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The strange physics of Middle East geopolitics is due for a paradigm shift


Apparently, Mahmoud Abbas took a great step backward on the road to Middle East peace this week. According to Maan News agency:

Dialogue between Fatah and Hamas has not been resumed ...Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat news agency.

He also told the news agency that he will not give any concessions in the Annapolis peace conference...

No concessions! The purpose of the meeting is negotiations for peace, but Abbas announces "No Concessions!" The first thing to ask is whether the Palestinians are a victorious power dictating terms of unconditional surrender to a defeated enemy, like General Grant at Appomattox courthouse. That is hardly the case. The second question is whether this position, these terms, have perhaps been coordinated with the Israelis or the Americans and are acceptable to them. Again, the answer must be "no." Abbas has been reiterating his impossible position at every opportunity: Israeli retreat from all territories including all of Jerusalem, and return of the several million Palestinian Arab refugees. .

This position of Abbas is not new, since Abbas made the same demands in 2000, and explained that the Camp David talks failed because Israel would not give up all of its rights in the old city of Jerusalem and allow return of the refugees. Abbas must know by now that there is no possibility that these conditions can be accepted, and that "no concessions" is not the way to get negotiations going either.

For Israel, the logical riposte to that would be to claim all the land from the river to the sea, at least, and say "No concessions." So the effect of saying "no concessions" is to scuttle the Annapolis conference. The conference is designed to bolster the position of Abbas versus the Hamas, so in scuttling the conference he is committing political suicide, or so it would seem. The conference is also intended to legitimize the standing of Israel in the Middle East, so in scuttling the conference, they too would seem to be acting against their own interests.

It is no wonder that Dr. Condoleezza Rice and her advisers, and before them Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross, and before them all the sages and statesmen who have tried to put an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict are stymied. In their understanding, peace is in the best interests of all parties, the parties must act in their own interests, and therefore peace must be attainable. This level of understanding may be compared to the Newtonian concept of a lawful and simple physical universe, with straightforward causal laws, that existed in the nineteenth century. Newton himself had created a scientific revolution that produced the orderly universe of classical physics. This universe was then turned on its head by the relativity theory of Albert Einstein. Then Einstein's conceptualization of a lawful universe was challenged by yet another level of thinking, and another set of phenomena: quantum mechanics. At each stage, new phenomena that didn't fit the classical concepts accumulated, but were ignored, until somehow a new conceptual explanation forced itself on the scientific world. These successive scientific revolutions, as Thomas Kuhn called them, resulted in what he termed "paradigm shifts." Only after the perceptual world changes, are people ready to admit that certain phenomena really exist, and are not strange artifacts or simply "non-data."

At a second level, we can discern a set of laws and axioms of Middle East physics that have counter-intuitive results, but are still derivable from ordinary intuitive understanding. The first axiom is that internal political survival takes precedence over all other factors. In the Middle East, this is often synonymous with physical survival. A Palestinian who give up Right of Return risks being not only politically dead, but physically dead as well. Any party that gives up any claim on Jerusalem is also politically dead. A winning law is that the more extreme political positions will always trump the less extreme ones. At the same time, national survival is possible only by catering to the will of outsiders to some extent. Therefore it is always necessary to engage in a "peace" process that may have no content other than spin needed to satisfy the foreign Khawajas who provide money, armaments and political support. It is not possible to make meaningful progress generally, because of the "internal political constraints," but it is not possible to abandon the process because the foreigners will be angry. The foreigners are obliging enough to go along with this process, because it suits their own agendas.

But there is yet another, deeper level of phenomena that are counter-intuitive: the parties seemingly act against their own short term interests. This level has gotten insufficient attention, because it is so contrary to all the current conceptualizations of human political behavior and the geopolitics of the Middle East. It is so seemingly senseless, so self-destructive, as well as contrary to what we want to believe, that it is hardly ever discussed.

When we examine the "internal political constraints," we find, amazingly, that they are created and nurtured by the very same parties that complain of their existence. On the one hand, the Palestinian Authority explains that it cannot make concessions because of "internal opposition." On the other hand, Mahmoud Abbas announces every other day that the Palestinians must never give up on Right of Return and a PalestinianstatewithitscapitalinJerusalem, and the Palestinian authority organizes Nakba day commemorations and encourages people to march with signs that say "Haifa," "Beisan" (Beth Shean), "Yaffo" etc. to make sure that refugees will never forget that it is their national duty to drive the Jews into the sea, not even in 20 generations. Palestinian television broadcasts vicious songs about destroying Israel, though of course Mahmoud Abbas himself can say that he is not responsible for that propaganda. You can see the video of this song by clicking here. Here are some of the charming and peaceloving words:

Palestine is Arab in history and identity
We will live in peace, oh mother, and our lives will not be wasted
Oh mother, they destroyed our house
The house of my brother and my neighbor [2X]
Do not be angry, oh mother, our rocks increased [in number]

From Jerusalem and Acre, from Haifa and Jericho and Gaza and Ramallah [2X]
From Bethlehem and Jaffa, from Be'er Sheva and Ramla, [2X]
from Nablus to the Galilee, from Tiberias to Hebron [2x]

Note the definition of "peace." Doesn't this cast doubt on public opinion surveys that show Israelis and Palestinians want "peace?" They may want "peace" that is defined as destruction of the other side.

