On March 8, Daniel Schorr commented on NPR’s "Weekend Edition Saturday" that Democrats always find a way not to get along. He then said (I was driving, not taking notes): As people used to say about Yassir Arafat, he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
This is an old refrain about Arafat, and it is a slur. It reflects a propaganda campaign by pro-Israel lobbyists to put all the responsibility for the cycle of violence in Palestine on the Palestinians. When Israelis have also deliberately missed opportunities over the years.
Yesterday at the Israel Policy Forum lunch, former Israel Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami spoke admiringly of Arafat. "Arafat was not an easy partner. But he was a major legitimizer of the two-state solution, and he took his legitimacy to the grave." And today Palestinian leadership is divided: between Fatah, which is working for the two-state solution, and Hamas, which has not embraced it. Did Israel miss an opportunity while Arafat was alive?
Certain Henry Siegman, the director of the US/Middle East Project, would say so. The most memorable piece of journalism I’ve read in the last year was Henry Siegman’s ruthless expose of the "peace process" in the London Review of Books:
The problem is not, as Israelis often claim, that Palestinians do not
know how to compromise. (Another former prime minister, Benjamin
Netanyahu, famously complained that ‘Palestinians take and take while
Israel gives and gives.’) That is an indecent charge, since the
Palestinians made much the most far-reaching compromise of all when the
PLO formally accepted the legitimacy of Israel within the 1949
armistice border. [My emphasis; this was Arafat’s work, in 1993–and the colonies only have multiplied since] With that concession, Palestinians ceded their claim
to more than half the territory that the UN’s partition resolution had
assigned to its Arab inhabitants. They have never received any credit
for this wrenching concession, made years before Israel agreed that
Palestinians had a right to statehood in any part of Palestine. [me again] The
notion that further border adjustments should be made at the expense of
the 22 per cent of the territory that remains to the Palestinians is
deeply offensive to them, and understandably so.
Ben-Ami and Siegman’s comments reveal Schorr’s statement to be ill-informed–and, I believe, ideological. In his autobiography, Staying Tuned, Schorr describes his childhood as a Jewish outsider and says that his mother was an ardent Zionist. His youthful social life unfolded in a Zionist milieu. I don’t know whether Schorr is a Zionist today, but consciously or not, he was uttering Zionist propaganda on National Public Radio. Journalists have an obligation to examine their religious prejudices.