From an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, the writer takes a second look at a controversial thesis:
Jimmy Carter raised hackles by titling his book about the Palestinian question “Peace Not Apartheid.” But Palestinians allege this is worse than the former South African racial separation. Nearing the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, the territory has been so fragmented that a genuine Palestinian state and a “two-state solution” seem increasingly difficult.
The security wall has led to virtual elimination of suicide bombings and short-term peace. But life is hard for Palestinians, whose deaths because of conflict increased 272 percent in 2006 while Israeli casualties declined.[…] Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey was at the university the same day I was, and faculty members could hardly believe a real live member of Congress was there. Smith later was given a tour of Jerusalem to see with his own eyes that the separation barrier in most places is a big, ugly and intimidating wall, not merely a fence.
Smith, an active Catholic layman, was drawn here because of the rapid emigration of the Holy Land’s Christian minority. They leave more quickly than Muslims because contacts on the outside make them more mobile. Peter Corlano, a Catholic member of the Bethlehem University faculty, told Smith and me: “We live the same life as Muslims. We are Palestinians.”
Concerned by the disappearance of Christians in the land of Christianity’s birthplace, Smith could also become (as I did) concerned by the plight of all Palestinians. If so, he will find precious little company in Congress.
Take a moment to read the whole thing, which definitely does not come from somebody with an axe to grind about the Palestinian plight. Make a point to skip the byline and read the article without seeing who wrote it. Then read the byline. Huh.
As for my feelings, I think that Israel’s security is inextricably linked to the quality of life in Palestine. I took it as a positive sign when Israel recognized that endless occupation of the Palestinian territories was a non-starter, but this wall just worsens Israel’s isolation and further pushes her immediate neighbors towards extremism. I don’t think that the Palestinians have any more crazy extremists than any other group of people (call it my Conservation of Craziness rule, or Tim F’s Third Law), which means that if people don’t feel like supporting the crazies anymore then the crazies will go back to being a noisy minority.
The author describes a pervasive feeling of hopelessness in Palestine and makes a compelling case that much of the violence stems from that rather than some innate evilness. I don’t have any specific solutions for that. Despite an unserious negotiating partner Yitzhak Rabin seemed to be moving in the right direction. Ariel Sharon shocked me with a series of surprisingly sensible policies, beginning with pulling many settlements and revisiting Israel’s support for the rest. Arafat died. Whatever the solution, bricking over the problem with a wall that arbitrarily separates Palestinian communities and removes them from the commercial life of the region seems like an enormous mistake.