that how it must be? Not at all. Take for example Joseph's Tomb. Everybody knew that Israel would eventually withdraw from it. So what's the deal? The prime minister announced that we are not giving in to violence by withdrawing. This is nonsense, as was proved this weekend. It is more accurate to say that, for a time, we did not give in to limited violence. We have now withdrawn from Joseph's Tomb, and in embarrassing circumstances. If we had done this earlier, during the withdrawal from Nablus, of our own accord, it would have seemed different. Why didn't we withdraw earlier? What happened that suddenly the deputy defense minister realized that "we have no interest in being there"? It seems we hadn't spilled enough blood at the tomb. And after enough blood has been spilled at Netzarim, we'll withdraw from there, too.

What conclusion must the Palestinian side draw from this? That it should step up the violence. It has served them well until now.

It is still not too late to change this Israeli pattern of action. Even in the eyes of those for whom the name of the game is power - conceding before the use of violence points to greater power than conceding after its use. This can begin immediately, in a symbolic manner, by evacuating Netzarim, Kfar Darom and the Jewish settlement in Hebron. Why not do it before the next spillage of blood? We would show both ourselves and the other side that there is another way, not only through force


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