Category Archives: Oslo Logic

Tablet Article: Arab World’s Emotional Nakba

Why the Arab World Is Lost in an Emotional Nakba, and How We Keep It There

By ignoring the honor-shame dynamic in Arab political culture, is the West keeping itself from making headway toward peace?

By Richard Landes | June 24, 2014 12:00 AM|Comments: 43

A Palestinian protester aims sparks from a flare toward Israeli security forces during clashes near the Israeli checkpoint in Hebron on Feb. 25, 2013. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)
Anthropologists and legal historians have long identified certain tribal cultures—warrior, nomadic—with a specific set of honor codes whose violation brings debilitating shame. The individual who fails to take revenge on the killer of a clansman brings shame upon himself (makes him a woman) and weakens his clan, inviting more open aggression. In World War II, the United States sought the help of anthropologists like Ruth Benedict to explain the play of honor and shame in driving Japanese military behavior, resulting in both intelligence victories in the Pacific Theater and her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Taking her lead, the great classicist E.R. Dodds analyzed the millennium-long shift in Greek culture from a “shame” culture to a “guilt” culture in his Greeks and the Irrational, where he contrasted a world in which fame and reputation, rather than conscience and fear of divine retribution, drive men to act.
But even before literary critic Edward Saïd heaped scorn on “honor-shame” analysis inOrientalism (1978), anthropologists had backed off an approach that seemed to make inherently invidious comparisons between primitive cultures and a morally superior West. The reception of Saïd’s work strengthened this cultural relativism: Concerns for honor and shame drive everyone, and the simplistic antinomy “shame-guilt cultures” must be ultimately “racist.” It became, well, shameful in academic circles to mention honor/shame and especially in the context of comparisons between the Arab world and the West. Even in intelligence services, whose job is to think like the enemy, refusing to resort to honor/shame dynamics became standard procedure.
Any generous person should have a healthy discomfort with “othering,” drawing sharp lines between two peoples. We muddy the boundaries to be minimally polite: Honor-killings, for example, are thus seen as a form of domestic violence, which is also pervasive in the West. And indeed, honor/shame concerns are universal: Only saints and sociopaths don’t care what others think, and no group coheres without an honor code.
But even if these practices exist everywhere, we should still be able to acknowledge that in some cultures the dominant voices openly promote honor/shame values and in a way that militates against liberal society and progress. Arab political culture, to take one example—despite some liberal voices, despite noble dissidents—tends to favor ascendancy through aggression, the politics of the strong horse,” and the application of “Hama rules”—which all combine to produce a Middle East caught between prison and anarchy, between Sisi’s Egypt and al-Assad’s Syria. Our inability, however well-meaning, to discuss the role of honor-shame dynamics in the making of this political culture poses a dilemma: By keeping silent, we not only operate in denial, but we may actually strengthen these brutal values and weaken the very ones we treasure.
Few conflicts offer a better place to explore these matters than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

American Vanity and Ambition Plays the Fool in Middle East Political Culture

I’ve posted some items on the upcoming “negotiations.” Here I just want to draw your attention to three recent analyses on key American players in this charade of negotiations: Kerry and Indyk, both of whom consider messing with the only relatively stable situation in the Middle East an extremely short-sighted career “win.” Talk about making others pay for your fifteen minutes of fame.

Indyk: Noah Pollak, “What does Martin Indyk Believe

Between 2006 and 2009, no relevant facts on the ground in the Middle East had changed: Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons, Bashar al-Assad was still the dictator of Syria, and Hezbollah was still entrenched in Lebanon. Only one fact had changed, and it was a Washington fact: Barack Obama had become the president, and he had made “engagement” with Syria a pillar of his Middle East policy. Indyk dutifully discarded his previous objections to the idea.

Give him his due: His shameless positioning and audacious reversals have been successful where they were intended to count – not in making “the cause of peace his life mission,” as Kerry said about him yesterday, but in advancing his career. Step one was showing his loyalty to Obama after betting on the wrong candidate in 2008; step two was burnishing his image as a tough-minded veteran of the Middle East who understands why things went wrong in Obama’s first term and can be counted on to get it right in his second term. On the substance, it’s been an awful, tawdry display. But as a matter of Washington careerism, Indyk’s press conference yesterday, where he was introduced and praised by the secretary of state, is inarguable proof of success.

Kerry: Lee Smith, “Requiem for the Peace Process

The peace process has entered its mannerist phase—it is nothing but a series of empty elegant formalisms. Does Martin Indyk, Kerry’s newly named Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, really need to add a sequel to his memoirs of the peace process, Innocent Abroad—Again?

The Moral Chasm and the Pursuit of Peace

UPDATE on the moral chasm: David Brog, “A Tale of Two Hearts

Recently an Israeli blogger translated a piece by a young Israeli journalist who participated in what was supposed to be a “peace initiative” with Palestinian young adults. She is a classic product of Israeli culture, engaged, open, desirous of peace even if that means painful compromises, Liberal Cognitive Egocentric. This recent encounter with her Palestinian counterparts brought her face-to-face with her LCE.

Her pained realizations reminded me of one of Golda Meir’s many profound reflections on the conflict.

We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.

There’s a moral chasm here so great that even contemplating it becomes unbearable. So what do outsiders do with this chasm? They invert it.

Peace? From the Palestinian Standpoint, There is a Past, No Future

by Lital Shemesh

I participated in the Dialogue for Peace Project for young Israelis and Palestinians who are politically involved in various frameworks. The project’s objective was to identify tomorrow’s leaders and bring them closer today, with the aim of bringing peace at some future time.

The project involved meetings every few weeks and a concluding seminar in Turkey.

On the third day of the seminar after we had become acquainted, had removed barriers, and split helpings of rachat Lukum [a halva-like almond Arab delicacy] as though there was never a partition wall between us, we began to touch upon many subjects which were painful for both sides. The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories, while the Israeli side spoke of constant fear, murderous terrorist attacks, and rockets from Gaza.

The Israeli side, which included representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife– “Let’s talk business.” The Israelis delved to understand how we can end the age-old, painful conflict. What red lines are they willing to be flexible on? What resolution will satisfy their aspirations? Where do they envision the future borders of the Palestinian State which they so crave?

We were shocked to discover that not a single one of them spoke of a Palestinian State, or to be more precise, of a two-state solution.

They spoke of one state – their state. They spoke of ruling Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and the pain of the Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]. There was no future for them. Only the past. “There is no legitimacy for Jews to live next to us” – this was their main message. “First, let them pay for what they perpetrated.”

The comparison that Palestinians like to make between the Shoah (which did not happen) and the Nakbah reminds me of Mel Brooks’ comment as the 2000 year old man: “Tragedy to me is if I cut my finger. I’ll cry a lot, go into Mount Sinai for a day and a half. Comedy is if you fall in an open manhole and die. What do I care.” Only, they care.

I’m not saying that the Nakba was not a tragedy, but in comparison with other tragedies that have befallen the Arabs in this area – “Black September 1970, Hama, 1982, Syria, 2010-13 – what happened in 1948 is not exactly of epic proportions. And, of course, who is responsible for this tragedy?

Empathy for the other is clearly not an element of this culture of blame and revenge. The injury must be paid for, and the injured (the Arabs) restored to their former honor (no autonomous Jews to deal with).

In the course of a dialogue which escalated to shouts, the Palestinians asked us not to refer to suicide bombers as “terrorists” because they don’t consider them so. “So how do you call someone who dons a vest and blows himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall with the stated purpose of killing innocent civilians,” I asked one of the participants.

Ah, but you don’t understand, my dear. You and your fellow Israelis – indeed your fellow infidels – are not innocent.

“I have a 4-year-old at home,” answered Samach from Abu Dis (near Jerusalem). “If G-d forbid something should happen to him, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” All the other Palestinian participants nodded their heads in agreement to his harsh words.

The significance here is less the vengeful attitude of the speaker than the assent he produced among his fellow Palestinians. In honor-shame cultures, where vengeance is an honorable deed, the ability of people to dissent from such desires is limited, to say the least.

“Three weeks ago, we gave birth to a son,” answered Amichai, a religious, Jewish student from Jerusalem. “If G-d forbid something should happen to him, I would find no comfort whatsoever in deaths of more people.”

Here’s the progressive, integrity-guilt attitude shared my most Israelis. This is not an isolated case; on the contrary, it’s a national ethos, that not only does not seek vengeance, but, wherever possible, to repair the rent in the body social created by earlier violence. Israel’s hospitals are models of fairness to Jew, Christian, Arab, Muslim. If anything, some might think that treating a terrorist in the same place and with the same care as his or her victims, is going too far.

Take just one example among many. The parents of Malki Roth, founded the Malki Foundation in response her “senseless” slaughter in a Palestinian suicide attack on a pizza parlor chosen specifically to kill as many children as possible. It is dedicated helping special needs children. 30% of the cases it treats are Arab children.

The shocking thing here, is that the “progressives,” in supporting the Palestinian cause, have essentially “gone native,” not so much in their own desire to take vengeance (?), but their radical inability to make even a dent in the tribal attitudes of those whom they support. After 13 years of “solidarity” with the Palestinians, Human Rights NGOs, journalists, UN agencies, have not only failed to communicate even the most elemental principles of a progressive attitude and the peace it can lead to, but have done precisely the opposite: they have infantilized, they have fed the resentments, they have played the picador.

