West Bank Dreamin'

By Alterman, Eric | The Nation, September 3, 2001 | Go to article overview
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West Bank Dreamin'


Alterman, Eric, The Nation


Last night I had the strangest dream...

All of America's wealthy, conservative and safely belligerent pundits had been delivered by a just and beneficent Almighty Power to a Palestinian refugee camp, following the bulldozing of their homes--including vacation homes--and the expropriation of all their possessions. Instead of pontificating between beach walks and vodka tonics in Vineyard Haven, these armchair bombardiers were treated to rivers of open sewage and hopeless lives of beggary. Those who resisted were arrested, tortured and selectively assassinated. Meanwhile, editorial pages across America cheered the "restraint" of their tormentors.

In extremely lengthy articles, the New York Times and The New York Review of Books recently demonstrated beyond any doubt that the Israelis (and the Americans) shared in the blame for the breakdown of peace negotiations and ensuing cycle of violence that now tragically appears to be engulfing the region. To the punditocracy, however, these dispassionately argued, extensively reported stories amounted to an existential insult of near biblical proportions. Marty Peretz's New Republic published a vicious attack on the articles by Robert Satloff, executive director of a pro-Israel think tank. William Safire got so excited, he denounced his own newspaper in a hysterical fit of ad hominemism: "Do not swallow this speculative rewriting of recent events," he warned readers. "The overriding reason for the war against Israel today is that Yasir Arafat decided that war was the way to carry out the often-avowed Palestinian plan. Its first stage is to create a West Bank state from the Jordan River to the sea with Jerusalem as its capital. Then, by flooding Israel with 'returning' Palestinians, the plan in its promised final phase would drive the hated Jews from the Middle East."

Mortimer Zuckerman, in his capacity as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, insisted, "This is just revisionist history.... There is one truth, period: The Palestinians caused the breakdown at Camp David and then rejected Clinton's plan in January." The baldest comment came from the Zionist Organization of America's president, Morton Klein: "Whether their account is accurate or not is irrelevant.... I reject any discussion of what happened."

In the wake of the suicide bombings, three different Washington Post pundits demanded war three days in a row. Michael Kelly, recently seen complaining about too many fatsoes at the beach, advised the Israelis to unleash "an overwhelming force...to destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian forces." The more moderate George Will called only for a "short war." (Charles Krauthammer did not specify a length.) To read these would-be warriors, you would think the Palestinians were summering in Edgartown. A reader would never guess that a regional superpower is carrying out a brutal military occupation, coupled with a settlement policy that directly contravenes Article 49 of the Geneva Convention.

No one with any sense would argue that Arafat and his corrupt cronies do not bear considerable responsibility for the collapse of any hope of peace in the Middle East in the near future.

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