Read Middle-East historian Fouad Ajami and political columnist Thomas L. Friedman in the NYTimes. Also read Israeli historian Michael Oren in the WSJ. Then listen to Onpoint Radio's show with Palestinian analysts talking about the Hamas takeover of Gaza.
In the two NYTimes' columns, there is scathing indictment of Palestinian leadership. For both Ajami and Friedman, the practical usage of masks by military on both sides symbolizes the rot at the core of the problem. Men enhanced with their power, or lack of it - the two working together becoming vicious catharsis - especially as guns flood the region. And for both Ajami and Oren, the failure of the Palestinians is due to an incapability to build any stable governing structures.
Listen to Monday's Onpoint radio show and the voices are raw with pain. Hanan Ashrawi, independent member of the Palestinian Parliament and Sari Nusseibeh, President and professor of philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem talk with host Tom Ashbrook for a one hour. They sound like they've already been talking to him for ten hours. Totally exhausted. At least spiritually.
Nusseibeh, perhaps the bravest public figure living in the Middle East, is characteristically thoughtful. Ashrawi, who has no lack of courage but strikes me as predictably full of scorn, is typically furious at the Israelis. But the way they speak to each other is moving, showing a tenderness that made me think of two family members who have just watched their house burn. They have.
Once again, it all reminds me that the only Palestinian enemy equal to Israel is the assorted crew who publicly suggest they are their friends. Those who are so vehement about final justice that they'll devote all primary resources (from money to words) to propping up a romanticized mythos rather than think a bit about contributing to actual infrastructure. In an effort for "statehood," whether separate or bi-national, it's all talk. So cheap and yet so draining of resources.
Too little thinking among supporters of both Palestinians and Israelis consider smaller processes to buttress any ongoing co-existence between the two peoples. Today the JPost reported on an American-sponsored science project that was doing just that, but it's funding is now being cut. Really sad.
If the British educators who recently initiated a boycott of Israeli universities didn't have their heads up their ass, they'd be thinking around creative processes to contribute something to Palestinian life, other than taking away something from their enemy. Michael Oren's column today made a great deal of sense to me, but I wish he'd give the same passion and intelligence to exploring the endless Israeli bureaucratic stranglehold his nation holds over so much Palestinian enterprise, from small businesses to farmers. Ajami is a hero of mine. My wishes for him is someone gave him a radio show, as he speaks to people with different viewpoints than his own thoughtfully and fully.
It's unlikely any of those things will happen. But as we mentioned in previous posts, perhaps there are designers and anthropologists who could think pro-actively. Not about saving Israel or the Palestinians as separate or common nations. Rather about sustainable processes, no matter how small, that give both sides ways to co-operate.
Personally, I trust markets to do that. Yes, impediments litter that geography like a dumping ground. But there's also millions of dollars and way too much time spent on weapons, whether the kind that shoot ammunition or words. Some day hopefully well-meaning parties on all sides will stop needing to be "right" and start being effective, the benchmark being that which fosters rather than subverts life.