In doing so, they have demonstrated the moral vacuity of a major post-modern meme. If Palestinians want to blow up Israeli civilians because it assuages their pain… “who are we to judge?” And when that kind of insane violence grows with this kind of malignant neglect, even spreads to other societies, then it must be because of something the Israelis did to those poor Palestinians.

Israelis from the full gamut of political parties participated in the seminar: Likud, Labor, Kadima, Meretz, and Hadash (combined Jewish/Arab socialist party). All of them reached the understanding that the beautiful scenarios of Israeli-Palestinian peace that they had formulated for themselves simply don’t correspond with reality. It’s just that most Israelis don’t have the opportunity to sit and really converse with Palestinians, to hear what they really think.

Our feed of information comes from Abu Mazen’s declarations to the international press, which he consistently contradicts when he is interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he paints a completely different picture.

Note that this material has been available to anyone online for decades. MEMRI and PalWatch provide precisely the translations needed. But somehow, people like Lital – i.e., an up and coming major journalist – seems unaware. Has she spent her time reading A.B. Yehoshua and dismissing them as the product of “right-wing” war-mongers?

I arrived at the seminar with high hopes, and I return home with difficult feelings and despair. Something about the narrative of the two sides is different from the core. How can we return to the negotiating table when the Israeli side speaks of two states and the Palestinian side speaks of liberating Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? How can peace ever take root in a platform which grants legitimacy to terrorism?

Welcome to reality. There’s good news and there’s bad.

The bad news is that until the Palestinians grow up, there will be no peace, and that, at the moment, land concessions actually make things worse. And they won’t grow up as long as their “honor group” consists of other Arabs who live in fantasy worlds and they get support from “progressives” who think that they’re being brave and honorable by supporting their vengeful mentality.

The first Arab leader to wean his people from their scape-goating anti-Zionism will create the first productive, democratic Arab state. May it happen swiftly, in our days.

The good news is that if the West, and especially progressives in the West, would snap out of this “performance” of moral vanity in which we act as if we have no enemies in order to be “true to our values,” and begin to rebuke the Palestinians – and the Arabs, and the Muslims, for behavior that really is, by modern standards, shameful, we could make a lot of progress.

But alas! Palestinians made a cult of their suicide bombers, sanctifying their violence, commemorating it in every way. They even made a papier-mâché recreation of the Sbarro Pizza bombing at the moment of the bomb’s impact, so people could come and savor the Schadenfreude. That exhibit is father to the son who says, “If G-d forbid something should happen to my child, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” And what if his  child were killed by a Palestinian militia, as we can now document happens not infrequently? Will he burn a Palestinian city? This testifies to a complete failure of the international community to hold the Palestinians to even the most limited set of standards. They are not only the queen of welfare nations, they are the king of moral affirmative action.

Westerners need to contemplate the moral chasm that separates Israeli and the Palestinians culture, make up their minds who is on the side of the progressive values that they (say they) cherish, and say to the Palestinians, as it needs to say to Muslims: Where are the voices of moral outrage in your community? Where are the projects and programs you have to respond to such grotesque interpretation of morality? Where is your commitment to humanity and your willingness to outgrow your need for tribal revenge?

I’d like to believe that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate, really moderate. I think that could even happen with a shift in the honor-group. But right now, the world community supports the (near) worst a society can produce, people whose moral discourse we would not accept even in the most permissive community, a community that pressures members to kill their daughters. They embody everything upon whose rejection we have built the world that allows us to dream messianic dreams about a global civil society.

We need to stop feeding these folks with and look for the real moderates, those willing to accept that, in matters of faith there is no coercion, and build a community of tolerant faithful.

And one of the first things to do, is stop adopting a demonizing narrative about Israel that empowers the worst tendencies and actors in Palestinian/Arab/Muslim political culture. That’s actually doable. And it’s definitely in the interest of the West to say to Palestinians and Muslims, “you need to get along with the Israelis, with the Jews.” You can’t be so juvenile as to say, “I refuse to deal with these people.”

So that’s the good news: we Western liberals can start now contributing to peace, and we can actually lead the way. Prizes for the most important and successful delivery of progressive tochacha to Palestinians and Muslims. What a virgin field!

An ABI Response to President Obama’s Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

I wrote years ago about Condoleeza Rice’s liberal cognitive egocentrism vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and I had planned to fisk the President’s speech to the Israeli students/people during his last visit and Fareed Zakaria’s typically adoring account of that misreading, in precisely these terms. Lacking the time, American-born Israeli Shoshanna Jaskoll’s excellent response will have to do.

Here’s the President telling us we need to take a positive-sum attitude towards the Palestinians, when it’s the miserably zero-sum Palestinian attitude he should be addressing. But then, that’s so far from finding a receptive audience that, apparently, it struck him as more “meaningful” to lecture Jewish Israelis on an attitude they already have deeply embedded in their culture and, alas, from which they have suffered much during the “Oslo Process”, than to begin a conversation with Palestinians about something so far from their cultural priorities that it would be like speaking a foreign language to them.

Mr. President, next time stick to the script.

MARCH 22, 2013, 1:10 PM
Shoshanna Jaskoll
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is an American Israeli, mom, dreamer, nonprofit consultant, lover of chocolate and seeker of truth… [More]

In his address to Israelis yesterday, President Obama spoke of Israel’s achievements, its history and its right to security. All the things an expat wants to hear from the President of her native land about her chosen one.

So, when Obama said that he was going ‘off script’ I expected some spontaneous and sincere observation or thought he’d had while traveling the country that he just had to share. But what I heard left me literally slackjawed and yelling at the computer in front of my children.

The President spoke of meeting young Palestinians and said, “I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with these kids, they’d say, ‘I want these kids to succeed, I want them to prosper, I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.”

Mr. President, Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That is your message to and about millions of Israelis who live this daily?  You came here to give us the epiphany that we should “put ourselves in their shoes” and tell us that you truly believe that if only we could listen to them, we would want Palestinian kids to prosper and have the same opportunities as ours?  Aside from wondering exactly which opportunities you are referring to – surely not air raid sirens, rockets and PTSD, army at 18, fear of being blown up by a terrorist – the implication that we do not already think of their children is horrifically offensive because frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.

As parents of children who are all drafted at age 18, no one wants peace and prosperity for all children of the region more than Israelis. No one wants all kids to have the advantages, options, and fun of youth without thinking of war more than us. The idea that it is our lack of identifying with these kids, our not feeling that they should have the same opportunities as our children, our not wanting them to prosper, that is holding up peace is not only ridiculous, but it is practically libelous.

It is also dangerous. It is dangerous because it places the blame and responsibility for lack of peace on our supposed lack of empathy. It is dangerous because it does not put the blame on those whose job it is  to secure these kids’ future.  It is dangerous because it is overly simplistic and pie in the sky – and that does not bring peace.

You, yourself spoke of all that Israel has done to secure peace, from actual deals with Sadat and Hussein to deals offered to – and rejected by – the Palestinians.

The answer to peace does not lie in Israeli parents wanting good things for Palestinian children. It lies with Palestinian leaders wanting them.

As Golda Meir put it so pithily, so many years ago:

When the Palestinians love their children more than they hate ours, we’ll have peace.

Still so true. And what have you – liberals, progressives, and all the people who pretend to love positive-sum outcomes done to bring the Palestinians around from their revolting priorities? Not Fareed Zakaria, whose comment on the President’s speech takes the offensive quality to new heights:

Oratory aside, Obama has recognized and employed the strongest — and perhaps only — path toward peace and a Palestinian state: an appeal to Israel’s conscience.

And Palestinian conscience? That’s not even a player in this process? Racism anyone?

The Arab-Israeli Conflict for Dummies: Barry Rubin explains why Kerry’s “peace” push is bad for peace

For many of us who understand how political cultures driven by honor-shame imperatives operate, the Sisyphean tendency of well-intentioned “peace makers” to “restart” the Oslo Process after its explosion into the Oslo Intifada in 2000, serves as a apt illustration of the (mis-)attributed quote of “Einstein’s” - the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result. (So un-Einsteinian: you can never try “the same thing.”)

So when someone like John Kerry takes over at State and goes on a tour of the area looking for how he can jump-start the peace process based on the principles of the Politically-correct paradigm in which we are all positive-sum players and if only we sweeten the pot for the Palestinians, they’ll join in, many of us roll our eyes and know he’s doomed to failure.

What few people consider is what Rubin analyzes here: not only is Kerry’s approach not going to work, if it did, it would make things worse. Not just, one step forward, two backward, but, as in 2000, blowback in our face. Consider Rubin’s analysis.

Why “Progress” Toward Israel-Palestinian “Peace” Is More Likely to Bring Regional Instability

April 10th, 2013 – 7:13 am 

Secretary of State John Kerry has what-should-be-discredited cliché about the Middle East firmly ensconced in his head. Of course, he is not alone. I just briefed a European diplomat who came up with the exact formulation I’m going to deal with in a moment. What is disconcerting—though long familiar—is that Western policymakers hold so many ideas that are totally out of touch with reality.

They do not allow these assumptions to be questioned. On the contrary, it is astonishing to find how often individuals in elite positions have never heard counter-arguments to these beliefs. It is easy to prove that many of these ideas simply don’t make sense, but it is nearly impossible to get elite intellectuals, officials, and politicians to open their minds to these explanations.

