I suppose I should come up with something to say about the Palestine Papers that are the news of the day.
Others have already pointed out the peculiarity of these documents, which claim that Palestinian Authority leaders had accepted every compromise necessary for a peace settlement (despite having publically rejected these very terms for decades). Stories claiming that the PA was willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state a year before that issue was even mentioned by Israeli negotiators makes the whole storyline more than suspicious.
If a consensus is emerging that these documents are a mixed of genuine meeting notes laced with strategic manipulations (notably presenting Israeli compromises as Palestinian ones), run through a media filter anxious to create the twin storyline of Israeli intransigence and Palestinian capitulation, the dynamic that has taken hold since their release is similar to that which greeted the Wikileaks story upon which the Palestinian Papers were modeled.
Like Wikileaks, the Palestinian Papers are a Rorschach Test which reveal much more about those who are analyzing the documents than anything the documents themselves say. Across the political spectrum, news analysts and commentators first scoured the trove of Wikileaks releases to find materials that supported their pre-existing political leanings, before genuflecting before idols claiming that Julian Assange (the head of Wikileaks) was either a free-speech saint or treasonous rapist.
For liberals, Wikileak documents demonstrated the cynicism of American realpolitik (especially those that could be laid at the feet of their bête noir of Bush/Cheney). For conservatives, they demonstrated their characterization of the present administration as feckless foreign-policy amateurs. Israel’s friend and foes got into the game, the former pointing out that Israel’s concerns over Iranian nukes were shared by most of the regimes in the region (at least in private), while the latter read into the Wiki documents nefarious Israeli schemes for crippling Gaza or going to war with Lebanon.
Because the Wikileak arsenal provided ammunition to both sides of our stultified Left-Right divide, the wider issues regarding this latest tear at our civic fabric took a backseat to snatching what one could for near-term political gain. But now that we have made it clear that private discussions between leaders, diplomats, employers and employees might very well land on the front pages, how much will not be said in the future what will be the result of jaw-jaw no longer being as easy an alternative to war-war?
As with most things, the replication of a phenomenon in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict only makes these issues simultaneously more simplistic and stark. As far as I know, none of the Wikileaks revelations were exposed or even condemned as forgeries. But in the case of the Palestinian Papers, we have now moved from accepting the legitimacy of releasing secret documents to the public to accepting the legitimacy of any document (no matter how questionable) so long as it is part of some sort of unauthorized leak. If concerns over media credulity was running high before the Palestinian Papers hit the airwaves, the media’s swallowing whole not just the document’s authenticity but a storyline pre-packaged for them by Al Jazeera only accelerates the destruction of another civic cornerstone: trust in our news sources.
But it is the Palestinian Authority and the peace process itself which is the real target for this attack-leak, something demonstrated daily since the story broke with editorials and cartoons condemning the PA for even considering compromises (even unproven ones) that have been at the cornerstone of peace negotiations for decades. If negotiations were always going to be difficult, it’s safe to say they are now impossible after having put one party (the PA) on notice of what they can expect if they ever cross the threshold and doing what the Palestinian Papers claim they have done (i.e., negotiate on difficult issues that would require compromise on both sides).
I suppose this ties the Palestinian Papers story back to the topic of this blog: BDS. For the people who are now roundly condemning the Palestinians for just alleged threats of compromise are the same ones who claim that the only true means of achieving Palestinian aspirations is to abandon negotiation entirely in favor of pressure on Israel in the form of boycott, divestment and sanction. Yet the abandonment of negotiations (or making negotiations impossible) has but one result at the end of that day: endless, violent conflict (during which the BDSers will take to the streets in wild-eyed “anti-war” hysteria, but only after Israel decides to return fire).
Ironically, those threatening the Palestinians with public humiliation, boycott or worse if they ever attempt to find common ground with their Jewish neighbors also claim to be champions of peace (which is why they put the word into their organizational names and every third word of their press releases). Yet as the response to the Palestinian Papers demonstrates, these groups are at best cheerleaders for, at worst adjuncts to non-stop war.