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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 10-Feb-07
Palestinians rejoice over Fatah/Hamas peace as Arab/Jewish violence in Jerusalem escalates

Web Log - February, 2007

Palestinians rejoice over Fatah/Hamas peace as Arab/Jewish violence in Jerusalem escalates

Gazans were dancing in the street on Friday, as word came from Mecca that Saudi King Abdullah succeeded in brokering a peace deal between Fatah and Hamas, creating a unity government.

According to a University professor in Gaza: "The vast majority of people are really jubilant. We could hardly sleep last night because of the celebrations on the streets. People who were shooting at each other a few days back were hugging and kissing and chanting unity slogans; flying the Palestinian flag together. I hope this will lead to the end of the financial boycott. But wishes do not always come true."

It's the professor's last point that highlights a lot of problems. The peace deal did indeed create a unity government, specifying which ministers are going to be from Hamas and which from Fatah.

The whole purpose of a unity government, at least as far as the West is concerned, is that the unity government would recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Unfortunately, the peace deal doesn't even mention these questions, which will be a problem for the Palestinians.

The whole purpose of a unity government, as far as the Palestinians are concerned, is that the U.S., Europe and Israel would finally remove the financial boycott that began in January of last year, when Hamas took control of the government. But it seems unlikely that the West will back down from their principle demands that the unity government recognize Israel and renounce violence.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this peace agreement is almost completely meaningless, and may actually make things worse.

The reasoning behind this conclusion is as follows: The Palestinians are in a generational Crisis period, and the fighting between Fatah and Hamas comes not from the senior leaders, but from the college age youths. (Recall that Gaza is very densely populated, and the median age is 15.8, and so Gaza is essentially run by children with guns and missiles.) So a peace agreement that assigns ministerial positions to various Fatah and Hamas dinosaurs will not resolve the issues of the youthful warriors.

Even worse, if the unity agreement doesn't bring forth an end to the Western boycott, then it will be completely meaningless to them.

In one scenario, it could re-direct the anger of the youthful warriors away from each other toward Israel. That's because the refusal of the West to lift the financial boycott might convince them that the time had come to smash a hole in the barrier and attack the Israelis.

That gives greater significance to the rioting that occurred in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon, when 200 Israeli riot police used tear gas and stun grenades against 3000 rock-throwing Muslim worshippers.

The rioting occurred at a construction project to repair a ramp leading to the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, where it is believed that the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. However, it's also known as Temple Mount, and its Western Wall is the holiest site in Judaism.

As far as I can tell from the news stories, the contruction project is a perfectly reasonable one. The Israelis claim that the existing ramp is in need of repair and could collapse and harm anyone visiting the mosque. The Israelis claim that they're not digging anywhere near the Mosque, but some Palestinians are claiming that the Israelis are using the construction project as a cover to dig a tunnel under the Mosque, though I don't know why they'd want to do that.

As a footnote to this situation, I have to question what the BBC is doing. I heard several BBC reports on the situation on Friday, and they all said some variation of the following: "When Muslims around the world see these pictures of violence in Jerusalem, the entire Muslim world will be inflamed."

If that's true, then why is the BBC showing the pictures? The way they kept saying the same thing over and over really gave me the feeling that they were trying to incite violence in Muslims. Well, who knows what's going through the screwy minds of the BBC producers anyway?

At any rate, the Jerusalem riots petered out within a few hours, though they may revive on Monday when construction begins again.

The most likely explanation of the protests to the ramp project is that they come from more extreme Palestinians who are hoping that it will trigger a "third Intifada" against Israel.

The first Intifada began in 1989, and consisted of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israelis. It ended with the Oslo peace agreement in 1993.

The second Intifada began in 2000, and was triggered by a really trivial event: a visit to the same Temple Mount by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

Now, when a trivial event triggers a major result, it's always something of great interest to Generational Dynamics, because it signals a generational change in attitude and behavior that has been building for some time. The trivial event is not the "cause" of the major result. The trivial event can be looked on in several ways: As the "straw that breaks the camel's back," or even as "an excuse" for a new generation to make itself heard.

The most interesting example of this for Americans is the Boston Tea Party of 1773. This was a really trivial event -- a bunch of kids who wanted to protest the British tea tax dumped some tea into the sea as a prank. At almost any other time and place in history, this would have "caused" nothing but the arrest of the kids. But instead it symbolized a massive generational change that's remembered in history as leading to America's Revolutionary War.

Within Generational Dynamics theory, we look on these things from the point of view of Chaos Theory.

Most readers have probably heard of the "Butterfly Effect" in weather forecasting: if a butterfly in China flaps its wings, then it can start a chain reaction that leads to a hurricane in America a week or two later. This idea, that a tiny event can lead to major consequences, was popularized in the 2004 movie, The Butterfly Effect, starring Ashton Kutcher.

What the butterfly effect means to weather forecasting is that we'll never be able to forecast the weather any better than we can today. No matter how good the science is, no matter how fast the computers are, it's mathematically impossible to predict the weather accurately for more than a few days in advance, since even the tiniest perturbation can cause major changes to the forecast.