This is a fascinating point. The PCP has literally eclipsed all other approaches in the minds of the Western elites. It becomes unthinkable to view the situation otherwise.

Yet we can’t just believe what we want to believe, what we’d like to see happen, what we hope for. Reality must be faced or things will be worse. Having uunexamined utopian ideas dominate this topic does not serve anyone’s interests.

Well, it does serve the interests of the demopaths, who keep pushing all our liberal buttons as a way to have things go worse. But we fine Westerners don’t even want to admit that there are enemies, much less ones that use our values to destroy us.

Let me give a single example. Here are Kerry’s observations after touring the Middle East:

“I am intensely focused on this issue and the region because it is vital really to American interests and regional interests to try and advance the peace process and because this festering absence of peace is used by groups everywhere to recruit and encourage extremism.”

Supposedly, then, the reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so important and urgent to solve is that otherwise it is a powerful force in encouraging extremism. Of course, steps toward easing Israel-Palestinian tensions and stabilizing the situation are good but have no positive effect on the region.

Let’s stipulate that it would be a very good thing if this conflict would be resolved in a stable and compromise way. Let’s further stipulate that this isn’t going to happen.

But there is another point which sounds counter-intuitive and yet makes perfect sense:

Resolving the conflict in some way will encourage even more extremism and regional instability. How can I say that? Very simple.

Islamist groups and governments, along with radical Arab nationalists, Iran, and others, are determined to prevent any resolution of the issue. Anything other than Israel’s extinction they hold to be treason. If—and this isn’t going to happen—Israel and the Palestinian Authority made a comprehensive peace treaty those forces would double and triple their efforts to subvert it.

The folly of “linkage” is precisely the misunderstanding of what drives the conflict. If, as Obama and his advisors wanted to do at the beginning of his first administration, we “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, then, with the Arabs happy, we go after Iran. The only problem is that even if some (how many?) Arab leaders might be “happy” with a resolution that still left an Israeli state present and autonomous in the heart of Dar al Islam, far more would find that utterly unacceptable. Not only is linkage a Rube Goldberg machine, but it’s one that strewn with landmines just waiting to explode.

The government of Palestine would face determined domestic opposition, including assassination attempts on the “traitors” who made peace. Palestinian factions would claim to be more militant than their rivals and would seek to use the new state as a basis for attacking Israel in order to prove their credentials and advance their political fortunes.

What would the government of Palestine do once cross-border attacks inevitably began against Israel? It is highly likely it would disclaim responsibility and say they cannot find those responsible or even proclaim that these people are heroes.

Of course, the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip would not accept the deal, thus ensuring that it could not be implemented. That last factor, which is a huge and impassable barrier is simply ignored by the “peacemakers.” Israel would have to make major territorial concessions and take heightened risks in advance that would bring zero benefits from a Hamas government that would increase its attacks on Israel. Hamas forces on the West Bank, perhaps in partnership with Fatah radicals, would seek to overthrow Palestine’s government.

There would be attempts to carry out atrocities against Israeli civilians to break the deal, just as happened by Hamas alone during the 1993-2000 “Oslo peace process” period. Hizballah from Lebanon would also increase attacks on Israel to prove that the treasonous peace could not hold.

The ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria would do everything possible to help Hamas. There would be outrage in large sectors of public opinion and especially among the armed Islamist militias who would try to lever their countries into war, stage cross-border attacks against Israel, and back Palestinian insurgents.

Of course, the fact that they understand all of the points made above is one of the main reasons why the Palestinian Authority’s leadership isn’t interested in making a peace deal with Israel, and not even negotiating seriously toward that end.

Ironically, then, the recruiting and encouragement of extremism would be at far higher levels than it is now.

Which is why, ironically, like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, we need to continue weaving a peace process that must not come to fruition.

But that’s not all. Who would be identified as the architects of this terrible setback for Islam and Arab nationalism? The United States and the West, of course. Imagine the increase of anti-American terrorism for having permanently “stolen” Palestine, perpetuated “injustice,” and so powerfully entrenching the “Zionist entity.”

Kerry, no doubt, thinks that the Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Iranians would applaud the wonderful U.S. achievement. This is sheerest nonsense, especially at a time when Islamists feel they are riding the crest of a tidal wave of victory.

Is Kerry that foolish? I’d like to think not, but I’m forever astonished at how foolish smart people can be in our day and age.

While the parallels are inexact, some aspects of such a situation remind me of what happened at the end of World War One. Many people in Germany were convinced that their country was not defeated but merely suffered a “stab in the back” by its foreign enemies and the Jews at home. Out of this soil arose the Nazi movement, to avenge this betrayal and defeat. You can make of that parallel what you will.

Remember, too, that the 1990s “peace process” effort came at a time when Arab regimes were weak, repeatedly defeated by Israel, having lost their Soviet superpower ally, been riven by the Iran-Iraq and Kuwait wars, and with a bankrupt PLO. Now we are in a new era when, for example, the most important single Arab pillar for peace—the Husni Mubarak regime in Egypt—has been driven out to the cheers of those Westerners who also claim to recognize the value of an Arab-Israel peace.

Whether or not I’ve convinced you, I assume that you must understand that a serious case can be made for the argument stated above. Yet none of these points will appear in the mass media or the high-level debate. The assumption is, as Kerry stated, that Israel-Palestinian peace will make things better and no idea will be considered that contradicts this notion.

Let me again emphasize that I am not making an “anti-peace” argument here. If it was possible to secure a lasting, stable compromise peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that would be a great achievement. That might be possible some day but, dangerous wishful thinking aside, that isn’t true now.

And wishing it so makes it worse. Until we look at the cultural issues involved in making peace, and begin to prepare the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims a generation or two down the pike to shift gears, none of our liberal fantasies will do any good.

Read the rest.

 

Goldberg and the Daniels: Of Sewage Pipes, Lethal Narratives, and DuraJournalism

A recent spat in the blogosphere raises issues worth considering. After Jeffrey Goldberg informed his ample readership that President Obama believed that Israel did not understand its own best interests – a belief that I think it’s safe to say he shares – Lori Lowenthal Marcus quoted Dan Senor tweeting that two American officials had admitted that Obama, via Goldberg, was trying to influence the elections in Israel. In other words, the “Israel” that doesn’t know its own best interests was a reference to Bibi, whom Obama specifically dissed in Goldberg’s account, and reportedly Obama makes these kinds of remarks frequently to those around him.

Senor’s tweet drew response tweets, among others from both Goldberg and Beinart, while Dan Friedman at The Israeli Front Line, posted a far more aggressive comment in introduction to Marcus’ article about Goldberg, chiding Marcus for her too-subdued a depiction of the journalist who reported Obama’s thoughts to the public.

In her Jewish Press piece today Lori Lowenthal Marcus asks a legitimate question: Will Congress Investigate Obama’s Attempt to Derail Bibi? First, the answer is no. But Marcus yaws way off-course when she gives short shrift to Goldberg, describing him as “a centrist liberal Jewish writer.” Indeed that’s his “cover” and an image Goldberg carefully cultivates, but it is no accident that he’s one of the few errand boys Obama uses to get his poison delivered to Israel and the USA Jewish community. The plain truth is Jeffrey Goldberg is a Jewish sewer pipe for Obama. And he’s loving every minute of it because, like T. Friedman, Beinhart and the J Street crowd, he wants to “punish” Israel.  - Dan Friedman

This apparently got up Goldberg’s nose, and he responded in kind:

Tablet Article: A Cultural Redesign of the Peace Process

Redesigning the Peace Process

Ignoring cultural difference and overestimating politics has left us without a resolution. We can do better.

By Richard Landes|September 25, 2012 7:00 AM|0Leave a comment

(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons)

Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, there hasn’t been a moment when the punditocracy hasn’t insisted that Israel needs to make a deal with the Palestinians—and soon. Otherwise, they claim, Israeli democracy, saddled with millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control without citizenship, will have to choose between the twin catastrophes of democratic suicide and apartheid. And since the solution that everyone knows is the eventual one–land for peace–is so clear, let’s just get on with it.

It hasn’t panned out. We’re now approaching two decades of failure of the two-state solution. Every strategy for pulling it off—Oslo, Taba, Geneva, Road Map, Dayton, Obama/Clinton—has, despite sometimes enormous efforts, failed or died stillborn. And yet, with each failure, anew round of hope emerges, with commentators and politicians arguing that this time, if we just tinker with some of the details, we’ll get peace right. (Or, as an increasing number have now come to believe, it’s time we abandon the two-state solution entirely.)

The predominant explanation for this impasse in the West has focused on Israel’s role:settlements that provoke, checkpoints that humiliate, blockades that strangle, and walls that imprison. Palestinian “no’s” typically get a pass: Of course Arafat said “no” at Camp David; he only got Bantustans while Israelis kept building illegal settlements. Suicide bombers are excused as registering a legitimate protest at being denied the right to be a free people in their own land. In Condoleezza Rice’s words: “[The Palestinians] are perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace … the great majority of people, they just want a better life.” The corollary to such thinking, of course, holds that if only the Israelis didn’t constantly keep the Palestinians down the world would be a better place. So, the sooner we end the occupation, the better, even if it means urging the United States to pressure Israel into the necessary concessions. It’s for Israel’s own good.

