Posted by: sean | May 10, 2009

L’archipel de Palestine orientale

I was going to post the recent map of the Palestinian Archipelago that recently appeared in Le Monde Diplomatiqe and on a blog for strange maps, but my good friend Qifa Nabki, who recently discovered the Mossadomizer, beat me to it. (Hell, I’m going to post it anyway, but for another, similar but less artistic map, of settlements in the West Bank, check out this one.)

I sent the map to a friend of mine in Paris last week, and he couldn’t understand why the cartographer had put in an explanatory note about the water, explaining,”the map is not about ‘drowning’ or ‘flooding’ the Israeli population, nor dividing territories along ethnic lines, even less a suggestion of how to resolve the conflict.” I sent him an email back, explaining that there were people like this, who say gibberish like this:

…an illustrator working for France’s Le Monde Diplomatique has finally achieved what Israel’s enemies have always dreamed about: he’s drowned all of the Jews in a Palestinian sea.

…The real map of the Middle East is not composed of tiny Palestinian islands surrounded by an Israeli sea. Rather, it is one tiny Jewish state the size of New Jersey surrounded by an Arab and Islamic world composed of more than 20 sovereign nations, the vast majority of whom still dream of pushing the Jews into the sea.

Well, what Tobin didn’t realize, is that the Jordanians are also under water. This, of course, is but an addendum of the “in the sea” remark, because the devious Palestinian dream of pushing the Jordanians into the sea is well known.

But more seriously, this is a typical attitude for American Zionists, who seem to be bigger Arab nationalists than anyone since Abdel Nasser. They have this idea that “the Arabs” can be lumped into a single united and hostile mass that stretches from Morocco to Iraq and down to Yemen. This mass is called the enemy. In the real world, one that Israelis are actually more familiar with than their cheerleaders in the US, the Arab world is as fractured and divided as any other group of the same size, if not more so. We know that Lebanon and Palestine and Iraq, just to give a couple topical examples, are extremely divided. But other Arab countries have been split as well: Algeria, Yemen, Syria and Sudan have all had their fair share of internal violence, not to mention rivarlies between Syria and Iraq; Morocco and Algeria; Lebanon and Syria; Libya and Chad; Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In the end, though, it’s hard to say if the American cheerleaders of Israel actually believe in a monolithic Arab nationalism or are just using a stillborn ideology as a rhetorical bludgeon against Israel’s enemies, or enemy as they’d have us believe.

To be fair, though, the Arabs have a tendency of creating their own monolith out of Israelis. The other day, I was reading an interesting, and interestingly optimistic, piece from 2000 by the Syrian writer Sadaq Jalal al-Azm about the Syrian-Israeli peace track, which seemed, at least to him, to be fairly imminent.  In it, he talks about a shift in the way that Syrians see Israelis, or at least Israeli politics, which has moved from seeing a unified front in which there’s very little daylight between Labor and Likud to a more nuanced view in which it matters concretely who is elected in Israel. In other words, a view in which Arabs have a stake in Israeli politics:

Acute dissatisfaction with Netanyahu and his policies suddenly created a qualitatively new kind of special Arab vital interest in who rules Israel (and in the party that happens to be in power there). Even in Syria, a feeling was creeping over us that the local conventional wisdom about Labor and Likud agreeing on all the decisive issues is already outmoded and not in touch with new realities in the area. Israel’s internal affairs seemed, all of a sudden, to be acquiring an intimate sort of interest in Damascus that was never there before.

I think it’s taken the Arabs to come to the conclusion that Israelis are not a monolith, which the Israelis figured out a good deal earlier, in its dealings with Sadat and King Hussein, its involvement in the Lebanese civil war, and more recently its dealings with Fatah in opposition of Hamas. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware of such diversity of opinion and strategy in both Israelis and Arabs. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the US didn’t bear the onus of resolving the conflict.

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