Either a Zionist or a terrorist
By Meron Benvenisti
January 2, 2002

At the risk of the following scenario sounding tendentious because of wishful
thinking and gloating, it appears that the "grand scheme" worked out by Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, his generals and the right wing of the government has
resulted in a failure:
They did not eliminate Chairman Yasser Arafat, nor did they destroy the
Palestinian Authority.

Following months of brutal military operations, thousands of casualties,
delegitimization and insults, brainwashing and political and media
manipulation that would have toppled many a regime, Arafat, besieged and
humiliated, is still holding on, while Sharon and his cronies are the ones
who have been pushed into a defensive position; evident in all its absurdity
in their frightened rejection of President Moshe Katsav's hudna initiative.

Once again, as was the case during the Lebanon War, the arrogance of power,
patronizing Orientalism and planning that doesn't see beyond the intellectual
horizons of the generals was exposed. And once again, the "national
assessor's" forecast has collapsed, and his tendency has been exposed:
Failing to distinguish between intelligence assessments and ideological
positions, he offers rationalizations for every planned adventure and, at the
same time, immunizes the adventurers against the results of their deeds -
because there is, supposedly, no alternative; and if the plan failed, it was
only because the Americans and the leftists got in the way.

After all, someone had to advise the generals that Arafat could be eliminated
humiliating him, and that the spirit of the Palestinians could be broken
through brutal collective punishment. But as it emerges, Arafat actually is
more "relevant"  than ever, the Palestinian people are demonstrating an
amazing resilience; and the age-old excuse of "terror against women and
children" is melting away.

Military Intelligence - the national assessor - feels it has to cover up its
mistake by intensifying the ideological statements: "The bottom line is that
the Palestinian goal, from a historic perspective, is to undermine the Jewish
nature of the State of Israel."

And the outgoing commander of Military Intelligence offers his own
contribution to psycho-history: "Arafat is not built... for historic
compromises." In other words, there's no choice, we must continue the
onslaught, so as to expose the wily ways of the terrorists."

It's difficult to believe that in any open and liberal society, a commander
of any military branch would issue such a public "historic perspective"
without being silenced immediately by angry protests, irrespective of the
doubtful validity of such a "perspective." But in a society that is used to
viewing the Arabs through the eyes of "Arabists," these words were accepted
as obvious. Because in this society, whatever Arabs have to say must never be
taken at face value and must always be interpreted on the basis of their

Now, it's as clear as day: For as long as Arafat doesn't unequivocally
declare that he accepts the Zionist enterprise, he'll be defined as a
terrorist. It won't help if he makes do with the statement that Israel is a
fact, even if born in sin. On the contrary, this would only prove that "he
remains committed to the right of return and sees it as a key to turning the
Jews into a religious minority," as Military Intelligence has said.

And this means that he is an incorrigible terrorist, because there is no
chance that Arafat - or even the most moderate Palestinian - will ever be
able to become a defender of Zionism, but, at most, will only be able to bow
before the facts of life. Thus, the litmus test is clear: Either you're  a
Zionist or a terrorist. Such a test leads to endless war and the
justification of each and every act of brutality, because it is "an
existential threat."

So, why haven't we heard the voices of those who believe in peace, in the
possibility of reconciliation. Most of them also believe distinguishing
between accepting the Zionist enterprise a priori, or in retrospect, is
evasion. They also want Arafat to accept "the Zionist enterprise," so they
can finally rid themselves of the burden of guilt about the way in which
Zionism steamrolled the Palestinians: The victim must justify his torturers.

But all this spin doesn't erase the feeling that maybe the worst is finally
behind us.