Kershner at NYT does her job as a rogue peace journalist: Levy Commission with outrage everyone (who matters)

Isabel Kershner has drunk the journalist/UN/NGO kool-aid for a long time now. This particular article illustrates nicelythe way that journalists have taken sides in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors.

Validate Settlements, Israeli Panel Suggests

Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

At the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Nofei Nehemya, the children of Jewish settlers found relief from the heat and the sun.

By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: July 9, 2012
JERUSALEM — Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel ’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
Note the opening phrase. Objection, your honor, journalist is leading the reader. Before the reader even knows what’s going on, he’s been told what to think about the subject. Such a move suggests insecurity, a sense that the reader can’t or shouldn’t think for him or herself, a desire to impose a reading lest….
A government-appointed commission calls for the validation of scores of unauthorized Jewish outposts on the West Bank.
Actually, the commission has many interesting things to say. By selecting the implications for settlements – which is surely part of the commission’s finding – Kershner has the tail wagging the dog. In her world, to her [intended] audience, to the LCEs who adhere, knowingly or unwittingly to the PC Paradigm, the settlements are THE problem. Without them there would be peace. That simple.

The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. And here’s the payoff. Such a move to legalize the settlements, regardless of the legal principles upon which that move was based, should not happen. The international community will be outraged (no need even to explain why, everyone knows); and it will deal a significant blow to prospects for a peace-settlement.

For those of us who do not live in the twilight world of post-Oslo denial, there is nothing remotely resembling a viable peace-negotiations at the moment. Palestinian – and more broadly Arab – political culture is light years from being able to make the necessary concessions for peace. Incitement to hatred against Israel (and the Jews) pervades the public sphere, with glorified “martyrs” who kill Israeli civilians, glorified, lethal narratives in profusion. “Moderates” (like the PA) assuage radicals (like Hamas) with promises that to use any concession for more aggression (as their way of assuaging the radicals, as in Arafat’s speech in South Africa, months after signing the Oslo Accords). And yet the logic behind the conclusion here presented as a fact, is that the Palestinians are innocent victims who just want a country of their own, eager to negotiate but frustrated by Israeli intransigence. One would assume that any undergraduate, looking at the evidence, would conclude that this paradigm has extensive anomalies. Thus this notion that international outrage would break out at the Israelis damaging the non-existent prospects for a peace settlement embodies the lunacy of the age. Note the use of the word “opinion” rather than “international law.” It bypasses the facts of the case, which are so anomalous and pose so many complex issues to the fairly young field of international law, that they do not allow for anything like the widespread belief that they are “illegal by international law.” In some sense we’re witnessing here a radical application of “constructivist” journalism: fabricated international opinion, never very far from outrage, creates a “reality” which then can be applied to leverage a (far less tractable) reality. Is it any wonder none of these fine folks from the international community can’t solve the problem?

How not to save Israel: Response to Gershom Gorenberg

A friend asked me what I thought of the following piece by Gershom Gorenberg published by Slate. Disclosure: Gorenberg and I were once close friends. He was a regular at the Center for Millennial Studies, when wrote his book End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He even asked me once to substitute for him at an NIF [!] function in New York – before I knew what I was dealing with (more on that below).

For a formal review of the book by Lazar Berman, who used to post at the Augean Stables, see “The Unmaking of Gershom Gorenberg.”

Fisked below.

How to Save Israel
The three steps that could rescue it from endless conflict and international ostracism.
By |Posted Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at 6:59 AM ET

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes.

It’s pretty revealing that Gorenberg thinks Israel needs to establish itself again as a “liberal democracy.” He apparently thinks that the first round ended in 1967. That means that the key moment in a democracy – when an opposition group can be voted into power – which occurred for the first time in 1977, doesn’t even count, along with the in some cases excessive commitment to radical democratic principles of Aharon Barak’s Supreme Court (1978-2006). As will become apparent later on, this schema has a great deal to do with his moral perfectionism and, tangentially I think, his concern for what others think, an aspect of his thought revealed in his concern about “international ostracism.”

The following is adapted from Gershom Gorenberg’s new book The Unmaking of Israel. Read the earlier excerpts about why, exactly, Israel ended up losing most of its Arab population in 1948 and about why a new kind of old-time Judaism has taken hold in Israel.

I write from an Israel with a divided soul. It is not only defined by its contradictions; it is at risk of being torn apart by them. It is a country with uncertain borders and a government that ignores its own laws. Its democratic ideals, much as they have helped shape its history, or on the verge of being remembered among the false political promises of 20th-century ideologies.

The risks Gorenberg identifies (see below) are only some of the risks Israel runs, but which he tends to ignore, not the least, the risks embedded in the suggestions he has to make for resolving the contradictions. “On the verge of being remembered among the false political promises of 20th century ideologies”?! Is this a reference to Nazism and Communism? Historically this is ludicrous – unless Gorenberg sees Israel becoming a totalitarian state sometime soon. Only in terms of the kind of post-colonial anti-Zionism of say, Tony Judt or Phillip Weiss, it does make sense.

What will Israel be in five years, or 20? Will it be the Second Israeli Republic, a thriving democracy within smaller borders? Or a pariah state where one ethnic group rules over another? Or a territory marked on the map, between the river and the sea, where the state has been replaced by two warring communities? Will it be the hub of the Jewish world, or a place that most Jews abroad prefer not to think about? The answers depend on what Israel does now.

I have an Israeli friend, a good liberal who supported Oslo despite the information he was getting about the malevolent intentions of the PA, who admitted to me that after the outbreak of the Second Intifada (in other words, after the Palestinians got out of their Trojan horse and showed their real hand), that the hardest thing for him to realize is that “it’s not in our hands.”

Gorenberg has yet to realize that. For him, everything is in Israel’s hands, and if only they’d do what he told them, then they’d have peace, a liberal democracy, the moral high ground, and the world would once again like and admire them (or at least not stigmatize them as pariahs). As a result, he is a prime candidate for “masochistic omnipotence complex” (MOS) ie, it’s all our fault and if only we could be better [a liberal democracy] then we could fix everything.

As a result, Gorenberg is susceptible to framing the conflict in terms of the “four dimensional Israeli, two- (or one-) dimensional Palestinian“. Since I rarely agree with Phillip Weiss, let me note that he points out the same lack of any real interest in Palestinians on Gorenberg’s part. This was, by the way, my critique of the play NIF staged in NYC which I commented on in Gorenberg’s place: four dimensional Jews ruminating and churning their guilt in a void filled with fantasies of Palestinian peace-makers whom extremist Jews try to assassinate.

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes. First, it must end the settlement enterprise, end the occupation, and find a peaceful way to partition the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

What on earth leads Gorenberg to think that this “peaceful way to partition” is possible? When he says “stop the occupation” he presumably means retreat to the Green line (the ’49 armistice lines). When the Palestinian leadership – “secular” and religious – says occupation, they mean the shore line. Does Gorenberg think that ending the settlement enterprise and the occupation will lead to a peaceful partition, rather than to a resumption of war with Israel in a weaker position? Has he considered that possibility?

Does Burston really think it’s legitimate to view BDS as Tikkun Olam?

(My apologies for taking so long to post this. I wanted feedback from friends on my treatment of Tikkun Olam which is not an area of any expertise for me. I wrote this during the Thanksgiving break, but only post it now. I do think, however, that the issue I treat here is not going away.)

A good friend sent me the following piece by Bradley Burston with the comment: “It expresses how I feel.” I find it so pervasively flawed that I have difficulty taking it seriously. But if my friend can (and he’s one of the smartest people I know), then I have to, and it does raise, however poorly, a whole range of key issues. So, with great reluctance (because there are more interesting texts to sink one’s teeth into), I fisk below.

First, a brief introductory note: One of the key contentions of Burston and the people he likes (J-Street, Jewish Voices for Peace, Young Jews for Peace, etc.) is that a) they love Israel and b) they know the best way to peace which, since Israel won’t take that path, they must force upon her. Now all these groups locate along the “left” political spectrum differently. NIF disapproves of BDS but funds groups who do; J-Street disapproves of  BDS even if they associate with people who do; Jewish Voices for Peace and Emily Schaeffer (below) support BDS in many forms.

Whatever the details, each of these groups believes that they must pressure Israel to leave the occupied territories out of a combination of moral passion – the Israel they love should set a moral example to the world – and peaceful intentions – they know their formula for peace will work.

Now some people, myself included, see the situation very differently. On moral matters, howevermuch we may share concerns about the occupation and dominion over another people harms both Palestinians and Israelis, we have difficulty with a moral equivalence, that ends up as a moral inversion, with the profound condescension and bigotry it involves in its abysmally low standards for the Palestinians, and the inversely exacting standards to which it holds Israel. The result – people, Jews! – for whom Israel is the new Nazi. And even as such people are morally reckless in their accusations of Israel, they echo and reinforce genocidal hatreds among the most base of the enemies of the Jews.

