Why do Americans struggle so much to understand Palestinians? A former advisor to the Palestinian leadership and a participant in the doomed 2008 Annapolis peace talks, Khaled Elgindy has written arguably the definitive account of America’s blind spot. In Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump, Khaled chronicles how time and time again the U.S. has failed to see the Palestinians as actors in their own right.
But beyond the specifics of policy, there is a question of humanity—specifically, the seeming inability or unwillingness of American politicians to extend any genuine consideration towards Palestinians’ suffering. The White House’s empathy gap has surprised even Khaled. He traces this back to an affinity for Israel’s Western liberal values but also the various and entrenched mythologies that obscure the dispossession of Palestinians. Khaled, Damir, and Shadi clash over whether Cold War geopolitics is what drove America to deprioritize the ethical considerations of Palestinians and whether Israeli consensus sees a distinction between Hamas and Palestinians broadly.
In the full episode (for paying subscribers only), the three debate how much blame Hamas deserves for provoking a war whose burden ordinary Palestinians would have to bear. What was Hamas thinking—and when the fighting stops, will Palestinians direct their anger towards Hamas and other militants? Is it possible to envision a future scenario where Hamas, now chastened by its first total war with Israel, fully commits to politics and eschews armed struggle?
Finally, the three discuss whether it’s reasonable to expect Israeli officials to care about Palestinian suffering. This is the reality of states, particularly after the other side has been dehumanized: they simply don’t care. Why should Israel care? This leads into a sobering consideration of nightmare scenarios in which tens of thousands of Palestinians may die, including from the “slow death” of hunger and disease.
Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump by Khaled Elgindy (Amazon).
“A cease-fire in Gaza isn’t a fantasy. Here’s how it could work.” by Shadi Hamid (The Washington Post).
“Thinking About Peace” by Damir Marusic. (Wisdom of Crowds).
Khaled’s Twitter page.
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