Simon Tisdall and the evil of banality

“The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.”

(Bertrand Russell, ‘Sceptical Essays’, 1928)

Fresh from executing the ethical acrobatics necessary to whitewash Omar al Bashir, Simon Tisdall is back on CiF America and doing his bit towards pushing the idea of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

The most abhorrent paragraph of his article has to be this one:

“Others suggest Palestinian political divisions make such a move impractical. Jonathan Schanzer, writing in Foreign Policy magazine, warned that “a declaration of statehood without Israeli approval … is an almost surefire recipe for war”. But if war is coming anyway, why not take the plunge?”  (my emphasis.)

Of course, Tisdall’s words are only shocking to people who do not enjoy the luxury of viewing war from the safety and comfort of their armchair in front of the TV; people whose experience of battle and destruction is not limited solely to the latest headlines on their Blackberry; people for whom war is not something just to write or moralise about. Or people who, apparently unlike Tisdall, can actually empathise with others.

For those of us who have to smell, feel, hear and see war in real-time, Tisdall’s cavalier attitude towards it is not only profoundly offensive,  it is also a reminder of the frivolity with which people like him – who will never understand that gut-wrenching feeling which takes over one’s body when an air-raid siren goes off – proffer unsolicited judgments and suggestions based on a multitude of ignorance and lacking in the humility to consider for one moment the people involved – as though they were some kind of laboratory rat in a maze.

In November 1988 Yasser Arafat unilaterally declared a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital whilst in Algiers. Almost 100 countries subsequently recognized that declaration, so – leaving aside the interesting question of whether it is possible to declare the same state twice – there is actually nothing novel about Tisdall’s proposition. The issue at hand is what would any contemporary declaration achieve and on that, Tisdall is predictably sketchy because the evidence points to the fact that his rallying call is based more upon his distaste for Israel than his love for the Palestinians.

A state declared at this point would have the effect of preserving in amber the current status quo, including the rift which divides the various factions in Palestinian politics. If the current President of the PNA, whose term of office ran out almost two years ago, were to declare a state which included territory (the Gaza Strip) over which he has absolutely no control and which is home to almost half the Palestinian population, yet which is run by his political arch-rivals whose legal claim to power also expired almost a year ago, any international recognition of his declaration would surely stoke the already out of control fires of the Hamas-Fatah war. What would follow would be even more Palestinian on Palestinian repression, retaliation and death.

Of course one presumes that Tisdall and any fellow travelers would not be satisfied by yet another meaningless Palestinian declaration of statehood alone; they would want the new country to become part of the family of nations as represented by the UN. In this, however, is buried the reason why the first declaration of Palestinian statehood never got off the ground. Declaring a state does not just afford rights – it also comes with obligations, one of which is to comply with the UN Charter.  That document contains several clauses which the current Palestinian leadership – whether one defines that term as relating to Fatah or Hamas or both – would find difficult to swallow.

First of all, membership of the UN is defined as being open to “peace-loving nations”. In other words, a pro-genocide charter which advocates the annihilation of a neighbor state as the blueprint for the political party governing one portion of the declared state’s territory may not go down too well.

Secondly, the member state is required to accept (among others) the conditions of Chapter 1, Article 2 of the UN Charter:

“All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

That would appear to rule out terrorism, rockets and mortars as a means of trying to redefine borders, the ‘right of return’ for descendents of Palestinian refugees and in addition, require prior agreement on the thorny subject of what comprises the “territorial integrity” of the new Palestinian state’s neighbours.   And of course that is precisely one of the many vital issues which Israel has been attempting to solve in the last two decades by entering into negotiations with the PNA. So basically, we’re back where we started; the Palestinians will not be able to have a functioning state until they chose to live in peace with their neighbours.

In addition, Tisdall may care to ponder the consequences of the establishment of a state which is unable to stand on its own two feet economically, the current (and prior) leadership of which has caused it to be rated “very weak” on the Global Integrity Index and to become infamous for corruption and a dismal human rights record: does Tisdall not consider the Palestinian people deserving of better? He may even care to ask if, in the event of a declaration of a state, the declarers would be capable of delivering the goods and for that matter, how long they would actually survive.

Like many in the West, Tisdall appears to be jaded by the conflict and impatient for a solution. The trouble is that banal ‘rabbit from the hat’ solutions such as the one he suggests in this article will only exacerbate the difficulties in the region and bring closer that war with which he is prepared to experiment from afar – at the expense of other people’s lives.

Those of us who would, unlike him, be affected by that war and who care about the fate of Israelis and Palestinians alike will continue trying to avoid violence by all means possible.  Please don’t get in our way, Simon Tisdall.

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