Thursday, July 31, 2008

Have been doing some serious mulling recently and I thought I would get some insights from the peanut gallery.

A friend of mine posed the following questions:

Can a terrorist be rehabilitated?
Does a rehabilitated terrorist have the right to talk peace?

I would extrapolate from that another question:

Can a society be rehabilitated?

Now, if we Israelis believe that the answers to the above questions are "no" then clearly, there is no point and will never be any point in conducting negotiations with the Palestinians. At this point, and for the forseeable future, anyone who is anyone on the Palestinian political map is going to be someone who was, at one point or another, associated with terrorism or a group which supported its use.

On the flip side, this also means that the Palestinians really have very little to gain from renouncing terrorism. Which means that we Israelis stand to lose a lot.

Note: I am not suggesting here that I believe that the Palestinians have renounced terror or that any particular Palestinian ex-terrorist currently in a position of authority in Gaza or the West Bank has been rehabilitated. I am just thinking out loud, as it were and invite you to do the same.

Though--please do try to be polite!


Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

To get to the answer of rehabilitation of a society, I'd ask if it had every happened before. I'm not being sarcastic or disingenuous. I'm really curious.

Does post-communist Russia count as a rehabilitated society?

How about post Irgun Israel? (Assuming you call them terrorists to begin with)

If the answer is yes, societies have been rehabilitated before than we know it can be done.

You ask great questions Gila!

Anonymous said...

I would even go the extra mile and ask about post-1945 Germany

Anonymous said...

From the son of a Hamas MP who is also the most popular figure in that extremist Islamic organization, a young man who assisted his father for years in his political activities, has become a rank-and-file Christian:

"You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death."

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

Replying to Anonymous: There is more than one interpretation of Islam, and Hamas is not the only force in Palestinian society.

The question may not be "Can Hamas be rehabilitated?" but "Can the Palestinian society choose another direction?"

I would argue that they can. Over the years, we have faced Palestinian communists, nationalists, and Islamists. I'm not saying that any of these options was particularly "good for the Jews," but rather that Hamas, and Islamism, has only been the driving force in the society for a couple of years and shouldn't be looked at as immutable.

It says to me that the Palestinians are after something (I say self-determination. Others will likely reply and say the destruction of Israel.) and can respond to incentives and disincentives.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Asher - yes of course you are right. How could I have forgotten?

J-m 'Choke - I was also thinking that the question is really "do they want to" except that when somebody goes to rehabilitation that has to be the first step. You can't force rehab on a individual or the leadership of a society. So I think that the question of will is included in Gila's question. "Can the society be rehabilitated" I think implies that the leadership can be convinced that rehabilitation is desireable.

It's a great question and halevai the answer would be yes. Then we could get to the "how-to-do-it" stage...

Remember, one man's rehab is another man's brainwashing.

Baila said...

I think that if we believe in humanity, and if we are ever to have a shred of hope that there can be peace here we have to believe it is possible, someday.

But the way things are TODAY, the best I hope for is individual rehabilitation, rather than societal.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

"Can a terrorist be rehabilitated?"

Not sure, but he/she can grow older. Or die. Whatever comes first.

What is more important - could the current terrorist handlers become politicians with sensible table manners and sensible politics?

That's really a tough one...

Anonymous said...

Can a terrorist be rehabilitated.
Does a rehabilitated terrorist have the right to talk peace.

Please define the word terrorist.
In a conflict there most of the time are two or more opponents, does the other side have the right to question a rehabilitation.

What about the chicken!?

Anonymous said...


Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Maus - I was also wondering about the chicken. See we can agree on something!

Ari. Interesting. I would have to ask Maus's question here too. What is a terrorist? Were the Japanese terrorists? I guess kamikaze pilots are certainly a form of suicide bomber but they only attacked combatants, not civilians...

Miriam Goldstein said...

Ye'he - The WWII-era Japanese DID do terrible things to civilians - for example, the Rape of Nanking. So I would argue, yes, a society can be rehabilitated.

Anonymous said...

Individual terrorists can certainly be rehabilitated (see, for example Walid Shoebat).

You might also be interested in the book Revenge: A story of hope by Laura Blumenfeld (you can google it).

Anonymous said...

"Can a terrorist be rehabilitated?"


"Can a society be rehabilitated?"

Yes, but it can take generations for that to happen.

Israelis should forget about pursuing peace with the Palestinians. Just isn't going to happen for several generations.

And the Arab society seems more resistant to change than other societies so I don't think they can be "rehabilitated" as easy as some of the other societies that have been mentioned.

And by portraying a position of weakness (which is what Palestinians see the Israeli desire of peace as being) it just makes things worse. Only through strength will you grind the enemy's will down. Again, it will take generations but through strength someday perhaps the Palestinians will yield.

And of course you have no other choice. Either give up and die or fight for your homeland.

Anonymous said...

Eric made a good point.

Before a society can be rehabilitated first their pride, their will, has to be broken.

Look at every rehabilitated society that has been mentioned and that is the case.

Although with the Germans I don't know how rehabilitated they really are. I think it is just being suppressed right now, but it still lurks there right below the surface, waiting for an opportunity to reassert itself.

Anonymous said...

"What is more important - could the current terrorist handlers become politicians with sensible table manners and sensible politics?"

My question is would you want to accept them as legitimate politicians if they did for the most part put on that cloak? If they took off their battle uniforms for business suits?

I say no. I couldn't let them put their past aside. To do so would be like allowing a Nazi to put his past aside to become a mainstream politician.

Jack Steiner said...

Rehabilitation is possible. I would think that it is easier on an individual level than a societal.

Anonymous said...

Some replies here say that individuals can, but socities not, and some replies state the exact opposite.
Maybe that means that both are possible?

singlehood to motherhood said...

I agree with Eric and anonymous...and its nice to be able to put a name with a face

Batya said...

Good question, no crucial question.

The entire "peace" process is based on a very fragile, untested premise.

The type of change necessary by Arab society to agree to true peace is long and slow. It hasn't yet started. So, no matter what Israel gives, it will only explode in our faces.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Interesting questions and comments.

I have to agree that a necessary precondition to rehabilitation, is the will to be rehabilitated.

No change occurs without the desire for change.

I do believe that societies can change, but that process can take generations.

I also believe that individuals can change. However, I do not believe that remorse/regret is a free pass from accountability. Individuals must still be held responsible for their actions.

We search out and prosecute Nazi war criminals.

Palestinian terrorists must be held accountable for their actions and their crimes.

If the Palestinians should ever choose to pursue peace, they will need to choose new leaders; they must choose leaders without blood on their hand. Perhaps that will be the first sign that they truly want a different future.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

I have to agree with RivkA. New leaders - definitely.

Anonymous said...

Please define the word terrorist.