Saturday, August 8, 2009

Truth, Logic, Rationality and The Israel-Palestinian Conflict: “Lying for Peace” to Protect Fatah

By Barry Rubin

Since the evaluation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is so often far removed from serious and sober political analysis, one has to resort to philosophical explanations.

To paraphrase Karl Marx: Misunderstanders of the Middle East Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains of logic.

Consider carefully these two chains of logic which simply don’t work and apply them to other Middle East issues.

Chain of Logic 1:

Proposition A: We all want and need peace.

Agreed. Peace is good. Violence is bad. Peace is better than war. It is preferable that everyone get along nicely.

Proposition B: It would be a great thing to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Agreed again.

Proposition C: There can only be a comprehensive and stable peace if it is made by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

Once more, agreed.

Therefore: (Uh-oh)

Conclusion: Fatah and the PA want peace and are partners in achieving it in the near future.

Wrong! Doesn’t compute. Yes, if Fatah and the PA are ready to make a deal then a deal can be made, but they aren't. To go from Proposition C to the Conclusion requires a leap of wishful thinking, since they aren’t ready to do so. See here and here and here.

In fact, the Fatah Congress unanimously agreed—with no prior investigation and not a shred of evidence—that Israel murdered Yasir Arafat, the former Fatah and PA leader. Such a belief requires blood vengeance in their society. In other words, Israeli political figures must be killed by Fatah to redress this grievance. Does this sound like a moderate and rational group ready to make peace?

It is being reported that the Fatah Congress demanded all of Jerusalem--that is both west Jerusalem, ruled by Israel and its capital since 1948, and east Jerusalem, ruled by Jordan after 1948 until captured by Israel in 1967. Is this a badly worded resolution or deliberate ambiguity? But if true, this would mark a tremendous escalation in Fatah's demands and would definitely rule out any chance for peace.

OK. But assume you are a politician, government official, journalist, academic expert, or just plain interested person who is convinced of what is written above. Do you then announce and set a policy based on the conviction that Israel-Palestinian peace is far off, Fatah’s moderation has a very thin veneer, and Fatah and the PA are not going to make peace with Israel?

Not necessarily.

And this leads us to…

Chain of Logic 2

This is connected not by logic but by wishful thinking

Proposition A: All good people want a just and lasting Israel-Palestinian peace, which must be between the PA-Fatah and Israel.

All right.

Proposition B: To help bring this about is a good thing.

Check so far

Proposition C: Analysis, information, and policies which promote the idea that Fatah-PA can and will make a peace agreement are therefore positive. But to provide data to the contrary helps to make peace impossible and strengthens the bad people (i.e., right-wingers) who "don’t want" peace.

This is a profound misunderstanding of how logic, policymaking, and democracy work, indeed of how institutions like universities and media are supposed to function.

It isn’t so hard to understand. There is a two-step process:

Step 1: Try to find out the most accurate possible picture of leaders, groups, world views, and policies using evidence along with the basic rules of rational thought.

Step 2: Draw conclusions from this analysis.

In other words, without fear or favor, figure out what’s going on and say so honestly. You don’t have to “lie for peace”; or tell fibs because you like “doves” and dislike “hawks”; or because you are on the left so you don’t want to give “aid and comfort” to those on the right; or because you really know best for the people involve so you load the dice.

First you figure out what’s happening and THEN you reach a conclusion, rather than the other way around.

This inversion sort of started with Stalinism, when one couldn’t talk about the regime-made famine or repression, for example, because that would help the “reactionaries” who opposed Communism. Many examples have happened since.

So, for those who say Fatah has changed or moderated, how has it changed? What’s the evidence?

Why don’t you tell the truth about the details of corruption which steals Western aid funds, the extremism so visible in Arabic-language speeches, the education of the next generation to seek to wipe out Israel, the appointment of Islamic clerics who preach genocidal anti-Jewish sermons, and so on?

Why do you pretend that Fatah has changed, has moderated, has pushed armed conflict off the real agenda, and so on?

The answer is: you are “lying for peace”; lying because of your ideological preferences; lying because you don’t like Israel or the Israel right (ignoring the fact that people across the political spectrum in Israel knows everything I’ve written here is true); lying to promote your career; and for other reasons.

For sure, often with the best of intentions, for the good of humanity, out of pity for the Palestinians, but nevertheless you are making a terrible mistake which causes more bloodshed and suffering.

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