Sunday, April 21, 2002
"No Moral Equivalence"
By Mark T. Clark
CLAREMONT -- On a recent
60 Minutes, Andy Rooney declared with the certitude of a
tenured academic that the U.S. should cut off all aid from Israel
and the Palestinians "if [Ariel] Sharon and the Palestinian terrorists
persist with their arrogance."
His commentary was intended to show the
difficulty of Secretary of State Colin Powell's recently failed
mission in search of peace. Rooney prefaced his conclusion by asserting
that Sharon loves this war and Arafat cannot stop the terrorists,
as if both sides were equally to blame. In searching for that chimera,
"peace in the Middle East," the United States-like Rooney-is obliterating
any meaningful distinctions between just and unjust wars.
Compelling Israel to cease defending itself
against repeated attacks on its citizens conflates legitimate self-defense
with the wholly unlawful-and immoral-slaughter of civilians by homicide-bombers.
To be clear, the war between Israel and
Palestinian terrorism is not morally equivalent. Let's look at some
of those distinctions. The difference in political regimes: On the
Palestinian side, Yasser Arafat controls the Fatah faction, which
controls the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Arafat has never been democratically
elected and has never had to answer to the Palestinian people.
Arafat's organization began and continues
as terrorist organization, in which he alone can brandish a pistol
at a dissenting member of his ruling coalition. Compare this to
Israel. In the last decade alone, there have been six different
Prime Ministers of Israel.
Mr. Sharon can be voted out and is at considerable
pains to maintain a ruling coalition, as any Prime Minister is compelled
to do. Political goals: The Palestinian Authority's official website
tells it all: all maps of the region show only Palestine, not Israel.
Its goals continue to be the eradication of the state of Israel.
It was, after all, unwilling to accept
the Barak proposal for 97 percent of the land. On the Israeli side,
the goal is security and peace in that order, since peace is impossible
without independence from constant war by the Arab Middle East.
Strategy and tactics -- Under Arafat's
leadership, the Palestinians have chosen the path of terrorizing
In this, the Palestinians have refused
any limits on the means they use. Their only restraint so far has
been strategic, since they cannot defeat Israel with conventional
The Israelis, on the other hand, could
wipe out whole enclaves of Palestinian terrorists, but have restricted
themselves in this latest campaign to the limited objective of taking
out the organizers of terror and confining Arafat to his compound
(and providing him food and water).
Lately, the Palestinians have compared
their struggle with the U.S. in 1776. But in what way are the two
comparable? Only insofar as they both were/are asymmetrical wars.
But in moral terms, they are radically different.
The goals of the infant country in 1776
were never to eliminate Britain or to slaughter the wives and children
of British soldiers.
The Founding Fathers structured the political
regime to be self-governing, answerable to its citizens, and predicated
on the idea of finding a way to go from bullets to ballots in political
No such self-restraint, or check and balance
against corruption, is in evidence by the current Palestinian leadership
or its terrorists. Palestinian apologists claim that Arafat cannot
control his terrorists. The Israeli incursions into selected enclaves
of terrorists prove that idea to be a lie. Beyond the problem of
saying one thing in English and another in Arabic, Mr. Arafat actively
encourages and promotes terrorism.
He is supported and abetted in this by rogue
states like Iran, Iraq, and Syria who support terrorism, through
finance, weapons, charitable donations to "martyrs'" families, and
No peace is possible with such a regime,
because peace requires compromise. Israel cannot compromise with
a Palestinian leadership that endorses lying as a tactic in negotiations
(as Arafat has done), has Israel's destruction as a goal, and recognizes
no limits on the means to that destruction.
There can be no mutual interest in seeing
oneself destroyed. Just as the United States is justified in eradicating
terrorism in the world by targeting states that sponsor it, so Israel
is justified in taking out terrorist organizers in the West Bank.
Political solutions short of military victory
will only foster more demands, and more terror. The first step in
gaining any peace is replacing the Palestinian regime that knows
no distinction between just and unjust war. The first step for us
is in making moral distinctions.
Note: Mark T. Clark is an Adjunct Fellow of the Claremont Institute
and Director of National Security Studies at California State
University, San Bernardino.]
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