Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a meeting for the Central Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Cognitive dissonance can be a funny, curious thing. Like a high school jock who wears shorts while lobbying the principal to ban all summer wear, those who play the “I’m-apathetic-but-I-like-to-call- myself-an-activist” game are the best at what they (don’t) do. Their exercises in self-imposed make-believe produce comical scenes in which these individuals are at variance with their own objectives and undermine the very positions they claim to represent.
Yet, such intellectual inconsistencies often provoke more than light chuckles. In the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they lead to the wholesale disenfranchisement and destruction of Palestinians – all in the name of Palestinian welfare.
This process usually occurs when the acolytes of armchair social justice mistake colloquy in echo chambers for sincere concern for the wellbeing of others. Politicians, professors and journalists alike carry on mindlessly suggesting untenable and, worse, immoral prescriptions that ostensibly help Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank but which in fact bring about their demise. The logic of these academics, when put to practical use, reads more like a satirical pamphlet than advice intended to be taken seriously:
• Let’s prove we love Palestinians by creating a state which, under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, has already robbed them of international aid, persecuted their minority population, and withheld from them the dignity of basic civil liberties – such as the right to vote, and the right to choose one’s own religion.
– Every pundit on CNN (et al) who advocates for a Palestinian state, without fully comprehending what they are calling for.
• Let’s prove we love Palestinians by championing the tunnel complex built by Hamas – even though those tunnels were built with the blood of Gazan children who were deemed to be expendable by the Hamas regime.
– Al Jazeera (et al) which, when describing the tunnel system as a “Palestinian assertion of political autonomy and resistance” failed to realize that it was symbolically standing on the graves of innocent Gazans in order to push a brutal political agenda.
• “Let’s prove we love Palestinians by suggesting that Hamas was ‘resisting’ against oppressive Israeli policies in the 2014 conflict even though Hamas reigns brutally over its own people á la Joseph Stalin.
– Every member of the glib pep squad that is Students for Justice in Palestine (et al) who serve as proxies running interference on campus for regimes that persecute their own people.
After these groups are confronted with the absurdity of such arguments, they often either concede the point or simply reiterate talking points ad nauseam as though sheer repetition were a substitute for rational debate. Thus, when I explained to my professor in class one day that a Palestinian state would invariably be repressive for Palestinians, he responded by repeating that he believed a Palestinian state was good... for Palestinians.
Apart from being a testament to the stubborn power of the imagination, such a reply – which is unfortunately a consensus view in most American and European circles – illustrates the true objective of those who utter it: less interest in the betterment of Palestinian society than in hearing oneself talk about it.
This futile conversation in turn begets a policy that mimics its maker. European governments throw millions in aid money to the PA which ends up filling the coffers of kleptocrats in Fatah; Pundits claim to care about humanitarian efforts in Gaza during a skirmish while ignoring Gaza under “normal” circumstances – in which Hamas bans women from smoking in public places and its members relieve themselves on prisoners they deem to be a threat to their leadership.
To all this, our esteemed statesmen and stateswomen respond with tragic irony: “The Palestinian people deserve it. And it will enhance the stability of the region.” President George W. Bush made these remarks in 2008 and was recently extolled in an article by Matthew Duss and Michael A. Cohen, in The Washington Post; Duss and Cohen suggested that this position was necessary to bring about “peace” with Israel.
Yet such a strategy – devoid of any consideration for how a state would actually affect the lives of Palestinians – suggests that pundits prefer to give ovations for causes and consequences they are comfortably and conveniently detached from. With no concern for the situation on the ground, nodding in agreement with the very notion of human rights for Palestinians is used to justify the absence of taking concrete steps to bring those human rights about.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that these exercises in solipsism will let up any time soon. Thus, in the name of freedom, Palestinian women, dissidents and minorities will continue to be disregarded and overlooked. While voices across the ocean wax poetic about protecting the wellbeing of Palestinians, many victims will languish in prisons and torture chambers – as distant echoes of “The Palestinian people deserve it” reverberate around the dilapidated cell walls.
The author is a consultant for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and a fellow at the Lawfare Project.