In 1974, 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army was still fighting for his emperor, hiding in a Philippine jungle. He had rejected many attempts to inform him of Japan’s surrender 29 years earlier. During those many years, he senselessly murdered about one Filipino and injured three others each year. Only a concerted effort by his former commander finally convinced Onoda that the emperor had accepted defeat in 1945 and therefore he too must lay down arms.
The Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are Onoda writ large. They formally acknowledged defeat by Israel 24 years ago, when Yasser Arafat stood on the White House lawn and recognized “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” Trouble was, Arafat himself did not sincerely offer this act of surrender and most Palestinians rejected it.
Accordingly, the war continues, with Palestinians emulating that grizzled, vicious Japanese soldier: They, too, battle on for a failed cause, murder senselessly, and ignore repeated calls to surrender. Just as Onoda insisted on believing in a divine emperor, Palestinians inhabit a fantasy world in which, for example, Jesus was a Palestinian, Jerusalem was always exclusively Islamic, and Israel is the new Crusader state on the verge of collapse. (In this spirit, Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei has helpfully provided the precise date of Sep. 9, 2040, when Israel will vaporize, and his acolytes built a large doomsday clock to count down the days.) Some imagine Israel already gone, with nearly every Arabic map of “Palestine” showing it replacing the Jewish state.
How do Palestinians ignore reality and persist in these illusions? Due to three main factors: Islamic doctrine, international succor, and the wariness of the Israeli security services. (The Israeli Left was once a major factor but it barely counts anymore.)
First, Islam carries the expectation that a land once under Muslim control (Dar al-Islam) is an endowment (waqf) that inevitably must revert to Muslim rule. Bernard Lewis notes that Muslims historically responded to the loss of territories in Europe with the expectation that these were “Islamic lands, wrongfully taken from Islam and destined ultimately to be restored.” This assumption of righteousness and inevitability has abiding power as shown by such aggressions as Turkey’s in Cyprus and Syria’s in Lebanon.
Jerusalem especially arouses intense Islamic sentiments. First exploited at a pan-Islamic conference in 1931 hosted by the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, many others since then — including Yasser Arafat, Ruhollah Khomeini, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan — have picked up this rallying cry. July’s Temple Mount fracas over metal detectors revealed the city’s atavistic power, prompting such varied powers as Muslim Brotherhood theorist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Jordan’s monarch, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation loudly to support the Palestinian position, no questions asked, as though it were still the 1950s with its shriek of unthinking rhetoric.
Second, assorted governments, leftists, do-gooders, and other internationals encourage Palestinians to sustain the reverie of victory through a combination of obsessive anti-Zionism and …read more