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    The implications of its covenant

    Jews are cool. I don’t think I mention that often enough. Sure, they (and their institutions, such as the Israeli government) are fallible like the rest of us, but overall, they set quite a cultural example of resourceful and enterprising approaches to problems.

    It’s not that I have a problem with non-Jews, mind. Why, some of my best friends aren’t Jewish. Hell, I‘m not Jewish. It’s just that, given that the Palestinians have just voted a party into power that has wiping Israel off the map as part of its platform, saying that Jews are cool seems somewhat more important than it might have last week.

    I know, I know–Fatah was corrupt and disingenuous anyway. I also know that bitching about something Jimmy Carter said about the Middle East will have no practical result, though it brings back fond memories of the harangues Mom and Dad used to deliver at the TV news when I was little and might lower my blood pressure somewhat. Here he is. (BTW, Mr. Carter? If you turned up the heat, you wouldn’t need that vest on indoors to be toasty warm. Just a thought.)

    Hamas deserves to be recognized by the international community, and despite the group’s militant history, there is a chance the soon-to-be Palestinian leaders could turn away from violence, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday.

    Carter, who monitored last week’s Palestinian elections in which Hamas handily toppled the ruling Fatah, added that the United States should not cut off aid to the Palestinian people, but rather funnel it through third parties like the U.N.

    I’m bringing this up because I’ve heard the issue framed that way by a few people since the weekend, and I think it’s predicated on a misunderstanding. Has anyone–Bush, Rice, Rove, anyone?–talked about not recognizing the Hamas government the way, say, the ROC was considered the real “China” at the UN until thirty-odd years ago? Perhaps so and I’ve missed it. What I read from the Secretary of State, though, was this:

    “We’re going to review all of our assistance programs, but the bedrock principle here is we can’t have funding for an organization that holds those views just because it is in government,” Rice said.

    The U.S., Europe and Israel list Hamas as a terrorist organization; various Arab governments have contact with the group.

    “It is important that Hamas now will have to confront the implications of its covenant if it wishes to govern,” Rice said. “That becomes a primary consideration in anything that we do.”

    It is not clear that all European nations or the United Nations would cut off aid, let alone Arab governments that do not recognize Israel.

    That sure sounds like a recognition of Hamas’s legitimacy as the democratically elected majority party to me. That it simultaneously declares that Hamas needs to stop acting like scum if it expects our help in governing is a different consideration. (The “if it wishes to govern” part reads like a warning of practical consequences rather than a threat.)

    Seriously, I’d like to be able to say I think Palestinians are cool, too. I don’t hold it against them, in any fundamental way, that they don’t like the Jews. Long-standing ethnic enmity is a fact of life all over the Earth, and while democratization has turned it into mostly good-natured mischief in some places, it still plays a major role in the love-your-goods-but-hate-you way that, say, Japan, China, and Korea interact (just to pull a region out of the air, you know).

    But besides all that, when they’re not getting misty-eyed over suicide bombers, the Palestinians have a reputation for being unusually hard-working and inventive. I was brought up in the sort of environment in which those qualities are valued and would just kind of like to know when–when on Earth–we’re going to see them bear fruit there. The Palestinians have infrastructure and universities. They have internal and external markets to exploit. Yes, the Israelis have access to cooler guns, but that alone doesn’t explain why it’s Israel that has the First World standard of living and the breakthroughs in medical research that get global publicity. I’ve seen–I wish I remembered where–the results of the recent election as a signal that the Palestinian people are starting to look at how they themselves, though their government, are causing some of their own problems instead of blaming everyone else. It’s nice to think so.

    In the meantime, though, the less-corrupt party with the official position that Israel must be destroyed is still taking an official position that Israel must be destroyed. Recognizing it without rewarding it strikes me as good policy.

    4 Responses to “The implications of its covenant”

    1. Zak says:

      I’m glad you think we’re cool.

      I have an official “International Jewish Conspiracy Mug,” you know. (“From the people who brought you banking!”)

      It brings a little smile to my face whenever I drink coffee out of it. Counters the many, many Japanese people who have told me they happen to know for a fact that the Jews control everything in America.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      That’s interesting. I frequently run into people who think you can’t get rich in America unless you’re a WASP. It’s like they read Love Story thirty years ago and just kind of figured it was a work of historiography.

    3. Connie says:

      I want that mug! OK, I’m not Jewish, but I still want one.

    4. Zak says:

      Connie, here you are!

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