A Goldblog reader writes:
In your post about the Naqba, you suggest that Palestinians today ought to suffer because of the bad decisions of their leaders. While it is true that Arab leaders in 1948 made some bad decisions, how could you possibly blame the descendants of the Arabs who lived in Palestine in 1948 for the mistakes of their former leaders? Do you not care about them?
Of course I care about them, which is why I want them to have a country of their own. But this letter raises an interesting question: Should the sins of the fathers be visited on the sons (and grandsons)? Ideally not, but in the real world, a) we all suffer from the mistakes of our leaders, even leaders long-dead, and b) the Palestinians and their leaders today are not guilt-free, either. After all, you get the leaders you deserve, and for many years the Palestinians had as their leader a man who was incapable of delivering them a state, or even stability, and who stole billions of dollars of aid meant for them.
But to the first point: Let me provide an example from the future. One day, maybe sooner, maybe later, Israel will have to evacuate most of its West Bank settlements, in particular the far-flung settlements around Nablus. When this happens, particularly if it happens through negotiations, Israel might very well ask the United States (or Jewish donors abroad) to help pay for the massive cost of moving tens of thousands of settlers. As an American taxpayer, my inclination would be to tell the Israelis to pick up the tab for their own mess. Israeli leaders -- left and right -- endorsed, and underwrote, this self-destructive movement to settle the West Bank with religious fundamentalists. No American government endorsed it, so why should we be forced to pay? Maybe we'll have to, as the price for peace -- just as we may have to pay to resettle Palestinians, even though their brother Arabs in the Gulf could buy every single one of them a villa and a Volvo and still have plenty of money to build shopping malls. But you see the point. We're all responsible for the mistakes we've made, and sometimes we're even responsible for the mistakes made by those who came before us. Arab leaders aren't children. At a certain point, someone is going to have to assume responsibility for nearly one hundred years of self-defeating mistakes. The Arab states, and the Palestinian national movement, are responsible for a great deal of Palestinian suffering, and the lessons of the past, if properly learned, could bring an end to that suffering today.