Friday, October 19, 2007

The Palestinian Question of William Pfaff

David Seaton's News Links
In a sense I make my living reading the newspapers and for me the world's best columnist on international affairs is an "American in Paris" named William Pfaff. His byline has appeared in the Paris Trib for many years with occasional appearances in such prestigious venues as The New York Review of Books.

He is the columnist's columnist. He has had an enormous influence on me and my work and I would describe him as the "anti-Thomas Friedman".

He has just written about the best thing that I have read recently about the situation Israel finds itself today. He has boiled the most complex of problems down to the simplest of questions. Guru jai, jai, Guru maharaj!

The emphasis and color are strictly my own. DS

William Pfaff; A Question for Israelis
Abstract: The question is this: suppose that Israel is given all that its government seems to want. No Palestinian state, Israel continues colonization, annexing more of the Palestinian territories, or even all of them. What then? What will happen to the Palestinians in the years ahead? What would the land of Israel, and what now are the Palestinian territories, look like in 50 years?(...) The question is what is to be done now. Forming a new state for the Palestinians is the solution that is being attempted. This why Condoleezza Rice has made seven visits to Israel this year. She wishes to bring the parties to a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, next month, to advance the creation of such a state. It is hard to expect much to result from this initiative, since Israel gives no evidence of wishing to see progress in the matter. The government’s announcement of still another seizure of Palestinian land in Jerusalem a few days before Secretary Rice’s arrival seemed a deliberate slap in her face.

One must ask the Israeli government the following question. Suppose, as is probable, that no American administration, now or later, puts any obstacle in the way of whatever you want to do. Suppose there were no effective international pressures on you to stop colonization and land seizures. Suppose that no Palestinian state is created. What are you going to do about the Palestinians?(...)

American opinion is shifting. The Walt-Mearsheimer book had had an effect. The deliberate Israeli sinking of the USS Liberty in 1967 has been taken up again in the mainstream press. War in Iraq and the possibility of attack on Iran has increased popular concern about Israeli influence on American policy. Israeli human rights groups have denounced the treatment of the Palestinians, and recently have accused the Israeli authorities of trying to force Palestinians needing emergency medical help in Israeli hospitals to collaborate with Israel’s security services as a condition for treatment.

How long can this continue, even as a purely practical problem of physical control of a hostile population? The Palestinian population continues to grow more rapidly than Israel’s, and the average age grow younger, producing cohorts of young people who are politically radicalized, ready to turn again to violence to be free of these conditions of life. There are certain to be new Palestinian uprisings.

In international law, Israel is responsible for these people. What methods of permanent control does it envisage? There are some in Israel who hope their misery will force the Palestinians to abandon the territories. But to go where? In what conditions, and under what compulsion?

(...) I am not asking this for polemical purposes. I am asking a practical question. What is Israel going to do with these people? The problem exists, and however convenient to ignore today, it will have to answered. READ IT ALL

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