After such an education, naturally the average Palestinian believes it is a big concession to give up Jaffa and Haifa and Birsaba (Beersheva), or even to let the Jews live under benign Islamic rule in any part of "Filasteen." In English the Palestinian leadership can protest to the world and to Dr. Rice that they want peace, and that the Palestinian people want peace. After all, the song does mention "peace," doesn't it? But they can explain that there is great opposition, and that the Palestinian people are very attached to Birsaba and Jaffo and it is big concession to give them up. Of course, in Arabic, they are creating this opposition themselves. It is not logical, because this Palestinian opposition, nurtured by Abbas's group, will support the Hamas and the extremists in the PLO, like Farouk Kaddumi, who are opposed to Abbas's group. Again it would appear that Abbas is betraying himself, just as Yasser Arafat undermined his own peace efforts by financing suicide bombers and calling for Jihad.

Similarly, Ehud Olmert says that Israel wants peace, but after all there are all these settlements, and there is great opposition to giving them up from forces such as the Yesha council. But who finances the Yesha council if not the Israeli government, and who built the settlements and expanded them, if not the Israeli government? Who created the education system that taught Israeli kids that Hebron is holy and cannot be given up in a peace settlement, and who makes the propaganda about "United Jerusalem.?" Of course, the people educated in this way must vote for the opposition right-wing Likud, so Mr. Olmert is also digging his own political grave.

The leaders nurture the internal opposition and the obstacles, and then claim that they cannot make peace because of them. Nobody, by the way, is exempt from this process. The Americans and Europeans will tell you that the refugee problem is a great obstacle to peace. But who pays for the UNRWA that perpetuates this problem? Who finances groups like the BADIL organization that insist on right of return for every refugee? And who helps to finance the settlements built by the Israelis? The worst offenders, however, are surely some of the "moderate" Arab countries that profess peace and moderation on the one hand, and yet lend their financial and political support to the Hamas.

What are the strange laws of the micro-world that produce these unpredictable and unexplainable self-destructive phenomena? Why does the US look the other way while Saudi Sheikhs fund Madrassas in Pakistan and Israelis fund settlements in the West Bank? Why do the EU and US fund a Palestinian government that is sabotaging its own peace program with "educational" materials like that song and pronouncements about "no concessions?" Why does the Saudi Arabian government look the other way while its own citizens are financing and furthering an ideology that will undermine its own regime? Is it loyalty to some primeval national or religious "instincts?" Is it an intricate sub-rosa network of blackmail and bribes that leverages on domestic peace and Middle East oil to get the right to export terror? Is there another explanation? Is it all just due to some sort of random aggregation of circumstances or to unknown laws of human behavior?

Perhaps someone can invent the equivalent of a unified field theory that will explain it all. Don't hold your breath until that happens. Perhaps we are due for a paradigm shift in understanding of the Middle East. Meanwhile, the essential thing is to see all the reality as it is, and not to be blinded by preconceived notions of what ought to be. At present, each side can take advantage of the situation to show only the part of reality that suits its program, and sweep the rest under the rug, but that approach is not helpful. We have to admit and cope with the strange behaviors of Middle East players, just as physicists could not ignore quantum effects, and Ptolemaic astronomers should not have ascribed problems in their data to "measurement error." We cannot dismiss all the incovenient facts as "propaganda" of the opposing side. It is very dangerous to shut out facts just because they don't fit our theories.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000643.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 1 Comment

On October 30th, Senator Chuck Hagel’s letter to President George Bush leaked. In the straightforward letter, Hagel insists that the time has come to engage Iran in a one-on-one conversation to address the sour relationship between the two countries. It seems like his point his fairly obvious - he wants to stop beating around the bush and initiate direct dialogue with Iran’s government in order to prevent a seemingly inevitable ‘clash of civilizations.’

You can read the ENTIRE letter here, you can also download the original: http://www.gummyprint.com/blog/hagel-to-bush-begin-unilateral-and-unconditional-talks-with-iran/

Posted by Lateef X @ 11/02/2007 05:49 PM CST

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