Commentary Magazine


Mourning the Palestinian State

Christopher Hitchens watches what is happening now in Gaza and mourns for what could have been – a “self-determined Palestinian state.”

[Hamas] knows very well that sanctions are injuring every Palestinian citizen, but-just like Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq-it declines to cease the indiscriminate violence and the racist and religious demagogy that led to the sanctions in the first place.  [ . . . ] At a time when democratic and reformist trends are observable in the region, from Lebanon to the Gulf, Hamas’ leadership is physically and economically a part of the clientele of two of the area’s worst dictatorships [Iran and Syria].  [ . . . ]  Gaza could have been a prefiguration of a future self-determined Palestinian state. Instead, it has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood and made into a place of repression for its inhabitants and aggression for its neighbors.

But long before Hamas “hijacked” the future Palestinian state, the actually existing one was doomed by its well-wishers who stood by and excused the Hobbesian state it promptly became — from the very first week after Israel turned over all of Gaza to “peace partner” Mahmoud Abbas so the Palestinians could live “side by side in peace and security.”

Writing on September 19, 2005, a week into the new Palestinian state in Gaza, this is what Hitchens had to say about the chaos, violence, and raw anti-Semitism that characterized the first week of pure Palestinian self-rule:

Suppose someone were to come to me, after reading the papers last week, and say-Look: No sooner did Israeli troops leave Gaza than mobs began to loot and destroy even the greenhouses that had been left there as part of their agricultural infrastructure. The police of the Palestinian Authority, who had ample warning of the deadline, managed to post a total of 70 policemen at these valuable sites, who could do no more than stand by as people scavenged and stole. The synagogues left behind by the settlers, which the Israelis were too squeamish to destroy, could perhaps have been preserved for a day or so until a decision was made about what to do with them (a museum, perhaps, or even a school-religious buildings have no special sacredness for me), but they were simply and viciously torched. Gangs of ruffians and blackmailers roam Gaza unchecked, and even tolerated, and prey upon their fellows. Clerical extremist parties flourish their banners and mouth fearsome oaths and slogans. The promise to respect the border with Egypt is void, and smugglers and mobsters laugh at the authorities. So, now how do you like your Palestinian state?

Hitchens’s answer to his own question was that he still liked it:

It breaks my heart, but it doesn’t alter the case.  The right of the Palestinians to a homeland and flag and passport of their own is in the first place inalienable . . .

Too late smart, Hitchens must by now realize that not only is there no such thing as a right to a state (ask the Kurds), but that even if there were, it is not “inalienable.”  In fact, the Palestinians alienated it.

They demonstrated from day one in September 2005 that they were not ready for a state, and they are even less ready today.  Before their current catastrophe (which, just like the one in 1948, they brought upon themselves), they could not even determine whether their “president” (elected in 2005 running essentially unopposed) would or would not be properly in office come January 10.  A workable judicial system to decide such questions would come in handy when you’re trying to implement an inalienable right to a state.  Their succession to their current rulers in 2007 was managed by throwing their fellow putative citizens from the tops of buildings.  They have spent the last three years firing rockets indiscriminately at a civilian population.  They currently fight from civilian buildings, using human shields.

Those who stood by month after month, year after year, as rockets flew into Israel and thought it did not alter the case (although it undoubtedly broke their hearts) did the Palestinians no favor.  A corroding culture does not lead to a state, but to a state of nature.  Likewise those currently seeking to stop Israel before it can dismantle Hamas are doing the Palestinians no favor; on the contrary, they are consigning them to an even worse future.

It is more than three years past the time when anyone could reasonably argue that the problem was an “occupation.”  And now even Hitchens knows that their state would be simply a client state of two of the area’s worst dictatorships, one of them a genocidal religious theocracy.  Perhaps he still doesn’t think that alters the case, but it does.

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