On the practical level, many of us feel that while making concessions and apologizing is a splendid way to begin a process of reconciliation, that only works in cases where the other side also seeks resolution, and responds in kind. In some cases, conflicts are not only unresponsive to such an approach, but literally allergic: rather than a peace process it produces a war process. Indeed, given how often and consistently Palestinian (and more broadly Arab) leaders have seized upon Israeli concessions to press for more and on Israeli confessions to reaffirm a demonizing narrative, it’s dubious that under the best of circumstances, Palestinian political players would respond to an Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 borders with a shift to peace.

On the contrary, any such move most likely will strengthen those in the Palestinian camp who argue that any withdrawal should be part of a “Phased plan” to destroy Israel and use any and every pretext to keep the war alive. Any observer who dismisses even this possibility – the favorite line is either, “you’re paranoid,” or “oh, you think they only understand violence.” – is either in ignorance or denial of the discourse that prevails in Palestinian political culture today.

And so, if under the best of conditions withdrawing to the ’67 lines could backfire, how much the more likely that the voices of attack will grow louder if Israel finds itself compelled as a result of becoming the object of universal execration (BDS) and pressure from its only powerful ally, the United States, to withdraw. The naïveté of such a formula is only matched by the aggressiveness with which it gets implemented. A formula for war: si vis bellum para pacem.

The fact that groups can argue that the US should force Israel to make these concessions without any serious discussion of the necessary massive reciprocity from Palestinians (especially when it comes to incitement to hatred and violence), raises serious doubts among many about their realism, and given their recklessness in insisting that virtually any means to get there are legitimate, it raises for us serious doubts about their responsibility.

As far as I can make out, Burston has no idea what I’m talking about. He’s like the New Yorker cartoon of a Manhattanite’s view of the USA. When he looks at the landscape of this debate, all he sees are him and his like-minded friends “doing the right thing,” while the opposition is at the other end of the spectrum – messianic rabbis and their neo-con partners who will not part with an inch of the land, even if God himself told them to do so. And nothing in between.

He encases his simplistic dualism in the antimony “Jews of the Gate” vs. “Jews of the Wall.” This fisking comes from someone who thinks that both of his categories are poorly conceived; and that the real issues are entirely different from the ones upon which he focuses.

Thanksgiving, Tikkun Olam, and U.S. Jews breaking the Israel barrier By Bradley Burston

[Part 2 of a series on U.S. Jews emotionally divesting from Israel. In part, a journal of a recent West Coast speaking tour hosted by J Street]

Norah: It reminds me of this part of Judaism that I really like. It’s called Tikkun Olam. It says that the world is broken into pieces, and that it’s everybody’s job to find them and put them back together again.

Nick: Well, maybe we’re the pieces. And maybe we’re not supposed to find the pieces. Maybe we are the pieces. “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (Columbia Pictures, 2008)

It’s hard not to read this as a spoof of the trivial use to which a mystical concept like tikkun olam has been put in new “new-age” spirituality. Not having seen the movie, I don’t know if this is an homage to “Deep Thoughts,” but Burston seems to offer them up as his credo. Indeed, Nick’s version – people! – stands behind the full line-up of comments he makes throughout this piece. So it’s probably worth a short comment on this deep and now deeply problematic notion that has set our moral compasses awry in the 21st century.

The Contempt of the “Right-Thinking” Peacock Rhinos: J-Street goes after Wiesel.

HT/David Winick

Elie Wiesel published a major ad, “For Jerusalem,” in several US newspapers, prompting President Obama to meet hastily with him and reassure him that he understands the importance of Jerusalem to the Jews. Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street responded with his own ad featuring a counter-attack by Yossi Sarid, one of the unrepentant architects of the Oslo process, that dismissed Weisel as misinformed, misled, deceived, and, worst of all, “imbuing our current conflict with messianic hues.”

This last accusation is particularly significant. Any religious affection for Jerusalem on the part of Jews appears on J-Street’s radar as messianic attachment, and since, by J-Street’s analysis, compromise on Jerusalem is a sine qua non of achieving peace, such feelings are impediments to reaching a “rational” solution.

Now one of my greater gripes with J-Street concerns the inconsistency with which they apply their principle that pressure should be put “on both sides.” When in doubt, their motto seems to run, squeeze Israel. I am open to correction, but I am unaware of one formal position that they have taken in which Palestinian concessions are the principle target of their actions or declamations.

So here, the fact that the Muslim claim to Jerusalem is not only historically weak, but filled with messianic overtones, indeed Jihadi messianic ones, at the core of an unrestrained apocalyptic struggle, has no bearing for him.

Only the Jews should be restrained from messianic urgings; indeed they should restrain their messianic yearnings to make room for those of the Muslims. Then we’ll have peace.

Barry Rubin, in a brilliant study of Assimilation and its Discontents, pointed out how Jews, eager to succeed in the modern world, found their talent for self-denial one of their most valuable tools, and, for example, would champion any people’s liberation cause but that of their own people. J-Street steps right into the mold, and in so doing, reveals just what levels of contempt it feels for anyone whose sensibility gets in the way of their own sure-fire recipe for peace.

And what if… what if such a strategy of self-denial and sacrifice for the sake of peace ends up backfiring? The fact that J-Street would have Israel carve up its capital to make Palestinians happy, without any attention to the religious stakes for Palestinians, speaks eloquently for a perspective I think as cruel to Jews as it is unwise.

For J-Street, Palestinians need not compromise on Jerusalem as their “capital,” despite the fact that when it lay in Arab hands, Palestinians showed no interest in making it their capital. It matters not that their attachment is part and parcel of a violent and irredentist demand for Palestine from the “river to the sea” for both Fatah and Hamas. It matters not that, in their demand for control of the sacred precincts of their “third most holy city,” Muslims treat Jewish claims with dismissive contempt.

Question for Jeremy and Yossi Sarid, and all the other believers that unilateral compromise will bring peace: What if Israel’s agreement to share Jerusalem, pressured by the Obama administration, produces the opposite effect on Palestinians? What if, rather than empower the moderates to produce matching Palestinian concessions, as you seem to fervently believe, it strengthens the position of the irredentists who argue “East Jerusalem today, Palestine from the River to the Sea” tomorrow?

J-Street: Is there a plan B here?

Honor-Shame and Abbas’ Dilemma: The Problem of making peace

Khaled abu Toameh has an interesting analysis of the dilemma that Obama’s lates “peace-making” moves have created for Mahmoud Abbas. Although I don’t agree with his analysis, he does point out the central dilemma of the Arabs in dealing with the world — one also highlighted in the response to the failure of Farouk Hosni to become the head of UNESCO. (HT/Lianne)

Sep 24, 2009 1:11 | Updated Sep 24, 2009 1:23
Analysis: Tripartite summit undermines Abbas
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Talkbacks for this article: 5
Article’s topics: Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah have not hidden their disappointment with the tripartite summit that was held in New York and which brought together US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binymain Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

abbasx
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.Photo: AP [file]

On Wednesday, the officials said they were not only disappointed with the outcome of the summit which, they noted, did not achieve any breakthrough in the stalled peace talks, but also with the circumstances under which the meeting was arranged.

Even many representatives of Abbas’s Fatah faction voiced their deep disappointment over his agreement to meet with Netanyahu unconditionally. Some went as far as accusing Obama of “humiliating” Abbas by forcing him to meet with Netanyahu against his will and contrary to his pledges.

Note here that anything the Palestinians insist on and is denied them they see as a humiliation. In this case, they want Israel to make major concessions just for the privilege of speaking with Abbas. Anything else — like meeting with no preconditions — they view as a loss. So the zero-sum game here is hard: they want Netanyahu to freeze settlements as a precondition to sitting down. Any compromise, in the honor-shame world, shows weakness.

Of course, Obama is strongly to blame for this situation, since he and his administrators acted at the beginning as if the settlement issue were nonsense that they could put an end to with a sweep of their hand (something like an intifada in the original sense), encouraging the Palestinians to dig in and watch Israel squiirm. When they realized how complex the issue (and hopefully how unbalanced their approach), they left Abbas stranded on a limb he had proudly gone out.

Flushing out the Honor Madness: Palestinian Leadership responds to Netanyahu’s Speech

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the Jews in a major city in the southern USA. He told me that by and large what they got in Sunday school was the classic AIPAC-style narrative: “The Arabs won’t accept Israel and want to destroy it; Israel’s efforts to make peace fail because the only thing they understand is strength, and if you make concessions they’ll interpret it as weakness and press for more.” After a moment of silence in which, presumably, I was supposed to cluck at the hopeless backwardness of such a “narrative” (which as readers of this blog know I call the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm and consider fairly accurate), I asked, “So where do you find this narrative inaccurate.”

His response was so perfect that I wrote it down to use in my book.

    The vast of majority everywhere want a roof over their heads, to sleep peacefully at night, enjoy their families, food in their bellies and to say good morning to their neighbors and spouses.

Now how was this a response to my question? It had nothing to do with real data from the Arab world, nothing from the various responses of Arab leaders to various concessions Israel has engaged in since 1993. It’s his liberal cognitive egocentrism, raised to the level of an axiom of human nature (confusing human and humane), and then applied as a negation of any evidence to the contrary. If all people are like this, then the Arabs can’t be like that narrative. QED. PCP. The whole world is like us.

I cited for him the comment of one of the Arab rioters in 1936 to the Peel Commission’s question about why he so hated the Jews, if the Zionists have made the land far more prosperous than it had been before they came:

“You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor it is if I am only master of it” (Weathered by Miracles, p. 207).

