Educating Abdullah II

Vel Nirtist
I was listening to Jim Lehrer's interview with Jordan's King Abdullah that followed his speech to a joint session of Congress. In that address he stressed the necessity of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I could not help recalling what was said about one of the signers of the American declaration of Independence, Samuel Chase:
"He had more learning than knowledge, and more of both than judgment."
For, given the King's unquestioned and unquestionable knowledge of Arab history, it is very surprising that his judgment would be as follows:
JIM LEHRER: To be specific, how do you see a connection between the Palestinian issue and the war in Iraq?

KING ABDULLAH: Well, you know, again, if we go back to the simplicity of the issue being a core issue, people have perceived that the Palestinians have had tremendous injustice put upon their shoulders, that this is Israel that is responsible for that, supported by the Western powers.
It is surprising because, as the King should surely know, Arab history is largely that of conquest. And conquest, by definition, is getting possession of something previously owned by others. And those others may claim the title. And if they have the ability, they can regain the possession. So the whole thing becomes just a property dispute.

Is Israel an occupied Arab land? Or is Palestine an occupied Jewish land? It is not that clear-cut, and the King should hold off his righteous indignation. His knowledge of Arab history should tell him so. And if he needs help in understanding its implications, let me suggest my essay "Arabs and mirrors." 

But to be fair to the King, he is trying to be fair - by painting Palestinians and Israelis with the same brush.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, the Israelis say, "Wait a minute here. Wait a minute. We cannot make peace with a government that is run by people who have proclaimed Israel does not have a right to exist and, not only that, they are dedicated to the destruction of Israel." How do you respond to that?

KING ABDULLAH: ...And I'm saying that we have the responsibility to work with the Palestinians, but I also need to know the other side of the equation. Does Israel believe in a two-state solution?

JIM LEHRER: So you believe this can be resolved, this issue of Israeli recognition and the destruction of Israel, that can be negotiated?

KING ABDULLAH: Well, I mean, there are people on both sides that are not interested in moving the sort of a two-state solution.

...if we get the right momentum, we need to talk to the people, the Israeli people and the Palestinian people, and let them influence those politicians on either side. They're not interested.
The fairness is of course appreciated - but the problem is that it is based on factual inaccuracy. Is the King telling us that the Israelis, who unilaterally pulled out of Lebanon and Gaza and elected a government that planned the same for the West Bank, are as obstructionist as are the Palestinians who expressed their national mood by democratically electing Hamas which denies Israel a right to exist, dragged an Israeli soldier back into no-longer-occupied Gaza, and are firing rockets into Israel proper? Let me suggest some reading for the monarch on the subject of symmetry: "Both Hitler and Churchill." 

Nor is his judgment on what needs to be done makes that much sense.
JIM LEHRER: But you think they [Israelis and Palestinians] cannot do it by themselves, it must be done with the help of the United States, and Europe, and other outside forces?

KING ABDULLAH: Every time Middle East peace has moved forward, it's because of direct American involvement. And today, as I said, we're all at risk. And if America does not actively engage, then the ability to be able to get both sides to sit down, to agree, to compromise, to move the process forward, the odds are stacked against us.
Here, just as other politicians and pundits, he confuses the problem with the solution. We all know that where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is no will for peace there will be no way to achieve peace. Desire for peace is primary, the way to achieve it is very, very secondary. The moment the will appears, there will be no need for outside pressure. It will be as easy as 1, 2, 3.

The only chance for the will to appear is for the Arabs to get down their high horse and reflect on their own history. Here, in addition to reading suggested above, let me recommend "Congo and the Palestine"  

I doubt that the texts I'm suggesting to the King will increase his knowledge - I am sure he knows all the facts I'm talKing about - but they will unquestionably improve his judgment. For, as Samuel Chase's critic so acutely observed, and as King Abdullah of Jordan proved yet again in his interview, learning, knowledge and judgment are very different things indeed.

