The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Banal Transgressions

The New Republic is a sophisticated Left-of-Center magazine that covers politics and the arts from a decidedly Liberal perspective. It is a bit surprising, then, when its Editor-in-Chief, Martin Peretz, discusses Palestine and the Arab people, not from the typical vantage point of the Left (a stream of condemnation focusing on the fiction of Israel’s oppression, humiliation and other wrongs), but from a hard-nosed vantage point of recent history,

Paretz discusses recent genocides—Cambodia, Bosnia, Rewanda, and most recently Darfur—and suggests that the Left’s obsession with the perceived wrongs that Israel has visited on the Palestinians is, well, here’s what he says:
So let me say outright that what wrongs the Israelis may have done to the Palestinians are, in the contexts of history and of our time, actually ... let me not say "trivial." How about banal? Not that this makes them right. Still, in the grand setting of the past, as well as in the circumstances of Palestine in this century and last, the quarrels between Jew and Arab are minor. Minor, that is, if there were a wish to come to settlement on the part of Arabs. But, for them, every loss (an olive tree, an orchard, an uninhabited hill) is a challenge to the divine order of things. In that sense, the world of Muslim Arabs is unchangeable and untouchable.

But nothing is unchangeable and untouchable, including Palestine. The fact is, of course, that the other Arabs do not care a fig for Palestine, not a fig. Even with their lush surplus of petroleum cash, the oil Arabs do not pay their self-assessed tax for Palestine. The Emirates, perhaps the greatest employment agency for foreign labor anywhere, hire relatively few Palestinians, preferring Malaysian and Pakistanis and, if Arabs, Yemenis and Egyptians. The sultans are not dumb: They saw how the Palestinians behaved when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

To the extent that the Arab states have sustained these "refugees"--that's another matter, better left for another time--in place and through time deep into the fourth generation they perpetuate the wound that, unlike in the Philoctetes myth, never heals. Now, it is something of an accomplishment, a perverse one, to be sure, to have made Palestine the fixation of the United Nations and virtually every one of its agencies. But this has not brought relief to a single Palestinian.

How do I say this? The Palestine national movement is a fraud. Internecine killing has taken far more Arab lives than armed encounters with the Israelis. It is full of pomp but no ordinary circumstance. You can judge the reality of Palestine by the travels of its leaders. Arafat went everywhere. The Palestine Liberation Organization had embassies everywhere, more perhaps than did Israel. The Palestinian Authority is represented in God only knows how many capitals. And it is now Mahmoud Abbas who could collect frequent flyer miles if he didn't have the illusion of being president of a state.

Both the Left and the Right have their own hypocrisies, but there’s something particularly objectionable to the manner in which the Left never calls on the Moslem nation as a whole to put pressure on the Moslem thugs who are doing the killing in Darfur. Maybe it’s because they know it won’t work and it's easier and often feels better to blame the United States for its lack of action.

At the same time, the Left castigates Israel for “banal” transgressions that in any other context would not even make the radar screen of world events. My, oh, my—the Israelis put up roadblocks to stop suicide bombers, inconveniencing the Palestinians (gee, I wonder if a bomb going off in a Pizza Parlor or at a wedding is considered an “inconvenience”). My oh my—they conduct military exercises (and yes, kill people) to stop the launching of thousands of Hamas rockets that fall purposely on civilian targets. My oh my—they try over and over and over again to establish a peaceful settlement with a collection of thugs who abrogate within days whatever agreement is signed. And yet, it’s all on the Israelis, at least from the viewpoint of many on the Left.

Why do so many on the Left despise Israel and back a people who advocate their destruction? Why do they align themselves with a people (the Palestinians) who routinely exhibit an anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-peace, anti-free expression, anti-liberal agenda. It’s a puzzlement that Peretz doesn’t address.

Maybe he should ask Barack Obama to explain it.