- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Even now — even after Yasser Arafat and his dreadful legacy of crime — much of the world remains willfully indifferent to truth. Even now, the media generally continues to portray the Palestinians as “David” and Israel as “Goliath.” Apart from its stinging biblical irony, this portrayal also represents a fundamental misunderstanding of weakness and power in world politics.

Although power is powerful and weakness is weak, power can weaken itself and weakness can become a source of power. Over the years, especially since the Oslo Accords, Israel’s power has frequently sabotaged itself. From the start, the Palestinians have skillfully transformed their widely-assumed weakness into a purposeful source of power. Hence the “weak” Palestinians have often outmaneuvered the “powerful” Israelis. For example, the U.N.’s International Court of Justice condemned not the criminality of Palestinian terrorism, but rather the fence erected by Israel to defend itself.

All this suggests that the ordinarily assumed bases of power in world affairs are sometimes greatly exaggerated. 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. By all applicable standards of international law, including the Genocide Convention of 1948, the general Arab plan for Israel remains blatant mass-murder.

The Palestinians, aptly fond of citing their alleged weaknesses relative to Israel, have displayed remarkable power in their pre-state form. In fact, under Mr. Arafat, their oft-repeated weakness had been the prime source of this power. Persuading the world, again and again, how unfortunate and mistreated they were, the Palestinians often managed to get their way. It is a way sought through violence against noncombatants, and it is a way that has produced many Palestinian casualties, but it is also a way that is actually “working” in some fashion. Even after assisting Saddam Hussein in the organized torture and murder of Kuwaitis during the period 1990 to 1991, and even after strongly opposing America’s Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Palestinians now enjoy President 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.

Power vs. weakness? The state of Israel, even together with Judea/Samaria and Gaza, is less than half the size of Caifornia’s San Bernardino County. Leaving aside that present-day Jordan comprises 78 per cent of the original British mandate for Palestine, and that it has long had a substantial Palestinian majority, the post-Arafat Palestinian Authority will soon declare a second Palestinian state. What will this suggest about power and weakness in the Middle East?

Until now, the Palestinians have enjoyed considerable global benefits from their alleged “weakness.” Will their new state enlarge Palestinian power, or will it produce an opposite condition? Perhaps, with a tiny 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. Moreover, the Palestinians, according to all of their official maps, envision only one state — their own. Cartographically, in the Arab world, the genocidal removal of Israel is ancient doctrine.

What shall we learn from the paradoxes of power? Above all, Israel must soon understand that weapons of war, however indispensable, do not necessarily contribute decisive strength. The ingredients of usable power often remain more subtle and intangible. At times, these ingredients may even include the presumed opposite of power, which is weakness.

Louis Rene Beres publishes widely on international relations and international law.

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