Monday, February 19, 2007

Barking up the wrong tree

Although the Economist is quite reliable on a host of issues, it has a characteristically blinkered editorial on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this week's issue. The piece's concluding paragraphs highlight what is wrong with its recommendations:
In the 1980s Israelis did not let their divisions over the occupied lands tear their nation apart. Why should they, so long as the Palestinians gave no hint of ever accepting Israel? It all began to change when by accepting the Jewish state's permanence Arafat made the dream of peace look real to Israelis.
The trick now is to make statehood look real enough to Palestinians for the majority to abandon Hamas's bleak vision of war to the end. Israelis say that they tried this at Camp David in 2000 and got nowhere. Well then, they—and the Americans—need to try again. When Palestinians come to believe that a generous two-state deal is really available, many may reconsider their support of Hamas. It is time to soften the economic pressure and negotiate a detailed promise of statehood that Mr Abbas can take to his people. It will be hard, but this is a better way to win the argument against Hamas than the past year's vain efforts to make the Palestinians jump through verbal hoops they have come to consider humiliating.
Verbal hoops? It seems to me that the people jumping through verbal hoops are the editors at the Economist. The premise for this editorial is that the great majority of Palestinians want peace, and would accept Israel if only they were certain that Israel would allow them to form a state. Unfortunately, this is simply untrue, as has been established repeatedly and incontrovertibly over several decades. It is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israel would be willing – nay, eager – to relinquish its control over the West Bank, if it could do so without imperilling its security. This willigness has been expressed through opinion polls, elections and by much of the political establishment on numerous occasions, clearly and repeatedly. Therefore the availability of a generous two-state solution is manifestly not the goal that many Palestinians – not least their leaders from both Fatah and Hamas – are working for, otherwise they would have removed the main impediments to reaching such a resolution: their continuing violence against Israeli civilians, and the indoctrination of their children to believe that Israelis and Jews are the scum of the earth and that ultimately Israel will be violently removed and its residents pushed into the sea.
I'm not saying that there are no extremist Israelis who hate the Palestinians, and would not want to relinquish any land under any circumstances. What I am saying is that a crushing majority of Israelis do not want to fight the Palestinians, and would be happy to give up the virtual totality of the West Bank (making up the retention of a few of the largest settlements with territorial concessions elsewhere) so that the Palestinians could establish their own state. Therefore, what needs to be done now is not encourage the Palestinians to think – as the Economist wants Israel to do – that there is a possibility of them achieving their original, preferred goal: destroying the State of Israel and expelling its Jewish residents. What needs to be done, as Daniel Pipes has ably explained, is to convince the Palestinians that the best deal they are going to get is the one being offered to them by Israel, which by dint of being a stable democracy is able to impose the will of its population's crushing majority on a recalcitrant, mostly non-violent, meager minority – as was so starkly proven when Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip. This deal being offered to the Palestinians by Israel is very similar to the end result the Economist seems to advocate. It is therefore ironic, that it should support precisely the policies that will ensure that this outcome fails to materialise.

Friday, February 02, 2007


The other day there was a minor story in the Italian press involving Veronica Lario, Silvio Berlusconi's wife. What the episode highlighted for me is how appalling the Italian media is. The Washington Post notes:
Italy's biggest mainstream newspaper, Milan's Corriere della Sera, dedicated five large-format pages to the story on Thursday -- including 21 articles, 21 photographs, one cartoon and one graphic.
My younger sister told me yesterday that La Repubblica (another mainstream daily, which has a smaller format) dedicated six pages to the incident. I guess this should be no surprise when the death of the Pope (admittedly a far more newsworthy subject) warranted 25 pages of coverage in Corriere della Sera the day before it happened.
There are many things that can be said about Italian newspapers (which are, incredibly, the most high-brow expression of the media in Italy), and none of them are compliments. In addition to hair-raising inaccuracy, an astonishing lack of impartiality and the total absence of investigative reporting, there seems to be a problem with the priorities given to certain subjects. What a shame.