LATE IN SEPTEMBER, the Palestinian Authority kicked off a campaign of organized violence meant to hasten the final "liberation" of Israel from the Jews.
The fighting began with mobs throwing rocks and firebombs at Jewish civilians and vehicles. Soon it escalated to militiamen firing automatic weapons at Israeli troops -- often from behind Palestinian teen-agers used as human shields.
There have been scenes of shocking barbarity.
On the eve of Rosh Hashana, a Muslim throng on the Temple Mount plaza hurled stones and bricks on worshippers at the Western Wall below. In Nablus, Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching and smashing the ancient shrine in a frenzy of desecration. On Oct. 11, gunmen opened fire on mourners carrying Rabbi Hillel Lieberman to his grave; the rabbi had been killed trying to save the Torah scroll at Joseph's Tomb. When three Israeli reservists took a wrong turn into Ramallah, two of them were lynched, their corpses mutilated beyond recognition, thrown from a second-story window, then dragged through the streets. The third, it was reported, was burned in his car.
And this week, a new atrocity: Palestinians bombed a school bus in Kfar Darom, murdering two teachers -- one a mother of four, the other a father of six -- and sending nine other passengers to the hospital. Among the wounded were 12-year-old Orit Cohen, whose right foot was blown off; her brother Yisrael, 8, who had to have half a leg amputated; and their little sister Tehila, 7, who may end up losing both legs.
Israeli officials keep pleading for a halt to the fighting. But rather than quell the violence, the Palestinian Authority has done its best to inflame it. Newspapers and broadcasters controlled by Yasser Arafat exhort Palestinians to continue the attacks "until victory." There are glowing tributes to "martyrs" killed in clashes with Israeli troops. Palestinian TV even airs a call for worldwide pogroms:
"Our people must unite ... to confront the Jews," cried Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya in a sermon televised from a Gaza mosque on Oct. 13. "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them wherever you are! Wherever you meet them, kill them! Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them.... The slogan of us all should be, 'Jihad! Jihad!'"
It might not occur to you to compare this Palestinian bloodlust to the American Revolution, but it occurred last week to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. In a full-page ad in The New York Times, the ADC proclaimed that the Arabs killed while attacking Jews "all died in the pursuit of liberty and independence." Boxed in the center of the page was the credo from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." And below Jefferson's words, in boldface, this demand: "Stop the aggression against the Palestinians/ End the Israeli occupation."
It surpasses grotesque to suggest that Arafat's war against the Jews is about "liberty and independence" or that Palestinian violence is driven by the Spirit of '76. Jefferson and his colleagues did not urge Americans to massacre civilians or destroy places of worship. They did not encourage children to throw themselves into the line of fire and promise cash rewards to the parents of every youthful "martyr." Nor did their children's schools and textbooks promote blind hatred of all Englishmen, or depict Great Britain as a fascist horror that God wanted them to destroy.
America's revolutionary Patriots did not celebrate terrorists and suicide bombers. Their maps did not show a Europe wiped clean of England. They did not assure their followers that any peace accords signed with London were but steps in a "phased plan" to destroy Great Britain piecemeal. And the men of 1776 would not have walked away from the negotiating table if the most dovish prime minister in British history had offered them -- as Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians -- virtually everything they had demanded, including land, sovereignty, and shared control over the capital city.
The Israeli "occupation" ended years ago; nearly 100 percent of the Palestinian population now lives under Arafat's rule. And nearly 100 percent of the "occupied" territories would now be Arafat's as well -- if only he had been willing to sign on the dotted line and declare the conflict finished.
But the conflict will never be finished, not until Israel is finished. Israel's government may yearn for peace, but the Palestinian Authority yearns for victory. The more Israel offers for the sake of peace, the surer the Palestinians are that victory is just around the corner -- and the readier they are to fight for it. In an opinion poll published last week by Bir Zeit University, 80 percent of Palestinians voice support for suicide attacks against Israeli targets.
Behold the fruit of the "peace" process: After seven years of Israeli concessions, four Palestinians in five are for
Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist.