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Middle East punditry, like all political punditry, is mostly bunk. It pretends to be analysis, but it is generally propaganda for a given point of view. Is there an objective way to tell the difference? I think there is.

A policy prescription based on a valid logical argument may take the form, "If X then Y." For example, "if the bread is moldy, don't eat it," "If inflation is high, raise interest to tighten the money supply," "If the economy is depressed, use government spending to stimulate it." The argument is valid and the analysis can be trusted as sincere, even if not correct, as long as the prescription changes in a logical depending on conditions. However, suppose an "analyst" "explains" at one time that the government should spend money because the economy is depressed. A few years later, during prosperity, the same "analyst" advocates spending money in order to share the wealth. We can surmise that this person simply wants the government to spend money, and is looking for excuses to justify their position. That type of analyst is like the broken clock, which tells the correct time twice a day.

Likewise, an analysis that presents a scenario is worthy of consideration as long as the analyst considers all the major likely outcomes. If a pundit tells us, "US must stay in Iraq to prevent escalation of extremism," or "US must leave Iraq to save live lives" or whatever particular conclusion they reach, it is only a useful analysis if it considers at least some of the alternative consequences of carrying out their advice or not carrying it out, rather than presenting only the favorable outcome that they wish will happen.

Most Middle East "experts" do not do any of the above, and therefore their "analyses" are simply advocacy or propaganda with little serious merit. No matter what the situation, we can count on some commentators and journals to write, "end the occupation," while others will always be writing, "annex the territories," "there is only a military solution" and the like. Words like "because" and "therefore" that are used in such analyses give a false aura of logical integrity to the arguments presented. The real argument is "because I want to believe it is so" and nothing else.

Like all bad argumentation, the case for these causes is usually made by assuming false premises, and sometimes it is made by inventing facts. The people who insist that Israel is more secure if it holds on to settlements and territories cannot really offer proof of their contention, since Israel did quite well in the War of Independence and the Six Day War, with very little territory, and less well in the Yom Kippur war when we had conquered the territories. Those who insist on "ending the occupation" and concessions as the way to guarantee peace studiously avoid discussing the results of the disengagement and the question of why there was no peace with the Arab states before 1967.

I cannot imagine Rami Khoury writing in the Beirut Daily Star that the United States or Israel are right about any issue, and that Lebanese and other Arabs, and not Israel or the United States, just might possibly share some responsibility for the misery of their countries. It won't happen. I cannot imagine Caroline Glick writing in Jerusalem Post that an Arab peace offer is reasonable, and that Israel should trade land for peace, unless perhaps Israel is offered Mecca and Medina.

I cannot, contrarily, imagine that Gideon Levy, Amira Hass or Akiva Eldar would ever write, "The situation has changed, and right now is not a good time to end the occupation or make concessions to the Palestinians. It is dangerous to do so." These people will always write the same sort of thing, regardless of whether the White House is occupied by Gandhi or Genghis Khan, regardless of whether our Arab Palestinian neighbors are peaceful and have elected Walid Shoebat (a pro-Israel Palestinian Arab) to lead then, or whether Al Qaeda has taken over the West Bank and Gaza and is building an a-bomb. Every event, no matter what it is, is interpreted as vindicating their pet policy solution.

I have seen this sort of fake analysis over and over. I suspect, sadly, that we will be coming back to these observations on many occasions. In Haaretz, Akiva Eldar insists that because Mahmoud Abbas is weak, Israel must hasten to make wide ranging concessions to him, in order to prevent the rise of the rival Hamas. Eldar wants to give up the temple mount and agree to the vague Arab peace initiative formula regarding refugees.

As usual in such analyses, Eldar uses all the "right" sort of language to construct his case. Consider this, for example:

...if Abbas emerges from the negotiations without sovereignty over the Temple Mount and without Israeli recognition of the issue of the refugees as proposed by the Arab League (an agreed solution on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194) - he might as well stay home.

Who says it is so? How do we know that the fate of Abbas depends on Israeli concessions, and upon which precise concessions it might depend? Perhaps what is needed is precisely what Abbas says is needed, not what Akiva Eldar prescribes. Abbas is probably a bigger expert on Abbas than Eldar is. Abbas says he must have all of East Jerusalem up to the barbed wire of the Mandlebaum gate, exactly as it was on June 4, 1967. He wrote this in 2000. Did Akiva Eldar offer any evidence that Abbas changed his mind since then? Or perhaps Eldar thinks Abbas was lying then?

What happens if Abbas emerges with those Israeli concessions? Aren't the Arabs going to interpret acceptance of the language about refugees as a blanket acceptance of the "Right of Return?" And what happens when, at the next stage, Israel doesn't agree to "Right" of Return? Won't an Intifadeh break out, and won't Akiva Eldar be back to explain exactly why it is Israel's fault?

Eldar's thesis is that Abbas is failing only because Israel didn't support him, and that only concessions will put Humpty Dumpty back on the wall:

the only way to restore Mahmoud Abbas' stature, which Ariel Sharon stripped from him, is to translate the concept of "political horizon" into practical terms - i.e., into a document of principles for a final status agreement.

Apparently, Eldar believes that Fatah leadership was of such high integrity and rectitude, and Palestinian unity is so great, that it is inconceivable that there might be any other factors in the decline of the Fatah and the PLO.

But what if Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall for other reasons, or what if all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot put him back together again? Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Abbas is too weak to govern and deliver on his promises in any case. The evidence for this conclusion is not absent.

What happens if Israel makes all the concessions but Hamas takes over the West Bank as well as Gaza, and uses the Haram as Sharif for Howitzer emplacements? Palestinians have used mosques for military purposes before.

And what would be the effect on Israel and Zionism of giving up the temple mount? Wouldn't we be saying to the world, "Zion is not really so important to us, we can live anywhere." Wouldn't we also lose the support of a great many Jews, who only discovered that they were Zionists after 1967?

Let's test Eldar's arguments another way. He wrote:

The international summit being organized by the Bush administration is Abbas' last throw of the dice. In the zero-sum game between him and Hamas, the loss of the bet will mean a victory for the camp that rejects a two-state solution. The only way that Israel and the United States can affect the struggle in the Palestinian camp is to take away the main contentious elements preoccupying the religious extremists - the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and the problem of the 1948 refugees - and to hand them over to the moderate secularists. On the other hand, if Abbas emerges from the negotiations without sovereignty over the Temple Mount and without Israeli recognition of the issue of the refugees as proposed by the Arab League (an agreed solution on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194) - he might as well stay home.

In theory at least, there could be a Palestinian Ahmad al-Dar, who could write, or could have written:The international summit being organized by the Clinton administration is Barak's last throw of the dice. In the zero-sum game between him and Sharon, the loss of the bet will mean a victory for the camp that rejects a two-state solution. The only way that the Palestinians and the United States can affect the struggle in the Palestinian camp is to take away the main contentious elements preoccupying the religious extremists - the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and the problem of the 1948 refugees - and to hand them over to the moderate secularists. On the other hand, if Barak emerges from the negotiations without sovereignty over the Temple Mount and without Palestinian agreement to a reasonable solution of the issue of the refugees as proposed by Clinton (an agreed solution on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194) - he might as well stay home.

In fact, Ehud Barak emerged from the negotiations with an Intifadah and his political career was ruined. What advice do you think he might have for Ehud Olmert regarding negotiations? And what did Akiva Eldar write at the time? And what about now? If Olmert emerges from the summit with no peace agreement, or with dangerous and humiliating concessions, won't that give the Israeli political game to Bibi Netanyahu? Or perhaps it will really bring to power the "Jewish Leadership" faction of the Likud, under Moshe Feiglin? Doesn't the logic that blocking peace encourages extremism work both ways?

Of course, Eldar and his camp will go on writing what they write, and Caroline Glick and her school of thought will go on writing what she writes, and Rami Khouri will go on blaming the US and Israel, as will most Arab writers, and their editors and followers will say "Amen" and pay their salaries. They earn their money as entertainers, propagandizers and people who provide moral support to their following, just as the priests and prophets of Baal and Moloch did in ancient times. But those who seriously seek rational answers in the Middle East have to ignore these quasi-religious cults and their false prophets, and try to use actual logic to analyze the situations that arise, rather than pseudo-logic.

Ami Isseroff





Original content is Copyright by the author 2007. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000407.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 3 Comments

Jewish but not Zionist it appears you didn't read the article. Ami wasn't speaking in the name of anyone.

It's your prerogative to hate what ever you want but please explain why.

Ariel, Wednesday, August 22nd


I hate Israel
don`t speak in our names you Zionists

jewish but not zionist, Wednesday, August 22nd


Excellent piece!

Brian Henry from Toronto, Wednesday, August 22nd


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