Wednesday, August 26, 2009

State Within A State

Unlike Yasir Arafat's periodic declarations, Salam Fayyad's announcements that his government is preparing the institutions of statehood, irrespective of negotiations with Israel, should be taken seriously--and welcomed. As I argue in a forthcoming article in October's Harper's, Fayyad is no mere technocrat. He represents, and is organizing, precisely the business and professional class that can bring off his vision.Palestinians, too, can create facts. Ironically, Fayyad's political strategy mirrors historic Zionism's success.

It has become a settled wisdom (viz., our president, the day after his Cairo speech) that Israel's founding was a kind of answer to the holocaust, or to put it another way, that were it not for the holocaust, Israel would not have come into being. There is half of a truth here: just go back and read Andrei Gromyko's speech to the UN in support of the 1947 partition resolution.

But the bigger half is that the Zionist colonists, led by Ben-Gurion's Histadrut, had created a state within the British Mandate state back during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s: economically and culturally vibrant, and largely self-reliant. Were it not for the holocaust, the state may not have arisen in 1948, but it would have arisen all the more certainly. Indeed, Hitler wound up murdering its most avid cadres: among the millions of Polish Jews who died in the death camps, hundreds of thousands were sophisticated and devoted Zionists.

Palestine's natural leaders, too, have the means to achieve independence and earn international recognition, though (as my article will show) the occupation administration seems to be doing what it can to frustrate them. I've talked to everyone from the head of the Palestine Investment Fund to the CEO of Palestine's leading software house. It is hard to spend time with these people, some of whom have become friends over the years, and then hear reflexive Israeli government doubts about whether the peace process has a partner--something you hear much less from Israel business people, by the way. More soon.