Vel Nirtist writes on the role of religion in fostering terrorism. He is author of "The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly." His blog is at www.rootoutterrorism.com
I was listening to Jim Lehrer's interview with Jordan's King Abdullah that followed his speech to a joint session of Congress. In that address he stressed the necessity of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I could not help recalling what was said about one of the signers of the American declaration of Independence, Samuel Chase:
"He had more learning than knowledge, and more of both than judgment."
For, given the King's unquestioned and unquestionable knowledge of Arab history, it is very surprising that his judgment would be as follows:
JIM LEHRER: To be specific, how do you see a connection between the Palestinian issue and the war in Iraq?

KING ABDULLAH: Well, you know, again, if we go back to the simplicity of the issue being a core issue, people have perceived that the Palestinians have had tremendous injustice put upon their shoulders, that this is Israel that is responsible for that, supported by the Western powers.
It is surprising because, as the King should surely know, Arab history is largely that of conquest. And conquest, by definition, is getting possession of something previously owned by others. And those others may claim the title. And if they have the ability, they can regain the possession. So the whole thing becomes just a property dispute.

Is Israel an occupied Arab land? Or is Palestine an occupied Jewish land? It is not that clear-cut, and the King should hold off his righteous indignation. His knowledge of Arab history should tell him so. And if he needs help in understanding its implications, let me suggest my essay "Arabs and mirrors." 

But to be fair to the King, he is trying to be fair - by painting Palestinians and Israelis with the same brush.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, the Israelis say, "Wait a minute here. Wait a minute. We cannot make peace with a government that is run by people who have proclaimed Israel does not have a right to exist and, not only that, they are dedicated to the destruction of Israel." How do you respond to that?

KING ABDULLAH: ...And I'm saying that we have the responsibility to work with the Palestinians, but I also need to know the other side of the equation. Does Israel believe in a two-state solution?

JIM LEHRER: So you believe this can be resolved, this issue of Israeli recognition and the destruction of Israel, that can be negotiated?

KING ABDULLAH: Well, I mean, there are people on both sides that are not interested in moving the sort of a two-state solution.

...if we get the right momentum, we need to talk to the people, the Israeli people and the Palestinian people, and let them influence those politicians on either side. They're not interested.
The fairness is of course appreciated - but the problem is that it is based on factual inaccuracy. Is the King telling us that the Israelis, who unilaterally pulled out of Lebanon and Gaza and elected a government that planned the same for the West Bank, are as obstructionist as are the Palestinians who expressed their national mood by democratically electing Hamas which denies Israel a right to exist, dragged an Israeli soldier back into no-longer-occupied Gaza, and are firing rockets into Israel proper? Let me suggest some reading for the monarch on the subject of symmetry: "Both Hitler and Churchill." 

Nor is his judgment on what needs to be done makes that much sense.
JIM LEHRER: But you think they [Israelis and Palestinians] cannot do it by themselves, it must be done with the help of the United States, and Europe, and other outside forces?

KING ABDULLAH: Every time Middle East peace has moved forward, it's because of direct American involvement. And today, as I said, we're all at risk. And if America does not actively engage, then the ability to be able to get both sides to sit down, to agree, to compromise, to move the process forward, the odds are stacked against us.
Here, just as other politicians and pundits, he confuses the problem with the solution. We all know that where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is no will for peace there will be no way to achieve peace. Desire for peace is primary, the way to achieve it is very, very secondary. The moment the will appears, there will be no need for outside pressure. It will be as easy as 1, 2, 3.

The only chance for the will to appear is for the Arabs to get down their high horse and reflect on their own history. Here, in addition to reading suggested above, let me recommend "Congo and the Palestine"  

I doubt that the texts I'm suggesting to the King will increase his knowledge - I am sure he knows all the facts I'm talKing about - but they will unquestionably improve his judgment. For, as Samuel Chase's critic so acutely observed, and as King Abdullah of Jordan proved yet again in his interview, learning, knowledge and judgment are very different things indeed.

Vel Nirtist writes on the role of religion in fostering terrorism. He is author of "The Pitfall of Truth: Holy War, its Rationale and Folly." His blog is at www.rootoutterrorism.com