Politics

11.19.12

Why the Palestinians Will Never Win

This is from a CNN poll finding today:

According to the survey, nearly six in ten say their sympathies are with the Israelis, with 13% saying they side more with the Palestinians and 11% saying their sympathies are with neither side in the conflict.

"That's nothing new," added Holland. "The number of Americans who sympathize more with the Palestinians has never been higher than 18% since the question was first asked in 1988. Sympathies for Israel have sometimes dipped below 50%, but have been over that mark for the past eight years."

Well, to me, that about sums the Palestinian problem up. I've written this many times, and it hasn't always gone down well with my readers, particularly at the Guardian, as you might imagine. But this is a fact. The Palestinian leadership, with a couple of happy new exceptions like Fayyad, is just pathetic or worse. The Palestinians are among the world's most scorned and dispossessed people, but they've been saddled with the worst liberation movement in the history of liberation movements.

First and foremost, if they'd been a nonviolent movement, they'd have had their state 20 years ago. No understanding at all of either the Jewish or the American conscience, which resists "resistance" at all costs but melts at the first sight of a person standing before a tank holding a rose.

Second, the PA was until recently just hideously corrupt. Arafat and his cronies got away with stealing so much money from those poor people. Completely unconscionable.

Third, they appear to have no understanding of why they're really losing. They're losing because American public opinion will never be on their side. Americans will always back the Jews. To Americans, Jews are nice, successful people. They're funny. Jerry Seinfeld. Who's gonna be against Jerry Seinfeld's people?

You may think this is silly, but trust me, it's anything but. Roosevelt toyed with the idea of interning Italian-Americans in camps along with Japanese-Americans. You know why he dropped it? Because people around him told him that there is no way on Earth you can put Joe DiMaggio's mother in a work camp.

In other words, and put more seriously, even as there was much religious bigotry afoot against Catholics in that America, middle Americans nevertheless had fellow feelings for Italians, just as they do for Jews today. Palestinians? Yes, as Bill Clinton said, the only Palestinians he knows are college professors and doctors. In Clinton's experience and in my more limited one, Palestinian Americans are a high-achieving and very warm people. But all most Americans know is, they're a bunch of terrorists. Palestinian leadership needs to take that seriously and change it.

None of this is meant as a defense of Israeli leadership. They're schmucks, too, or worse. So I don't really like either side very much, in terms of their leaders I mean, which is why I don't write about this very often. But I do know that if Palestinians moved to nonviolence and undertook a smart campaign to improve their image here, they'd turn things around on a dime. Israel will ultimately do what America tells it to do, and America will become more sympathetic to the Palestinians when the Palestinians become more sympathetic.