Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peacemakers: Palestine's Business Class

For those of you who wanted to read my piece in the October Harper's on Palestine's business class, but were deterred by having to buy a Harper's subscription to access current articles, you may now download the pdf. here.


Y. Ben-David said...

In 1914, on the eve of World War I, international trade was booming and the "globalist" international economy was developing and prospering. Latin America opened up to European investment. Big business was doing great. Why would anyone want to disrupt this wonderful situation with a war?

In 1939, the world was on the way to coming out of the Great Depression. Germany had full employment, consumer spending there was growing by leaps and bounds. International trade was again booming as it was in 1914. Yet, again, a world war exploded on the world. Apparently, internationalist "entrepeneurs" either don't have as much political influence as some people think, or Marx was wrong and they can get swept up into fanaticism and nationalism just like everybody else. Marx happened to live at a time of extended peace on the European economy, and he attributed it, in a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" logical fallacy as being due to the economic developments of the period. Had he lived in the 20th century, he would have come to other conclusions. Why don't contemporary economic thinkers reach the appropriate conclusions?

Potter said...

Israeli politicians need to be exposed, lest they get away with their claims, quoting from your article:

“Economic peace is not a substitute
for peace, but it is a very important
component in achieving it. . . . I
call upon the talented entrepreneurs
of the Arab world to come and invest
here.” For Netanyahu’s boosters, the
phrase often means little more than
increasing jobs for Palestinians on Israeli
construction projects,.....

This article I wish had a more sensational title and perhaps a spot on the Huffington Post to attract wider attention. I don't think enough people understand what is trying to happen and what is prevented from happening under the heavy foot of Israeli occupation. The question really is- does Israel want peace? From this article one would have to give a resounding "no" answer.

The loss of trust in the last number of years has been very detrimental to both sides. Commerce, business relations, is one way, an excellent way, of rebuilding trust, and, as you say, building a civil society necessary for businesses to thrive.

The end of your article:

But you also get the feeling
that his [Ali Aggad] Israeli business partners
are coming to mean the most to him—
that there is something decent and
intimate in the reciprocal relations
imposed by market discipline.
The idea that businesspeople produce
tolerance as a by-product of their
self-interested innovations is, granted,
a quaint Victorian conceit: even Marx
and Engels wrote in the Communist
Manifesto that the bourgeoisie’s “universal
interdependence” made “national
one-sidedness and narrowmindedness
become more and more
impossible.” Yet it is hard to think
about the intense grievances Palestinians
and Israelis have held against each
other, and especially Palestinian rage
against occupation, and not feel a measure
of relief to hear business managers
speak of individual, abstract, and instrumental
relations: the practical exchanges
required to create wealth. The
point is, you have to start somewhere,
and when people have reasons to dislike
each other they can at least like
each other’s money.

Potter said...

Y. Ben-David: Marx happened to live at a time of extended peace on the European economy, and he attributed it, in a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" logical fallacy as being due to the economic developments of the period.

I don't know about what conclusion Marx might have drawn but isn't it also a fallacy to say or imply that because economic development did not prevent those catastrophic wars, therefore economic development ( in this situation) should be suppressed because it may (correct me)cause war? Is that your more appropriate conclusion? That sounds like a conclusion drawn more out of fear.

And in the absence of World War Three all these many years can it not be concluded also that economic and technological development and the global relationships that this has brought has helped to avert such wars?

Y. Ben-David said...

There is no doubt economic factors play a role, even a major role in international relations. However, my point is that they are not necessarily decisive. Those, like Dr Avishai and Tom Friedman (among others) who seem to attribute all human motivations to maximizing economic interests are simply ignoring the complexity of the human personality. For example, the 9/11 terrorists came from well-to-do backgrounds, so obviously, they didn't view making as much money as possible as their main goal in life. Osama Bin-Laden is a multi-millionaire.
The Arab/Israeli conflict can NOT be reduced simply to viewed as some sort of battle which correct economic policies can settle. It is primarily religious and cultural (the existence of a dhimmi Jewish state in the middle of the Dar al-Islam - "realm of Islam" is abhorrent to the Muslim/Arab world) and needs to be viewed primarily from that point of view. The possibilty of a "two-state solution with a prosperous Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel" would be considered a major threat to the Arab/Muslim Middle East because of the dangers of alien values (Dr Avishai's "secular, globalist" materialist "Hebrew Republic") infiltrating the Palestinian and other Arab/Muslim socieities in the region, which are very conservative and view preserving those values as being more important than making as much money as possible. Any Arab who agreed to such a scenario would be viewed as a traitor to his people.

Potter said...

Y.B-D.- I am interested in your reasoning.

If economic factors are not necessarily decisive, and you admit they play a role- why not encourage and facilitate that? Why do you negate the positive effects- how this goes towards encouraging moderates and modifying or diminishing religious fanaticism?

