The Palestine Papers are certainly explosive, and very important. But this article in The Guardian (UK) also points up the need for some critical examination of the coverage of the Papers. There is a pretty important distortion in the article that really needs to be addressed.
Guardian writers Ian Black (who really should know better) and Seamus Milne write the following:
“On the issue of accepting Israel as an explicitly Jewish state, Erekat privately told Israeli negotiators: ‘If you want to call your state the Jewish State of Israel you can call it what you want.’ He told his staff privately that it was a ‘non-issue.’
“But publicly PA leaders reject any ethnic or religious definition of Israel, and it is fiercely opposed by many of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, who see it as a threat to their own civil and national rights, particularly since there have been moves in Israel to introduce a loyalty oath along the same lines.”
This is actually a non-issue. The PA has been quite public and forthright in its stance that they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Saeb Erekat put it this way: “”There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined,” he said. This is perfectly consistent with what he told Israeli negotiators.
There is, after all, no way for the Palestinians to stop Israel from identifying itself in whatever way it wishes. If Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state leads to discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens in a two-state world, it is that discrimination that is at issue. Palestinian recognition of such an identity might bolster Israel’s defense of discriminatory laws or practices, but there is nothing Palestinians can do about Israeli self-identity.
Erekat’s statement is, contrary to what Black and Milne wrote, completely consistent with the PA’s public stance. And, frankly, the folks at the Guardian should be avoiding coming anywhere near the credibility line on this; the Papers themselves are sufficiently damning to the PA (as well as to Israel in their refusal of overwhelming Palestinian offers and the US in their callous attitude toward Palestinian needs and refusal to act as any kind of broker, honest or otherwise) that such overblown rhetoric and misguided “analysis” is quite unnecessary.
It will be important going forward for analysts and observers to look with a critical eye at coverage of the Palestine Papers. This sort of exposure has the potential to really change the course of the politics of the Palestinian question. But it can also be much ado about nothing or can change things negatively if we are not conscientious about how we make use of it.