He responded: “Do you think they all think like that?”

Good question. I say yes, I sound like a bigot. If I say no, then where are we?

Do they all think that way? Or is this irredentism “merely” an expression of the male mafia, the alpha males who crave vengeance, the political/religious leadership, “the Arab street”? What about the “vast, silent majority.” I’m not sure. I think that many… most… maybe even the vast majority would accept my friend’s lovely depiction of a prosperous and peaceful life. (It is, after all, at the core of the messianic promise.)

What I do know is that as long as honor-shame culture, with its demanded solidarity — asabiyyah — prevails, and as long as it’s enforced with such vicious brutality, whatever your “average Palestinian” thinks, he or she will have no ability to change the dynamic of the HSJP narrative. And when mothers can be driven to killing their daughters by a merciless community that demands it for the sake of family honor, then it can’t just be a problem of elites.

I give this anecdote as a preface to the following post on Palestinian reaction to Netanyahu’s speech, because so much of the dynamics we disagreed upon show up in unvarnished form. Netanyahu clearly struck on honor-shame chord.

If it were a chess game, Netanyahu’s speech would be a “?!.” “?” because if the Palestinians had responded intelligently — even while retaining their desire to destroy Israel — they could have said, “Fine. Let’s get on with it.” Then, when they got their demilitarized state, they could go ahead and militarize and no one could stop them. It’s a “!” because, true to form, Palestinian “pride” trumps (what we define as rational) self-interest at every turn. As a result we have the spectacle of unvarnished zero-sum Arab irredentism in response to a speech that called for basic mutuality — two states for two religious communities. Short of everything, it’s Palestinian suffering.

Below are a series of responses from Palestinian leaders that display all the elements of an honor-shame culture under conditions of humiliation which needs to be fixed by shedding blood — at once childishly violent in rhetoric, and violently malevolent in intent.

There are two questions here: 1) Is this the real reaction, or posturing? Even as posturing, it’s significant. Why take these mad postures? As bargaining tools? Possibly.

2) Is the West listening and registering this? And if so, do they have the wisdom and foresight to tell the Palestinian leadership to grow up and, as Obama might put it: “join the 21st century.”

Palestinian Reactions to Netanyahu’s Speech
‘Akin to a Declaration of War’; ‘Netanyahu is a Liar and a Crook’; ‘The Speech is Worthless and Warrants a Determined Response’; ‘Not In a Thousand Years… Would [He] Find a Single Palestinian’ to Agree to His Conditions

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s June 14, 2009 speech was met with hostility by all Palestinian factions. The Palestinians called Netanyahu “a liar and a crook,” stated that the only purpose of his “hollow” speech was to placate U.S. President Barack Obama, and claimed that he was effectively ruining the chances for peace. Senior Palestinian Authority officials called on theU.S. to force Israel to implement the two-state solution, and on the PA to toughen its positions. Hamas called on PA to stop security coordination and to reassess their position on negotiations with Israel.

Following are excerpts from reactions in the PA press to the speech:

PA: Netanyahu’s Speech Has Ruined the Chance for Peace

Palestinian Authority negotiations department head Saeb ‘Ariqat stated: “The peace process can be compared to a turtle, and now that Netanyahu has turned it over, it’s lying on its back. Not in a thousand years will Netanyahu find a single Palestinian who would agree to the conditions stipulated in his speech. The speech is a unilateral declaration ending the political negotiations on permanent status issues.” [1]

This is an eloquent expression of the arrogance of prime divider elites. They will speak for their people without the slightest hesitation. Essentially, ‘Ariqat [also known as Erakat], the main expounder of the Jenin Massacre in 2002, is condemning his people to decades if not generations of suffering, but he not only doesn’t care, he makes no room for the slightest dissent. No proud Palestinian would stand for this (and I guess, by implication, no one shameful enough to accept the deal, is a Palestinian). So Erakat’s implicit answer to my friend’s query is: “Yes! Every Palestinian thinks this way.” (NB: Erakat’s considered a moderate, not a racist who demeans Palestinians by thinking they’re all war- and hate-mongers.)

The Two-State To Nowhere: Another Futile Attempt At Appeasement

Every once in a while it’s useful to consult a historian with a memory that goes beyond the “so fifteen minutes ago” of the current ADD generation. Here Alex Grobman explains why Netanyahu’s speech touched a nerve in the Arab world, especially among Palestinians. It’s not the Politically-correct Paradigm PCP — let’s compromise and get on with our lives in a spirit of mutuality — it’s the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm HSJP — we can only breathe if you die. Or, as Yasser Arafat put it so delicately:

“We don’t want peace, we want victory. Peace for us means Israel’s destruction and nothing else. What you call peace is peace for Israel…. For us it is shame and injustice. We shall fight on to victory. Even for decades, for generations, if necessary.”

And, suprise! they’re still fighting.

The passages Grobman cites — all expressions of the honor-shame world of Arab irredentism when it comes to Israel — shed a particularly revealing light on President Obama’s (falsely) empathic remark about Palestinian suffering being intolerable. If it were “intolerable” they would do something about it. Instead they scream foul at Netanyahu’s speech and dig in for more suffering. Obama’s inability to understand this — and I think it is an incomprehensibility that pervades Western culture which is why I’m writing my current book — is at the heart of the dysfunctional relationship we have with the Arab world. “Suffering? You pussies ain’t seem nothing yet. We can take it, and you better be ready to take it. And if you protect yourself from our misery… we’ll call you apartheid racists.”

The Two-State To Nowhere: Another Futile Attempt At Appeasement

“There is reason to believe that [the president] cherished the illusion that presumably he, and he alone, as head of the United States, could bring about a settlement – if not a reconciliation — between Arabs and Jews. I remember muttering to myself as I left the White House after hearing the President discourse in rambling fashion about Middle Eastern Affairs, ‘I‘ve read of men who thought they might be King of the Jews and other men who thought they might be King of the Arabs, but this is the first time I ‘ve listened to a man who dreamt of being King of both the Jews and Arabs.’”1 Herbert Feis, a State Department economic advisor, did not say this about President Obama’s address in Cairo in June 2009, but after Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Ibn Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, in February 1945. Roosevelt wanted the Arabs to allow thousands of Jews from Europe to immigrate to Palestine to which Ibn Saud responded, “Arabs would choose to die rather than yield their land to Jews.”2

George Antonius, an Arab nationalist, reiterated this point when he said, “no room can be made in Palestine for a second nation except by dislodging or exterminating the nation in possession.”3

Attempts to solve the Arab/Israeli conflict regularly fail because of the refusal to acknowledge that this dispute has never been about borders, territory or settlements, but about the Arabs refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. “The struggle with the Zionist enemy is not a matter of borders, but touches on the very existence of the Zionist entity,” declared an Arab spokesman.4

Unlike the Nazis who carefully concealed the Final Solution, Hamas and the Palestine Authority openly avow their intentions in their Charter and Covenant and in the Arab media which is available in English on the Internet on MEMRI and the Palestinian Media Watch.

For Hamas liberating all of Palestine to establish an Islamic state requires a holy war against Israel. Anyone daring to sign away even “a grain of sand in Palestine in favor of the enemies of God…who have seized the blessed land” should have their “hand be cut off.”5

Obama and the Settlements: Narcissistic Patterns?

One of the characteristics of a narcissist is that, being deeply in need of approval but not feeling they deserve it, they try endlessly to get the approval of those who don’t give it — i.e., those who see through them and need, therefore to be won over — and show contempt for those who like them because they are stupid enough to be fooled by their show and not see how worthless they are deep inside. So the classic narcissistic pattern is to suck up to enemies and dump on friends.

On the other hand, there are just people who are cowards, and suck up to people who might hurt them and dump on people they can depend on not to.

What’s going on here? Narcissism or cowardice? (HT/Steven Antler)

The Settlements Myth
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, June 5, 2009

President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more “dictating” to other countries. We should “forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions,” he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth “start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating.”

An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone — Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: “a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.”

What’s the issue? No “natural growth” means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them — not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns — even before negotiations.

To what end? Over the past decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements — and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself.

That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why expel people from their homes and turn their towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?

Flirting with Reality: Goldberg reviews Morris on Palestinian Irredentism

Nietzsche once remarked that thinking is like diving into an icy pond, going to the bottom and grasping a stone from the depths. Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, gets his feet wet and comes running out.

No Common Ground

By JEFFREY GOLDBERG
Published: May 20, 2009

In March, Muhammad Dahlan, a former chief of one of thePalestinian Authority’s multifarious secret police organizations, and once a tacit ally of the C.I.A., defended Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, from the charge, made by Hamas, that it had previously recognized Israel’s right to exist.

ONE STATE, TWO STATES
Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict
By Benny Morris
240 pp. Yale University Press. $26


First Chapter: ‘One State, Two States’ (May 24, 2009)

“They say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and this is a big deception,” Dahlan said. “For the 1,000th time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.”

This was not a helpful statement, at least not to the peace-processors in Washington and in Europe, and to their diminishing band of confederates in Israel and the Palestinian territories. But Dahlan’s comment helps buttress the main argument of Benny Morris’s new book, “One State, Two States.” Morris, a professor of history at Ben- Gurion University in Israel, argues that Arab rejectionism is so profound a force that only the terminally obtuse could believe that Palestinians will ever acquiesce to a state comprised solely of the West Bank and Gaza.

