Straight Talk on Palestinian Statehood

| 5/11/2009 11:31:39 AM

Palestinian Camp

The issue of Palestinian statehood rode the Pope’s robe into the headlines this week. The pope opted to speak of a “homeland” for Palestinians, avoiding the word “state” like it was a dirty word. It’s the kind of acute linguistic caution that has poisoned the entire debate around Palestinian rights.  As an antidote, straight-talking Middle East analyst and historian Juan Cole confronts the statehood issue with blunt force in a post at his Informed Comment blog.

“The contemporary world is a world of states,” explains Cole, “and falling between the cracks because you lack citizenship in any state is a guarantee of marginality and oppression.”

Cole folds the stateless status of Palestinians into its proper historical context, and then makes his argument with a clarity that is all too rare in this notoriously contentious debate: “Statelessness was an attribute of slaves in premodern times. The Jews of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s were the primary victims of the crime of stripping people of their citizenship in a state. Make no mistake; it is Israel that deprived them of statehood, which the 1939 British White Paper pledged to them, and which other League of Nations Mandates, such as French Syria and Lebanon and British Iraq, achieved. Apologists try to shift the blame for Palestinian statelessness from Israel to someone else. But it won't work.”

Source: Informed Comment 


Eric Solstein
5/18/2009 12:55:15 PM

The author of this blurb might find Juan Cole to somehow be a straight talking analyst, but I must beg to differ, and I am not alone. Being the singular source for the anti-Zionist "translation" of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, where contrary even to his own government's official translation, the prediction of the destruction of Israel becomes little more than a warm and fuzzy rechristening. But Cole even gets his most fundamental history wrong. The Jews of Europe, who he holds up as an exemplar of the ills and vulnerabilities of statelessness, were for the most part citizens of their respective states, and their example can more easily demonstrate how little protection being part of a state can mean for its minorities. His insistence over Israeli culpability for the statelessness of the Palestinians, does not make it so, and the historical record is clear on the negative Arab response to the original UN proposal. But worse than his bias and selective history is the dearth of creative thought that fills the vacuum. A much more thoughtful treatment of this problem (and one that does not let the Israelis off the hook) may be found in Robert D. Kaplan's Atlantic article of April 21. Mr. Kaplan explains how statelessness offers many advantages to certain Palestinian factions, how it gives them power, deniability and allows them "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." He also links to another fascinating treatment of the nature of statelessness, by Jakub Krygiel, from Policy Review. [ ] Much superior analysis by both these gentlemen, reveal Cole as the partisan hack.

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