James Zogby is one of the freshest columnists there is who writes about the Middle East. When I was in Jordan his column appeared regularly in the Jordan Times and I always devoured it. Returning to the U.S., I found his column was hidden in the back pages of the Arab American Institute, and very hard to find as the Zogby family polling enterprise would always come up first in google. Now you can read him at Huffington Post and subscribe to his feed here.
There are a lot of columnists who write about the Middle East. Often they have a solidified point of view, choosing a particular “party line” and presenting whatever the current talking points are. This type of columnist, whether you’re looking at Juan Cole on the left or Daniel Pipes on the right, might be interesting if you want to follow all the political footballs as they are tossed back and forth, but in the long run, they don’t shed any light on anything. They cling to dogma to advance a particular side, but reveal little of what is actually going on in real time–the kind of information needed for problem solving.
Zogby thinks for himself, and is able to extract nuggets for thought out of the entrenched, convoluted mess that is Middle East politics. The first Zogby post that appeared in my Google feedreader when I subscribed last week was “The Evolution of the Acceptance of a Palestinian State”. A good subject. I have spent a good deal of effort advancing the idea of a two state solution across the blogosphere, based on what I saw when I lived in the Middle East. Says Zogby,
Even here in the US, it is a near “article of faith” to project a two-state solution as the only acceptable outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Zogby then traces the idea of Palestinian statehood through the various presidents and departments of government. He sums up:
We are now in the 43rd year of the occupation. The landscape of the occupied lands has been dramatically transformed: a half million settlers reside there; a network of settler only roads, coupled with an intrusive barrier wall, has cut the territory into cantons; Jerusalem is burgeoning with settler colonies and is cut off from the West Bank; and the long physical and now political separation of Gaza from the West Bank has made unity of Palestine’s parts more difficult.
The Palestinians are often their own worst enemies. Does no one in the Middle East hire consultants to burnish their image? Still, living with them has convinced me of the basic justice of the position. It is not reasonable to expect the Palestinians to live spread across the Arab landscape, in countries that refuse to give them passports, and only grudgingly allow them to live in the refugee camps they have occupied since both the ’48 and ’67 wars. And it is certainly not fair to Jordan, the one country that has welcomed refugees and given them Jordanian passports (and the one Arab country the U.S. still has a decent relationship with) to overthrow their government in order to give it to the Palestinians, who the last time they got close to having their hands on the reigns of the Jordanian government in 1969 tried to use it to wage war on Israel from across the border. By the same token, it is simply not possible to turn back the hands of time to a period before all the population shifts happened. That type of thinking is totally unrealistic but all too common among Palestinians. Some right wing American Jewish interest groups have also been slow to give up the idea of a single state solution with themselves in the leadership and everyone else forced out of the coutnry. They still control blogs at places like Widdershins and Pumapac, whose latest contribution to cross-cultural acceptance and understanding is the adoption of the slogan “Islam sucks”. I no longer comment at places like that–partly because I don’t want to be associated with that type of viewpoint (and if you google their readership numbers, they are most satisfyingly down to unmeasurable lows) but mostly because I agree with Zogby that Palestinian statehood is done deal.