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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do they really want a state?

Jakub Grygiel, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins may have finally figured out the 'Palestinians,' and because of him so has Robert D. Kaplan, a writer at the Atlantic. Although I disagree with much of Kaplan's article (which includes encouraging the Obama administration to pressure Israel - if he's correct in his diagnosis of the 'Palestinians' there is no moral justification for doing that), this part in the middle is dead on. The 'Palestinians' don't have a state because they don't want one:
With Fatah and Hamas facing off against each other, the Palestinians are simply too divided to plausibly meet Israel across the table. And because the Palestinians are unable to cut a deal, a majority of Israelis, as shown by the recent election results, have apparently given up any hope for peace.

But there is a deeper structural and philosophical reason why the Palestinians remain stateless—a reason more profound than the political narrative would indicate. It is best explained by associate Johns Hopkins professor Jakub Grygiel, in his brilliant essay, “The Power of Statelessness: the Withering Appeal of Governing” (Policy Review April/May 2009). In it, Grygiel does not discuss the Palestinians in particular, but rather the attitude of stateless people in general.

Statehood is no longer a goal, he writes. Many stateless groups “do not aspire to have a state,” for they are more capable of achieving their objectives without one. Instead of actively seeking statehood to address their weakness, as Zionist Jews did in an earlier phase of history, groups like the Palestinians now embrace their statelessness as a source of power.

New communication technologies allow people to achieve virtual unity without a state, even as new military technologies give stateless groups a lethal capacity that in former decades could be attained only by states. Grygiel explains that it is now “highly desirable” not to have a state—for a state is a target that can be destroyed or damaged, and hence pressured politically. It was the very quasi-statehood achieved by Hamas in the Gaza Strip that made it easier for Israel to bomb it. A state entails responsibilities that limit a people’s freedom of action. A group like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the author notes, could probably take over the Lebanese state today, but why would it want to? Why would it want responsibility for providing safety and services to all Lebanese? Why would it want to provide the Israelis with so many tempting targets of reprisal? Statelessness offers a level of “impunity” from retaliation.

But the most tempting aspect of statelessness is that it permits a people to savor the pleasures of religious zeal, extremist ideologies, and moral absolutes, without having to make the kinds of messy, mundane compromises that accompany the work of looking after a geographical space.
I wonder whether Kaplan would accept the corollary of the theory that the 'Palestinians' don't want a state: That their real goal is to destroy the Jewish state. Somehow I doubt Kaplan would accept it, but there is certainly plenty of evidence that is true. How else to explain the nihilistic 'Palestinian' culture that glorifies suicide bombers and makes 'martyrs' out of them.

Grygiel only mentions the 'Palestinians' once and then only in the context of Hamas. It is Kaplan who takes Grygiel's theory and applies it to the 'Palestinians.' I wonder whether Grygiel would accept that Fatah also has no interest in a 'Palestinian' state. Most of the evidence that the 'Palestinians' do not want a state is based on the actions of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom have turned down Israeli and American attempts to create such a state within the last ten years. Would Grygiel agree? And if he would, could someone present the evidence to the Obama administration before it is too late, so that they can change their delusional foreign policy that is going to try to force a state on the 'Palestinians'?


At 5:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

A decade ago Arafat turned down a state and his successor managed to artfully sidestep the offer too. For the Palestinians, statehood is a zero sum outcome - the only way they will accept one is if Israel loses. But if Israel doesn't lose, then they want to put it off as long as possible. There is nothing they get from statehood they don't already have from being perpetual victims. And giving up the latter is not worth the price of independence.

For a lot of reasons, besides of course seeking to destroy Israel which is the main one, the Palestinians really don't want a state no matter how much others beg them to take it.


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