Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Two interesting posts from other blogs on the mideast.

First, this long essay from Jim Henley on, among other things, the ways that Israeli settlement policy has acted to vitiate the "two-state solution" which Israel agreed on at Oslo, by leaving any potential Palestinian state with essentially no territorial integrity. It's a point well taken, particularly since one of the architects of that policy was Ariel Sharon. One quibble; Jim's right to say that

All the defensive blather about how really the Palestinians have it much worse in Arab countries does not mean that they do not, in an absolute sense, have it bad in the West Bank and Gaza.

However, there are two reasons to raise the point other than defending Israel. First, it sheds light on the true motives of the "support" the Palestinians get from their Arab brethren, which isn't to improve their lot, but rather to preserve their squalor as a casus belli.

Second, the existence of the refugee camps for a separate population of "Palestinian Arabs" within Arab states is itself a historical anomaly. Historically, Arabian nationalism has been pan-Arab; the current Arab states in the region and their borders are to a great extent colonial artifacts, which are seen by the Arab themselves as fragments of the historic caliphate, and even recent history has seen repeated attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together (like the United Arab Republic which for a brief time united Egypt and Syria). And there was certainly no "Palestinian nation" before 1948; if the Arabs there identified with any Arab state at all before that time, it was Syria.

So, Palestinian nationalism is itself a fact that the Arab governments have created for political purposes, much as the Israeli annexationists are trying to "create facts" with the settlements. But, at this point, it's a fact regardless, which Israel has acknowledged as such at Oslo. Much as the annexationists would like to contest it, it's probably too late now.

One other comment on a blog-commentator. Steven den Beste is among several who are pushing the line that Bush's speech of last week didn't really call upon Israel to withdraw, at least not until they had finished everything that they were going to do anyway, but was meant solely to provide "diplomatic cover" for continued Israeli operations. The most charitable thing to say about this interpretation (which persists despite repeated statements from Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and Bush himself that the speech shouldn't be "parsed" in this way, and that "without delay" means just that) is that the diplomatic cover operation has failed; diplomatic protests against Israeli operations have gotten ever more shrill regardless.

What we're left with is a situation in which Bush is widely seen to have requested an immediate withdrawal, and the Israelis are widely seen to be ignoring him, particularly after Sharon's recent speech to Parliament, which in effect said "we'll be done when we're done". The US just ends up looking foolish.


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