06 April 2009

Retelling an Arab Narrative

My sense for the nuances in any discussion about Israel and Palestine does not run very deep. Once the conversation gets past "Palestinian terrorists cannot be allowed to fire rockets across the border and kill Israeli civilians," and "Israel has created and continues to exacerbate a deep humanitarian crisis in Gaza," the rest is pretty much lost on me. So when I read this Haaretz interview over the weekend, which I think articulates some of the nuances in a particularly clear way, I felt it worth slowing down and taking careful notice.

James Zogby is the founder of the Arab American Institute (and also the brother of American pollster John Zogby). In the interview, Zogby praises Obama, George Mitchell, and the Clinton years. He characterizes the recent Bush years as a disaster. And he talks sense about everything from Iran to the new Israeli government to Arab public relations during the Gaza offensive. I can't actually assess whether Zogby's observations are sound or if his ideas will pay out in the long run. But to speak sensibly about an insensible situation is to earn my attention.

The interview is brief, exciting, and, I daresay, inspiring. So if you've got ten minutes and want to understand why, perhaps, Iran doesn't actually give a rip about Israel, why we should be optimistic that an extremist Israeli hardliner will sit down to talk with Hamas, and why a retold Arab narrative should be compelling to the world, then read the interview.