Israel shoots itself in the foot by deliberately destroying, preventing, and discouraging Palestinian’s attempts at becoming a more civil society. I don’t get from BA the idea that this is THE solution to all problems either. What I do get is that this is a force, that there is an opportunity to encourage a process that would work to bring the alienated into the fold and more importantly bring normal life to Palestinians. This would not magically turn things around but it can’t but help bring cooperation and trust and good will. So are you afraid of that?

You point to the extreme case of Bin Laden and his fanatics, who are content to be outlaws, as an example of why this won’t work. That’s false; the most extreme example, not a Palestinian, does not prove a general point about Palestinians. Also you neglect to mention that actively preventing Palestinians from economic development at every turn, the absence of employment and economic activity ( B. Avishai’s’s Harper’s article above for specifics) helps generate a more angry populace, makes more angry frustrated desperate hopeless unemployed despondent enough to take up arms against the whole damn occupation and embrace extremist values and points of view against an Israel with whom coexistence seems an impossibility. This would satisfiy your conclusions but it would have been brought about by Israeli policy, not Arab culture and religion

“the dangers of alien values” may be true of Bin Laden, but I don’t believe that is generally coming from Palestinians. They seem to want to engage the world.

Anonymous said...

Give the Palestinians a state in exchange for peace treaties with all Muslim states.

Then hopefully the Israelis and Jews world wide will not be attacked.

Of course the Palestinains will not abide by whatever normal statehood means.

Then hopefully the Jews will have one enemy.
Fantasy of course.

Ramish Mizrah- India
Look at my country vis a vis Pakistan.
At least Malaysia does not threaten us!

Y. Ben-David said...

The restrictions on movement the Palestinians all always complaining about are a product of the terrorist war their elected leader, Arafat, decided to wage against Israel. They didn't exist during the period of full Israeli occupation before Oslo in 1993. Oslo was immediately followed by waves of suicide bomber attacks on Israel. The roadblocks and the security wall were put up in response to this. The "entrepeneurs" Dr Avishai is putting so much faith in can not expect their Palestinian Authority to be encouraging terror against Israel and then expect their economy to flourish at the same time. Avishai's friend Sam Bahour himself wrote that Arafat did nothing go encourage entrepeneurship because of the lack of rule of law, lax police security, "socialist" favoritism for various friends and relatives who were given controls of monopolies that ripped off the Palestinian population. How much of that has changed since Arafat has died?

Potter said...

Y., You go round and round and not forward.

It was a mistake for Palestinians to turn to terrorism in hindsight, but terrorism also works/worked to some extent to wake Israel up to Palestinian pain. In that sense Israeli lack of concern about the lives of those they occupy brought the terrorism on and continues to do so. It’s a quite something that Palestinians have, it seems, decided that terrorism does not do them much good in th long run, building a state. As for Israel, the emphasis on military approach, denying then punishing Palestinians, efforts to get a complete surrender, forcing more of their more hopeful entrepreneurs to leave for elsewhere, allowing settlements to increase, building an increasingly entrenched occupation, the obscene recent Gaza War response to their rockets, were mistakes on the Israel side. They also are not doing Israel any good.

It's being shown here that Palestinians have been up to more than terrorism and have been much more positive, trying to build something under extremely difficult conditions still imposed by Israel while Netanyahu tries to claim otherwise..

Terrorism by the way, as you mustknow but don’t say, is/was a response. It was for Jews too when all other avenues were blocked. When you don't have a military, it's militias and terrorism, a desperation tactic. You cannot tell me how everything was just fine before suicide bombings and rockets began. But again- you are singing a tired old song.

More old song- Sharon was elected to wage harsh war against Palestinians, not to continue the peace process. Israeli's it seemed then as now, only care about their immediate insecurity being fixed right away, not about the well-being of those who they have under control and ( still thus ) moral responsibility for. How intelligent is it for Israeli leaders and society not to regard the future, not to figure out that Palestinian well being is connected to Israel’s well being?. Do walls, checkpoints, military operations and growing opinion in the world that Israel is a pariah state worthy of boycotts sanctions divestments movement suit some vision in Israel for the future? What is that?

Potter said...

Y., (part two)

You will probably see terror and more war it again. I do see a frustrated PA without anything real or substantial to show their people with regard to the future.

It's all phoney diplomacy, talk for the media, for those who would like to really believe in a righteousness that is hard to feel while also being in touch with the full reality. That Israel is working towards any real security for itself and the region and the future is hard to see because it doe not appear to be so. Israeli government policies are all about placating the public's worst fears, about holding on, relying on the use of force with it’s very temporary benefits and at increasing costs. This promotes more insecurity and more digging into the same hole. Tell me it's different. Tell me it's Palestinians who drive this situation, as you do, and I will say you also don't see far enough out of your worst fears, that you most likely a afraid of Arabs, afraid of coexistence, don’t believe there can be peace, won’t ever trust. Or that there can be acceptance of Israel. This is self- fulfilling, and a tragedy.

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