The editors of Foreign Policy magazine would do well to read Evelyn’s post (and the Haaretz article linked therein), because this year’s installment of the magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers list is a bit of a farce. The list is always intended to be provocative, but this year’s reads like a parody of itself.
Clocking in together at No. 28 are the renowned intellectual giants we call Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, but who are known around the Middle East as Arafat’s understudy and an unpopular failed reformer. Israel, which is not only an inspiration to actual Arab thinkers and reformers, as Evelyn noted, but which also produces, as it did again this year, Nobel laureates aplenty, also appears on the list. But it’s all the way at No. 63, and the spot belongs to former Mossad director Meir Dagan. He earned his placement for, as the article announces, “being the last man in Israel to stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu.” Where to begin?
We can start with Netanyahu, a democratically elected premier of a free country who is spoken about in Foreign Policy as if he were Hugo Chavez. There’s no need to repeat, yet again, just how misguided the media’s caricature of Netanyahu is, but between investment in the West Bank, removal of road blocks, willingness to agree to unprecedented settlement freezes, and willingness to negotiate without preconditions, he’s certainly done far more for the peace process than Abbas. But Dagan as the “last man in Israel to stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu”? Did FP mistakenly publish an article it was holding for its April Fools’ issue?
Though I don’t often recommend this, FP’s editors might want to pick up Haaretz, which is daily “standing up” to Bibi. They can sit in on a session of the Knesset, to watch Israeli legislators say much worse things to Bibi’s face than Foreign Policy does on a regular basis. They can, apparently, just ask President Obama or Nicolas Sarkozy how they feel about Netanyahu, and they will witness some more of the same. They can check in with any of the Israeli human rights organizations, which travel around the world begging for donor cash so they can afford to continue “standing up” to Israel’s prime minister.
They can watch Israel’s television news programs… you get the point. The world, all day every day, is filled with brave men and women, fresh from their morning diet of the New York Times and Guardian editorial pages, “standing up” to Bibi. And by the way, as anyone who has ever followed politics well understands, Meir Dagan is a capable, intelligent public servant who is playing politics no more and no less than the authors of our own 2007 National Intelligence Estimates were when they tried to structure the report in order to influence American policy toward Iran. That doesn’t mean Dagan is wrong (as the NIE authors clearly were). But let’s try to keep our heads out of the clouds on this one.
Additionally, the editors failed to mention Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent article on Iran, in which he expressed the view that Obama (who holds the No. 11 spot on the list) takes the Iranian nuclear program just as seriously as the Netanyahu government does, and is also willing to use force to stop it. Shouldn’t someone, in the opinion of FP’s editors, be standing up to the president on this?
As for Fayyad, the verdict on his reforms came in more than a year ago: they failed in miserable fashion. Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Center went to the West Bank and asked himself the following question: Are the Palestinians any closer to a state thanks to Fayyad’s reforms? “Unfortunately not,” he wrote. “In fact, they are farther.”
One more notable aspect of the list: the “thinkers” on the list were asked, “America or China?” Most of the Arab revolutionaries participating in the Arab Spring chose America. Fayyad politely declined to choose.