Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more

Dear Ethan Bronner,

It is not just “Israeli and Palestinian commentators” who think little, if anything, will come of these peace talks. Ahmadinejad thinks so. I think so, too. Most people who aren’t blinded by the ignorant optimism of the shiny facade of multilateralism and diplomatic negotiations in the Oval Office think so. It’s called realism, not pessimism. When bombs are being dropped on alternate days on Lebanon and Gaza, you know talking won’t do a damn thing.

The talks were doomed from the start.

Abbas wasn’t actually elected in the last election cycle and unilaterally appointed himself his own successor. He is supposed to represent Palestinians and the PLO, the self-proclaimed “sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and the umbrella organization for its ten member parties. In reality, he represents primarily his own interests and those of Fatah, his party. The division between Hamas and Fatah is only one of many within Palestinian Authority politics, and this still ignores the complicated situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel (or Israeli Arabs, or Arab citizens of Israel, or Arabs 48…). These Palestinian-Israelis do not live in what would be part of a future Palestinian state in today’s view of a two-state solution – occupied West Bank and Gaza – but are still affected by Israeli policies and the outcomes of any negotiations.

Netanyahu’s administration – led by Lieberman – is building up an impressive reputation for discrimination and abuses against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians under occupation. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, “spiritual leader” of the Shas party, has adopted the rhetoric commonly associated with Hezbollah and Ayatollah Khomeini. Bedouin villages are razed and razed and razed again. Activists who speak out in support of democracy, justice, and equality risk finding themselves in Israeli prisons without access to attorney for 21 days under the special security provisions of Israeli law. Illegal settlements continue to be built and rebuilt despite an official yet mostly un-enforced moratorium which expires on September 26.

I wonder what Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak contributed to the proceedings other than possibly a smorgasbord of delicious Middle Eastern delicacies. They’re only there because they’re the only members of the Arab League than can legitimately and officially appear in a room with Israeli officials, and someone besides the US has to appear to support the proceedings.

These talks serve only to pay lip service to the US, the Quartet, and those who still manage to convince themselves that 50 years of talking is going to achieve something. No one is interested in talking anymore.

Whether out of apathy or realism, no one here is talking about the meetings. There is tacit acknowledgement that they aren’t worth our breath, our thought, our time. Except to lampoon their potential, Israeli and Arab media are paying them no attention. Neither should the US media, aside from the requisite mention that they are occurring. These “negotiations” are only happening to appease and pacify the international community, a community that should recognize by now the futility of the endeavor. The world needs to further recognize that these men are essentially powerless when faced with entire societies at ideological odds with themselves and each other. It’s just a big joke.

And yet they persevere. Netanyahu could better spend his time working towards peace by disbanding and ceasing settlements entirely. Abbas could cede power and open elections within the West Bank. Let’s not forget that Gaza has an elected leadership. All sides – and believe you me, this issue has more than two sides – could work towards legitimate democracy for all citizens, taking down the wall, de-settling settlements, and abandoning the idea of a theocracy once and for all.

We need fair and equal resource distribution, access to education and jobs, unbiased curricula in schools, and political accountability. Freedom of speech, opinion, assembly, thought, press, and religion. Open borders between the Occupied Territories and Israel proper. I feel like these are pipe dreams, and they certainly are not issues that are going to be solved by peace talks, especially ones that take for granted the idea of two states.

The idea is so passé.

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One thought on “Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more

  1. Well, there is an “existential” quality to this situation, more than the war-mongers realize. That term betokens the discovery by some philosophers that ideas can get in the way of truth. “Ideology” is the problem. It’s like two scientists arguing about the possible significance of some data for two competing theories before they’ve absolutely assured themselves of the quality of the data. “Preserve the phenomenon”, advised Galileo. That is, remember what it is you are trying to explain. A peace-maker is a scientist studying human rage, looking for the place where anger (legitimate, “a sign of hope”) gives way to resentment (reheated anger, solipsism (“the self alone exists”), therefore illegitimate as a social grievance).
    The rule for the peace-maker is the rule the peace-maker tries to get the contesting parties to adopt: believe your senses. All ideas start with material supplied by the senses, but human freedom, the power of imagination, can take any idea and detach it and distort it from what the senses had reported. It is very easy to see what you are looking for, whether out of hostility, greed, or sheer whimsy.
    The one thing you need to keep seeing, if it is continually appearing, is that non-Jews are disadvantaged under Israeli law. That justifies anger on the non-Jew side, and speaks of resentment on the Jews’ side (not that a Jew would want such advantages). Keep telling yourself to see what is there to be seen; and when absolutely everyone around you is telling you it is not there, you might need a poster in your mind reminding you that it might be there anyway. A poster saying something like “Why do they call it ‘the Jewish State’?”.
    And a maintenance tip. Keep your powder dry, a safe place to relax your thoughts and let them run, so you can be assured you aren’t chasing yourself in a circle of recrimination, leading you to further self-mistrust. I’ll bet if you made a practice of running into a non-Jew every day, a single glance would provide that poster I suggested. The root of all discipline is calm: seeing what is there to be seen.

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