The Danger of Invoking "Recent History"

The Danger of Invoking "Recent History"

The Danger of Invoking "Recent History"
An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 17 2002 1:02 PM


Dear Peter,


What I think, my friend, is that you are not seeing the forest for the trees. The moment you invoke "recent history" in the Israel/Palestinian quagmire, you're doomed. Both sides have their own views, each with some legitimacy, and you end up going round and round in circles back through time. What is "recent history," anyway? Where does it begin? Clinton/Barak? Sabra-Shatila? Yes, I agree that Arafat had his best chance with Barak and blew it. But Israel has continued building settlements in clear violation of Oslo; Sharon's visit to East Jerusalem was an act of provocation—we can go on and on here. I was trying to make the larger point, taking the long view, that terrorist organizations like the ANC under apartheid and the IRA only stop terrorizing when their legitimate demands—those demands recognized by most of the world as legitimate—are met. If you feel, as most Israelis do, that Palestinian statehood is inevitable and legitimate, that most of the settlements are toast—how do you get from here to there? You're saying Bush is right to side with Sharon by saying, as a precondition, Arafat must go—because of recent history. I say preconditions to negotiation never work, and the moment you invoke "recent history," you might as well pack it in and accept the fact that, despite full-on military occupation, the terror will continue.

The Pakistani rape story is truly atrocious and lays bare the perversion of Islam in that specific society. I remember walking around Peshawar and other parts of tribal territory in the Northwest Frontier Province last year, where all the women wore head-to-toe burkas. I asked Pakistani teens when they got a chance to see women. Aside from their mothers and sisters, they simply didn't. Not until they married—and they didn't get to see their wives until after the marriage had been arranged. I'm no behavioralist, but I'm convinced the draconian separation of the sexes in the NWFP (and, apparently, in parts of southern Punjab as well)—coupled with a gun culture that puts a rifle in the hands of a boy as soon as he's able to hold it—has a lot to do with the violence of that society. It certainly has a lot to do with the rampant homosexuality among young men, which is something you don't often see discussed but which is an accepted rite of passage—even though it is frowned upon by the mullahs.