JERUSALEM — Whether it’s Secretary of State Powell hosting the signers of the “Geneva Accord” on the heels of their grand ceremony in Geneva last Monday, President Clinton sending American spin doctors to help Ehud Barak win the 1999 Israeli elections, the 1995 Oslo II agreement passing the Knesset by a one-vote majority achieved by blatant vote-buying, or the drafting of the initial 1993 Oslo agreement (by — who else — Yossi Beilin) behind the backs of the official Israeli delegation to the Madrid Conference, those who claim the cause of Israeli democracy is dear to their hearts show a surprising contempt for that mere factor in the equation, the Israeli voter.
Or maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to find out repeatedly that our votes count for nothing, since we’ve got used to the message that our lives count for nothing; and now — the U.N. has made it official — that the lives of our children don’t matter either. Amid all the hoopla about peace plans, peace talks, peace ceremonies, an inconvenient item almost went unnoticed last week: “Israel forced to withdraw resolution on children,” as the Jerusalem Post phrased it. Last November 6, the General Assembly’s Third (Humanitarian, Social and Cultural) Committee adopted by a vote of 88-4, with 58 abstentions, a resolution calling for protecting Palestinian children from “Israeli aggression.” On November 26, Israel had to withdraw a resolution calling for protecting Israeli children from terrorism because of decisive opposition by states from the Non-Aligned Bloc, led by Egypt.
Yes, Egypt — Israel’s peace partner of 25 years ago, which got back every grain of Sinai sand and every drop of Sinai oil amid all the fanfare of “no more war” and a promising future for everyone. But whatever took root in Egypt in those heady days of signings, solemnities, and declarations, it wasn’t amity toward Israel. A quarter-century later, Egypt — leading a group of states that included such beacons as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen — could not abide the phrase “Israeli children” in the resolution that Israel proposed. Instead, these countries demanded that the draft include references to Israeli “military assaults,” “occupation,” and “excessive use of force,” and that “Israeli children” be substituted by “Middle Eastern children.” Well, it’s nice to know that this morning we got our Middle Eastern children out of bed and sent them off to their heavily guarded schools. It’s sort of like the Soviet propagandists who for decades couldn’t mention the nationality of the people who were killed at Babi Yar.
So, Colin Powell, Yossi Beilin, and all you other unflappable devotees of peace, that’s the world ca. 2003 — a nasty place, no? An attempt to get the UN to ratify Israeli children’s right to life doesn’t even come up for a vote, and the one spearheading the contemptuous dismissal is Egypt — today a country that’s saturated with anti-Semitism, that helps terrorists smuggle explosives into Israel, and that’s building a massive army, with state-of-the-art, U.S.-supplied weaponry, that gives Israeli intelligence planners sleepless nights. But why should you let that stop you? Peace always beckons to ears so very attuned to it. And the fact that nine months ago the Israeli voters consigned people like Yossi Beilin and his comrades Avraham Burg, Amram Mitzna, and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak to a political Outer Mongolia — why should you let that stop you, either? After all, what do we know? We’re the ones who just live here, who hear the bombs and go to the funerals, who fear to let our kids walk down the street unattended let alone ride a bus, who get frisked by security guards every time we enter a supermarket or a restaurant — that is, if we dare.
But why should you listen to us? You, Colin Powell, Yossi Beilin, Avraham Burg, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres, all the way back to your granddaddy Neville Chamberlain — who at least had the honor to admit he was wrong — always know better. You’ll always tell us we have to give up half our capital city, our most sacred shrines, and our most strategically vital territory in the name of peace and democracy — while spitting at the very democracy you claim to be saving; you’ll always, at the same time, fail to distinguish between democrats and brutal killers, telling us that Herr Hitler and Chairman Arafat are reasonable men who just want a fair share of the pie; you’ll always wave inane documents in our faces and bleat of peace in our time, and no evidence, no traumas lived by real people who have to sweep up the body parts of your grand experiments, will stop you from holding the same disgraceful ceremonies and walking down the same blind paths again and again.
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