Thomas Friedman caricatures the Palestinian position

Every time Thomas Friedman goes to the Arab world or the Middle East, I hold my breath. He has an uncanny knack for quoting unnamed, faceless Natives who sound a lot like dedicated readers of the Economist…or maybe of his columns and books.  Many people (and most reporters) travel in order to meet new and different slices of the human spectrum and encounter fresh ways of viewing the world.  For Friedman, travel seems to be an act of finding confirmation for his already well-formed prejudices.

I saw Alex’s post yesterday and was intrigued enough to break my cultivated habit of studiously trying to avoid Friedman; in a moment of weakness, I went and read his latest offering.  I’ll ignore his economic nostrums.  What I am interested in is the question of how Palestinians and their concerns are (mis)represented by Zionist commentators in the mainstream media, so the following chestnut in particular caught my eye: 

For those Arabs who have fallen in love with the idea of Palestinians as permanent victims, forever engaged in a heroic “armed struggle” to recover Palestine and Arab dignity, Fayyad’s methodical state-building is inauthentic. Some Arabs — shamefully — dump on it, and only the United Arab Emirates has offered real financial help.

The supreme irony that a Zionist, of all people, would try to characterize Palestinians as viewing themselves as ‘permanent victims’ aside, I am not sure who these Arabs Friedman is speaking about actually are.  And he doesn’t specify.  Like unicorns and three-dollar bills, I think they probably don’t exist–at least outside of his head.  

What does exist, however, is a caricature of a Palestinian position, one which seeks to at once denigrate and belittle Palestinian grievances, both historic and also very contemporary.  The honest truth is that the Palestinian struggle in 2010 is less about getting back homes in Jaffa, Lydd, Ramle, Haifa and Akka, and more about getting medicine and cement into Gaza and stopping land-theft and settler lawlessness in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  

(Also noteworthy is another Zionist trope: reference–sometimes ressentiment-laced–to the tremendous wealth of Gulf oil-tacracies and disappointment that these regimes aren’t spending more of their money on solving problems Israel has helped create.  How about Israel offering some economic help? I hear it’s doing pretty well financially itself.  But I digress.)

Caricaturing a Palestinian position allows Friedman to set up Fayyad as the Good Arab, unjustly criticized for embracing a bootstraps-based ideology which would have warmed the cockles of Emerson’s heart.  In so doing, Friedman avoids meatier issues that some Palestinians have with Fayyad–his position in a PA whose elected term in office has expired, for example, or the charge that his American-trained security force, which Friedman and many others love to love, represents an Israeli outsourcing of Occupation work–and a ruthless one at that. 

The real problem for Fayyad and Abbas is that they have sought to toe the American line and don’t have a lot to show for it in terms of achieving their stated aim of a two-state solution. There is a bogus settlement freeze and Avigdor Lieberman’s recent announcement that there will be no Palestinian state for the next two years. (Guess who’s hoping Obama loses in 2012?).  And, after all, it’s an open secret that Bibi Netanyahu said one thing about believing in a two-state solution at Bar Ilan, but told his dad something quite different.  Obama is eager for a kiss-and-make-up session with Netanyahu to boot, something which would have already have happened had the Flotilla temporarily embargoed it.  With little significant to show for following American and Israeli orders, Abbas and Fayyad look like American and Israeli lackeys.  

That’s what’s inauthentic.

About Boulos

i'm a perpetual student.
Posted in Beyondoweiss, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine

{ 8 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. potsherd says:

    Any authentic Palestinian leaders are sent rapidly to prison, Gaza or the graveyard. The Palestinian “security service” or whatever they call it has as its only mandate to repress dissent.

    The Palestinians voted to turf out their corrupt rulers, and in the best tradition of gunboat diplomacy, the US deposed the democratically-elected party and reimposed the corrupt one.

  2. eljay says:

    >> The Palestinians voted to turf out their corrupt rulers, and in the best tradition of gunboat diplomacy, the US deposed the democratically-elected party and reimposed the corrupt one.

    To which RW might respond: “Yeah, but what has Hamas done for Israel lately?”

  3. Chu says:

    fuck freedman. he’s a fatboy from Minnesota who got lucky in life, supporting a cause that rewards idiots for dishonesty.

  4. demize says:

    Oh Jeezus, is there a call-center in Ramallah?

  5. “The real problem for Fayyad and Abbas is that they have sought to toe the American line and don’t have a lot to show for it in terms of achieving their stated aim of a two-state solution.”

    Nope, but I’m sure they have something to show for it in terms of their pocketbooks.

  6. potsherd says:

    Outside Freidman’s sights:

    Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank have “plummeted into a humanitarian crisis worse than Gaza,” a report released Wednesday said.

    The US-based Save The Children organization found that “thousands of children are going hungry and are vulnerable to killer diseases,” and that conditions for children have reached “crisis point.” Diarrhea – the biggest killer of children under five in the world, affects 44 percent of the area’s youth, according to the report.

    Under zoning regulations established under the Oslo Accords, 60 percent of the West Bank is designated “Area C,” and falls under full Israeli civil and military control.

    Israel refuses to allow the estimated 40,000 Palestinians living in the area to make “urgent repairs to their sewage systems, schools, homes or hospitals,” the report said.

    link to maannews.net

    But Fayyad doesn’t bother to mention this, as it smears the whitewash on his Potemkin village.

  7. Keith says:

    As I see it, the Palestinians have one fundamental problem that precludes the resolution of all other problems: The Zionists need an enemy, and they’re it.