DAVID AND GOLIATH
By Louis Rene Beres
Much of the world's media continues to portray the Palestinians as David and Israel as Goliath. Apart from the painful biblical irony of this portrayal, and apart from Israel's incontestably greater vulnerability to murderous violence and complete annihilation, it is also all wrong for another reason. This portrayal is all wrong because of antecedent media misunderstandings of POWER.
Although power is powerful and weakness is weak, power can weaken itself and weakness can actually become a source of power. This curious assertion is strikingly pertinent to present-day Israel. Over the years, especially since arrival of the Oslo "Peace Process," Israel's power has sabotaged itself. As for the Palestinians, however, especially since Oslo, they have skillfully transformed their widely-assumed weakness into a useful source of power. Not suprisingly, the "weak" Palestinians have increasingly overpowered the "powerful" Israelis. Cast erroneously as David, they have usually been portrayed as the underdog, as the hapless victim of a dreadful Israeli Goliath, a twisted media portrayal that has caused much of the world to turn a blind eye to Arafat-sponsored Palestinian atrocities.
What does this all mean? At one level, it suggests that the ordinarily assumed bases of power in world affairs are greatly exaggerated and generally misunderstood. There is another irony here, as well as paradox. For almost two thousand years, Jews were stateless and defenseless - yet, in a number of important spheres of human activity, they were enormously important. Today, when there exists a Jewish State armed with nuclear weapons, the Jewish citizens of Israel are the most vulnerable Jews on the face of the Earth. No where else on this planet are Jews, as Jews, subject to prompt and purposeful extermination by a "weak" adversary.
For their part, the Palestinians, aptly fond of their alleged weakness relative to Israel, have displayed consequent power in their pre-state incarnation. Indeed, their "weakness" has been the prime source of this power. Reminding the world, again and again and again, how unfortunate and mistreated they have been - how they are David confronting the Israeli Goliath with stones - the Palestinians seemingly always manage to get their way. It is, to be sure, a way sought through indiscriminate burning, mutilation, disembowelment and bombing of men, women and young children (Fatah/Islamic Jihad/Hamas are always especially eager to target young Jewish children with axes, knives and explosives) but it is a way that is working nonetheless.
Soon the Palestinians will have a state. Will this state enlarge their power, or will it - like Israel - evolve into a condition of greater weakness? Perhaps, with a Jewish state existing next to a Palestinian state, there will develop - paradoxically - a mutuality of weakness. But even here, one side will be weaker than the other. Which will it be?
There are important lessons here for Israel. First, Israelis must finally begin to understand that inventories of missiles, planes, bombs and warships do not necessarily constitute lifesaving power. Rather, the ingredients of such power remain subtle and often intangible. Moreover, these ingredients include the presumed opposite of power, which is weakness. As for leadership, this has proven to be far less relevant for Israeli power than anyone could ever have imagined. For the forseeable future, any leader of Israel will likely be incapable of serious vision - of a vision that understands the paradox of power and weakness.
There are other lessons here for the Jewish State. One of the most obvious is the overwhelming weakness spawned by "post-Zionism." Retreating, daily, from the underlying religious and spiritual foundations of Judaism, Israel is being incrementally deprived of its most critical source of power. Eagerly seeking to become "normal," a good portion of Israel's anxious Jewish population - in contrast to Israel's Arabs - is STILL willing to blame itself for most of the problems in the region. Accepting the presumed neediness of the Palestinians, these Israeli Jews STILL fail to understand that they, themselves, have transformed power into weakness. Rejecting, shamelessly, their own history and their own uniqueness, these Jews have created, however unwittingly, a condition wherein power has become weakness and weakness has become power. Not surprisingly, the Jewish State has now been steadily refashioned by the world's media as Goliath, mortal biblical enemy of the Jews. The result has been to accelerate Israeli weakness. As for the Palestinians, their strange media reincarnation as David, King of the Jews, clearly enlarges Palestinian power.
If Israel is to endure, and it MUST endure - Israel must quickly understand the weakness of power and the power of weakness.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) is Professor Department of Political Science at Purdue University and publishes widely on international relations and international law. His work on strategic matters is well-known in Israeli academic, military and intelligence circles. Professor Beres is Military and Strategic Affairs Analyst for THE JEWISH PRESS. Recently he was appointed academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.
E MAIL BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU