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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card December 02, 2002

Missiles and Palestinian Opinion Polls

Surface-to-air missiles are getting fired at passenger jets during take-off. So after you wait through all those lines at the airport and take your shoes off twice and stand there while incompetent inspectors keep getting positives from their own jewelry, you might still get hit by a guy standing in a field two miles away.

As your plane breaks up in flames, at least you'll have the comfort of knowing that your pilot has a pistol and none of the passengers has a pair of sewing scissors or a can of hairspray.

The fact is that civilization depends absolutely on trust. The more trust, the higher the level of civilization. Why? Because the only way you can get to a high level of trust in a society is if there is a high level of trustworthiness.

But when somebody decides to destroy that trust, then the higher the civilization, the more vulnerable it is. Because trust means you don't have a lot of guards and fences.

Now, between Stinger missiles and city snipers, we're losing even more trust -- and getting more guards and fences.

Keep in mind, however, that the core of our civilization comes from democracy limited by law -- free elections, equality before the law, (relatively) corruption-free government, the Bill of Rights.

If we find ourselves, for safety's sake, losing some of our accustomed liberties and conveniences, we can rest assured that the terrorists are not touching the core of our civilization, and when the threat passes, we can restore liberties we willingly set aside during wartime.

We've done it many times before, in every war. Rationing, blackouts, restrictions on travel, press censorship, even suspension of habeus corpus -- we've seen them all in wartime, and yet our civilization endured.

Temporary emergency measures don't have to be permanent as long as we remain a democracy. So as long as we don't let runaway state courts or rogue county sheriffs corrupt the election process, we are still safe.

It's good that watchdogs of every political stripe are remaining alert to the possibility of our freedoms eroding during this dangerous war. Let's make the government justify every single emergency measure, and let's make sure we never forget for a moment that the emergency measures we adopt are only temporary, to be rescinded the moment the emergency eases.

In the tug-of-war between safety and liberty, neither side may safely let go of the rope. Sometimes the public benefit requires that one side pull with greater vigor, and the other side surrender a few steps. But they must never let go of the rope.

And if it's any consolation, a military expert on Fox News pointed out that U.S.-made Stinger missiles being used by the terrorists require two batteries -- and the guidance system is controlled by a hard-to-replace battery that has a very short shelf life. In other words, they can point, but they can't aim.

Of course, if they choose to use Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles, it's quite another story.


In Saturday's News and Record, buried in a wire-service story headlined "Mideast peace plan likely to miss deadline," was the real story out of Palestine.

Last Thursday a public opinion poll was published in Palestine, in which "a majority of Palestinians said they wanted their security forces to crack down on militants attacking Israel -- a shift that indicates Palestinians are souring on the uprising."

What does this mean?

First, it means that Sharon's ever-tightening noose on the Palestinian Authority's fascist goons and terrorist-trainers is working. Why? Because Palestinian poll respondents felt free to express an opinion contrary to the official line of the Palestinian Authority.

Unlike the citizens of most Arab countries, West-Bank and Gaza-Strip Palestinians actually know what freedom of speech and freedom of the press are supposed to be. They know, because for thirty years or so they lived under Israeli occupation, which made them the freest citizens in their immediate region.

They had no vote, but they could say or print what they wanted.

Once the Palestinian Authority took over, however, they were in fear of getting beaten up or killed if they said or printed the wrong thing.

But they were free to vote -- for the candidates approved by the Palestinian Authority ...

The result is that West-Bank and Gaza-Strip Arabs who disagree with the Palestinian Authority are far more educated, freedom-loving, and able to come up with their own opinions than any other Arab population. That's part of the reason they're so bitterly resentful of Israeli overlordship -- they actually know what freedom is.

But it also means that as soon as fear of reprisals from Arafat's Brown Shirts eases, Palestinians are quick to speak what they've probably been thinking all along, but didn't dare to say: That most of them don't want to kill Israeli children, and it's time for the Palestinian Authority to start acting in the interests of the Palestinian people by stopping the bloody terror campaign.

It's worth pointing out that the most-westernized Arab populations are the ones most ready for democracy, if someone would actually get the fascists out of power and give them some time, in peace, to conduct real elections and start putting together the mechanisms of democracy.

When we occupied Germany after World War II, it didn't take long before the German people -- who had tasted democracy before and had long been among the leaders in western philosophy and culture -- were ready for democratic self-government.

But Japan, which had been a feudal society for centuries and had not a trace of democratic tradition to call upon, was ready for democratic self-government almost as quickly.

Iraq should be so lucky as to lose a war to us. Their only fear should be that we might go home too soon and leave the fascists in power.

