Maybe Newt Can Occupy Palestine, but Israel Can't

Mr. Speaker, if, for the sake of Jesus and the Resurrection, you want the territories to remain occupied forever, you and your Christian Zionist allies will have to do some homework before Inauguration Day.

Speaker Gingrich, if you're serious about becoming president it's time you got to know us a bit better.

Let's start with the occupation, our 44-year-long experiment in reinventing the Palestinian people. This is what you need to know before you bet your political farm on it:

We don't have it in us. We can't pull it off.

No one here is any good at it. Anyone here who has ever had a hand in it knows that. The army trains you for everything: armored warfare, urban firefights, chemical weapons, nuclear attack, biological agents, commando raids, missile strikes. Everything except the one thing you know you'll face - the occupation.

Your friend Bibi will tell you about our innovative, can-do nature. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might omit this: We have proved incapable of doing the one thing that, against our will, has come to define us more than anything else we do as Israelis: the occupation.

Why? Why the woeful lack of preparation, the inappropriate equipment, the proven recipe for military fear and anger and, across the firing line, civilian tragedy?

What's our problem? It's that somewhere deep inside we know that in order to succeed at occupying we would have to truly believe in it. And to believe in it we would have to fully acknowledge that occupation, in all its obscenity, is what we are in fact doing.

To acknowledge the occupation is to recognize the Palestinians, not as terrorists or poseurs, not as inventions, but as full, flesh-and-blood human beings who are as entitled to their rights as we are to ours.

And that is something your friend Bibi, and this Israel, are not prepared to do.

You may know how to keep the Palestinians from asserting their rights, Mr. Speaker, but we do not.

Maybe you can control their feeling that they want their own country in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, in their lifetime, but we cannot.

In fact, we can't even control our own people.

This is where you, as a devotee of doomsday scenarios, come in.

This week, when scores of "hilltop youth," the rosy-cheeked stinkweed of the settlement movement, burst into an Israel Defense Forces base and hurled rocks at a brigade commander, we had no idea how to respond. So we didn't.

That night, after another group of two dozen hilltop youth or their surrogates jeopardized our relations with Jordan and the Christian world by defying the army and the government to establish an illegal outpost in a closed military border zone - near a monastery at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus - we put one of its leaders on Army Radio, crowing about their next exploit.

Should you become president, and demonstrate understanding for the settlers - as you will doubtless feel obliged to do - you can bet they will take that as license to go for the Day of Judgment play, the drive for the Temple Mount. World War III, here we come.

But as you settle into the Oval Office you would do well to remember the name of Mustafa Tamimi and its context.

On Friday, at the same time that listeners heard you describe the Palestinians as an invented people, a real Palestinian named Mustafa Tamimi was murdered by our inability to occupy.

The occupation, you will come to learn, commits murders in the second degree: "a non-premeditated killing resulting from an assault in which death of the victim was a distinct possibility."

Such was Tamimi's gruesome death, his face and brain crushed by a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier, in violation of proper procedure, at close range and with minimal regard to his compromised field of vision, in an environment in which firearms, gas and other chemicals are routinely used prematurely, disproportionately and inappropriately. No accident.

Maybe you know how to occupy Palestine, Mr. Speaker, but Israel clearly does not. Anyone who has engaged here in the business of occupying can tell you how it happened. What you need to know, Mr. Speaker, is why.

On your next visit, and there will surely be one, you should pay a call to Tamimi's village, Nabi Saleh. Not hard to locate. On Fridays you can find it by the thick clouds of tear gas alone.

The army, by its own admission, does not allow even nonviolent demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. Nonviolence is punished with tear gas, or worse.

Nor is nonviolence allowed in other villages with longstanding and well-documented land grievances with settlements that have taken their land by force of arms, or law, or bureaucracy or deceit.

Mr. Speaker, you may be capable of occupying Nabi Saleh, but we are not.

Mr. Speaker, if, for the sake of Jesus and the Resurrection, you want the territories to remain occupied forever, you and your Christian Zionist allies will have to do some homework before Inauguration Day.

We cannot be of much help. If you want all of this to remain occupied, you may have find a way to do this by yourselves.