Ed Driscoll

The Word On The Street

Mark Steyn writes that Condi Rice recently told Cal Thomas that she thinks that the average Palestinian is an educated, peaceful chap looking to better himself through higher education. As Steyn writes, “Cal Thomas asked a shrewd followup: ‘Do you think this or do you know this?'”

Rice replied twice to Thomas, “I think I know it”:

So many of our present woes are due to thinking we know things. In the case of Palestine, however, it requires an almost absurd suspension of disbelief. When Condi Rice speaks of an “educated population” with a “culture of civil society,” I’m sure we’ve all met Palestinians like that, in Montreal and Los Angeles and London–everywhere except Palestine. In Gaza, as I note in my book, the median age of the population is 15.8 years. Count back 15.8 years and you come to early 1991. In other words, a huge swathe of the population have spent their entire life in the depraved death cult of the post-Oslo Arafatist-Hamas squat. Not much of a “culture of civil society” there. Not much evidence that many of them “just want a better life.” Au contraire, given the choice between “a better life” and blowing up Jews, quite a big chunk of the teenage and twentysomething males in Gaza would regard the latter as a lot more fun.How could a smart woman like Dr. Rice be so misled on this point? No doubt she’s seen all those Palestinian spokespersons–Saeb Erekat, Hanan Ashrawi–who’ve filled up the CNN and BBC airwaves decade in, decade out. No doubt she’s met many soft-spoken “Palestinian intellectuals”–the territories’ principal export, one might easily believe, given from the number who’ve turned up in CBC interview chairs over the years. But they don’t speak for their people.

A few months after 9/11, I visited the Muslim slums of France. They’re ugly dehumanizing places, and obviously I would rather have been hosting Steyn One on One with Jacques Chirac at the Elysée Palace. But in the last four-and-a-half years those alienated anonymous “youths” (as the papers refer to them) have been a central fact of French life–whether lobbing Molotov cocktails into police stations or torching buses and leaving passengers with third-degree burns. That’s the reality. And everything Chirac and de Villepin and even Sarkozy have proposed has been a delusion: like Condi Rice, they thought that they knew. But the rioting youths knew better.

As Steyn concludes, “The problem is not a lack of leadership, but the leadership’s lack of followers”.