Obama has now reached out, as the BBC put it, to the Muslims in Cairo. As many commentators have already pointed out, he did quite a bit of pandering and distorting. But didn't we all know that he would? If Obama can use flattery to get the Muslim world to do World Arrogance bidding, more power to him. One of the several 800-lb Al-Buraqs in the room, however, is the question of whether the speech will end up being inconsequential in the long run.
Obama would obviously like to succeed with the Israelis and Palestinians where his predecessor in the last progressive White House failed. Palestinian nationalism, however, is a perverse and dysfunctional thing. The Palestinian rejection of the Camp David offer of over 90 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza is hard to explain from either a state-seeking or irredentist standpoint. The left attempted to defend the Palestinians from a state-seeking standpoint, of course, but the does anyone really believe Arafat righteously turned down the Bantustans proffered by the evil, Apartheid-mongering Bill Clinton and Dennis Ross?
From an irredentist standpoint, that rejection is worse still. The Zionist tumor offered to shrink itself and all Arafat had to do was sign on the bottom line. If he had then formally renounced the peace-part, say, a year later, the essays in the Guardian explaining the moral rightness of his actions would have appeared faster than you can say "Itbach Al-Yahud!"
One interesting feature of Obama's speech was his profession of a rather lachrymose Zionism: "The aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied," he asserted. How about pointing out that a Cairo-dweller named Maimonides wrote "Great sages would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones, and roll in its dust . . . the sins of one who dwells in Eretz Yisrael are forgiven . . ."? Maimonies made an unsuccessful attempt to live in Israel but the land was, among other things, too Crusade-ravaged. His famous defender Nachmanides, born a mere 60 years later, succeeded in settling on the other side of the Israel-Egypt border, and I've seen him referred to as the "first Zionist." Jews have accomplished great things in Eretz Yisroel in all ages. The late date at which the Masoretes were still doing their scholarly work in Tiberias will knock your socks off. Look it up.
The Jews have a state now because they always had a homeland and they single-mindedly worked to create a modern nation-state in those very borders. The Palestinians have a Nakba. The "Nakba," surely derived from a root having to do with shooting oneself in the foot, is properly translated as the great Arab blunder of 1948. Joseph Massad is correct that the Nakba is ongoing, and, in fact, the Nakba Express is once-again leaving the station with Hamas in the boiler-room. Can Obama, now that he is Abu Hussein, convince the Palestinians that turning down peace-deals with generous amounts of that dust mentioned by Maimonides attached is tres nakba? Probably not. The 800-lb Al-Buraqs are meaner these days.
(More on the Maimonidean angle here.)
Crossposted on Soccer Dad