Signs of Intelligent Life in Egypt: Journalist Khalid Al-Bari (Part 2)

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Today we continue the piece we posted back on May 7 on Khalid El-Bari, the Egyptian writer and journalist whose advice to the Palestinians and how they should end their sterile “armed struggle”against Israel will strike many as both brave and salutary.

By choosing to classify the conflict [as religious], the Palestinians chose to box with [champion boxer Mike] Tyson [i.e., with Israel], instead of challenging him to a match [in a sport] at which he does not excel. If I were Palestinian, my first priority would have been to establish my presence on the ground within the historical borders [of Palestine]. My temporary goal would be to make my sons understand… that there are many ways to live a dignified life, that dignified life is not confined to ‘armed resistance’ and self-sacrifice, and that the only truth regarding the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is that they were born in disputed territory… If I were Palestinian, I would have understood… that other nations, both friendly and otherwise, will support [me] only if their support does not boomerang against them and harm them… If I were Palestinian, I would have understood what has to be understood, namely that many of the region’s countries, despite their support for the Palestinian rights, are [themselves] facing existential threats posed by people whose ideology impels them to control the destiny of others around them, and that an [even] greater danger is posed by Turkey, Iran and the jihad fighters – and unfortunately, some Palestinian leaders have chosen to join their [camp].

Again Al-Bari comes back to the idea of a “dignified life,” which he does not see as possible now in Gaza, which is both ruled and ruined by the two terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with all their violence, their corruption, their exploitation of civilians, including children, who are deliberately put in harm’s way, so that they may be mistakenly killed by the Israelis. He does not see anything better for Palestinians in the West Bank, either, where the corrupt leadership of Mahmoud Abbas sets the tone, with its Pay-for-Slay program to promote the terrorist, not the nation-builder, as the ideal to be emulated. What kind of “dignified life” is conceivable in Gaza? Or in the Palestinian-ruled parts of the West Bank?

Al-Bari notes, too, the waning of support for the Palestinians among the other Arabs: “Many of the region’s countries, despite their support for Palestinian rights, are [themselves] facing existential threats posed by people whose ideology impels them to control the destiny of others around them.” Who are those posing those “existential threats”? He alludes to, but does not name them. First, there is the Muslim Brotherhood, a threat felt keenly in Egypt and among the Gulf Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Then there are the remnants of the Islamic State, which have regrouped in the Sinai, in western Libya, and on the Syrian-Iraqi border. But what Al-Bari surely has most in mind is the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its aggressive ideology, that seeks to spread its power throughout the region. Iran’s tentacles have spread across the Middle East, to Yemen, where it supports the Houthi rebels, to southern Iraq, where it backs Shi’a militias, to Lebanon where it supplies weapons and money to Hezbollah, and to Syria, where its fighters support Bashar Assad’s troops. At least three states in the Gulf – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain – have been cooperating on security and intelligence matters with Israel against their common enemy, Iran. That collaboration surely means they have less interest in, and sympathy for, the Palestinian cause.

If I were Palestinian, I would have understood that there is no shame in diagnosing [the situation] rationally. A doctor must not be ashamed to admit that he must perform a difficult surgery, which may even come to amputating a limb…

True, Israel is a powerful country, and that is one of the major reasons to make peace with it. There is no shame in that, either. The conflict has created conditions that grow worse from generation to generation. The Palestinians… must renew their interest in daily matters, found beautiful communities that will inspire [the world] and prove that they are capable of living in peace. This must start with wise self-government in [a particular] territory. That, and only that, is the great challenge…

Khalid El-Bari does not utter empty threats about “destroying the Zionist enemy.” He recognizes that Israel is a powerful country and declares – one more sign of intelligent life – that there is no shame in recognizing that. The whole world knows it to be true; why shouldn’t the Palestinians know it, too?

This Egyptian commentator wishes that the Palestinians would recognize reality: Israel is not just much more powerful than they are, but its technological advances make the gap between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors ever wider with each passing year.

The Palestinians have been making war for decades; they are seen as synonymous with “terrorists. But those decades of terrorism have gotten them nowhere. They need to accept the reality of making peace with Israel, and with that peace, to show they can live lives both dignified and fruitful: “renew their interest in daily matters, found beautiful communities that will inspire,” and “prove that they are capable of living in peace.” No more naming of town squares after baby-killers and other terrorists. No more grand theft of foreign aid. He wishes the Palestinians well, and hopes that they will not continue to sacrifice themselves for a cause – “Palestine from the river to the sea” – that most assuredly is lost. Meanwhile, the years pass and more generations are denied the possibility of leading the normal and peaceful lives that many others enjoy. The Palestinians have never had a real democracy; they have been ruled only by corrupt warlords – Yassir Arafat, Khaled Meshaal, Mousa ibn Marzouk, Mahmoud Abbas – who have stuffed their pockets with billions of dollars in aid money stolen from those they rule over. The Palestinians have made Israel into an obsession. They have wasted two, or now three generations, in this sterile and hopeless warfare, which only keeps them distracted from trying to establish a decent form of government, responsive to the needs of the people – something the Palestinians have never had.

If I were a Palestinian, I would take Khalid Al-Bari’s prescriptions to heart, receive gratefully what the Trump Initiative offers — not only an independent state of Palestine with a capital in the suburbs of Jerusalem, but also $50 billion in aid from both Western and Arab donors – and try to create a decent democratic polity, one that might become what Al-Bari wishes: “Palestine” as a light-unto-the-Muslim-nations. The Palestinians have tried endless warfare. It hasn’t worked. Israel has only become stronger, and the Palestinians ever weaker.. Why not try, at this point, what the good doctor from Egypt, Khalid El-Bari, prescribes?

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