Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Arafat is to Blame

It is hard, almost impossible to exaggerate the role of media gloss in public discourse. In Israel, the media usually pick up on a specific assertion by the government or the establishment and convert it from just another assertion in the daily coverage of events into a statement of fact. The assertion, which has been converted into a virtual article of faith becomes a pivot of public discourse. If there are some poor souls out there who have not interiorized this nugget of truth and hope to participate in the public discourse on the basis of any other interpretation of the recent past, the priests of the media temple have the full right, or even duty, to discontinued any dialogue with the misinformed right then and there. Thus, we are all supposed to know the simple truth that Arafat is to blame for the failure of the peace process, and hence, for the ensuing violence.

Of course the ‘assertion turned axiom’ is steeped in accuracy and built on the sands of baseless assumptions. But the examination of the assumption turned axiom’ takes place, if at all, on the periphery of the more academically inclined observers. Life has a kind tendency to turn many of these ‘articles of faith’ into some sort of sad commentary on the period of their gestation. Remember if you will the assertion/objective truth that Israel’s conquest of the territories after the June 1967 War was the beginning of the most liberal occupation. And the ‘Six-Day War’ is still going on now after 34 years, isn’t it.

There happens to be no dearth of material, accumulating all over the place, that tends to undermine the ‘Arafat is to blame’ dogma. However, going all the way back to the year 2000 to deconstruct and reconstruct the realities of the failures of the Clinton mediation – something that can and must be done – demands too much time and effort from your correspondent who is forever looking for the convenient short cut to his destination. For the purposes of charting a path to the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and designating the rather serious obstacles on the way, one does not necessarily have to resort to the historical dimension. Going back, we seem to encounter quite a few narratives, and it appears that we have no shortage in this department at the moment.

Assuming that either Arafat is guilty, or even that there is no simple answer to this kind of question, one must analyze the current political positions of the sides to the conflict to find out where we are.

Negotiate Before, During or After More Death and Destruction

The Palestinian Intifada has shown stunning energy and enthusiasm and even gathered quite a few compliments from their greatest enemies (Sharon: The Palestinians do not ask ‘for how long.’). This kind of staying power has proven that one cannot simply mechanically translate the military and economic relations of power into a diplomatic settlement. The strength of the Palestinian cause stems from the fact that short of a major holocaust (or even after one) the world will have to sit down and listen to Palestinian demands for viable statehood. There are indeed complexities in working out a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. But the continuation of the status quo is even less tenable, from any point of view. It is hard to solve the Palestinian problem but it is even harder to continue to hold the idiotic and anachronistic view assumption that the existing arrangement of direct colonial rule, direct military and economic subjugation , can go on for much longer.