Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ottolenghi on The Great Myth of Palestinian Statehood

• 1. OPINION EUROPE – Wall St Journal
• FEBRUARY 22, 2011
The Great Myth of Palestinian Statehood
Arabs' revolutionary awakening belies Western conventional wisdom in
the Middle East.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, American neoconservatives have forcefully argued
that the combination of economic stagnation, rapid demographic growth,
lack of upward social mobility, and political repression in most Arab
countries was a breeding ground for Islamic radicalism. Their "freedom
agenda"—which George W. Bush embraced during his first term but
largely relinquished after 2006—rejected the conventional wisdom that
the Arab rage that brought down the Twin Towers was a child of
Israel's occupation; that the Islamist wave sweeping the Muslim world
fed on the humiliation of the Palestinians; and that the growing
radicalism infecting Muslim immigrant communities in the West was made
in Israel.
This narrative informed the heretofore accepted view that the only
alternatives to repression in the Middle East were civil war and
failed states, or the rise of Islamic theocracies. That the status quo
was unjust, that the regimes were corrupt, and that their rulers were
cruel, were unpleasant but necessary facts of life.
The Arab world's unpalatable regimes would nonetheless help the West
midwife the solution to the region's ills: a Palestinian state that,
by restoring Palestinian justice and dignity, would miraculously
neutralize extremism.
So when the European Union's foreign-relations chief, Catherine
Ashton, spoke in Cairo last year, she only mentioned freedom
once—Palestinian freedom from Israel. This, even as the regimes
hosting her at the Arab League's headquarters were busy silencing and
torturing their own citizenry.
Europe has always had a vast array of political tools and economic
leverage to push its Arab allies to introduce reforms, liberalize
their media, unblock civil society, improve governance, and tame
corruption. But the Middle East's tyrants warned every European
visitor that doing so would open the floodgates to radical Islam.
Algeria, with the bloodbath that followed the Islamists' electoral
victory in 1992 and the subsequent military takeover, gave credence to
their arguments. Foreign ministry mandarins advised their bosses to
believe the tyrants: Solve Palestine, they whispered, and everything
else will follow.
And so they did, doggedly pursuing Palestinian-Israeli peace, and
furiously blaming Israel at every twist and turn not just for the lack
of peace but also for every other regional problem.
Now, the Arabs' revolutionary awakening should force the standard
bearers of Western conventional wisdom to finally abandon this
mindset. Unfortunately, the lesson is still not sinking in. Speaking
in Israel this month, former U.S. National U.S. Security Adviser
General James L. Jones identified progress on Israeli-Palestinian
peace as "the one thing that could have the local, regional and global
impact that is now a matter of urgent necessity." He added that
"continued Arab-Israeli dispute strengthens and amplifies the appeal
of [Iran's] message to the oppressed and those who feel that they have
no future."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also chimed in by dismissing
Israel's concerns about the stability of its peace treaty with Egypt
in the wake of Hosni Mubarak's ousting. Reminding the world of the old
Camel Corps wisdom, he said "This should not be a time for belligerent
language. It's a time to inject greater urgency into the Middle East
peace process."
Lost in all this is the simple fact that the ordinary Arabs who rose
against their regimes didn't do so because they wanted to free
Palestine, but because they wanted to free themselves. Western
mandarins always assumed that Palestinian freedom was all that the
Arab world needed, and in the process they resigned themselves to the
region's rampant corruption, repression, and persecution of women and
minorities. Yet Mohammad Bouazizi didn't set himself on fire in
December, thereby triggering Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution, to express
solidarity with Palestinians. Instead, his suicide was a direct
response to the economic and social strictures in his own country.
Meanwhile, his countrymen's spontaneous reaction to that desperate act
stood in sharp contrast to the customary Arab displays of solidarity
with Palestinians—usually staged, regime-backed affairs.
So suddenly, Arab freedom has taken precedence over Israel and
Palestine—or so says the much-maligned Arab Street, as it topples one
tyrant and challenges the next. The conventional wisdom that the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the mother of all problems in the
region has now been exposed as nothing but a myth. Will Western
leaders finally learn?
Mr. Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of
Democracies and author of "Iran: The Looming Crisis," (Profile Books,

2. The latest horrendous Zionist Conspiracies:

3. Poor Poor Barry Chamish:

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