The Bush administration’s current efforts to create a Palestinian state in defiance of every marker it has laid down is a study in weakness and confusion. Rick Richman provides a case study in the New York Sun column “Defining the roadmap down.” Part of the problem here seems to be intellectual.
Put to one side the question whether the lack of a twenty-third Arab state is the problem, or the refusal to accept the existence of one Jewish state. The latest round of diplomatic buffoonery includes a recurrence of Seceretary Rice’s characterization of the Palestinian cause as a civil rights issue in the image of the one she grew up with in Birmingham, Alabama. As Joel Fishman recently reported:
Last week in Jerusalem, U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, articulated some of her personal views which ultimately found their way into the press. For Dr. Rice the struggle of the Palestinians is analogous to that of the Afro-Americans for civil rights and she identifies with the Palestinians. She recalled what it meant to travel in segregated buses as a little girl in Alabama. She also compared the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Reverend Martin Luther King, because, in her mind, both were committed to peace. According to reporter Aluf Benn, Rice views Abbas as committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and, like Martin Luther King, opposed to terror and violence (Haaretz, October 16, 2007). Independently, David Bedein reported Rice’s statements in The Bulletin (Philadelphia, October 17, 2007).
I am unable to pull up the cited Haaretz story, but Israel Matzav quotes it in relevant part; the cited David Bedein story is here.
These themes have become a motif in Secretary Rice’s discussion of Palestinian statehood. She articulated them most egregiously last year in an astonishing speech before an American-Palestinian group. In that speech Rice likened the Palestinian struggle to the American struggle for independence and to the American civil rights movement. Rice said:
I know that sometimes a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel must seem like a very distant dream. But I know too, as a student of international history, that there are so many things that once seemed impossible that, after they happened, simply seemed inevitable. I’ve read over the last summer the biographies of America’s Founding Fathers. By all rights, America, the United States of America, should never have come into being. We should never have survived our civil war. I should never have grown up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama to become the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
Rice describes herself as a student of history, though she herself seems to be dreaming. She is dreaming, perhaps, of Yasser Arafat’s January 2002 remarks in which Arafat likened himself to George Washington. When she wakes up, I wonder if she’ll identify a few active Palestinian political figures who dream of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel rather than dream of a Palestinian state in its place. Dreamers of the latter dream seem to constitute a conspicuous majority of the followers of Hamas and Arafat’s Fatah Party. In any event, perhaps Secretary Rice can contemplate how the latter dream is also one of those that may seem impossible before it happens and inevitable afterward.
UPDATE: Rick Richman writes:
At Boker tov, Boulder! there is a more complete excerpt from the Haaretz article (including an important sentence fragment that for some reason is currently missing at the Haaretz link) and an email from the Haaretz writer (Aluf Benn) reiterating his assertion that his report about Secretary Rice’s private conversations was reliably sourced. David Samuels deals with Secretary Rice’s civil rights analogy in