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Jodi Rudoren and Palestinian despotism (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By SCOTT KRANE 05/01/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=268129 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in the conclusion to his timeless treatise on civil government, The Social Contract, “After setting out the true principles of political right... I should complete my study by considering the foreign relations of the state... the law of nations, commerce, the rights of war and conquest, international law, leagues, negotiations... and so forth. But all this would represent a new subject too vast for my weak vision; and I would have had to keep my eyes fixed on matters within my range.”

Apropos, the cause of the Palestinian people – one stateless Arab nation living under Israeli occupation and displaced as refugees in Arab lands and throughout the West – has become a teachable exemplar of the anguish of colonization, and a flashpoint to ignite incendiary accusations of human rights violations at the Jewish state by today’s erudite and academic upholders of liberty.

However, certain considerations have gone overlooked, or else the true democrats would see Israel as a paradigm of liberal democracy, (or at least, a modern state doing their best to provide justice) whereas the actual, unveiled Palestinian Authority is “a new subject too vast” for the “weak vision” of progressive political thinkers who “would have had to keep... [their]... eyes fixed on matters within... [their]... range.”

Were this not the case, a body politic would be found in the recently released Gaza Strip and the West Bank by now. The lack of democratic sovereignty is not the fault of Israel. It is simply impossible to define democratic sovereignty in a government where such perks of democracy as liberty are not set in place.

To Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, liberty is something that the Jews naturally owe to him, but in turn, he does not feel he owes to the subjects of his own proposed government.

Would a completely sovereign Palestine under a Fatah-Hamasmerger resemble Ba’athist Syria? Why wouldn’t it? The first example of fascism in Palestinian politics is the merger with Hamas last year after the toppling of Mubarak in Egypt. It is as if Fatah civilians and government officials do not recall the murder, the injustice, caused to them by Hamas during the pre-moratorium “Wakseh.” However, the examples go much further and beyond this simple signifier of despotism in Palestinian politics.

In an op-ed to The New York Times written May 16, 2011, Abu Mazen explained his story: “Sixty three years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria. He took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees. Though he and his family wished for decades to return to their home and homeland, they were denied that most basic of human rights. That child’s story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine.”

Liberal hearts must go out to him. The fact is that that same generation refused, firstly, the right of return under UN General Assembly Resolution 194 passed on December 11, 1948, Article 11 of which “resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

And this fateful decision by Palestinian leadership (to refuse relocation within Israel) came on the heels of the refusal of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947, guaranteeing an Arab state side by side with a Jewish state.

Last week, the Times’s new Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, tweeted: “What do Israel and Iran have in common? Jailing journalists....” Her comment was in reference to statistics as presented in a recent piece in the Columbia Journalism Review by Justin D. Martin.

Martin writes, “Israel jails more journalists than either the Palestinian Authority [zero] or militant group Hamas [three], both of which it criticizes for human rights miscarriages.” He stresses that Israel “has some explaining to do.” The truth is the other way around. A case cannot be cited in which an Israeli journalist was jailed on account of the government’s authoritarian censorship; or, for that matter, in which wrongdoing was aimed at a foreign journalist with intent. There might have been the need for incarceration for civil disobedience, perhaps.

Then, there is always the case of Anat Kamm, the young reporter who in 2010 downloaded confidential IDF documents and presented them to Haaretz military correspondent Uri Blau. Though, this does not a gag- order constitute, nor is it media censorship for that matter.

On the other hand, consider this: In 2010, a then-26-year-old blogger from the Arab village of Kalkilya in the West Bank was jailed for lampooning the Prophet Muhammad on his blog. Then, consider the following examples as presented in a Washington Post editorial on April 4 by David Keyes: On December 4, 2011, PA security forces raided The First Palestinian Conference on Social Media that was being held at the Light House venue in Gaza City, in concert with an event in Ramallah via video conferencing.

Recently, a Palestinian woman, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq, accused of slandering Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, on her Facebook page was detained for two weeks while pending an investigation.

And there are other cases. For instance, a Palestinian print journalist named Yousef al-Shayeb was detained for eight days this year for reportedly defaming public officials.

Rousseau writes, “Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.” Then, surely the liberal and democratic critique of policy within the Jewish state will not “keep... [their]... eyes fixed on matters within... [their]... range” and will instead pose questions to the Palestinian Authority such as, “You want an end to Jewish occupation; but what exactly did you have in mind for governing your sovereignty?” A Palestinian state helmed by Mahmoud Abbas in concert with Hamas leadership would not deliver an egalitarian ethos to the Palestinians, and per the aforementioned examples, would provide even fewer rights to Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip than would the Israeli government to Arabs within the Israeli democracy.

Furthermore, stressing that all Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are happy with their ramshackle government and quality of life would be akin to claiming that all citizens of Iran are happy with their government and quality of life under the regime of the ayatollahs.

The writer is an author and student based in Tel Aviv. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/01/12)


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