Nice beginning, especially when speaking to an audience of self-selecting liberal cognitive egocentrists.

Morris is equally dismissive of those who believe that a so-called one-state solution might work in place of a two-state solution. Muslim anti-Semitism and the deep cultural divide that separates Arab from Jew, among other realities, make this notion a fantasy. In this short book Morris asserts there is no one-state solution to the Middle East crisis, and no two-state solution. Morris does promote the possibility of a Palestinian confederation with Jordan, but he makes the case anemically and cursorily.

This is not to say that Morris isn’t convincing at times, for instance when he says that one-staters, like the constitutional scholar Daniel Lazar and the historian Tony Judt, who envision a utopian post-Zionist future, in fact are calling for Israel to be eliminated.

Yet Morris, like Judt, has an almost irretrievably dark vision of Israel’s future as a Jewish-majority state. The difference is that Morris does not believe that Israel’s mistakes — even the settlement movement that colonized the West Bank — are what might doom it. The culprit is the implacable fanaticism of Arab Islamists, who are unwilling to accept a Jewish national presence in what is thought of as Arab land, a position that hasn’t changed since the meeting of the third Palestine Arab Congress, in 1920, which rejected Jewish claims to the land since “Palestine is the holy land of the two Christian and Muslim worlds.” Subsequent events that seemingly contradict this belief — most notably, the P.L.O.’s ostensible recognition of Israel in 1988 — have been staged for the benefit of gullible Westerners, Morris writes.

Most people still think that the PLO changed their charter. They voted to change their charter at some point in the future, and people like Hanan Ashrawi voted against it. Part of the reason we don’t know about it is that both the media , authors like Graham Usher (chaps. 10-11), and the proponents of the Oslo Process like President Clinton were so eager to move on that they pretended that it had already happened. Details and extensive references here.

When on journalist reported on Ashrawi’s no-vote — on the basis of good honor-shame concerns (“This will appear to be a succumbing to Israeli dictate.”) — she was told by her editor that that can’t be true because, “Ashrawi is a moderate.”

On the Power of Statelessness: Why Palestinians prefer not to have a state according to Robert Kaplan

In a mediocre article, replete with logical non-sequiturs (especially at the end), Robert Kaplan, national correspondent for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, tries to spin off from more substantive article by Jakub Grygiel (“The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing”). Although the analysis is superficial and the policy suggestions at odds with the analysis, it’s worth looking at for both what it occasionally says that’s valuable, and as an example of how hard it is, even for smart people, to think clearly about the Arab-Israeli conflict. (HT/YP)


Do the Palestinians Really Want a State?

Why landlessness may be its own source of power
by Robert D. Kaplan

The statelessness of Palestinian Arabs has been a principal feature of world politics for more than half a century. It is the signature issue of our time. The inability of Israelis and Palestinians to reach an accord of mutual recognition and land-for-peace has helped infect the globe with violence and radicalism—and has long been a bane of American foreign policy. While the problems of the Middle East cannot be substantially blamed on the injustice done to Palestinians, that injustice has nonetheless played a role in weakening America’s position in the region.

Obviously, part of the problem has been Israeli intransigence. Despite seeming to submit to territorial concessions, one Israeli government after another has quietly continued to bolster illegal settlements in the occupied territories. The new Israeli government may be the worst yet: Its foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, is so extreme in his anti-Arab views that he makes the right-wing Likud prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appear like the centrist he isn’t. The prospects for peace under this government are fundamentally bleak.

Alright, so Kaplan’s not the sharpest pencil in the box when it comes to Israeli politics. But all this is really just a set-up. In the meantime, I think it worth noting that if the “moderate” Abbas were an Israeli politician, whose views in his native tongue were duly translated and broadcast globally by the likes of Ha-Aretz, then he’d appear as a far-right, ultra-nationalist, racist, intransigent, war-monger. It’s only the skew of comparing politicians from a civil polity with those from a prime divider society that permits the kind of cheap throw-away lines such as that used by Kaplan above. Indeed, my guess is that if any Israeli politician were to say in Hebrew the kinds of things Abbas says in Arabic, he’d be debounced as an intransigent and banned as a racist.

And yet this Israeli government faithfully represents the Israeli electorate, which is in utter despair over the impossibility of finding credible partners on the Palestinian side with which to negotiate. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas’s more moderate Fatah movement may be willing to live in peace with Israel, but it has insufficient political legitimacy among Palestinians to negotiate such a deal. With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table. And because the Palestinians are unable to cut a deal, a majority of Israelis, as shown by the recent election results, have apparently given up any hope for peace.

Well that’s quite a feat. The despair of the Israeli electorate is not just over the present “stalemate,” but about the repeated failure of concessions to ameliorate the situation. Oslo “Peace” Process (1993-2000), leaving Lebanon (2000), leaving Gaza (2005), all have led to more aggression, including suicide bombing. It’s this ferocious and relentless will to aggress on the part of the Palestinians, fed by a media that constantly incites to genocidal hatreds, that has them worried.

But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless—a reason more profound than the political narrative would indicate.

It’s nice of Kaplan to recognize that (his and the consensually accepted) “political narrative” doesn’t get to the point. But instead of going to matters of honor and shame, he goes to an interesting, but largely “rational” analysis of the strategic advantages of statelessness.

It is best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel, in his brilliant essay, “The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing” (Policy Review April/May 2009). In it, Grygiel does not discuss the Palestinians in particular, but rather the attitude of stateless people in general.

Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups “do not aspire to have a state,” for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.

Interesting point, except that it ignores the past. At no point in this process have any Palestinian leaders showed any real desire for statehood. The “now” is an a-historical attempt to describe a “new” development.

New communication technologies allow people to achieve virtual unity without a state, even as new military technologies give stateless groups a lethal capacity that in former decades could be attained only by states. Grygiel explains that it is now “highly desirable” not to have a state—for a state is a target that can be destroyed or damaged, and hence pressured politically. It was the very quasi-statehood achieved by Hamas in the Gaza Strip that made it easier for Israel to bomb it. A state entails responsibilities that limit a people’s freedom of action. A group like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the author notes, could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Why would it want responsibility for providing safety and services to all Lebanese? Why would it want to provide the Israelis with so many tempting targets of reprisal? Statelessness offers a level of “impunity” from retaliation.

But the most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space.

And of course, if the world is willing to dump on Israel for its inherent messiness as a state, and give the stateless a free ride, why not?

Grygiel raises a challenging proposition. If his theory is correct, then the Palestinians may never have a state, because at a deep psychological level, enough of them—or at least the groups that speak in their name—may not really want one. Statehood would mean openly compromising with Israel, and, because of the dictates of geography, living in an intimate political and economic relationship with it. Better the glory of victimhood, combined with the power of radical abstractions! As a stateless people, Palestinians can lob rockets into Israel, but not be wholly blamed in the eyes of the international community. Statehood would, perforce, put an end to such license.

The closest that Israelis and Palestinians ever came to peace was at the end of the Clinton Administration in 2000, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of the center-left Labor Party offered a slew of concessions to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat—only to have Arafat reject them. Arafat’s epitaph was that he remained loyal to the cause of his people, that he never compromised, and that he was steadfast to the bitter end. He may have seen that as a more morally and emotionally satisfying conclusion to a life of statelessness than that of making the unenchanting concessions associated with achieving statehood.

Even if Grygiel’s theory is right, the United States should apply ample pressure on the new Israeli government to compromise with the Palestinians—ratcheting up the rhetoric and slowing down arms deliveries if necessary. It should do this because it is the right thing to do, and because it will help the U.S. to reestablish credibility in the Muslim world. But the U.S. should also brace itself for an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that may never end, because the Palestinians may already have what they want.

Now there’s a brilliant ending to an otherwise interesting article. It’s as if he says, “ignore what I just said and act as if the prevailing paradigm — force Israeli concessions in the hopes of bringing out Palestinian moderation — were still good. Because it’s “the right thing to do.” By whose standards?

Does this man even believe what he says? Or is he just bowing to the “conventional wisdom”? And one wonders how phenomena like the “emperor’s new clothes” can happen.

In any case, what a pedestrian conclusion: wake up and go back to sleep.

It is not a country, it is a weapon: Thoughts on creating a Palestinian State

Everywhere the mantra is “two-state solution.” The very term implies something not at all self-evident, that is, that creating a two-state situation — by the creation of a Palestinian state, will “solve” anything that those who use the formula might consider the problem. For those who think it will bring peace, that it will “solve” the Arab-Israeli conflict, there’s not much evidence to suggest that it will. To the contrary, most evidence suggests that it will only strengthen the hardliners among the Palestinians.

And yet, anyone who opposes Palestinian statehood is considered a racist and a bigot. It’s the kind of moral equivalence one find in a Roger Cohen who can’t understand why, if Israel has a bomb, the Iranians shouldn’t. Jews have a nation… why not Palestinians? Same, same, no?

No. On many counts.

Below the reflections of Sultanknish. See also:

Jeff Jacoby, Statehood for Palestine? Take a Good Look

Emmanuel Navon, How to Deserve a State

Caroline Glick, Welcome to Palestine

Hillel Fendel, PA Rep Says 2-State Solution Will Kill Israel

Elya Katz, “Palestine 2.0 is a monster with only one purpose, to create Holocaust 2.0.”

