Even now – even after thousands of Israeli men, women and children have been systematically dismembered and murdered by the most barbarous terrorist movement in recent memory – much of the world remains willfully impervious to what is true in the Middle East. Understood from the standpoint of popular Biblical imagery, the media generally continues to portray the Palestinians as “David” and Israel as “Goliath.” Apart from its stinging historical irony, and leaving aside Israel’s readily observable vulnerability to war and terrorism, this portrayal also represents a very fundamental misunderstanding of geopolitics and power.
Although power is powerful and weakness is weak, power can weaken itself and weakness can become a source of power. This curious assertion is unambiguously pertinent to Israel. Over the years, especially since Oslo, the “Road Map” and “The New Middle East” – Israel’s power has frequently sabotaged itself. Earlier, under Oslo, and now, under the “Road Map,” the Palestinians have skillfully transformed their widely-assumed weakness into a purposeful source of power. Not surprisingly, at least in the forums of world public opinion, the “weak” Palestinians have often overpowered and outmaneuvered the “powerful” Israelis. Recently, for example, the UN’s International Court of Justice considered not the rampant criminality of Palestinian terrorism, but rather the fence erected by Israel to protect itself from terrorism.
What does this all really mean? At one level, it suggests that the ordinarily assumed bases of power in world affairs are sometimes greatly exaggerated and misunderstood. There is more irony here, as well as paradox. For almost 2,000 years, the Jews as a people were stateless and defenseless – yet, in a number of important spheres of human activity,
they were enormously potent.
Today, even when there does exist a Jewish state, armed with advanced weapons, the Jewish citizens of Israel comprise the most vulnerable Jews on the face of the Earth. Although almost too unbearable to acknowledge, it cannot be denied that nowhere else on this planet are Jews, as Jews, now subject to widely-planned and openly announced extermination. Indeed, by all applicable standards of codified and customary international law, including the authoritative governing treaty of 1948, the general Arab plan for Israel is patently genocidal.
As to the Palestinians, aptly fond of citing to their alleged weakness relative to Israel, they have persistently displayed remarkable power in their pre-state incarnation. In fact, their oft-repeated weakness has been the prime source of this power. Persuading the world, again and again and again, how unfortunate and mistreated they have been – how they are “David” confronting the Israeli “Goliath” – the Palestinians have often managed to get their way.
It is, to be sure, a way sought through indiscriminate burning, mutilation and bombing of noncombatants. (Fatah/Islamic Jihad/Hamas are always especially eager to target young Jewish children). And it is a way that has produced many Palestinian casualties, but it is also a way that is actually “working” in some instrumental fashion. Just consider that even after assisting Saddam Hussein in the organized torture and murder of Kuwaitis during the period 1990-1991, and even after strongly opposing America’s Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Palestinians now enjoy President George W. Bush’s full support for independence and statehood.
The Arab world is comprised of 22 states of nearly five million square miles and 144,000,000 people. The Islamic world contains 44 states with one billion people. The Islamic states comprise an area 672 times the size of Israel. Israel, with a population of a bit more than five million Jews, is less than half the size of America’s Lake Michigan. The Sinai desert alone, which Israel transferred to Egypt in order to implement the 1979 treaty with that country is, by itself, three times the size of Israel.
David vs. Goliath? The State of Israel, even together with Judea/Samaria and Gaza, is less than half the size of California’s San Bernardino County. Leaving aside that present-day Jordan comprises 78 per cent of the original British mandate for Palestine (78 per cent of land soberly promised by His Majesty’s Government in 1917 to the Jews) and that it has long had a very substantial Palestinian majority, Yasir Arafat’s thoroughly corrupt Palestinian Authority will soon likely declare a second Palestinian state. What will this suggest about power and weakness?
Until now, the Palestinians have enjoyed great global benefits from their alleged “weakness.” Will their new state enlarge Palestinian power, or will it, paradoxically, produce an opposite condition? Perhaps, with a microscopic Jewish state existing next to a tiny Palestinian state, there will develop a mutuality of weakness. But this would be unlikely, as, even here, power is always a relative notion, and one side will necessarily be weaker than the other. Moreover, the Palestinians, according to all of their official maps, envision only ONE state. At the PA website, as at all other official Arab state websites, the state of Palestine shamelessly includes all of Israel. Cartographically, the genocidal removal of Israel has already been completed.
What shall Israel learn from the paradoxes of power? First, Israel must finally begin to understand that inventories of missiles, planes, bombs and warships do not necessarily constitute effective power. Rather, the ingredients of usable power often remain subtle and intangible. And these ingredients may even include the presumed opposite of power, which is weakness.
There are other lessons here for the Jewish state. One of the most obvious is the overwhelming weakness spawned by “post-Zionism.” Retreating, daily, from the underlying religious and spiritual foundations of Judaism, Israel is being incrementally deprived of its most critical source of power. Eagerly seeking to become “normal,” a good portion of Israel’s anxious Jewish population is, even now, STILL willing to blame itself for conflict with the Palestinians. Accepting the “neediness” of the Palestinians, these Israelis STILL fail to understand that they, themselves, as Jews, have transformed power into weakness. Freely rejecting their own splendid history and their own uniqueness, these Jews have conspired, however unwittingly, in a condition wherein power has become weakness and weakness has become power.
Not surprisingly, the Jewish state has been increasingly reincarnated by the world’s media as Goliath.. The result has been to accelerate Israeli weakness. As for the Palestinians, their reincarnation as David, King of the Jews, adds grave insult to injury. In its essence, that injury is a potent enlargement of Palestinian power, an expansion of belligerent capacity that
bodes ill for Israel’s security.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and publishes widely on international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.