Jodi Rudoren and Palestinian despotism
It is simply impossible to define democratic sovereignty in a Palestinian government where such perks of democracy as liberty are not set in place.
PALESTINIANS RALLY in Ramallah for Prisoners Day Photo: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
The 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in the
conclusion to his timeless treatise on civil government, The Social Contract,
“After setting out the true principles of political right... I should complete
my study by considering the foreign relations of the state... the law of
nations, commerce, the rights of war and conquest, international law, leagues,
negotiations... and so forth. But all this would represent a new subject too
vast for my weak vision; and I would have had to keep my eyes fixed on matters
within my range.”
Apropos, the cause of the Palestinian people – one
stateless Arab nation living under Israeli occupation and displaced as refugees
in Arab lands and throughout the West – has become a teachable exemplar of the
anguish of colonization, and a flashpoint to ignite incendiary accusations of
human rights violations at the Jewish state by today’s erudite and academic
upholders of liberty.
However, certain considerations have gone
overlooked, or else the true democrats would see Israel as a paradigm of liberal
democracy, (or at least, a modern state doing their best to provide justice)
whereas the actual, unveiled Palestinian Authority is “a new subject too vast”
for the “weak vision” of progressive political thinkers who “would have had to
keep... [their]... eyes fixed on matters within... [their]...
Were this not the case, a body politic would be found in the
recently released Gaza Strip and the West Bank by now. The lack of democratic
sovereignty is not the fault of Israel. It is simply impossible to define
democratic sovereignty in a government where such perks of democracy as liberty
are not set in place.
To Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,
liberty is something that the Jews naturally owe to him, but in turn, he does
not feel he owes to the subjects of his own proposed government.
completely sovereign Palestine under a Fatah-Hamasmerger resemble Ba’athist
Syria? Why wouldn’t it? The first example of fascism in Palestinian politics is
the merger with Hamas last year after the toppling of Mubarak in Egypt. It is as
if Fatah civilians and government officials do not recall the murder, the
injustice, caused to them by Hamas during the pre-moratorium “Wakseh.” However,
the examples go much further and beyond this simple signifier of despotism in
In an op-ed to The New York Times written May 16,
2011, Abu Mazen explained his story: “Sixty three years ago, a 13-year-old
Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and
flee with his family to Syria. He took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to
all the arriving refugees. Though he and his family wished for decades to return
to their home and homeland, they were denied that most basic of human rights.
That child’s story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is
Liberal hearts must go out to him. The fact is that that same
generation refused, firstly, the right of return under UN General Assembly
Resolution 194 passed on December 11, 1948, Article 11 of which “resolves that
the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their
neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and
that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to
return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of
international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or
And this fateful decision by Palestinian
leadership (to refuse relocation within Israel) came on the heels of the refusal
of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947, guaranteeing an Arab state side
by side with a Jewish state.
Last week, the Times’s new Jerusalem bureau
chief, Jodi Rudoren, tweeted: “What do Israel and Iran have in common? Jailing
journalists....” Her comment was in reference to statistics as presented in a
recent piece in the Columbia Journalism Review by Justin D.
Martin writes, “Israel jails more journalists than either the
Palestinian Authority [zero] or militant group Hamas [three], both of which it
criticizes for human rights miscarriages.” He stresses that Israel “has some
explaining to do.” The truth is the other way around. A case cannot be cited in
which an Israeli journalist was jailed on account of the government’s
authoritarian censorship; or, for that matter, in which wrongdoing was aimed at
a foreign journalist with intent. There might have been the need for
incarceration for civil disobedience, perhaps.
Then, there is always the
case of Anat Kamm, the young reporter who in 2010 downloaded confidential IDF
documents and presented them to Haaretz military correspondent Uri Blau. Though,
this does not a gag-order constitute, nor is it media censorship for that
On the other hand, consider this: In 2010, a then-26-year-old
blogger from the Arab village of Kalkilya in the West Bank was jailed for
lampooning the Prophet Muhammad on his blog. Then, consider the following
examples as presented in a Washington Post editorial on April 4 by David Keyes:
On December 4, 2011, PA security forces raided The First Palestinian Conference
on Social Media that was being held at the Light House venue in Gaza City, in
concert with an event in Ramallah via video conferencing.
Palestinian woman, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq, accused of slandering Abu Mazen, the
Palestinian president, on her Facebook page was detained for two weeks while
pending an investigation.
And there are other cases. For instance, a
Palestinian print journalist named Yousef al-Shayeb was detained for eight days
this year for reportedly defaming public officials.
“Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than
they.” Then, surely the liberal and democratic critique of policy within the
Jewish state will not “keep... [their]... eyes fixed on matters within...
[their]... range” and will instead pose questions to the Palestinian Authority
such as, “You want an end to Jewish occupation; but what exactly did you have in
mind for governing your sovereignty?” A Palestinian state helmed by Mahmoud
Abbas in concert with Hamas leadership would not deliver an egalitarian ethos to
the Palestinians, and per the aforementioned examples, would provide even fewer
rights to Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip than would the Israeli
government to Arabs within the Israeli democracy.
that all Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are happy with their
ramshackle government and quality of life would be akin to claiming that all
citizens of Iran are happy with their government and quality of life under the
regime of the ayatollahs.
The writer is an author and student based in