Monday, August 29, 2005

Loving a Cause More Than Life

Another suicide bomber in Israel. The article says the following:
It was the first such attack by Palestinian militants since Israel's historic pullout from Gaza and the West Bank.
I don't believe that. The first successful attack, maybe, but if you're telling me that no one else has tried this in a week, I'm telling you that you have some rose-tinted glasses on. There is something in the mindset of a militant Palestinian that I will never be able to comprehend - the concept that killing a group of civilians is the ultimate gift that you can give to the cause, and gift important enough that you'll end your own life to do it. When this kind of idea is common, then the idea of a cease-fire is, in my opinion, worthless. I don't know what it is that makes a person believe that suicide bombing is acceptable, but I do know that once the belief is in place, that negotiation becomes practically futile.

The phrase "global struggle against violent extremism" may have been put on the back shelf here in the US, pushed aside in favor of our leader's favorite "War on Terror", but it's a concept that has its roots in truth. Extremism describes exactly the level to which the devotion to a cause is elevated - extreme. Reasonable has long ago been left in its wake. Discussion and negotiation are our best tools of defense, simply because if extremism is met with extremism, then no one can ever actually win. But discussion and defense might not be the tools that do win. Perhaps extremism is stronger than reason. I prefer to think not, but I accept that sometimes in this world, the better of two options does not always come to pass. I do not want this to happen, I don't want the extremists to win, but I guess I'm just not the kind of person who has enough fate to believe that things will work out in the end.

I know that I believe in the cause of peace in the Middle East, but I also know that I believe in it on my terms - the terms where Israel remains a state, and retains control of Jerusalem. I guess that makes me basically unwilling to compromise. Still, I wouldn't walk into a crowd of people at a bus station or a vegetable market with dynamite strapped to my body. Losing Jerusalem would be preferable to losing people's lives.

I don't know why suicide bombing is an option for people. I don't know how a person has to be conditioned to accept that they'll do that. I do know that almost always there's a claim that an attack of this nature is "retaliation" for the death of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli army. The most recent one is reported as Israeli soldiers receiving a tip about Islamic Jihad militants staying in a house on the West Bank, going to the house, being fired upon, and returning fire.

I've been thinking about the Israeli/almost everyone else conflict a lot this weekend. Friday afternoon I was pointed at a post over on Badtux the Snarky Penguin, called Israel still living in 1967. I've pointed at the comments page, because I think that the comments are interesting. If you go there, you can see that I mount my argument that Badtux isn't seeing the picture the way that people who are living in it do. You'll also see how quickly a simple discussion by people not even involved in the conflict can turn into name-calling. The more time I spent thinking about this, the more I wondered how it's possible to make the point that armies are not the problem when government-sponsored armies hardly exist. Suicide bombing is not the same thing as volunteering for dangerous duty as a soldier. One joins an army hoping to help, and hoping to survive. I've mentioned previously that it's the duty of a leader to treat each soldier as a precious commodity, and not just cannon fodder. It's an important point. How do I express that there really are millions of people in the world who think that the only way to please their god is to push the Jews into the ocean, to wipe them off the face of the earth? How do I make people see that reasonable people want peace, and yet the reasonable people are up against a force so unreasonable that it may be insurmountable?

How can I ever understand being raised to love a cause so much that it's actually accepted to be more important than human life?

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