(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)



Subject: Article: The End of Something
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 2002 11:18:29 -0400 (EDT)
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June 30, 2002

The End of Something


Recent events in the Middle East leave me wondering whether we're witnessing not just the end of the Oslo peace process, but the end of the whole idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When the Palestinians' Intifada II began over a year ago, in the wake of a serious proposal for a Palestinian state by President Clinton, I argued that Palestinians were making a huge mistake. When the party to a conflict initiates an uprising, then suicide bombing, at a time when the outlines of a final peace are on the table?as the Palestinians did?it shatters everything, present and future. In this case it shattered the Israeli peace camp, it blew apart all the fragile confidence-building measures that took years to build, and it generally left the Israeli public feeling it had opened the gates to a Trojan horse.

This is particularly true in the case of the Palestinians because they never articulated why their uprising was necessary, given the diplomatic alternatives still available, or what its precise objectives were. They seem to have been heavily influenced by Hezbollah's success at driving Israel out of Lebanon and seem to have bought into the fantasy that they could give birth to their own state in similar blood and fire. And Yasir Arafat went along for the ride.

"This Intifada II was Yasir Arafat's 1967 war," says the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen. "Like Egypt's President Nasser, Arafat got completely swept up in the fantasies of the moment and failed to distinguish between what was real and what was not. And like Nasser, it will be the beginning of his end."

But here's the rub: Even if Mr. Arafat went away, and even if a majority of Israelis were ready to give his successor all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the security requirements and limitations on Palestinian sovereignty that Israelis would insist upon " in the wake of the total breakdown in trust over the last year?would probably be so high that no Palestinian leader would be able to accept them.

If that is the case, it means that a negotiated two-state solution is impossible and Israel is doomed to permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. And if that is the case, it means Israel will have to rule the West Bank and Gaza permanently, the way South African whites ruled blacks under apartheid. Because by 2010, if current demographic patterns hold, there will be more Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem than Jews. And if that is the case, it means an endless grinding conflict that poses a mortal danger to Israel.

Because there are three trends converging in the Middle East today. The first is this vicious Israeli-Palestinian war. The second is a population explosion in the Arab world, where virtually every Arab country has a population bubble of under-15-year-olds, who are marching toward a future where they will find a shortage of good jobs and a surplus of frustration. The third is an explosion of Arab satellite TV stations, the Internet and other private media.

Basically what's happening is that this Arab media explosion is taking images of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and beaming them to this population explosion, nurturing a rage against Israel, America and Jews in a whole new Arab generation. Of that new generation there are going to be 10 who will go to dad one day and say, "Dad, there is a Pakistani gentleman at the door selling a suitcase nuclear bomb. He wants a check for $100,000, and I would like to personally deliver the suitcase to Tel Aviv." And dad is going to write the check.

The only hope for Israel is to get out of the territories?any orderly way it can?and minimize its friction with the Arab world as the Arabs go through a wrenching internal adjustment to modernization. I applaud President Bush's call for Mr. Arafat to be replaced, in what amounts to Mr. Bush's last-ditch attempt to "re-accredit" the Palestinians as a partner for a two-state solution with Israel. But it is a travesty that Mr. Bush did not act to "re-accredit" Israel, too, as a peace partner for a two-state solution with the Palestinians by insisting that Israel begin pulling back from some of its far-flung settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. It would help the Palestinians undertake their reforms, and it would put Israel in a better position to withdraw unilaterally, if it has to.

Mr. Bush blinked because he didn't want to alienate Jewish voters. Sad. Because George Bush may be on Israel's side, but history, technology and demographics are all against it.

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Subject: Article: Arabs at the Crossroads
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2002 11:18:29 -0400 (EDT)
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July 3, 2002

Arabs at the Crossroads


President Bush was right to declare that the Palestinians need to produce decent governance before they can get a state. Too bad, however, that he didn't say that it's not only the Palestinians who need radical reform of their governance?it's most of the Arab world.

By coincidence, though, some other important folks had the courage to say that just this week: The U.N. Development Program, which published, along with the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, a brutally honest Arab Human Development Report yesterday analyzing the three main reasons the Arab world is falling off the globe. (The G.D.P. of Spain is greater than that of all 22 Arab states combined.) In brief, it's due to a shortage of freedom to speak, innovate and affect political life, a shortage of women's rights and a shortage of quality education. If you want to understand the milieu that produced bin Ladenism, and will reproduce it if nothing changes, read this report.

While the 22 Arab states currently have 280 million people, soaring birthrates indicate that by 2020 they will have 410 to 459 million. If this new generation is not to grow up angry and impoverished, in already overcrowded cities, the Arab world will have to overcome its poverty?which is not a poverty of resources but a "poverty of capabilities and poverty of opportunities," the report argues.

Though the report pays homage to the argument that the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli occupation have been both a cause and an excuse for lagging Arab development, it refuses to stop with that explanation.

To begin with, it notes that "the wave of democracy that transformed governance in most of Latin America and East Asia in the 1980's and early 1990's has barely reached the Arab states. This freedom deficit undermines human development." Using a standard freedom index, the report notes that out of seven key regions of the world the Arab region has the lowest freedom score?which includes civil liberties, political rights, a voice for the people, independence of the media and government accountability. In too many Arab states women can't vote, hold office or get access to capital for starting businesses. "Sadly, the Arab world is largely depriving itself of the creativity and productivity of half its citizens," the report says of Arab women.

On education, the report reveals that the whole Arab world translates about 300 books annually?one-fifth the number that Greece alone translates; investment in research is less than one-seventh the world average; and Internet connectivity is lower than in sub-Saharan Africa. In spite of progress in school enrollment, 65 million Arab adults are still illiterate, almost two-thirds of them women. No wonder half the Arab youths polled said they wanted to emigrate.

The report concludes that "What the region needs to ensure a bright future for coming generations is the political will to invest in Arab capabilities and knowledge, particularly those of Arab women, in good governance, and in strong cooperation between Arab nations. . . . The Arab world is at a crossroads. The fundamental choice is whether its trajectory will remain marked by inertia . . . and by ineffective policies that have produced the substantial development challenges facing the region; or whether prospects for an Arab renaissance, anchored in human development, will be actively pursued."

Well said " and here's the best part: The report was written by a "group of distinguished Arab intellectuals" who believed that only an "unbiased, objective analysis" could help the "Arab peoples and policy-makers in search of a brighter future."

There is a message in this bottle for America: For too many years we've treated the Arab world as just a big dumb gas station, and as long as the top leader kept the oil flowing, or was nice to Israel, we didn't really care what was happening to the women and children out back " where bad governance, rising unemployment and a stifled intellectual life were killing the Arab future.

It's time to stop kidding ourselves. Getting rid of the Osamas, Saddams and Arafats is necessary to change this situation, but it's hardly sufficient. We also need to roll up our sleeves and help the Arabs address all the problems out back. The bad news is that they've dug themselves a mighty deep hole there. The good news, as this report shows, is that we have liberal Arab partners for change. It's time we teamed up with them, and not just with the bums who got them into this mess.

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