Jeffrey Goldberg has an important article up at the Atlantic saying that the root cause of the conflict is a powerful Palestinian narrative: the refusal to accept that Jews have an ancient connection to the land of Israel, the adherence to “a worldview that dismisses the national and religious rights of Jews.”
[W]hat might be the actual root cause of the Middle East conflict [is] the unwillingness of many Muslim Palestinians to accept the notion that Jews are a people who are indigenous to the land Palestinians believe to be exclusively their own, and that the third-holiest site in Islam is also the holiest site of another religion, one whose adherents reject the notion of Muslim supersessionism…
When violence against Jews occurs inside Israel, or on the West Bank, a consensus tends to be reached quickly by outside analysts and political leaders, one that holds that such violence represents the inevitable consequence of Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian territory. John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, said in an appearance earlier this week at Harvard that, “What’s happening is that unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody. And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years.” He went on to say, “Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement.”
It is sometimes difficult for policymakers such as Kerry, who has devoted so much time and energy to the search for a solution to the Israeli-Arab impasse, to acknowledge the power of a particular Palestinian narrative, one that obviates the possibility of a solution that allows Jews national and religious equality.
I say this is an important article because it is getting passed around and it affirms a certain hard-core Zionist belief even inside the Beltway. Josh Marshall quibbles with Goldberg about the occupation, but says he is dead on about that nasty Palestinian narrative:
Critically, for Muslims and Arab nationalists, Zionism can’t be distinguished from and is actually simply a subgenre of European colonialism. And just as colonialism was reviled and ultimately turned out of the region, so will Zionism.
Actually, it’s not frightening “Muslims and Arab nationalists” who call Zionism colonialism: it’s the Palestinian community. And they have some cause for reviling Zionism. 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes in 1948, 5 million of them today live under occupation. Why talk about Muslim holy war in that context? You have to address the stakeholders to end a conflict. When Yousef Munayyer was asked to acknowledge the Jewish narrative of deliverance to Israel at an event in New York in June, he pointed out that it didn’t matter what the narrative was so long as Israel right now prevents him from living in the city of his birth with his wife, because she is from Palestine.
He was addressing actual Jim-Crow discrimination in the here and now, not storytelling.
I know the power of narrative; I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t. And society is continually compelled to acknowledge new narratives in order to effect shifts in power. This is what happened when the Holocaust was recognized in mainstream American culture in the 1970s. Jewish persecution was acknowledged and atoned for. Saul Bellow and Philip Roth were king. Our entire leadership culture changed.
Today the same process is taking place with respect to the Nakba; America is hearing new voices; and we are going to change the order of Middle East policy.
Goldberg is clearly alarmed that a Palestinian narrative is now competing with his ancient narrative of Jewish persecution. That’s the craziest part of his piece: he portrays the Palestinians as equal parties to Israelis, maybe even more powerful, as Adam Horowitz has written. Goldberg is alarmed because Palestinians are getting better at telling the world their story.
That story is not about Muslims “supersessionism” or whatever Goldberg calls Muslims’ attachment to the Noble Sanctuary in his effort to make this a religious war. That story is that Palestinians are a subject people, and some of them are violently resisting (as many people throughout the world would do). Their power consists in not ending a conflict that is more than a nuisance to Israel; and they won’t end it without justice. Goldberg leaves out the most dramatic chapter in the entire conflict: in the late 1980s the Palestinians agreed to accept Israel’s existence on more than 3/4 of the land if they could have a state on the leftovers. The Palestinians gave up their resistance for that deal; and got nothing for it but more colonies. This is what has bred resentment and rage! (As Ilene Cohen likes to say, Israel should have taken the money and run. It didn’t. It wanted more: those biblical lands that are meaningful even to a secular Washington liberal, Josh Marshall).
What is now dawning on Washington is that Israel is going to reap the whirlwind for its rejection of that historic compromise, the two-state solution (just as the rejection of the Missouri Compromise by the south that wanted more and more land led to its downfall). Many journalists will be involved in conveying that truth: lately Nancy Updike, who documents the triumph of the settlers in an interview with Daniella Weiss just aired on NPR. Goldberg is just doing disinformation.