Monday, April 18, 2011

Violence Only Begets More... Peace?

It is an axiom of modern Western culture that "violence only begets more violence". I was introduced to this concept quite early, in fact, over the course of my very first day in an American school, at the age of nine in fourth grade. Being just two weeks "off the boat", as it were, and without an inkling of the English language or American culture, I will probably never understand why a kid a foot taller than I hit me at recess.

True, I had been sporting late Soviet chic, itself a poor imitation of early 80s Western trends - a walking crime of fashion if ever there was - and there is a strong possibility that my socks didn't match, and they certainly weren't the approved American cotton whites, but to hit a kid from a foreign country on his first day at your school? Maybe he had something against handsome Jewish kids from Moldova, or perhaps he envied the spotlight I received that first day, a novelty which my "lower than grass" demeanor did nothing to encourage.

I sat there, sorting these issues out in my mind, thinking about the dressing down I was going to get at home for getting into a fight on my first day at school, all the while my knees pressed into his heaving chest, his arms pinned back by mine, the unmistakable red of an early bruise building on his cheekbone. He was squealing something at the top of his lungs, like a little girl. How strange are their customs, I thought, wondering if a headbutt would calm him down. Where I came from, the kid who lost the fight would retain some dignity and accept his shame in silence, not advertise it to the world. Towards the end of that school year, after I had learned the language, a school counselor got wind of our feud and brought us into his office for a conversation. "But Victor," he said, "violence only begets more violence." A revelation instantly discredited by the facts at hand - that kid never so much as raised his eyes at me again.

How uncouth, those schoolground rules, how uncivilized, and how very effective. Case in point, a survey of Palestinians examining attitudes in the immediate wake of Operation Cast Lead, and two years later, has drawn some unorthodox, and dare we say, heretical conclusions. Simply put, as the scale of the devastation wrought by provoking al Yahud sunk in to the consciousness of Gaza's residents, without a concurrent improvement in their daily lives, support for terrorist actions against Israel appears to have dropped. This change would seem to mirror attitudes of West Bank Palestinians after Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, which defanged Palestinian terror groups in Judea and Samaria.

Considerable numbers of Palestinians remain implacably and tragically committed to condemning their children to a senseless bloody war against the Jews. Still, a decade of firm and overwhelming Israeli military actions have now made it possible for barely more than half of Palestinians to view randomly murdering Israeli civilians as counter-productive, though apparently not immoral. This is a positive development, and strictly antithetical to the widespread belief, especially among Israel's closest and most critical friends in Europe and the United States, that fighting terrorism only breeds more terrorists, and that political concessions are the only way to end the "cycle of violence".

The peace pushers should now explain whether an even greater application of controlled violence against Palestinian terror factions will not bring, on a similar time frame, a commensurate increase in opposition to further violence directed against Israelis. Or, in purely mathematical terms, if the kinetic energy unleashed by Operation Cast Lead reduced by half the will of Gaza's Palestinians to murder innocent people, what level of devastation is required to, say, halve the portion that remains?

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