Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Palestinian Question.

Mike Tomasky has an interesting post about Palestine, and he wraps it up with this observation:
However, they have very little appreciation of the fact that we invented p.r. and radio and television and mass communications, and that prowess in these kinds of venues is what Americans appreciate and respond to above all else.
It's difficult to understate how important this is. While suicide bombing is no doubt an economical way of going on the offensive it is hardly an optically appealing one. Couple this in with general Arab antipathies toward Israel, culminating in Ahmadinejad's threats, and you're halfway toward the widespread view that Israel is a tiny, overmatched nation in a sea of hostile, insane religious fanatics. Clearly, this view isn't correct--Israel has historically proven itself quite capable of defending itself against its enemies, and while much of Israel's military activity is deliberately undertaken with a view toward making it seem defensible toward the world, they are not averse to using all sorts of soft power mechanisms to undermine any sort of Palestinian sovereignty. Putting up the security fence is but one of the more harsh examples. There's a reason, to name another example, that Israel "graciously" provides electricity to West Bank Palestinians. Now, I honestly believe that Israel ultimately has little desire to permanently occupy Gaza, but they're hardly the completely innocent nation that the US seems to believe. This isn't to say that they're "bad" or that the Palestinians are "good" but rather that everything is really complicated in this struggle, and the closer you look, the less clear it seems.

But, of course, this is not stuff that can be yakked about on Scarborough. There needs to be a greater effort on the Palestinian side to win more global support through more canny politics and better self-presentation. The Israel/Palestine conflict isn't necessarily insolvable, and there's a general consensus (on both sides, that madman Bibi notwithstanding) that a two-state solution is the logical conclusion. But the Palestinians have severely damaged their cause by a) decades of suicide bombings that seem only recently to have stopped, b) electing Hamas, and c) frequently framing the conflict as being about Israeli perfidy instead of a question of moral rights. What doesn't seem to be understood is that nobody is going to take seriously the complaints of a person--regardless of their correctness--if he's going to strap a bomb to his back. This is all Arafat's legacy, and that dumb old bastard did about as much harm as possible to the Palestinian statehood movement. If Palestine really wants the world to bring pressure to bear on Israel to grant Palestine a state, they need a leader who plays on the world stage, not somebody whose only concern is keeping every single ultraradical in line (like Arafat). Palestine could use someone who could note, say, that Palestinians are the most secular-minded of any Muslim people, or that the sort of Islam practiced in Palestine looks a lot more like Christianity than it does Orthodox Islam. The hospitality of Muslims is, by all accounts, outstanding, and provides a good counterpoint to images of stone-throwing. There's certainly stuff about the Palestinians that can be sold to America, but they need a leader who gets it, and I'm sorry, but it's not Mahmoud Abbas, though he's clearly an improvement on Arafat.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.