Thursday, May 1, 2008

Are the Palestinians "Oppressed and Abused" by their Leaders

For my sins, I am a member of a listserve called the "Jewish Faculty Roundtable." Too much of the listserve is devoted to Israel, particularly the question of the so-called "anti-Israel climate" on campuses. It is good that Jews, especially wealthy Jews, believe that there is such a climate. For then they donate lots of money to universities, who then hire scholars of "Israel Studies," most of whom are center-left (if they are Israeli, they are usually more to the left.)

But on a recent post, Ed Halper, who is a professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Georgia, and a fine scholar, made the following remark about the "abuse and oppression" of the Palestinians by their leaders

The [Palestinian] leaders' intransigence, propagandizing, willingness to use ordinary Palestinians for cannon fodder, along with their theft of aid funds has done everything to prolong this conflict and prevent implementation of the only just and feasible solution, the self-determination for the two communities.

I cannot understand how people who claim to be leftists can turn a blind eye to this oppression.

Here's my response to this very bad argument.

First, change "Palestinians" to "Israelis", and change "theft of aid funds" to "fiscal corruption", and you have, arguably, an accurate description of Israel@60. So what?

Or, if you like, substitute "Americans," who, arguably, have been oppressed by their government for the last eight years. So what?

Or, if you believe that the Palestinians have been oppressed by their leaders -- I don't -- my question to you will be, so what?

It doesn't make a damn difference.

Because, you see, what the Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians, have in common is that their governments were elected in fair elections. The Palestinian elections were monitored by international observers. In each case, the people should have gotten what they deserved. If they voted the bums in, that's their headache.

But only in one case -- that of the Palestinians -- were the elections results overturned by outside interference. After supporting elections -- elections, I may add, that to a large extent, actually threw the corrupt bums out -- Israel arrested the elected officials that it did not like and imposed a siege on Gaza -- not because it was actually being attacked, but because the Palestinians had elected a group viewed by the US and Israel (and much of Europe), to be a terrorist organization.

Fair enough...but if you justify Israel's actions in the interest of Israeli security (what about Palestinian security?), you have automatically declared Palestinians territories to be, if not under occupation, than under the thumb of Israel. And therefore you have made the Israelis responsible for the governance of thsoe territories.

Indeed, it follows that the Israelis are responsible for the oppression of the Palestinians, even by their leaders -- for their leaders really have no power but serve at the whim of the Israelis.

In short, you can't have it both ways, but that is exactly what Israel, and its defenders want. They are willing to give the Palestinians autonomy as long as it is no threat to Israel.

If the Palestians feel "oppressed" by their leaders, then it is up for them to vote them out. To a large extent they did just that -- but that's when the "grownups" stepped in.


Anonymous said...

An excellent conclusion: many just omit the obvious fact that Israel is the occupying power; the Palestinians have no autonomy and Abbas is more or less dependent on outside powers for him to be a "leader" of the Palestinians.

Anonymous said...

You do realize that HAMAS was elected on the platform of, among other things, unilaterally abrogating the Oslo agreements. Why should you expect Israel to go along with that, even if HAMAS was "democratically" elected. Hitler came to power "democratically" as well, and he also went on to abrogate treaties unilaterally.

Jerry Haber said...


I expected Israel to "go along with that" because I expected it to recognize even the limited autonomy due the Palestinians. Had the Hamas government declared war on Israel, or even conducted acts of belligerence, then Israel could respond (after exhausting diplomatic means, etc., etc.)

As for abrogating treaties, Hamas did not abrogate treaties, nor did the PA. And even if it did, that would not be a legitimate cause for war.

AFter all, Bibi came to power and completely reinterpreted Oslo 180 degrees away from its intent. You know that, since Bible opposed Oslo. He gutted Oslo, lied, about it, and employed lawyers to come up with "intellectual deceptions" to read those into the Oslo Bet documents.

Oh, by the way, the claim that Bibi's foreign ministry crew made up "intellectual distortions" was made to me by Eli Rubenstein. You may have heard of him -- he is now a Supreme Court Justice, and was the Attorney General.

But, according to you, had Bibi campaigned on a platform against Oslo, and had the Palestinians the power, they would have been perfectly right to invade Israel and thwart the people's voice.

The German mashal isn't bad, but I think you got the nimshal mixed up. Perhaps you want me to give you a list of the countries whose democratically elected leadership was replaced by the Germans, on the grounds that those leaderships constituted a security threat.

Bullies always do that.