Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Come on now, Prof. Cole

Juan Cole is happy that Sharon left the Likud. Yes, it's always nice to see unpleasant coalitions fall apart. But did Cole not notice all the Likudniks following Sharon over to his new party? It's not that Sharon's renounced Likudnik political thought -- he just got sick of hearing dissent from within his own party. But Cole seems to think that Sharon is simply a "security hawk" who isn't interested in the "expansionist, colonizing and fascistic" politics of the Likud. That "continuing to steal Palestinian land" and "never trading land for peace" are the kinds of crazy Likud ideas that Sharon could no longer tolerate. You wouldn't be surprised to hear Cole calling Sharon a "man of peace" in the next sentence.

Sharon is still about stealing Palestinian land. He just knows that its much easier to do with the approval of the international community. Please tell me where Sharon is offering land for peace, except only in the most perverted sense that Sharon thinks that Israel should get peace and the Palestinians might get to keep a few dunums of land -- with walls and checkpoints and settlements and settler roads, of course.

Is Cole so mesmerized by the Gaza withdrawal that he can't see what's happening in the West Bank, in Jerusalem? Did he buy into the hype?

Cole suggests that Israelis rally around Amir Peretz, who recently approved of the upcoming publishing of 350 tenders for new homes in the Ma'ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank. (You see, that's how land for peace works. Take the land, then offer back some part of it for peace.) And of course, if the Palestinians aren't so pleased about this, it only makes them rejectionists.

Indeed, Cole foresees a lack of "real progress on Arab-Israeli peace any time soon" because there is no strong Palestinian leader (and because Sharon isn't interested in talking to the current leaders) and laments the fact that "You can't declare peace unilaterally, the way you can war." Especially if the "peace" you are declaring is simply a rearranged form of domination and occupation. Perhaps one could unilaterally end the occupation, though? Does Cole really believe that the Palestinians should be forced to negotiate a partial withdrawal of the occupation and have it called "peace"?

Meanwhile, Yossi Sarid has one of the better comments on the Sharon situation that I have had the chance to read so far. His analysis is not limited to Israeli politics, and in my opinion critiques rather well the American Democratic party. It is very much a comment on the talk of the political "center" and of "moderates."
I've never understood what is meant by this "political center" that everyone fawns over. What's the secret of its charm that makes everyone rush to it, crowd around it, so that its suffocating crowdedness overflows. But it is possible the secret is not so deep, and is actually quite evident to the eye and easy to decipher.

The name of the secret is opportunism. Instead of adopting a clear position, this way or that, it is a lot easier and certain to adopt two positions at once, even if both don't suit one another, even if they are partially or totally contradictory. The political center is the playground of the seesaws - they sit there seesawing to their pleasure, this way and that, this way and its opposite. First they find out what the public mostly wants, and according to that ephemeral desire, they have fun. Constantly looking for "the middle ground," as if these knights of public opinion are saying to themselves "tell me where the Archimedes point is and I'll tell you where I am."

The people of the center are considered responsible. They are not, heaven forbid, extremists. Their approach is seemingly thoughtful and measured. They are people for all seasons, every situation, every person, even if they usually don't give a real answer to any situation.

That Yossi Sarid article reminds me of all the people who last year held their noses and ultimately wasted their vote on Kerry - not because he represented their convictions, but because at least he wasn't as bad as you know who.

I think that Avrum Burg's comment on lesser-of-two-evil-ism is the best:

"My attempt to seize the center and my refraining from going all the way to the end with my views made me a cosmetic candidate lacking true positions. So in the final analysis, the lesson I drew was that in such a difficult period, I have to speak my truth unvarnished. If there is no other choice, I prefer to lose over truths than to be elected for emptiness."

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