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by Barry Rubin


Understandably, most people in the world fail to understand Palestinian ideology and strategy today largely because it is so bizarre compared to politics as usual.

Before examining the basic principles of the Palestinian approach it is useful to consider how things usually work, and thus what people who don't know much about Palestinian politics think they are like.

Normal politics features realizable goals, paying keen attention to the balance of forces, avoiding losing conflicts, and seeking a stable state.

They also include such things as putting a high priority on raising living standards and building effective institutions to serve the people.

Every day Western governments, media and academics try to impose this model on Palestinian behavior, politics and ideology. Yet it just doesn't work. The things many in the West think motivates Palestinians - getting a state, ending the occupation - are of no interest in their own right. Indeed, the only way to maintain the pretense is a combination of amnesia and abandoning of the kind of rational analysis used to view any other political situation in the world.

I must add that in private (though virtually never in public) Palestinian intellectuals sound a lot like me. Over and over again, one hears disgust, despair and profound cynicism along the lines described below.

Given the current Palestinian ideology and strategy the conflict is unsolvable, and there is no way to stop the violence. On the other hand, as a result, Palestinian tactics are unworkable, politics are disorganized, and military strategy is self-defeating. The Palestinians can harass Israel, but not much more.

HERE ARE the basic points for understanding Palestinian politics:

THIS IS A losing strategy: Destroy your infrastructure, subvert international and even Arab support through extremism - no one is now even surprised that Arab states do nothing to help the Palestinians out of their mess - throw away chances for interim gains (like getting a state) to avoid compromising the chance for total victory, repeat old mistakes, rejoice over defeats as producing martyrs, taunt the world's sole superpower, exalt anarchy, and forfeit any chance of winning sympathy on the other side.

Such a suicide strategy, like suicide bombing, can inflict losses on the enemy but cannot defeat it. Indeed, by sacrificing so many possible benefits it ensures that the gap steadily widens in favor of the other side.

Far from any sign of resistance to this disastrous approach it seems capable of providing decades more of glorious defeat and martyrdom. Maybe it will even go on long enough for those in the West who keep expecting something different to understand what's going on.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs.

This appeared in the Jerusalem Post
( JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull) July 10, 2006.


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