Some excerpts from Sultanknish below:

Who Needs a Palestinian State?

…Currently ruled by mutually hostile armed gangs loyal to either the Fatah or Hamas terrorist groups, Palestine 2.0 has already been a failed state for over a decade. Every attempt at foreign investment has failed. The ruins of industrial zones, greenhouses and even a casino, dot the landscape. Palestinian Arab Christians from overseas who returned to build up the economy fled quickly in the face of relentless shakedowns, kidnappings and militia gangs masquerading as law enforcement.

The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs work for two employers. The UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority… which in turn is funded by foreign donors. Work for the Palestinian Authority usually means belonging to a militia gang which is loyal to a particular figure in the PA leadership, who in turn passes that loyalty on to the current “government”. With little to do, the gangs spend their free time dealing drugs, carrying out terrorist attacks and collecting protection money from their town’s remaining stores.

For 17 years, Israel, America and just about every interested party has tried to build a Palestinian state. They provided weapons and training to build a modern Palestinian police force. They sent advisers and fortunes in economic aid, thousands per Palestinian Arab. They created industrial zones and transferred greenhouses. Billions in funds from the EU, America and various do-gooders were swallowed up to fund the lavish lifestyles of Arafat and his henchmen.

To those who argue that a Palestinian State will build regional stability, the rational person must ask, how in the world has any of this contributed to regional stability?

On the meaning of “secular” in Arab discourse: Benny Morris and Palestinian identity

One of the most dangerous mistakes that Europeans — and more broadly, the gatekeepers of the public sphere in the West — made in late 2000 was to view the Intifada as a nationalist uprising against Israeli oppression, a cry of despair at the oppression of occupation. In so doing, they operated from certain basic axiomatic principles that had no real support in reality (independent evidence) and only appeared within the rhetorical world of Palestinian discourse tailored for Western audiences. Among the most dangerous of these axioms was the idea that Palestinians wanted their own independent state, to be, as the Israeli national anthem puts it, “free people in our own land.”

And the key corollary to this nationalist assumption was that such a nation would be a secular one, that it would separate “mosque and state” and grant everyone freedom of religion.

Nothing better illustrates liberal cognitive egocentrism, and the easy assumption that others share such liberal perspectives than this willingness to believe that Arab culture shares our commitment to separating “church and state.”

Benny Morris wrote a book on the War of Independence, 1948, during the research for which, much to his surprise, he found that it was not a “nationalist” war between Israel and Palestine, but, in the Arabs’ eyes, a Jihad, a religious war. Not only was the “secular discourse” a late phenomenon (under the influence of Soviet propaganda techniques), but never seriously held among Arab Muslims.

This came as something of an unwelcome surprise to his publishers who did not like the idea of spreading such awful and anomalous evidence to the public. They refused the book and it was only after that that Morris found the Yale University Press willing to publish it. If the gatekeepers had their way, we wouldn’t know about Jihad.

So when the Intifada broke out in 2000, the Europeans in particular were eager to believe that this was a) a local conflict between two nationalist movements, and b) by siding with the Palestinians, they would curry favor with their Muslim populations. Instead, it was the beginning of a new stage of global Jihad which targeted the Europeans as much (if slightly later) than the Israelis, and by siding with the Palestinians (actually the Jihadis) the Europeans showed just how cowardly and feckless they were — attacking their friends/allies and siding with their enemies. As a result they speeded up the process of weaponizing their own immigrant Muslim populations against them.

Benny Morris: The myth of a secular Palestine
Posted: May 13, 2009, 7:02 AM by NP Editor

Excerpted from One State, Two States by Benny Morris. Published by Yale University Press. © 2009 by Benny Morris. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.

The Palestinian national movement started life with a vision and goal of a Palestinian Muslim Arab-majority state in all of Palestine — a one-state “solution” — and continues to espouse and aim to establish such a state down to the present day. Moreover, and as a corollary, al-Husseini, the Palestinian national leader during the 1930s and 1940s; the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which led the national movement from the 1960s to Yasser Arafat’s death in November, 2004; and Hamas today — all sought and seek to vastly reduce the number of Jewish inhabitants in the country, in other words, to ethnically cleanse Palestine.

Al-Husseini and the PLO explicitly declared the aim of limiting Palestinian citizenship to those Jews who had lived in Palestine permanently before 1917 (or, in another version, to limit it to those 50,000-odd Jews and their descendants). This goal was spelled out clearly in the Palestinian National Charter and in other documents. Hamas has been publicly more reserved on this issue, but its intentions are clear.

The Palestinian vision was never — as described by various Palestinian spokesmen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to Western journalists — of a “secular, democratic Palestine” (though it certainly sounded more palatable than, say, the “destruction of Israel,” which was the goal it was meant to paper over or camouflage). Indeed, “a secular democratic Palestine” had never been the goal of Fatah or the so-called moderate groups that dominated the PLO between the 1960s and the 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power.

Middle East historian Rashid Khalidi has written that “in 1969 [the PLO] amended [its previous goal and henceforward advocated] the establishment of a secular democratic state in Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews, replacing Israel.” And Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah has written, in his recent book, One Country: “The PLO did ultimately adopt [in the late 1960s or 1970s] the goal of a secular, democratic state in all Palestine as its official stance.”

This is hogwash. The Palestine National Council (PNC) never amended the Palestine National Charter to the effect that the goal of the PLO was “a secular democratic state in Palestine.” The words and notion never figured in the charter or in any PNC or PLO Central Committee or Fatah Executive Committee resolutions, at any time. It is a spin invented for gullible Westerners and was never part of Palestinian mainstream ideology. The Palestinian leadership has never, at any time, endorsed a “secular, democratic Palestine.”

The PNC did amend the charter, in 1968 (not 1969). But the thrust of the emendation was to limit non-Arab citizenship in a future Arab-liberated Palestine to “Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion” — that is, 1917.

True, the amended charter also guaranteed, in the future State of Palestine, “freedom of worship and of visit” to holy sites to all, “without discrimination of race, colour, language or religion.” And, no doubt, this was music to liberal Western ears. But it had no connection to the reality or history of contemporary Muslim Arab societies. What Muslim Arab society in the modern age has treated Christians, Jews, pagans, Buddhists and Hindus with tolerance and as equals? Why should anyone believe that Palestinian Muslim Arabs would behave any differently?

Morris makes a critical distinction here between what people say and what they do. The track record of Arabs in democratic experiments is abysmal, and believing that they will do what they say when it’s about democratic promises of, say, religious tolerance, offers us a virtual definition of what it means to be a dupe of demopaths.

Breathtaking Folly — Surprise! — on the pages of the NYT: Roger Cohen’s Black Hole

I guess I’m like Charlie Brown with Lucy’s football. I am continuously amazed at how foolish our pundits are and how ready major newspapers are to give them full rein on their editorial pages.

lucy and the football

I’ve already fisked Roger Cohen before for his naïve PCP1, but this surpasses credulity (his and mine).

Middle East Reality Check

By ROGER COHEN
Published: March 8, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grabbed headlines with an invitation to Iran to attend a conference on Afghanistan, but the significant Middle Eastern news last week came from Britain. It has “reconsidered” its position on Hezbollah and will open a direct channel to the militant group in Lebanon.

Like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah has long been treated by the United States as a proscribed terrorist group. This narrow view has ignored the fact that both organizations are now entrenched political and social movements without whose involvement regional peace is impossible.

So were the Nazis an entrenched part of political and social movements in Germany and Austria. Including them in diplomacy didn’t make peace possible, it made it impossible. What on earth makes someone like Cohen think that by “including” a group that has a virulently anti-semitic platform and calls on its people to commit genocide, that somehow that will lead to peace?

Britain aligned itself with the U.S. position on Hezbollah, but has now seen its error. Bill Marston, a Foreign Office spokesman, told Al Jazeera: “Hezbollah is a political phenomenon and part and parcel of the national fabric in Lebanon. We have to admit this.”

Hallelujah.

This “Hallelujah,” more than anything else in the article, has me slackjawed. It’s one thing to clench your teeth and take your medicine like a man, it’s another thing to cheer as your being rearended by roadrage. The only reason I can come up with for such an extraordinary show of joy is double: 1) Cohen has no knowledge of what Hizbullah and Hamas are really about (how characteristically inappropriate for a pundit), and 2) he’s so convinced that being nice will work that, now that we’re being nice, it’s time to cheer because everything is about to work. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to agree with oao and cynic here, we’re in deep doodoo.

Precisely the same thing could be said of Hamas in Gaza. It is a political phenomenon, part of the national fabric there.

One difference is that Hezbollah is in the Lebanese national unity government, whereas Hamas won the free and fair January 2006 elections to the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority, only to discover Middle Eastern democracy is only democracy if it produces the right result.

And here I thought that that kind of nonsense was going to disappear quietly as Hamas showed its true colors. Apparently, not to the color-blind. What drives me crazy about these kinds of formulas is that they at once grant the status of “democracy” at the same time as they fail to hold the population responsible for their vote. “What, you have a problem with the Nazis? They were fairly elected.” The superficiality of such formulations, combined with the joy of ceding to the perverse choices of the Arab electorates in question, strike me as sure signs of a massive loss of common sense.