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On the Palestine Papers

I haven't written anything here about The Palestine Papers. (If somehow that phrase doesn't ring a bell for you, here's a good introduction, from The Guardian: Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process.)

In this, I'm with Emily L. Hauser, who writes in her post Loading...:

There is too much information there, much of it concerning internal Palestinian politics, for me to take in quickly. Yesterday I kept seeing confident assertions that this means the end of the Palestinian Authority, this means the end of the benighted peace process (usually written with quotes around it: "peace process"), this means an end to the myth that the Israelis have constantly sought peace while the Palestinians have failed to be a partner in the process...

I wish it were my job to dig into this stuff and analyze it — read: I really, really wish I were paid to do what I've been trained to do — but it's not, and trying to genuinely understand, and make useful predictions based on, what amounts to an enormous document dump (a document mudslide, a document avalanche) can’t be done without first really digging into the material.

And, like Emily, I'm juggling my writing life and my desire to be an engaged citizen of the world with the reponsibilities of parenting. (This week, the responsibilities of parenting a fourteen-month-old with his first ear infection.) So I'm not likely to have my own analyses of The Palestine Papers anytime soon.

In lieu of my own interpretations, here are links to a few pieces by other people which I've found helpful, insightful, or interesting:

  • Al Jazeera Unleashes the Palestine Papers by Rabbi Brant Rosen. Rabbi Rosen quotes the Guardian and links to commentary by Diana Buttu (a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team) and Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf, among others; this is a great round-up of commentary and response.

  • What the Palestine Papers Mean by Mitchell Plitnick, which I first read in Zeek; it's a reprint from The Third Way, Plitnick's excellent blog. "The overriding image that emerges from the leaked documents is the extent to which the Israeli argument that the Palestinians are not 'partners' and are not willing 'to make the difficult decisions for peace' rings hollow. The Palestinians were clearly advancing proposals that were serious; probably much more serious than the Israelis expected or were prepared to deal with."
  • Shoot the messenger: Blaming Al Jazeera for the Palestine Papers by Roee Rutteberg at the excellent +972 Magazine. "The so-called Palestine Papers, the first of which were released this week by Al Jazeera, have fallen into a trap seen all too frequently. Rather than dealing with the actual message and content, those affected by the leak instead have chosen to shoot the messenger."

  • What do Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt have to do with the Palestine Papers? by Dahlia Scheindlin, again at +972 Magazine. "The protests might be the start of a domino-collapse of authoritarian Middle East leaders. But it feels deeper – like the end of a paradigm. Could this be a tectonic shift away from the culture and mentality of accepting corrupt military or oil dictatorships? Are the people of the Middle East tired of being distracted by a holy war against the Zionist enemy, and ready for a crusade against their leech-leaders?"

Based on the essays I've managed to read this week, I get the sense that the Palestine Papers -- like pretty much everything else having to do with the contemporary Middle East -- can be interpreted in a variety of fashions to serve a variety of agendas. I've seen people arguing that this is a revelation of tremendous importance and also that the papers don't really matter, that the papers prove that the Palestinians were serious about peace (and maybe the Israelis weren't) or that the papers prove that the Palestinian leadership was making promises it could never deliver on... In this, as in so many things, one's existing outlook may determine how one interprets this avalanche of new material.

Americans for Peace Now has argued (Release of "Palestine Papers" Underscores Need for Sea-Change in Peace Process) that the papers show that "[t]he U.S. has not demonstrated real leadership - failing to hold the parties accountable for obstinacy, intransigence, and game-playing, and for actions that conflict with previously-taken commitments.... American actions have cemented a dysfunctional and ultimately futile peace process." As an American Jew who cares about peace, justice, and the people on both sides of this story, I'm saddened by that assertion.

The folks at J Street write "Only bold American leadership can lead to the resolution of this conflict, and we urge the President to act now before it is too late." (J Street on Palestine Papers: Obama Administration Must Step Up.) I'm beginning to feel some skepticism that American leadership can make a real difference here -- but I hope and pray that if it can, it will, speedily and soon.

If there's commentary on the Palestine Papers which you've found particularly insightful, feel free to drop links in the comments. If you can, take the time to include a (short! one or two sentence!) excerpt to give us a flavor for what you found interesting in the pieces you choose to share. Thanks, and shabbat shalom to all.

Please remember that comments here are moderated; because I have a baby, I'm not always online to approve comments, so if your comment doesn't appear, please be patient and I'll approve it as soon as I can! Please also remember my comments policy -- Israel/Palestine is a subject which tends to bring out the angry rhetoric, and I don't allow that here.