Escaping the Prison of One’s Own Paradigm

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“Abandoning existing assumptions is no easy matter. Students of world politics, like politicians, are prisoners of their paradigms, unwilling or unable to escape the state premise of state predominance and constantly tempted to cling to familiar assumptions about hierarchy, authority and sovereignty.”
—-James N. Rosenau, The Two Worlds of World Politics

Like an abusive marriage which should have ended in divorce years earlier, many people seem wedded to their unexamined political ideas, and will end up taking them to their graves without ever, once, having had let some empirical data creep in to challenge them. Never once, giving themselves the opportunity to think outside of the box and therefore squelching the potential for a full, rich life.

The lense through which one views the universe often assume the sticking power of a religious doctrine in many people’s minds. Like religion, politics is an arena in which, not only have many people’s views become calcified and unchallenged throughout the years, but the very selection process of data that one chooses to incorporate into one’s memory seems to be through a lens that does not challenge one’s fundamental belief system. This is what the psychologists refer to as “cognitive dissonance”.

One of these assumptions is the doctrine of “land for peace”. There are many in certain political circles throughout the world who refuse to acknowledge the empirical data as to whether or not the land ceded by Israel for the sake of peace has been empirically proven to have gotten us any closer to the goalpost of peace. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the preponderance of evidence that this paradigm has had the paradoxical effect of empowering those very forces that have waged war against Israel, the United States, and all of the West.

When Israel made the internally gut-wrenching decision of withdrawing every last soldier and civilian from Gaza in the summer of 2005 in order to give the Palestinians an opportunity for self-governance and sovereignty, the people in Gaza freely and independently go to the polls and overwhelmingly elected the Islamist terrorist organization, Hamas, to represent them.

That, coupled with the fact, that the greenhouses that were bought by Jewish benefactors and given to the Palestinians as a gift to develop an economic infrastructure for the fledgling Palestinian state, were destroyed in the ensuing,  frenzied atmosphere of violence and anarchy, not only indicates that the Palestinians chose hatred over the opportunity for a full, rich life for their people, but that non-state actors, such as radical Islamist terrorist groups have caught hold of the public imagination of many in the Middle East. This indicates that the regnant affiliation and identity of many in the region is not with statehood, but, rather with radical Islamist non-state actors.

A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Polling Research reports that if given free and independent elections today, the people of the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria if you will, overwhelmingly supported Hamas over Fatah.

On March 5, 2009, AP wire service reported that Hamas and Iran held a two day conference in Tehran, probing ways for the terrorist group and the Islamic regime to work closer together to promote “resistance against Israel” The conference was opened by the Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khoumeni by calling Israel “a cancerous tumor” and “resistance against the Zionist entity is the only way to save the Palestinians.”

The co-founder of Hamas and its strongman in Gaza, Mohammad Zahar, the person who has infamously called for the killing of Jewish children everywhere, had attended the conference.

So here we have the facts: Hamas is an Iranian proxy that receives much of its commands directly from Tehran. If the IDF were to withdraw from the West Bank, and free and independent elections were held today, it would follow the path of Gaza and become a Hamas stronghold. Iran is therefore influencing its hegemonic ambitions over the region not just through its nuclear enrichment program, but through its proxies of Hamas and Hizballah. The Palestinian territories has become the gymnasium in which Iran is flexing its muscles.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, Iran now has enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb. Yesterday, they launched a missile as another way of flexing their muscles.
Israel lacks the strategic depth to absorb just one nuclear attack. This constitutes an existential threat to the existence of the Jewish state. There is no day after for Israel. Another six million Jews to mourn.

Yet “land for peace” is an idea that is wedded to the mind in certain policy circles like a bad, abusive marriage. It is absolutely immune from empirical scrutiny. In theory, I would trade “land for peace in a nano-second, but in reality, it has been empirically proven to have had the paradoxical effect of empowering those enemies who despise both Israel and the United States, equally. I were a scientist, I would have gone back to the “null hypothesis” a long time ago.

There is a linkage that is being made, among certain policy circles,  between America’s support for Israel, the sole fellow democracy in the Middle East, in standing down the threat of its extinction against an Iranian bomb, and its demonstration of support for the “peace process”.

When in fact, the spirit that has captured the imagination of many in the Muslim and Arab world, particularly the youth, is loyalty to fundamentalist Islamism, which is far more pernicious than dealing with issues of loyalty to statehood or sovereignty. The latter becomes a regnant part of one’s very identity, and particularly when dealing with promises of an afterlife, the stakes that they are willing to risk are infinitely greater.

It is time for us to wake up and smell the humus. Like a bad, abusive marriage, these unexamined ideas that we cling to, if left unchecked, threaten to bring Israel, America and all of Western civilization, as we know it, to an early grave.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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