For the last twenty years Israel has been swept into an obsession with few parallels except to the Dutch Tulip economy. Except instead of tulips, its commodity of choice is an even more insubstantial thing, the faint promise of peace.
Peace fever is the disease consuming Israel as surely as the Black Death took Europe. If the Dutch traded fortunes for flowers, the Israelis have traded away most of their territory for worthless pieces of paper that last about as long as tulips do. Mostly, like Madoff's investments, after they wither and die it turns out that they were never worth anything to begin with.
Take the Camp David Accords, greeted with insane romantic fervor in Jerusalem and European capitals, but resented and despised by Egyptians because they were a reminder of how their army had failed to destroy Israel. It was a worthless accord that gave Egypt a vast amount of territory in exchange for maintaining a status quo that it had no choice but to maintain after losing multiple wars. With the fall of Mubarak, it was revealed that the Accords were never more than moonbeams and fairy dust. A puff of Arab Spring and they are gone.
Camp David was an illusion, but the Oslo Accords are a delusion. A tulip economy where Israel doles out fortunes in money, land and power in exchange for the promise of peace and an end to the violence... tomorrow, always tomorrow. The most devastating impact of the delusion isn't on the cemeteries where children lie side by side with soldiers, on the broken homes and synagogues of Gaza, or on the tightening circle of terror around Jerusalem. As with all delusions, its most devastating impact is on the mind.
The conflict has formed into two camps. The Muslims are pro-Palestine. The Jews are pro-Peace, which means they are both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel. They are for Israel and for the terrorists trying to destroy Israel. What does being pro-Peace actually mean? It means believing above all else that peace is possible and that it will come riding in on a white donkey in our time, if we just want it badly enough.
The last twenty years have been hard on the illusion of peace. As the violence goes on year after year, it has become necessary to assign blame somewhere. There are the Dershowitzes who say that Israel wants peace; but that it lacks an amenable peace partner. There are the Friedmans who say that both sides lack leaders who want peace. Then there are the Beinarts who blame Israel for not seizing the opportunity to make peace.
Only one of those positions is logically supportable within the context of the peace delusion. If Israel lacks a peace partner, then why not abandon the whole peace process, reclaim the territory, expel the terrorists and restore order? If both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are hopeless, then what is there to negotiate when neither party wants peace? Blaming Israel is the only internally consistent position for a peace advocate because it avoids coming to grips with the futility of negotiating with terrorists.
The only way to sustain the peace delusion is by blaming Israel. And that very act concedes the hopelessness of the Palestinian Authority and the farce of negotiating with it. Why blame Israel? Because Israel is democratic, it has a vibrant opposition, it is peaceloving, it is capable of change. Israel is everything that the people it is trying to make peace with aren't.
Blaming the terrorists opens up a hopeless catalog of violence, corruption, incitement and madness. There is no way to catalog all that and still honestly go on believing that peace is possible. To browse MEMRI or PalWatch is to confront the tragedy of life and let the illusions and delusions die as all folly does when exposed to the light. The only way to keep the lie of peace alive is by blaming Israel.
The peace disease infects its victims with self-hatred as the only way to keep the pathogen alive. And the disease has no end. There was a time when Arafat was the guest of honor among peaceniks; now it's Hamas. Peter Beinart is busy explaining that Hamas really isn't that bad once you get to know them. Forget the genocidal Hamas charter, the wunderkind of the anti-Israel peace camp says, just pay attention to a few selected excerpts from their interviews with the foreign press.
And why not? It's what the peace camp did with Arafat and that worked out great. Why not do it with Hamas? What's the worst that could happen?
The internal logic of the disease is inescapably consistent. We had to believe in Arafat in order to believe in peace. Now that our peace partners have expressed a preference for Hamas over Fatah, we have to believe in Hamas, in order to believe in peace. To believe in peace we have to believe in a peace partner to have peace. We have to believe that there is hope for peace with every terrorist, that the lack of peace is our fault-- not theirs.
The one thing that sufferers of the peace disease have to believe above all else in order to remain consistent is that Israel is at fault. Any deviation from that is an inconsistency. That inconsistency is why the pro-Peace, pro-Israel side can always win on the facts, while still losing the debate. They can lay out their case against Fatah and Hamas in all its glorious detail, the incontestable facts, the quotes and the documentation, and then they finish with an absurdity that unmakes their position. Israel still wants peace. Yet, if half of what they say is true, then who is there to have peace with?
