Monday, April 23, 2007

The Note-Taker as A Historian: The Pain of Reading the Account of Dennis Ross. I normally would not have recommended Dennis Ross' The Missing Peace especially that he has the literary skills of, well, note takers. His book is no more than a compilation of his notes on US negotiations as part of the so-called "peace process." I may not recommend that you read the 800 pages of this book, but students of political science should read it (to see the deception and lies of diplomats), as should all Arabs. They should see how their leaders--all their leaders, Hafidh Al-Asad and `Arafat included--negotiate away the rights and aspirations of the Arab peoples if it meant keeping themselves in power, or solidifying their rule. I certainly left this book with more contempt for Hafidh Al-Asad (who was busy sending laudatory secret messages to Israeli leaders while maintaining his empty Ba`thist rhetoric in the Syrian media) and for `Arafat--not that I ever respected those two, not to mention the rest of the Arab tyrants. I singled out those two leaders because some Arabs, especially Palestinians, may still harbor some illusions about the two. And it is rather funny that Ross thinks that he is very intelligent, while he is, well, not. Extremely not, I mean. You read this book and realize that the author was not able to even provide an interesting profile of any of the leaders that he met and negotiated with. He is just not capable of that; he is not even capable of providing any new insights or interesting analysis. He can only take notes, and notes were taken, and compiled in this tedious book. Ross tells everything, but keeps many important things out: like how `Arafat and Asad constantly asked that he be removed for his obvious bias against Arab interests. Ross only rarely mentioned this complaint, and only in passing. But you read this book (and you read everything he has said and written since he left office) and realize how right Asad and `Arafat were in asking that this man is not qualified (not in knowledge and not in terms of objectivity) to be a neutral negotiator. He tells you where he stands on p. 6 (he says that he "identifies" with the Israeli people). It is also clear in the rest of the book: he mentions his friends in Israel right-and-left, but has not a single Arab friend, not even the puppets. And his references to Arabs are consistently patronizing: and when an Israeli prime minister compared Arabs to children (something David Ben Gurion also had done) he seems to agree. It was quite incredible--or maybe not--that `Arafat told Clinton (the most pro-Israeli president until Bush) that he had "blind trust" in him (p. 10). And look at his generalizations about the Palestinian people: "Victimization has deep roots in the Palestinian mind."(p. 42). Well, could that victimization be due to...well, victimhood" And please, Mr. Ross. Tell us more about the "Palestinian mind." As for Arab charge that US holds double standards regarding the implementability of UN Security Resolutions, he expresses surprise. He says that there is "a difference betweeen the Security Council Resolutions."(p. 43). Exactly. That was the point of the Arabs, Mr. Ross. I did learn in this book that the lousy PLO leadership, under the lousy `Arafat, allowed US officials to censor, edit, and "refine" the text that was read by Haydar `Abdushafi in the Madrid conference. I was not surprised to learn about the role of Rejje Larsen: he remains to this very day a tool of the US (he also is a good friend of Ross). (p. 118). But there is one amusing section in the book. It was when Ross waxes poetic. He told his friend (the deputy chief of Mossad): "Ephraim, we have just watched a field of mines transformed into a field of dreams" (p. 164). Is there better poetry than this? Like a good drama, you will laugh and cry reading his book. I mean, will you not cry when you read that when Rabin died, Ross writes: "I was devastated and started to cry."(p. 210). And it was quite amusing how the US government deals with Arab leaders: with all the contempt and condescension that they so deserve. Before meeting with Mubarak, Clinton asks his aides: "What do you want me to do with him?" (p. 213). Abu Mazen told Ross that he liked "Bibi" "personally." (p. 392) And it is not true that the Syrian negotiators insisted on full withdrawal of Israel from Syrian lands. Gen. Omar agreed to an adjustment in the hills over the river "as much as 50 meters", or so says Ross. (p. 560) And so submissive was Arafat's leadership to US and Israeli officials that he agreed to remove Palestinian flags in Ramallah before meeting with Barak (p. 597). And please Ross: as it is well-known that you know no Arabic, so refrain from using Arabic words. He even misspelled a simple word like Ra'is (he misspelled it in a way akin to spelling "president" as preaeakekajdf;ajd;flkjad;fj).