1) Was King Herod a Palestinian?
Earlier this week the New York Times reported about Anger That a Herod Show Uses West Bank Objects. This is an odd angle to report as the article tells us.
The Israel Museum on Tuesday opened its most ambitious archaeological exhibition and the world’s first devoted to Herod, the lionized and demonized Rome-appointed king of Judea, who reigned from 37 to 4 B.C.E. and is among the most seminal and contentious figures in Jewish history. But the exhibition, which the museum director described as a “massive enterprise” that involved sifting through 30 tons of material from Herodium and reconstructing 250 artifacts, has also brought its own bit of controversy.Instead of discussing the historical significance of the exhibit, the report focuses on the controversy.
The Palestinian Authority says the exhibition is a violation of international law because much of its material was taken from near Bethlehem and Jericho, both in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.This is ridiculous. Before there were people who self-identified as Palestinians there was a phenomenon called history. Just because the Palestinian narrative isn't supported by history doesn't mean that the history did not occur.
An Israeli group of archaeologists and activists complains that the museum, however unwittingly, is helping the Jewish settlement movement advance its contention that the West Bank should be part of Israel and not a Palestinian state. “What the Israel Museum is doing is like coming and saying, ‘Listen, the heritage of the West Bank is part of our heritage first of all,’ ” said Yonathan Mizrachi, an archaeologist who helped found the Israeli group, Emek Shaveh, in 2009. “It’s part of the idea to create the narrative that those sites, no matter what the political solution,” are “part of the Israeli identity.”James S. Snyder, the director of the museum, dismissed such criticism as propaganda and political opportunism. The Oslo Accords signed by the Israelis and Palestinians in the 1990s provide for Israeli involvement in archaeology in the territories until the resolution of the overall conflict, and Mr. Snyder said that at the end of the exhibition, the museum plans to return the artifacts to the West Bank, to Israel’s civil administration, which he said would arrange for their return to the sites from which they were taken or to store the material until “the site can be prepared for its care and/or display.” He noted that the museum had spent a “huge” sum — he would not specify how much — to restore and make available for public consumption artifacts that might otherwise have been lost, like many of the antiquities in Iraq and Egypt.
(It's disappointing that the article didn't point out that the Palestinians often show no regard for archaeological sites as reported here.)
Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the history shown by the exhibit, the New York Times instead focused on the hurt feelings of the Palestinians.
2) Whither Fayyadism?
Roger Cohen laments the fate of Salam Fayyad in The Success that failed. This is the New York Times and it is columnist Roger Cohen, so this is no surprise:
He identified some of the issues: settlement expansion; Israeli military incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas; the failure to extend the Palestinian security presence in the West Bank; the “complex and capricious” process of gaining access to the more than 60 percent of the West Bank known as “Area C” and under direct Israeli military control; the Israeli use of tax revenues as a spigot that can be turned on and off to hurt the Palestinian Authority; the lack of access to 3G technology and Israeli control of frequencies; the difficulty of exporting to Israel. All of these factors together, Fayyad said, had made governance “an exercise in impossibility.”
Then, of course, there is the internal Palestinian question, now referred to as the “reconciliation” issue. The Palestinian national movement is crippled by its split. Hamas rules in Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah rule in the West Bank.Everything that Fayyad claims, Cohen accepts without reservations. Israeli military incursions? Those shouldn't be happening because the Palestinian police force has been keeping the peace. But a few weeks ago the IDF broke up a Hamas cell near Hebron.
Elsewhere Cohen mentions that IMF gave its approval to the Palestinian statehood building program, but doesn't mention that just a few weeks ago, the Palestinians were once again asking for Arab nations to make good on their pledges. A well functioning society can generate its own revenues.
Fayyad also complains that the Obama administration didn't get Israel to stop settlement building. That's something it did do and it still did not bring the Palestinians to the table for any meaningful negotiations.
Jonathan Tobin attacks the premise of the op-ed:
The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party. In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent. In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up short.
Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation with Israel and peace lacked support. That Fayyad would blame the Israelis rather than his own people for his failure is understandable since to do otherwise would be a death sentence. But his complaints about Israeli settlements or security measures in the West Bank lack credibility. The fact that Israelis have continued to build in Jerusalem and the suburban settlement blocs that everyone understands would remain within Israel in the event of a peace deal renders the charge that they will prevent the creation of a Palestinian state elsewhere absurd. As for Israeli incursions into the West Bank, were Abbas’ security forces interested in foiling terror or stamping out Hamas cells as they are obligated to do under their Oslo commitments, they wouldn’t be necessary. If Israel has sought to exert pressure on the PA it is because Abbas remains determined to avoid peace talks and his governments remains a font of anti-Semitic incitement that lays the foundation for endless conflict.Fayyad can complain as much as he wants about Israel, but the simple fact is that he has little or no political support. Cohen could have looked into why that was so, but it's so much easier to blame Israel.
3) One last item about prisoner X
In the course of the reporting on Prisoner X there have been a number of details that now seem to be wrong. David Bernstein notes at the Volokh Conspiracy:
It seemed to me that van Esveld was jumping to a lot of conclusions based on whatever information the reporter fed to him. As it turns out, subsequent media reports have confirmed that (a) the Australian government was informed of Zygier’s arrest back in February 2010, months before his suicide, and was informed of his death the day after it happened; and (b) Zygier was represented by counsel through his entire ordeal, and indeed saw one of his attorneys just a few days before his suicide.Bill van Esveld is a spokesman for HRW, who accepted every single damning bit of information about the case as fact.
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