The other side is not bogged down by such contradictions. Their consistent narrative is that Israel has repeatedly avoided sincerely making peace. Whatever Israel has done, does or will do is not enough. It can never be enough, because if it were enough, there would be peace. And there is nothing that the terrorist populations can do that is too horrifying, too repugnant or too great a breach of faith. If they trade in Fatah for Hamas, then the Beinarts will dutifully pop up to introduce us to the newly peaceful Hamas and the same old intractable Israel.
Why then should the Palestinian Arabs make peace with the Jewish ogre and its checkpoints and walls, its bomb-sniffing dogs, law of return and settlements? They shouldn't is the implication. The terrorists have every right not to want peace with us; it is we who must prove our good faith and our humanity. It is we who must strive to prove ourselves worthy of even sitting across a negotiating table with them.
Sick? Demented? Twisted? All of the above, but also completely logical. If you are going to be delusional, then it is best to be consistently delusional. Why be neurotic, when you can be flat out insane? Why settle for a second rate phobia when you can go for full on schizophrenia? Hope and faith often dance close to the level of madness. Sustaining misdirected hope in the face of reality requires a great deal of faith or delusion.
Delusional does not mean stupid. Highly intelligent people are more likely to be deluded because they have a greater capacity for imagining and then rationalizing the delusion. A stupid person would assume that being shot at marks the end of peace negotiations. It takes a highly intelligent person to rationalize the shots as not an attack on him, but on the negotiations, which are the only way to stop the cycle of violence.
Some financial observers have hypothesized that the problem with our economy is that it is run by highly intelligent people. They may have a point. Stupid people can lose money, but they can't create imaginary money. And they are always waiting for the police to show up at their door with a warrant. Highly intelligent people though can create entire tiers of imaginary value and trade them back and forth in a glorious tulip economy, which everyone believes in, until unaccountably the whole thing evaporates because it was never there.
Israel's peace economy is the work of highly intelligent people trading real world items for an imaginary currency that they have turned into their national existence. Their burning conviction is that the only reason the imaginary currency has not realized its full value is because they have greedily not given up enough real world items to make the imaginary currency appreciate in value.
It's not a mental illness unique to Israel or to Jews. It is how cons work. Once you've been conned, you either wise up and move on, or you protect your sunk cost, your self-esteem and your credibility by throwing in more good money after bad. The only way to keep justifying this destructive behavior is by believing that the con artists are legitimate, that there is a system, and that you just need to put in more money to get back ten times what you put in.
I want peace. I also want to cure all diseases, and universal happiness and immortality for all. The difference between me and virtually every Jewish communal leader is that I know that I can't have those things because they don't exist. And if they did, I couldn't get them by giving money and land to a bunch of grubby socialist and Islamist militias.
In a time of war, modern people base their goodness on wanting peace, because doing so allows them to believe that they are good people, not bloodthirsty monsters cavorting on a throne of skulls. And to go on believing that, they cannot refuse any offer of peace; otherwise, they would be choosing war over peace. Then they would be bloodthirsty monsters resting their feet on a giant pile of corpses. Instead they show themselves to be idiots with no sales resistance and no common sense.
If a war is worh fighting, then it is worth fighting until the conditions that make that war necessary no longer exist. The minimal condition of any war is the willingness of the other side to stop fighting. If this condition is not met, then nothing else matters. Not peace doves or postmodern neurosis. It is not a matter of opinion at that stage, but a matter of fact, that the war will go on. It will go on regardless of what you do because you are not in control of the conflict.
To believe that you will have something because it is an absolute good and that to strive for it is so moral that the failure to do so is immoral regardless of its feasibility, is magical thinking. It is every bit as delusional as waiting for a magic fish to swim up and grant you three wishes. And once you base your identity on a commitment to an absolute good that cannot be achieved except through your own destruction, then you have committed suicide.
That is Israel's peace disease in a nutshell. It is not unique to Israel. It can be found in America and Europe. It can be found anywhere modern enlightened people fail to come to grip with the necessity of violence in the affairs of men and escape into illusion and delusion instead. It is a fatal disease. It does not kill quickly or cleanly, it is an agonizing fevered death filled with hallucinations, peace doves circling the ceiling, amputation after amputation, bloody limbs piled on the altar of peace that burns and burns until everything is consumed and only the ashes remain.
Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli-born artist, writer and freelance commentator on political affairs with a special focus on Jewish concerns and the War on Terror. He maintains a blog at www.sultanknish.blogspot.com.
This article appeared May 7, 2012 on Greenfield's website: