Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Cultural Redesign of the Peace Process. By Richard Landes.

Redesigning the Peace Process. By Richard Landes. Tablet, September 25, 2012. Also at The Augean Stables.

Romney Is Right on Culture and the Wealth of Nations. By Richard Landes. Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2012.

Landes (Peace Process):

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, a new 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.
This line of thinking is driven entirely by politics. Oslo thinkers from Bill Clinton to Thomas Friedman believe that what was needed was a political settlement and the rest would take care of itself. In 2007, Rice reflected this outlook in a statement of faith that projected a peculiarly modern outlook: “I just don’t believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university. And if you can create the right conditions, that’s what people are going to do.”
Overestimating the power of politics and dramatically underestimating the importance of culture has actually hindered the possibility for a political solution. For Jews, especially progressive Jews, the early second decade of the 21st century poses a particularly interesting and painful meditation just in time for Yom Kippur: In our quest for “fairness,” for splitting the blame evenly, for misidentifying problems as political and therefore easily solvable—so easily solvable they could be dispatched with a simple email, as one exasperated BBC anchor put it recently—are we actually working against both parties in the conflict?
I believe the answer is yes. And those who wish to pursue a peaceful resolution need to take a hard look at the cultural difference between Israelis and Arabs—and craft policy that confronts it.
Any approach that pays heed to cultural issues yields a very different view as to why the conflict persists. The zero-sum logic of Arab attitudes toward Israel does not represent merely the choices made by politicians, but Islamic religiosity and deep-seated cultural mores. From the Arab perspective, the very existence of Israel represents a stain on Arab honor and a blasphemy to Islam’s dominion in Dar al Islam. Some, like the Palestinian Authority, may have made a tactical shift in which they will, despite the shame of it, talk with Israelis and even make public agreements. But they have treated such engagement as a Trojan horse, a feint to position for further war. Within this cultural context, the peace process has actually served as a war process.
Well-meaning Oslo proponents, afraid that criticism of, and demands on, the Palestinians would delay the peace process, denounced anyone who made these kinds of observations as enemies of peace. So, when Arafat said “no” at Camp David in the summer of 2000, and a wave of suicide bombers came pouring out of the belly of the horse, these same Oslo supporters, including many an alter-Juif, rather than admitting they had called it wrong, preferred to blame Israel.
But bitterest of ironies, in so doing, they fed the very culture they denied. Palestinian hatred has festered under the guidance of Oslo-empowered elites, unopposed by the very actors one would expect to have the courage to call out such vitriol: journalists, human-rights organizations, and progressives. Instead, these groups have gone out of their way not to inform their readers of this culture of hate.
By constantly reinforcing a Palestinian sense of grievance against Israel, activists like the late Rachel Corrie, journalists like BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and CNN’s Ben Wedeman, and Israel-obsessed organizations like Human Rights Watch have unwittingly contributed to the very war that rages. And as a result of this consensus, Israel appears to most in the West as a terrible oppressor when the sad but redeeming truth is that the Israelis are the best enemies one could hope for, and they face the worst.
Nothing illustrates the cultural gap between Israel and Palestine better—and offers a more immediate and constructive way out—than the problem of Palestinian refugees. They are the symbol of Arab political priorities. When faced with the catastrophic humiliation of 1948, when the combined Arab nations, fully confident of a glorious victory, failed to destroy the upstart Jewish nation in the heart of the Muslim world, the Arab leadership unanimously chose to herd Arab refugees into prison camps so that they could serve as a symbol of Israeli crimes and a breeding ground or the counter-attack.
For over 60 years, Arab leaders have blocked any efforts to remove these people from these wretched camps because to do so would be a tacit acceptance of Israel’s permanence and would acknowledge the humiliating defeat. (By contrast, Israel rapidly moved the even larger number of Jews chased from the Arab world in 1948 out of their refugee camps.) The Arabs thus went from a zero-sum loss (the establishment of Israel) to a negative-sum solution: sacrifice your own people on the altar of your lost honor. No negotiations, no recognition, no peace.
Not only do Palestinian negotiators insist on the return of 5 million refugees to Israel (it was one of two key  deal-breakers at Camp David), but the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon recently explained that Palestinian refugees not residing in the future Palestine would not be citizens in that state. In other words, Palestinian refugees still captive in camps in Lebanon and Syria and Jordan only have a right to citizenship in Israel.
So, here’s my proposal to those who somehow feel we must revive the peace process now, before it’s too late. Call for the Palestinians to show their good intentions, not toward the Israelis, but toward their own people. Get those “refugees” out of the prison camps into which they have been so shamefully consigned for most of a century.
Begin at home, with the over 100,000 refugees in Territory A, under complete PA control. Bring in Habitat for Humanity and Jimmy Carter to help them build decent, affordable, new homes. Let us all participate in turning the powers of Palestinian ingenuity away from manufacturing hatred, fomenting violence, and building villas for the rich and powerful, while the refugees live in squalor as a showcase of Israeli cruelty, and start to do good for a people victimized by their own leadership.
To take this position, so aligned with progressive values, however, we would have to confront two obstacles. First, overcoming our immense reluctance to criticize and make demands on the Palestinians. That would also mean we’d also have to renounce the impulse to attack as racists or Islamophobes those making the demands. We also have to consider, especially true for journalists in the field, the possibility that we’re intimidated, afraid to criticize people with so prickly a collective ego. Second, it would mean overcoming the widespread hunger for stories of “Jews behaving badly.” After all, if it weren’t for the appetite for moral Schadenfreude, the whole idea of pinning the miserable fate of the Palestinian refugees on Israel rather than on their Arab jailors would never have taken hold in the first place.
Such introspection and self-criticism can be a little like chewing glass, but I can think of no more important communal task this Yom Kippur.
How often have I gone overboard, how often have I accepted a lethal narrative in order to save face with my friends who expect me to rise above being an “Israel-firster”? How often have I admitted to crimes on behalf of my people without checking to see if they were accurate? How often have I failed to speak out against the depravity of the Palestinian leadership, out of fear of being called an Islamophobe? In the answers to those questions lies the path to a real peace in this troubled, blessed land.
Do we outsiders who say we want peace want it badly enough to confront our own comfort zones? Let’s hope. Those Palestinians and Israelis who are ready to live in a win-win world depend on it.

How Sweet, Smart Kids Under Occupation Come To Worship Militants. By Haroon Shah.

How Sweet, Smart Kids Under Occupation Come To Worship Militants. By Haroon Shah. Tablet, July 30, 2013.

In the heart of Kashmir, where happiness was a warm AK-47, the weapon was my voice, and my dream.

Britain Is Now a Socialist Utopia. By Toby Young.

Britain is now a socialist utopia. By Toby Young. The Spectator, August 3, 2013.

SWAT for Settlers. By Debra Kamin.

SWAT for Settlers. By Debra Kamin. Foreign Policy, July 31, 2013.

Meet the Brooklyn-born weapons instructor who’s training West Bank Jews to pack heat and use it.

Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness. By Emily Esfahani Smith.

Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness. Emily Esfahani Smith. The Atlantic, August 1, 2013.

A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. By Barbara L. Frederickson et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, published online, July 29, 2013.

Michelle Malkin: Al Sharpton Is a “Shakedown Artist” Who “Has Blood on His Hands.”

Michelle Malkin: Al Sharpton Is a “Shakedown Artist” Who “Has Blood on His Hands.” Video. Real Clear Politics, August 1, 2013. YouTube.

SEAN HANNITY: Do you think Al Sharpton has ever created a job with all this activism? Has he prevented a life from being taken with all this activism? Has he united anybody, has he solved any problems among any groups that you know of, Michelle?
MICHELLE MALKIN: Al Sharpton has blood on his hands. He’s ruined lives, he’s been one of the worst purveyors of racial divisiveness and hate in my lifetime. And it’s – how can you expect an ounce of honor from a man who doesn’t have it? Certainly he’s not going to go out of his way to try to defend yours or be a standup guy. I love you like a brother, Sean. And I was very dismayed when you made that decision, and I know you made it out of good faith, to attend the National Action Network, and this guy is a shakedown artist who hates cops, who hates whites, who hates Jews, who has stoked his rent-a-mob to murder Yankel Rosenbaum, to destroy the life of Steven Pagonis when he lied about Tawana Brawley, and who has done nothing but foment the very kind of anger that he is now accusing you, a once “friend” of, and I think the lesson here is something that I have tried tirelessly to remind all conservatives. If you get in the snake pit, you will be bit. Conservatives have been far too nice to these people in a good faith effort to try and have honest race relations. You can’t with somebody who is a demagogue. And who is evil.
HANNITY: Maybe you’re right. Maybe I made a mistake. I gotta tell you. In, especially the first debate – we aired it here on Fox. I confronted him with all his comments about, for a Jewish man to pin his yarmulke on backwards and the white interloper comment that he made at Freddie’s at 125th street, that resulted in deaths. I’m gonna say to him, if this is a battle he wants to fight every day, I’m going to remind everybody, not of one isolated incident, but of a history of vitriol out of his mouth.
HANNITY: If it wasn’t so sad and incendiary, it would almost be like a Saturday Night Live skit, its so over-the-top.
MALKIN: It’s chilling, is what it is. Because in an era where we’re supposed to take Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to heart, judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, all this man has done is enrich himself by fomenting more racial division. And it should be known that in addition to that long string in history, of racial hate and demagoguery, that the National Action network itself is nothing more than a shake-down vehicle to buy legitimacy. And you have the fact that everyone from President George W Bush to Newt Gingrich to Al Gore. Every Democratic presidential candidate in the 2008 election and preceding it has kissed the ring of this race charlatan. And now he has reinvented himself, he thinks he can lose weight, put pancake makeup on, and all of a sudden he’s respectable. You do that Sean, and remind people every day of where that man came from. Warn people not to make the mistake of being an enabler of Al Sharpton, but be a disabler of his demagoguery.