As Israelis and Palestinians increasingly move to kill, or at least gravely injure, one another with their motor vehicles, it’s clear that those traveling the highways of hopelessness have hate in the passenger seat.
An Israeli Jewish settler shoots in the air as Palestinians protest against the Prawer Plan to resettle Israel’s Palestinian Bedouin minority from their villages in the Negev Desert, near the Israeli settlement of Bet El, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Middle East is not a land from which good news comes very often. War, terrorism, political radicalism, religious extremism, imperialism, dictatorship, oppression of women, refugees — these are not sources of feel-good stories.
Even more rare are humorous stories that paint the region or a part of it in an amusing light or otherwise highlight the human condition in some funny way. Yet the Middle East’s potential for black comedy is a goldmine for those with a dark sense of humor.
Take the recent examples of Israelis and Palestinians killing each other with cars, trucks, busses and other motor vehicles. No, this does not refer to accidents in which the residents of the benighted Holy Land inadvertently strike one another on the road in simple roadway mishaps caused by a too-soon turn or a bit of speeding. This refers to Palestinian and Israeli drivers deliberately targeting one another and running each other down with whatever they happen to be driving at the moment.
In the most recent example of this new trend on the highways, a Palestinian driver tried to run over some Israeli cops in east Jerusalem on May 20. The officers suffered minor injuries. Indeed, they fared much better than the victims of an incident in mid-April, when another Palestinian rammed his car into a crowd of Israelis at a bus station, killing one man and injuring a woman.
Not to be outdone by those they are occupying, in between the two incidents an Israeli settler used his vehicle to run over a Palestinian child.
In fact, it would appear that Israelis and Palestinians have been trading tit-for-tat attacks on one another in some sort of macabre game on West Bank highways where pedestrians are fair game for angry, “Other”-hating maniacs behind a wheel.
The run-over intifada….
Indeed, a quick Google search for “Israelis and Palestinians running over each other,” returns a long list of such incidents stretching back a year or so. Some Palestinian singers even released a pop song about this “run-over-intifada” late last year, and on Facebook some Israelis have called for every citizen to run over an Arab.
If it weren’t so terrible one would be forced to laugh aloud at the absurdity of the situation. The Palestinian cause is so hopeless at the moment that these poor people have resorted to running over Israelis in cars, while the Israelis so hate the Arabs they are occupying and displacing with their illegal settlements that they’ve responded in kind.
Think of the kind of hate and desperation that must go into these incidents of vehicular homicide. Running over the odd Israeli pedestrian in a minibus or compact car will do absolutely nothing to improve the situation on the ground in either the West Bank or Gaza. Indeed, it will only make things worse, and merely serves as an emotional release for people so ground under by their situation that striking someone in a car makes some sort of sense. Likewise with the Israelis, whose strikes with a truck or sedan serves no purpose other than to remind Palestinians and everyone else in the region why Israelis are so hated.
What we are seeing here is violence for absolutely no purpose, just a malevolent need to do the other side harm, no matter what. It’s darkly comical in a way, given how ineffective their methods of hurting one another happen to be, and it says so much about the intractability of the two sides and just how they view one another. The situation is so bad and the two sides loathe one another so much that they deliberately try to kill helpless and vulnerable pedestrians with vehicles. A gun, bomb or knife might seem at least more logical or somehow more appropriate, but a car is such an absurd weapon that the two sides might as well have decided to take up wheelbarrows, children’s bikes and stuffed animals as weapons. Who knows, maybe that’s where this conflict is headed, and in a few years we will hear how an Israeli killed a Palestinian, or a Palestinian an Israeli, with a Barbie doll or an ice cream cone.
The best the Middle East can do?
Palestinians inspect damages of a mosque following an attack in the West Bank village of Mughayer, north of Ramallah, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. An attack against a mosque in a West Bank village early on Wednesday ignited a fire that destroyed its first floor, the village’s mayor said, blaming Jewish settlers for the attack.(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Perhaps we should be glad that the two parties aren’t engaging in even more violence, given the blockade and recent bombardment of Gaza and the general mayhem in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It could be so much worse, and it is perhaps something of a small blessing that this is what conflict in the West Bank has been reduced to. It sure beats bombings and gun massacres! But the sheer amount of rage that is literally driving Israelis and Palestinians to run one another down on their respective roadways also points depressingly to the fact that this terrible, yet darkly comic situation, may simply be the best that the region and its people can do.
In other words, there will be no final peace in Israel and Palestine or anywhere else in the Middle East of the type that so many have hoped for in the past, just a mutual hatred for one another, crystallized in the form of an unending cold war in which everyone is a target and anything can be used as a weapon. Even then, it can be assumed that cold war will often spill over into hot war as the use of cars escalates to car bombs, airstrikes and bloody instances of ground combat. Given this, what can the United States possibly do to bring peace to this poor region?
The answer is simple: not much. The anger that leads Israelis and Palestinians to run each other over with cars is not going to be quelled by a U.S. envoy, U.N. mandates, or two-state settlement negotiations. Similarly, the fear and rivalry that is leading Saudi Arabia and Iran to battle one another isn’t going to be solved by Washington pumping in more aid, weapons or, God forbid, sending more troops. There is no solution or strategy here that can solve these conflicts in a way that does not require the U.S. to sink vastly more of its blood and treasure in this region. The best Washington can do is contain the violence where and when it can, aid its victims, and help all the various parties begin to talk when, eventually, they tire of war.