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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

That Hideous Ratio

Certainly a lot of the Palestinians freed today are murderers. Some are not. But the very idea that 1,000 + Palestinians were "traded' for one Israeli soldier sets a devastating precedent. It says, symbolically, that one Israeli is essentially worth 1,000 + Palestinians. It doesn't say that exactly, mind you, but that's the main takeaway. It is a hideous ratio.

And that is tremendously sad. Because the "leadership" -- and I use that term loosely -- in Hamas regards this as some sort of victory. This is "victory" in a very pre-Arab Spring sense; a 1970s version of reality. Pyrrhic, maybe. On the face of things it looks like the Israeli's are "suckers" for freeing so many Palestinians for only a single soldier. In the end, however, could one ever imagine Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela ever making such a deal?

Of course not. The struggle for African-Americans was for equality, pure and simple. Human rights; dignity. There is no dignity in accepting a bargain where a Palestinian, in any way shape or state of grace, is existentially equivalent to one-thousandth of an Israeli. To accept such a Faustian bargain strengthens the "conventional wisdom," the stereotype -- a stereotype strengthened, one cannot fail to note, every time a suicide bomber self-detonates -- that Palestinian life, a non-West life, is not as existentially valuable as a Jewish, of a Western, life.

The Arab Spring movements, if they taught us anything -- influenced, incidentally, strongly by comparisons to the Western quality of life as spread by digital technology -- demanded a quality of life on par with those of Americans, or at least Americans before the Great Recession. The Arab Spring movements demand Arab life to be equal to Western life. Hamas is thinking 30 years in the post-colonial past.

So where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela? No doubt she or he is suppressed somewhere in those terrible ghettos, the light nearly snuffed from their bright eyes. Why doesn't Israel promote such people, these possible leaders? I cannot accept the lie that responsible, charismatic non-violent leaders do not exist  in any way shape or form in the West Bank. More likely the present narrative -- where Palestinians are "irresponsible," "politically immature" and "violent" -- is more acceptable to the present leadership in Israel.

The status quo.

And so that hideous ratio remains, hanging over the Middle East.

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