Obama and the peace process

Beyond whether who he will appoint to handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Obama has to choose what kind of approach he will pursue. Two Arab diplomats (a Palestinian and an Egyptian) who are peace process veterans wrote this powerful op-ed advocating a hands-on approach that shuns the “capacity-building” gradualist approach and recommends going against the Washington received wisdom (received from Zionist think tanks, that is) that there isn’t much to be done:

“Experienced” advisers will point out that the issues are complex, the leaders are weak and divided, and the costs of failure are formidable. They will urge you to take small steps and let the parties lead. The United States, they will argue, should support bilateral talks from the sidelines, but cannot want peace more than the parties themselves.

As former advisers to two of the governments in the region, and having participated in developing the Road Map peace plan, we assure you that is exactly the wrong approach. It is because the parties are weak that American leadership is indispensable. It is because bilateral negotiations yield only hollow communiqués that you should use your political capital to forge consensus on substance. And it is because the issues are complex that small achievements — fleeting cease-fires, relocated checkpoints — are as politically costly as big ones. The Bush administration wasted six years before learning these lessons. You need not repeat its mistakes.

Aim high. The region will not hesitate to supply your administration with a series of crises that demand urgent attention — breakdowns in talks, escalations in violence, right-wing electoral triumphs, settlement expansion and the like. These crises cannot be ignored. But you must not allow managing the conflict to distract you from the crucial task of resolving it. Each passing day, Israel’s occupation produces despair and facts on the ground that make the conflict ever more difficult to solve.

What is needed is a substantive framework for comprehensive peace, endowed with international support and ready for the parties’ acceptance. Like the Road Map, you should develop this framework in consultation with the parties and international partners. But unlike the Road Map, it should specify a destination, defining the central terms of a settlement with sufficient precision to prevent interminable haggling over interpretation and sufficient formality to make rejection too politically costly for any serious party to contemplate.

Build commitment, then capacity. Among the foundations of President Bush’s failed Arab-Israeli policy was the notion that capacity must precede commitment, that Palestine become Switzerland before peace negotiations commence. You have pointed out the folly of such thinking in Iraq, arguing that an American commitment to early withdrawal would give Iraqis an incentive to put their house in order.

That is no less true for the Mideast peace process. Some portray the rejectionism of Hamas and Israel’s right wing as an insurmountable obstacle to peace. It isn’t. There is no peace for them to reject. However, a U.S.-backed framework for peace would oblige all parties to face the moment of truth in a way that a commitment to continue negotiations simply cannot. It would also do more to advance Palestinian governance and security reform than another decade of technical assistance.

[From U.S. should take lead in Middle East peace process | Viewpoints, Outlook | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle]

Links November 8th to November 9th

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Guilt by association

“The Review” Editor Jonathan Shainin has an excellent editorial parsing the last-minute attacks of the McCain campaign on Obama for his “troubling” association with Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi. Shainin does a good job of calling out Obama for his equivocal stance in the face of these racist attacks: the way he deplored the attacks but didn’t do enough to challenge their underlying logic (practically any Arab = radical = terrorist).

Links November 4th to November 6th

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Links November 2nd to November 3rd

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Chronicles of a Refugee


Chronicles of a Refugee is a 6-part documentary film series looking at the global Palestinian refugee experience over the last 60 years. Through the voices of Palestinian refugees, the first three episodes recount the experiences of Palestinian refugees since 1947. They are more historical and informative, presenting an almost comprehensive review of 60 years of dispossession. Continue reading Chronicles of a Refugee

L’Affaire Rosen

Friend of the blog Nir Rosen, who wrote a recent article about the Taliban for Rolling Stone (for which he embedded himself with the a Taliban platoon), is under attack for lack of patriotism. Rosen has been under attack before, since he views the recent US wars as imperialist (that’s what he told Joe Biden) and has a bizarre enthusiasm for dangerous people and places. Nonetheless, he’s produced some of the most original reporting that’s out there.

The criticism against him reached rather exaggerated levels at the generally respectable war nerd blog Small Wars Journal, where commentator Bing West, after making a series of reduction ad hitlerum remarks about journalists being unpatriotic, asserts that “It is morally wrong for an American citizen to deceive friendly troops in order to sneak into enemy territory in the company of enemy soldiers.” West longs for the days of moral clarity when people like Rosen, caught behind enemy lines, who simply be shot:

Rosen described how he and two Taliban fighters deceived the guards at a government checkpoint. Suppose during World War II an American reporter had sneaked through the lines with two German officers wearing civilian clothes. “When we caught enemy combatants out of uniform in the 1940s,” a veteran wrote in The American Heritage, “we sometimes simply executed them.” The Greatest Generation had a direct way of dealing with moral ambiguity.

An argument for the summary execution of journalists who take a look across enemy lines?

At the Townhouse Gallery



Featuring the artists
Annika Eriksson
Chris Evans
Dirk Fleischmann / Michele di Menna
San Keller
Hassan Khan
Natascha Sadr Haghighian
Marion von Osten.

Curated by Nav Haq and Tirdad Zolghadr

To what extent does class play a role in the production and dissemination of contemporary art? Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie is a project touring internationally from 2006 to 2009, investigating how and whether the ideology of socioeconomic background still defines your artworld career, and to which point such a career might consolidate the ideologies in question. In short, the notion of class is the thematic touchstone of the project, and yet the idea is not to use contemporary art to explore class structures in society at large. Rather, the project hopes to develop a sense of art world reflexivity, tracing hegemonic patterns within the field itself.

I thought this was funny. I hope it was intended that way. More details here.

Links October 31st to November 1st

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