WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Did you see the recent television footage of the Arab summit? What went through your mind? All those sheiks and their associates sitting there glowering into the cameras, what did you think? I wondered, how do they keep their sheets so clean? I have not seen so many men clad in sheets since viewing old pictures of Ku Klux Klan meetings in the 1920s. It will be a long time before J. Crew or L.L. Bean opens a shop in an Arab country.
Another thing I wondered about was how a fellow becomes a political leader in an Arab country. Perhaps he (here I do not have to employ the politically correct piety, "he or she," do I?) hires a political consultant -- say, James Carville or Paul Begala -- and runs a populist campaign. Carville and Begala always look sufficiently angry to sit with those Arab leaders at one of their summits, but we all know that their talents are not needed in the Arab world. There are no free elections there. What elections are held are similar to those once held in the Soviet Union -- elections, that is to say, free of the clutter of a loyal opposition. In fact, in the Arab world there is no opposition of any kind.
That the Arab world does not tolerate opposition within its borders should get us to thinking about the presence in Yasser Arafat's West Bank of suicide bombers. He says he opposes them. Well, then how is it that they keep emerging from his jurisdiction, insinuating themselves into Israeli public places, and blowing everything and everyone to smithereens? No other groups that Arafat opposes exist in the West Bank.
Arafat might claim not to know the identities of suicidal terrorists until they blow themselves up, but the Israeli intelligence services could help. They claim to know the identities of prospective suicidal terrorists. They actually had asked Arafat to arrest the suicidal bomber who went on to commit the "Passover Massacre" at Netanya. Arafat did nothing. Given the lack of opposition in Arab communities, one can conclude that Arafat knows quite a lot about these zealots and approves of their vile activities. In fact, now that the Israeli army has taken over Arafat's headquarters, it has discovered documents that show that Arafat has known the identities of the suicidal terrorists, their intentions and their employers.
These suicidal terrorists, who have made the Intifada seemingly hopeless, have introduced a new element into Middle Eastern warfare. For that matter, they have introduced a new element into all warfare, as the civilized world discovered on Sept. 11. That element is an enemy who can never be held accountable for his evil deeds. He cannot be arrested or punished -- and, worst of all, he can only with the greatest difficulty be prevented from accomplishing his slaughters.
What can now be done about the slaughter in the Middle East? President George Bush's critics claim he must get deeply involved in negotiations, as his predecessor was for seven years. Ironically, the same Clinton apologists who claim the Boy President cannot be held responsible for the growing strength of Osama bin Laden during his presidency, should now be held responsible and even honored for the relative peace in the Middle East that existed during his marathon negotiations.
That Clinton's negotiations led to heightened Palestinian demands on Israel (the "right" of Palestinians to return to Israeli lands) in response to Israel's most generous offer of land for peace does not register on the minds of these advocates of marathon negotiations. Nor does it register that after Clinton's fruitless negotiations, the Palestinians unleashed the most barbarous atrocities since the days of Japanese kamikazes. (Of course, the kamikaze pilots only targeted the military.)
Negotiations are not the answer. Holding terrorists and supporters of terrorism accountable is the answer. Even that was impossible until the Israeli tanks rolled into Arafat's chaotic neighborhood. Now there is a serious police presence there to keep an eye on potential suicide bombers. Yet I have another idea now that the Israelis are on the West Bank to police the area.
The suicide terrorists have had community support. Their families are honored. The mother of such a zealot is honored as
Umm al-shahid, mother of the martyr; and the father is Abu al-shahid, father of the martyr. Such mothers and fathers are obviously accessories to murder. Surely there are many Palestinians who recognize the danger they pose to other Palestinian families and to peace in general. Just as the parents of unruly children in America are held responsible for their children's actions, these parents ought to be held responsible for the slaughter their children have committed. They should be arrested.
Arresting them would surely militate against the violence. Americans recognize the wisdom of the Bush administration's dictum to oppose terrorists
and all those who support terrorists. Parents who take pride in their children's suicidal bombings of innocent people certainly fall into the category of supporters of terror. The Israelis should lock them up. It would be a prudent step in allowing the West Bank to proceed toward what no nation in the Arab world has, democracy.