Today’s “Land Day” demonstrations at various places in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza border, as well as a march on the Israeli-Lebanese border, are all intended to bring attention to the Palestinian campaign against Israel and to increase international sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. But the violent nature of the protests and the demands raised by those participating give the lie to the notion that any of this has anything to do with the cause of Middle East peace.
By flinging rocks at Israeli forces in the hope that they will respond with deadly force, the Palestinians are playing their usual game in which they hope to sacrifice some of their youth in exchange for damaging the reputation of the Jewish state. More to the point, should anyone actually be listening to what they are screaming, the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders are also making it clear their goal is Israel’s destruction.
“Land Day” is an annual event that commemorates a dispute over the property of some Arab villages that turned violent in the 1970s. But it is no civil libertarian holiday. As today’s demonstrations have once again reminded us, the goal of the Palestinian street as well as those foreigners who parachute into the country to help stir the point on the issue, is to promote the “right of return” by which Arabs hope to flood the Jewish state with the descendants of the 1948 refugees.
Many of Israel’s critics — including those Jews who pose as Zionists while preaching boycotts and sanctions that give cover to a rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement around the globe — ignore what the Palestinians say they want and instead, pretend that the dispute is about borders and settlements. But as today’s events illustrate, they have but minimal interest in the Jewish communities in the West Bank, the vast majority of which are near the 1967 lines. Instead, they are focused on the nature of the Jewish state itself. The Land Day extravaganza is about an attempt to reverse the verdict of 1948, not to place an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Moreover, despite the fact that the Palestinians are constantly talking about transforming the conflict by adopting the non-violent protest methods of Gandhi, the nature of their political culture is such that they appear incapable of doing so. Violence is always a given at these events.
That is due in part to the desire of the organizers to create a new batch of martyrs to be celebrated so as to blacken Israel’s name. As accounts of today’s events make clear, the whole point is to create theatre for the cameras of the international press.
But the violence is also a function of Palestinian politics that has unfortunately always valued the spilling of blood over anything else. This is also related to the plain fact that Palestinian nationalism came into existence in the 20th century as a reaction to Zionism rather than as part of a national cultural revival as was the case with other modern national cultures. This negative impulse is why recognition of Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state is something no Palestinian leader can accept. It is also why violence against Jews and Israel is still the only way for such leaders to establish their own bona fides.
The “Land Day” show will accomplish nothing for the Palestinians except to further confirm the dead-end path of violence and confrontation in which they are stuck. If their foreign friends wish to help them, they could do so by ceasing to support these pointless exercises in violence and to begin coming to terms with the permanence of the Jewish state.