The Unbearable Lightness of Mainstream Thinking on Israel-Palestinian Issues

Here we have the three premises of the Obama Administration: The status quo is untenable and peace is desperately needed; the PA wants peace and cannot be pressed since it won’t listen while Arabs and Muslims won’t stand for it; Israel is stubborn and doesn’t know what’s good for itself.

And what is meant by peace? A paper signed by everyone whose terms quickly fall apart? A new equivalent of the Oslo accords? A celebration that lasts a while and soon dissolves into more bloodshed and a new generation of conflict? A new equivalent of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that would be renounced by a new regime or when a new balance of power makes that possible?

Finally, as for the demographic argument, it is a ridiculous joke, a straw man. Who cares how many Palestinians there are in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? Israel will never annex those territories .But it is also a perfect symbol for the absurdity of the argument. In effect, it says:

Quick! Make peace because there are more and more Palestinians!

But if Israel makes huge concessions in an agreement won’t the Palestinians tear it up when they increase in number even more and feel stronger? And then won’t Israel be much worse off than it is now, having turned over territory and full sovereignty to a more powerful enemy?

Here’s what bothers me most: I have no problem with people arguing that it is important to pursue peacemaking efforts despite all the problems of Palestinian intransigence, Fatah extremism, Hamas’ power, the radicalism of Palestinian public opinion, and the tremendous problems that would occur in a post-two-state-solution situation.

But if they tell people that the Palestinian leadership is eager for a comprehensive peace agreement and leave out all of these problems that is called lying. And lying will only produce failure. First, it will produce the failure of its own efforts, since conducting a diplomatic campaign without accurate analysis is a game of blind man’s bluff. Second, if they were ever actually to “succeed” that would lead to disaster since a peace agreement made on false premises will not stand.

Thomas Friedman is another example. He's one of the leaders in the lying-for-peace movement. He can make as his main argument that it's bad for Israel to occupy the West Bank permanently because the demographic shift will make Israel into an apartheid state. First, Israel isn't occupying the West Bank at all in the post-1967 sense because the Palestinian Authority governs the population there. Second, Israel has accepted in principle that its presence in the West Bank is temporary, pending a real peace settlement. Third, the demographic gap is far smaller than is being presented. Fourth, demography doesn't matter since Israel has no interest in annexing, or even running directly, the West Bank and thus the number of Palestinians is no more significant than the number of Egyptians or Jordanians. And finally the apartheid argument has no actual relevance whatsoever since West Bank Palestinians aren't subject to any Israel rules of this sort.

In other words, an argument repeated in the largest newspapers, television, classrooms, and so on, is totally false but is never subjected to the test of a serious critique that points out the flaws and the need to respond to it.

Some of the people who repeat such mantras are merely ignorant or simply imitating. Others are leading the lying for peace movement. Many or most are also promoting their careers by saying what might be "politically correct" but is actually factually incorrect. Lying for peace, just like lying to prevent "Islamophobia" are nominally good causes but are realy lying for bloodshed and political disaster.

Is it rude to point this out? It would be if this were just a game. But the lives of millions of people are involved.

This experience has confirmed my belief that the hegemonic arguments in Western governments, academia, and mainstream media are not only wrong but are so weak that they can only be kept from collapsing by making sure most people never hear cogent critiques. These premises—on which we are supposed to bet our lives—have no basis in reality.