Chris Matthews acknowledges that Israel is ‘shutting off the chance for any real’ Palestinian state

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Matson cartoon
Matson cartoon

Everyone knows what the Hagel hearings were about: Israel, as the great Matson cartoon in Roll Call shows us. But for Chris Matthews, this subject is still the emperor’s new clothes. Last night he refused to talk about the Israel lobby in our politics, before performing an enormous service by telling viewers that the two-state solution is on its deathbed, the words in my headline.

The journalistic dereliction came first: in characterizing the opposition to Chuck Hagel as coming from Republican hawks, Matthews mentioned that Israel had been brought up often during the Senate confirmation hearing Thursday; but he did not say that it was also Democratic hawks who clamored for unilateral sanctions and the military option against Iran, Democratic hawks who wanted Hagel to affirm his devotion to Israel. This blindness to pro-Israel militarism among liberals is typical of Matthews. He ascribes the Iraq war to neoconservatives and Republicans, and cannot acknowledge the role that Democrats who dreamed of remaking the Middle East played in pushing that disaster.  

Matthews then did a great service by promoting the Israeli anti-occupation documentary, The Gatekeepers, and using the cover of an interview with an Israeli liberal– the movie’s director Dror Moreh– to bewail what Israel has done to itself.

The film takes a look at “Israel’s legendary Shin Bet,” the former heads of the Israeli security service, Matthews said–

“and the surprise here is that they sound a lot more like Chuck Hagel than Bibi Netanyahu. The six men argue that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has led to human suffering on the part of Palestinians, and been bad for Israel itself. I’ve known that myself.”

Oh so now we learn that Chuck Hagel has been critical of Israel, and Chris Matthews has observed Palestinian suffering. I wish he had informed us about these views without requiring an Israeli guest’s approval. 

Matthews then said that in calling for negotiations with Hamas, “these [Shin Bet] men wouldn’t fit in very well in the Republican Party” of Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. This is a misrepresentation: they wouldn’t fit well in the Democratic Party either. Throughout the Hagel hearing, the Democrats insisted that no one should talk to Hamas. 

I’m getting to the good part. At 2:39 of the video, Matthews slammed Netanyahu’s decision to build settlements in the E-1 corridor outside Jerusalem, “basically…cutting off the loop,” cutting off the West Bank from East Jerusalem.

“For me I’ve been over there many times, it looked like he was shutting off the chance for any real second state over there for Palestinians.”

I believe that chance was shut off a long time ago. “Let’s say it clearly and categorically: the two-state solution is dead,” Jeff Halper, who studies East Jerusalem settlements, says. Still, it is good that this knowledge is at last seeping into the American mainstream; and yes, I wish Matthews had told us this after his last visit.

That was as daring as Matthews could get. He used Moreh’s film, as the New York Times has, to attempt to revive the two state solution. “I always like to be optimistic about that country,” Matthews said, asking if there was not a chance in the next 20 years for a middle class to grow on the West Bank to the point that Palestinians would punish other Palestinians for killing Jews. Matthews’s Rx sounds a lot like Avigdor Lieberman’s assertion that all that matters is that Palestinians attain $10,000 GDP per capita to give up their rebellious ideas. Well, I’m sorry, but I hear an American voice crying: Taxation without representation is tyranny.

Matthews concluded with the usual nostalgia for Yitzhak Rabin and the statement to viewers that Gatekeepers is “going to inform this country that your politics is as turbulent and sometimes as divisive as ours.” Translation: I need cover from Israelis to say one word against the occupation.

I wish Matthews would also watch “5 Broken Cameras.” It is also nominated for an Oscar. A great film about the occupation, showing the actual suffering of Palestinians, it is told by the victims of Jim Crow, not the regretful sheriffs.

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