Middle East studies in the News
"Mine Enemies Make Me Wiser" [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Martin Peretz
The verse is from Psalms 119, that is, King David, poet and hero.
Robert Malley and Hussein Agha are (let me just to be polite say "adversaries" instead of) enemies of Israel. That is why they are so welcome in the New York Review of Books and, of course, on the op-ed page of the New York Times where their latest missive, "The Two-State Solution Doesn't Solve Anything," appeared on Tuesday. (The same piece was published simultaneously in the Guardian, the closest thing to a pro-jihadist publication in ordinary journalism.) While fronting as an academic at St. Antony's College, Oxford, Agha makes no bones about his role as a strategist for the Palestinian leadership or as one of his admirers and the brains behind "J-Street," Daniel Levy, (the son of Lord Levy but that's another ugly story) characterizes him, "a track-II activist." In any case, Agha is not a flack for the official Palestinians; he is really and for all intents and purposes just one of them, even more under their intellectual discipline than Rashid Khalidi. Unlike Khalidi, he is also coarse.
Whether Agha is track-II or track-I, however, Robert Malley was once a real comer. He was a special assistant on Israeli-Arab affairs to President Clinton and then reappeared with basically false narratives of the Barak-Arafat negotiations as the Democratic administration limped to an end. When Barack Obama was running for the nomination, the Clinton campaign put out rumors that Malley was one of Obama's middle east advisers, and then the McCain campaign picked up the same tale, with even less scare-success than Hillary had.
I was one of those who put the kibosh on the story, and I was correct. Malley was not attached to the Obama campaign and he is not attached in any way to the present administration. You can understand why. Primarily, it is because he is against a "two-state solution." There were hints of that in his previous appearances in print. But there are no deceptions in the present Times article. The Times and the NYRB, for that matter, have previously published encomia for a "one-state solution." You will recall Tony Judt's outcroppings for that. But, then, you should also recall Leon Wieseltier's devastation in TNR.
The road to a two-state solution gets more obtruded with time. That is not because of the Israelis, whatever political obstacles there were for Bibi Netanyahu to return to his prior commitment to the formula in his first term as prime minister. Let's face facts: every Israel prime minister except Yitzhak Shamir has favored a two-state solution. It was the essence of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine which was the underpinning of Israel's international legality. Ben Gurion was for a two-state solution, and Sharret and Eshkol and Allon and Golda Meir and Begin and Rabin and Peres and Sharon and Olmert and Netanyahu, too. Had the Arabs accepted a two-state solution after the Six Day War, they would have gotten everything back that they lost, save for the ancient Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. But that is history that almost no one knows which is because almost no one knows any history at all.
The two-state solution is imperfect in that it won't fulfill all of the historic ambitions of the peoples in conflict. But, of course, the major impediment for the Arabs of Palestine and the Arabs outside Palestine is that Israel is and can only be a Jewish state. There is a certain insane chutzpah for the Arabs to object to the Jewish character of Israel. The fact is that its Jewish character was written into its very charter by the General Assembly 62 years ago. Indeed, the whole idea of peoplehood which informed the Wilsonian framework of the post-World War I formula for peace after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire is deeply enmeshed with Zionism. The envisioned Jewish commonwealth was as clear as a nation-state could be. The map of Europe was also almost axiomatic. Only in the Middle East (and, there, only outside of Palestine), however, did the cartography of new countries have to be imagined and invented. The states that were thus created are the cobbled-together and hobbled last impositions of imperialism on the natives: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan. The emirates of the region are just jokes. Well, maybe you do want to go to the Louvre-in-the-sands. And the Guggenheim, too.
Agha and Malley assert at the end of their article that "the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense its always been, how to define the state of Israel." Why the essential Jewish character of Israel should be problematic when all of the neighboring states--those actually adjoining and also the non-abutters--define themselves as both Arab and Muslim are exempt from the tribulations of self-definition is difficult to assess. It's not that any of those states are at all achievers. In fact, there is no Arab state that is a success, let alone a secular success.
Imagine for a moment the one-state solution in historic Palestine west of the Jordan. What peace will there be? What economic progress? What laws and what justice? What science? What kind of class system? Try to deny that all of this would be a nightmare.
The one-state solution is a fraud. Those who press it know that it is a fraud. And those who publish it do, as well.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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