Whenever somebody -- usually, I'm sad to say, a "liberal" -- tells you that in a multicultural world, we must accept the fact that most nations are not ready for American-style democracy and, indeed, to try to impose it on them is a kind of colonialism or imperialism -- well, you're listening to an elitist, a snob, a chauvinist, who doesn't believe foreigners are as smart as we are.

If given a chance -- a period of peace in which to develop roots-up democracy, without fear of coercion by bully-boy hitlerettes like Saddam or Assad or Arafat -- human beings prefer democracy every time.

What chance have the Palestinians had? Under Israeli occupation, they had only very limited self-government -- and any Arab leader who tried to govern well, without making war with the Israelis, was assassinated or hounded from office.

And when the Israelis pulled back, there was no grace period of real democracy -- Arafat and his goons moved right in, brooking no opposition to their dictatorship. The outward forms of democracy were respected, but anyone who dissented from Arafat's "government" was given a quick reminder that freedom of speech or the press was only available under Israeli rule.

It was not a mere coincidence that when the Jewish state was formed in 1948, it was supposed to share the land with the most prosperous and westernized population in the Arab world.

"Palestinians" were neither prosperous nor westernized when the Jews first arrived.

When Zionist Jews started moving to Palestine and buying land back at the turn of the 20th century, Palestine was a tragic backwater. Each village lived in utter isolation, because bands of robbers made commerce and travel extremely difficult. Travelers and traders either had to pay them off or risk getting robbed -- not to mention the risk of being kidnapped or simply killed.

Where there is no travel or trade, there is no prosperity. But when the Jews showed up, they refused to leave things as they were. Using a combination of bribery and spirited self-defense, the Jews neutralized the robbers in the areas where they settled.

So wherever the Jews settled, soon there was peace, free travel, cheaper and safer trade, and an increasing population -- all of which dramatically stimulated the economy.

In short, Zionism brought boom times to Palestine. There were more and more jobs. Arabs began moving to Palestine from places like Egypt and Syria. The westernized Jews set the educational standard that Arabs aspired to surpass.

Even as the Arabs came to hate and resent the Jews, and soon began fighting them and periodically massacring them, the fact was that the Jews had transformed Palestine into the only portion of the Arab world that was actually leaping forward into the twentieth century and the civilized world.

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I, France and Britain brought western culture to the Arab countries they took over as colonies -- but the European imperialists ruled from above, while in Palestine the Jewish immigrants were right there on the ground with the common people.

By any rational standard of quality of life, having Zionist Jews living among them was the best thing that ever happened to the Palestinian people.

And after all these years of war and occupation, of bitterness and murders and hatred ... it still is.

In fact, if one were a true Muslim and believed that all things happen according to God's will, what could one possibly conclude but this: That God, who causes all things, surely caused the Jews to want to return to their ancient homeland in order to be a blessing to the Muslim people, to help them prosper and acquire the freedom and education which had long been kept from them by their Turkish (but Muslim) overlords.

Imagine what would have happened if the Arabs of Palestine had embraced the Zionist Jews the way Esau embraced Jacob when he returned to Canaan from Syria.

Imagine a democratic Palestine in which Jews and Muslims and Christians were divided into parties, not along religious lines, but according to political ideologies, the way America is.

It would be the strongest nation in the Muslim world, stronger even than Turkey or Iran or Indonesia, more cultured than Iraq or Egypt, the teacher of all.

The other side of the coin is this: If Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad or Al Fatah actually achieve their goal and drive out or slaughter all the Jews in Israel, what will be left?

Will they then be able to take over and run the economy of Israel and inherit Israel's power and strength?

Of course not. Almost everything that made Israel worth taking over would disappear along with the Jewish population. The Palestinians would discover, in the midst of their bloody genocidal "success," that they had no jobs to go to, no economy to inherit, and soon they would be begging for international aid to put bread in their mouths because ...

Because even now, if it weren't for Israeli industry and agriculture, there would be no Palestinian economy. This is not because the Israelis "took it away" from the Palestinians. It's because the Zionists brought the know-how and the initiative to create such an economy when they arrived.

The Palestinians are, of course, perfectly capable of achieving every single thing that the Israelis achieved.

But they didn't do it before the Israelis got there, and up to now there hasn't been a sign that the Palestinian government or people have a clue how to create the Israeli economic miracle.

Except for this one bright sign: That when an honest opinion poll could once again be taken in Palestine, a majority of the people wanted peace. A majority of the Palestinians wanted their own government to stop making horrible war against the Israelis.

Maybe, if they had peace and started thinking about something other than hating and killing their neighbors, they might be able to do every bit as well as the Jews have.

Maybe a majority of the Palestinians are beginning to want to try.

It's a ray of hope.

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.

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