Saturday 22 November 2008

The Cycle of Extremism

I am always intrigued to follow the political leanings of people who come to live in Israel. My contention is that, no matter where on the political spectrum people stand prior to coming to live in Israel, they always seem to move to the right once they have settled into life in the Holy Land. In my view this is a natural outcome of what I call "the cycle of extremism".

Even though many people are politically well-informed about the Israeli situation prior to making the move, it seems as though they find there is a significant difference when viewing things from a distance as opposed to living it on a daily basis. For some reason, this seems particularly true of those who are naturally left leaning.

The traditional course of events causing this political shift often is started in one of two possible scenarios. It usually begins with an extremist Palestinian group attempting some sort of terror attack on an Israeli target, or alternatively attempting in a different manner to provoke the Israeli army and government into action. This type of provocation has, in the past, resulted in Israeli casualties. Thankfully in more recent times, the Israeli security services have managed to prevent casualties. Inevitably, the Israeli side is provoked into a response which is usually broadly reported in the press. This then provides the Palestinians with the "justification" to carry out a more extreme attack on Israeli targets. The second possible scenario sees the chain of events triggered by an action from the Israeli side. More often than not, this is an action to try to prevent terrorist actions from taking place either by initiating a military operation or by tightening the restrictions of movement of goods and people as a precaution. The tit-for-tat acts are usually played out in the same way, with the same results and consequences. These consequences often see ordinary citizens on both sides feeling more hatred towards the other side as a result of the violence between the parties.

The Palestinians use this in a very cynical manner to recruit support amongst their own people. Firstly, the fact that the Palestinians (particularly those in Gaza) suffer very poor living conditions is blamed wholly upon Israel. It is never presented that peaceful relations would allow Israel to give the Palestinians freer access to all that they require. Instead, every action is taken to ensure that Israel is forced to close the border crossings. This then facilitates the premise for propaganda in support of the fight against Israel by blaming Israel for the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians. The more the attacks against Israelis, the more likely the border closures and responses from the Israel Defence Forces. The greater the scale of the Israeli response, the more likely it is to solicit a reaction from moderate Palestinians. This creates a fertile recruitment ground for future extremists and "martyrs" to join the ranks of the fighters against Israel.

It is similarly true in Israel that more attacks by Palestinians serve to strengthen the resolve of Israelis to fight this evil terrorism, and cause Israelis to adopt more extreme views against compromise and peace. The Palestinians, by continuing to perpetrate attacks against the Israeli army and civilians, create an environment for making the Israeli negotiating position less flexible and less likely to be prepared to compromise with them. This, too, provides a basis for further extremism on both sides of the divide.

It almost seems as though the Palestinians turn on the tap of violence when they need to bolster their ranks with new extremists. It seems to be a sure-fire way to fill empty places. Violence solicits an Israeli response, which provides new Palestinian recruits who feel betrayed by the Israeli enemy.

The same is true in Israel where the average person feels greater hatred and less willingness to comprise with each additional attack. This is the "cycle of extremism" which seems almost impossible to break and lurches the whole of Israeli society to the right. With positions seemingly hardening on both sides of the conflict, this spells disaster for anyone who believes that a peace agreement is possible. Unless the vicious cycle of extremism can be broken, a peace will never be achieved in this region.

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