Thursday, March 23, 2006

Reading material

Israel/Palestine has long been a subject that can be counted on to bring out the most fearful, least rational voices. So it is with some amazement that recently I've read several articles that seemed to add more light than heat. It is sadly notable that none of them were published in the mainstream press in the United States.
  • On March 20, the U.K. Guardian published an opinion piece by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter which reaffirmed what used to be called the international consensus, the two state plan for ending the occupation and recognizing a Palestinian state. This was embodied in numerous U.N. resolutions and was even ostensible U.S. policy before Bush 2. The article seems to me excessively kind in describing U.S. policy as aimed at a fair peace. But it vigorously asserts Carter's judgment that the recent Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power should be respected. He writes that Palestinian elections "have all been honest and peaceful, with the results accepted by winners and losers."
  • In the March 23 London Review of Books John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have exhaustively laid bare how the Israel lobby works to shape U.S. policy in the Middle East. They ask provocatively: "why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?" That question has long been taboo in the U.S. The authors, who teach at the University of Chicago and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, have predictably been charged with anti-Semitism in right wing and Zionist media.
  • Today the Middle East Report online sent out an article by Yoav Peled describing the currents at play in the current Israeli election. His thesis is that Israeli politics over the last fifteen years have amounted to the interplay between a polity sloughing off its welfare state measures to adopt an Anglo-American economic model, while also groping toward a solution to its conflict with the dispossessed Palestinians. Peled is not hopeful about any form of peace between Israel and Palestine coming out of the current configuration of forces, but he is interesting on Israeli domestic politics.
  • Fadi, a Palestinian writing at Kabobfest takes up the discussion where Peled leaves off, wondering whether the only way forward for Palestinians might be to dissolve the Authority created by the Oslo Accords, turning responsibility for the territories back to the Israeli occupation forces. This would clarify the situation: Israel has consistently acted without reference to the ostensible Palestinian government anyway. He writes: "There are only two options... ethnically cleanse all of the Palestinians, or supplant the ethnocratic Israeli polity with an egalitarian state for all of its citizens – Palestinian and Jewish." After the long Oslo detour, the goal of a democratic (secular?) state in Israel/Palestine is back on at least some Palestinian minds.

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