Tuesday, July 25, 2006

History Just Goes On Repeating

In spite of what the media has reported, the current conflicts between Hamas and Israel, and Hezbollah and Israel, is nothing more nor less than history repeating itself. Every time Israel makes concessions, ie. pulling out of Lebanon, evacuating the Gaza and West Bank settlements, giving the Palestinian Authority a free bank account, the favor is returned with more aggression, and more demands from those who wish to see the tiny nation wiped off the map. Every yard of buffer zone Israel concedes is a yard further into Israel terrorists can fire morters and rockets. It is further proof that terrorists cannot be negotiated with. Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet refusnik and leader of Israel's Yisrael Ba'alyah party drives this point graphically home in his book The Case For Democracy, published in 2004. A long time advocate for democracy, having spent nine years as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union, he takes the stand that concessions should only be given to a fear society government if that government gives more freedom to its own people. Otherwise, the tyranny will only be be strengthened and legitimized, increasing the abuse of its own population and its percieved external enemies. This goes against the prevelent attitude toward terrorists and tyrants--that if you give them what they want, they might leave you alone.
As Sharansky points out, beginning in the chapter titled "From Helsinki to Oslo," this aproach is wrong, and has been proven wrong time and time again. Concessions to the Palestinian Authority, for example, has never resulted in peace, neither for the Israelis nor the Palestinians. In 2001, in The Wall Street Journal he wrote an editorial, explaining his disagreement with the general consensus and his resignation from then Prime Minister Ehud Barak's coalition government. Sharansky wrote:
"The same human rights principles that once guided me in the Soviet Union remain the cornerstone of my approach to the peace process. I am willing to transfer territory not because I think the Jewish people have less of a claim to Judea and Samaria than do the Palestinians, but because the principles of individual autonomy remain sacred to me--I do not want to rule another people. At the same time, I refuse to ignore the Palestinian Authority's violations of human rights because I remain convinced that a neighbor who tramples the rights of its own people will eventuall threaten the security of my people...A genuinely "new" Middle East need not be a fantasy. But it will not gbe brought about by merely ceding lands to Arab dictators and by subsidizing regimes that undermine the rights of their own people. The only way to create real Arab-Israeli reconcilliation is to press the Arab world to respect human rights. Israel must link its concessions to the degree of openess, tranparency and liberalization of its neighbors. For their part, Western leaders must not think the Arabs any less deserving of the freedom and rights their own citizens enjoy--both for their sake and ours."

There have been "free" elections for the Palestinians, since that was written, but, as Sharansky points out many times in his book, free elections do not necessarily mean a free society. A free society must include, he writes, "The structural elements that enable democratic societies to respect human rights--independent courts, the rule of law, a free press, a freely elected government, meaningful opposition parties, (and) human rights organizations."
With Hamas, a terrorist organization with an armed militia, in power, elected as they may be, the other criteria are missing. Hamas in Palestine, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, have no regard for their own people, hiding among the innocent population to initiate their attacks against the citizens of Israel. By inciting violence, and by initiating force against Israel, they put these civilians in the line of fire. They do not represent the people who elected them.
Financial aid given them by other countries, including Israel, is used not for the betterment of the Palestinians, but for the recruitment and training of terrorists, and the procurement of weapons, and the same goes for money given to Hezbollah. This is obviously not the road to peace.
Every free country should immediately stop giving unreciprocated concessions to tyrannies. This type of negotiation only strengthens the regime and increases the threat to that regime's perceived external enemies--often the same "enemies" which have given the financial or economic aid, or made trade or territorial concessions. Any concessions to a fear based government must be tied to human rights, as Sharansky suggests. This policy should apply not only to the Middle East, but to other despotic regimes as well. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson and President Ronald Reagen both applied this principle to relations with the Soviet Union, and that oppressive regime imploded from within without as shot being fired in warfare. The same principle should be applied--not only by the US, but by the entire free world--to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Cuba, and any other oppressive regime. Of course this is not a solution to the active fighting now occuring between Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah, but it will eventually bankrupt any attempt to continue aggression. Otherwise, as is happening in the Middle East, history will continue to repeat itself.
As Sharansky concludes:
"The culture of death and violence that has engulfed Palestinian society can...change quickly. But the change is unlikely to happen on its own, nor will it be the product of an Israeli withdrawal or a phony peace. It will happen when the free world abandons the false assumptions that have guided diplomacy in the region for decades. It will happen when the world's democratic leaders, especially those in the United States and Israel, embrace the principles that President Bush outlined on June 24, 2002, and ensure that those principles shape their policies. Above all, it will happen only when those democratic leaders have faith that freedom has the power to change our world--even when its seeds are planted in the rocky soil of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."