Monday, January 31, 2011

Cargo Cult Statehood

In his 1974 CalTech address, Richard Feynman has decried the ascent of what he termed 'Cargo Cult Science'. What Dr. Feynmann was referring to is the rise of many new 'scientific' disciplines that although possessed all the superficial components of science, such as 'peer reviewed publications', white robes and fancy lingo, they lacked the central component: Scientific Integrity. The focus switched to get results published quickly, and worse, get the correct results.

I believe that this principle can be extended to other important institutions. If we analyse it properly, we will quickly see that the Palestinian Authority is working towards what could only be described as 'Cargo Cult Statehood'. They poses the superficial qualities of a nation state, such as a flag, a national anthem, diplomatic delegates, government institutions and a 'President'. But they are missing the key ingredients to stand on their own: a sense of national responsibility and political integrity.

The Palestinians, which is a modern designation for the Arabs who resided in the British mandate of Palestine pre-Israel, are perhaps the worst represented people in history. During the Second World War, they were represented by the Fuhrer's friend Hajj-amin al-Husseini, an raging advocate of the final solution. Up until recently, the face of the 'Palestinian Cause' was Yasser Arafat, to whom the title of "genocidal terrorist" is not at all a stretch. Meanwhile, the Palestinians themselves lived either under Egyptian/Jordanian military occupation or confined to refugee camps in other Arab states.

The leaders who quickly emerged, such as the PLO, were more than happy to keep their power base poor, isolated and desperate.  Setting up UNWRA administered refugee camps. Palestinians in Arab lands are the only displaced peoples who have the 'right' to pass on the title of refugee to their offsprings. The so called 'refugees' are not given many other, real rights by their host countries and their political leadership was more than happy to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, the 'struggle' for liberation of Palestine required a sense of being 'Palestinian'. A national ideology and a sense of history, that has thus far never existed.

Nowadays, Palestinians who never saw life outside their cramped refugee camp are reminiscing about a 'Palestine' that never existed. They dream of a past were they lived as hard working but joyful farmers on some idealic land. No coherent national ideology has emerged except for what can only be described as anti-Zionism, i.e. the utter disdain for the Jewish nation. A national ideology based on hate for another is unsustainable. It is no accident that all pro-Palestinian campaigns are not concerned with improving the lives of Palestinians or help them become a modern democratic nation state, it is all concerned with how to bring on suffering to Israeli Jews (even though such tactics often disrupts the lives of Palestinians).

Now, when talk of 'the soon to be declared' Palestinian state feels the airwaves, we find that their economy largely relies on foreign aid. Their state bureaucracy is extremely corrupt and is mostly based on family connections. The political establishment is divided into two territorial enclaves that hate each other more than they hate Israel.

Based on that, we cannot expect a viable, modern, democratic state to emerge. What will probably come to being is a fractured autocracy, with a failing economy that will probably resort to war with its much more powerful neighbor for the gazzilionth time in a century.

So why do so many people insist that such a strange creature can somehow help stabilize the Middle East? Why is Israel expected to make so many concessions without much of a guarantee for peace and regional cooperation?

The Palestinians have been very effective at raising national flags, writing a national anthem, creating a state bureaucracy and begging the world for aid and for pieces of paper that gives them the recognition of some faraway government. But they haven't been able to accept the responsibility of managing their own affairs.


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