Exactly the same principle is true in political forecasting. The reason that all the analysts, journalists and pundits constantly get their predictions wrong is because their predictions are always defeated by some chaotic event, some unforeseeable little thing that has big consequences.

The reason that the Generational Dynamics predictions on this web site are always right is because we stick to trend predictions, like the May, 2003, prediction that the disappearance of Yasser Arafat would be part of a generational change that would lead to a major genocidal war between Arabs and Jews. In terms of weather forecasting, this prediction is like saying that summer is hotter than winter; it's a trend prediction that's almost mathematically certain. Analysts and pundits don't do that. Their predictions are all guesses, and those predictions are as good as flipping a coin.

Most analysts' predictions are like the following: "The outdoor temperature last week was in the 40s, this week it's in the 30s, therefore I predict that next week it will be in the 20s." This kind of prediction is obviously wrong, but it's what the analysts all do. That's why the great and admired pundits of our time, such as Thomas Friedman or Andrew Sullivan or Chris Matthews say such meaningless things that turn out to be wrong time after time after time.

If you want to predict the weather more than a few days in advance, you have to use trend predictions. You can say, "we're headed towards summer, so the temperatures each week will be 'attracted' to increasing warmth, and so temperatures are likely to rise each week from now on." That doesn't tell you what the temperature will be next week, but it does tell you the most probable direction that the temperature will go in.

Similarly, if you want to make political predictions, you have to use trend predictions. The trend is for Arabs and Jews to head for a new genocidal war, re-fighting the war of the late 1940s when Palestine was partitioned and the state of Israel was created. And so I've predicted many times that things will only get worse in the Mideast, and that's exactly what happened, especially since the death of Yasser Arafat. You can go back and look at the history on a day to day basis, and you'll find that on almost every day since then, with very few exceptions, the Palestine region has descended further and further into chaos, moved closer and closer to war. This is as predictable as the increase in temperature as summer approaches.

However, now let's take a look at the other side of the "butterfly effect." Suppose you see a butterfly sitting on a leaf and you blow on it to make it flap its wings. Does that mean we'll have a hurricane? No, of course not. It might cause a hurricane, but the chances are very small. There's no way to predict when any "small event" will have big consquences; in fact, you can predict with almost certainty that no small event you can think of will have big consequences. The big consequences all seem to be caused by small events that no one ever thought about before.

And all this theoretical stuff is important, because it tells us something about what was going on in Jerusalem on Friday.

The reason that Palestinian agitators were trying to stir up trouble at the Al Aqsa Mosque on Friday is because they were hoping to trigger a "third Intifada," just as Ariel Sharon's visit triggered the second Intifada.

But that's completely wrong. Just as blowing on a butterfly almost certainly won't cause a hurricane, stirring up trouble at Al Aqsa almost certainly won't cause a new Intifada.

That's where the BBC was making its mistake as well. They kept showing the same pictures of violence over and over, and they kept blathering, "These pictures are going to inflame Muslims around the world." They assume that if Sharon's visit in 2000 caused the second Intifada, then the current problems will have some similar effect. But in fact, a simple understanding of Chaos Theory shows that they're dead wrong.

And that's why the BBC is wrong about so many things, just as all the major esteemed analysts and pundits are wrong about so many things.

Incidentally, this isn't the first time that someone hoped to trigger widespread violence by demonstrating at this same location.

Exactly the same kind of thing happened in April, 2005, but this time it was Jewish extremists who tried to use Temple Mount to trigger violence by Palestinians. The Jewish extremists were trying to force Prime Minister Sharon to back down from his plans to evacuate Jewish settlements in Gaza, and they hoped that a new Palestinian Intifida would accomplish exactly that.

So these Jewish extremists made the same mistake that the Palestinian extremists made this week, the same mistake that the BBC and other pundits are making -- the assumption that a repeat of a previous "small event" will have big consequences again. That almost never happens.

There is one other example of a "small event" that inflamed the Muslim world. I'm referring, of course, to the Danish cartoon controversy. In this case, a tiny decision by a Danish magazine to publish cartoons depicting Mohammed exploded into worldwide confrontations between Muslims and Westerners. That's another "butterfly effect" that no one could have predicted before it happened.

While we're at it, let's relate this to the prediction of an international panic and financial crisis that we've been predicting. The Hamburg crisis of 1857 (panic of 1857) was triggered by a small event -- an employee of the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company was found to have embezzled money. As for the Wall Street crash of 1929, no one, to my knowledge, has identified any "small event" that triggered that crash; perhaps the event was so small that no one even noticed. Today, with so many huge and growing global financial imbalances, we're overdue for a new international financial crisis, but it's impossible to predict what "small event" will cause the generational panic leading to this crisis. We can only be certain that it's coming.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the Mideast is headed for a major genocidal war between Arabs and Jews. Only this final result can be predicted; none of the scenario details leading up to that war can be predicted or will be known until they happen. All of the "small events" that will trigger big changes will be recognized only after they occur. No one can "make it" happen before it's time has come. We can make a probabilistic prediction that the Mideast will descend further into chaos each and every day, with few exceptions. But the final trend result, a major genocidal war between Arabs and Jews leading to and part of the Clash of Civilizations World War can be predicted with absolute certainty. (10-Feb-07) Permanent Link
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