Noah Feldman’s cruel pragmatism

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Here’s a great coincidence. Henry Siegman, a longtime Jewish leader, and Noam Sheizaf, a young Israeli journalist, both said exactly the same thing in the last week:

Siegman: “Israel’s… denial of all rights to millions of Palestinians for nearly half a century…”

Sheizaf: “Palestinians are real people, people older than the age of almost everyone in this room, almost, who have never been one day in their life free.”

You’d think that Noah Feldman, who teaches law at Harvard Law School and who cares about power politics but also about universal human freedoms, might acknowledge the sad state of Palestinian freedoms for just one second.

But in his column on peace negotiations in tomorrow’s Times there is not a word about Palestinian statelessness or occupation. There’s this moment:

And if an Israeli-Palestinian deal were to emerge, new circumstances would give rise to new possibilities. In the wake of such a deal, Hamas would have the incentive to evolve from rejection of Israel to pragmatic acceptance and grudging formal acceptance — the path followed by the P.L.O. under Yasir Arafat.

As if good came of Arafat’s acceptance, even per Feldman’s realist assessment. Just more settlements, more statelessness. Is this a path to follow? You really have to give people more of an incentive.


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