WE COVER ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Your coverage in several recent articles, columns and book reviews concerning the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations evokes my gratitude and admiration. It shows probing journalism and moral courage at a time when the AIPAC lobby and its passive supporters in the Jewish-American community continue to treat the Israeli government’s policies as a sacred cow and the Palestinian people as subhuman. Despite the inevitable barrage of poison-pen letters you undoubtedly receive, count me as one proud and satisfied “customer” (subscriber).
New York City
Misleading statements fill your June 18 editorial “Endless Occupation.” Contrary to the assertion that Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution is in question, the last three Israeli prime ministers have supported the creation of a Palestinian state. In 2000 it was PA leader Yasir Arafat who twice rejected offers of a state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
Contrary to the assertion that the United States abdicated its role in Israeli-Arab peacemaking, in 2002 George W. Bush became the first US President to call for a Palestinian state and to issue a plan, the Road Map, for arriving there. And contrary to the assertion that Hamas supports a two-state solution, the terrorist group’s charter refuses to recognize Israel, obviating the possibility of partition. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has repeatedly stated that he will never recognize Israel.
While the Arab League’s current proposal contains positive elements, you neglect to mention that it also demands a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees that has no basis in international law and would overwhelm Israel’s Jewish majority. Still, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has expressed willingness to discuss the larger proposal with Arab interlocutors.
You raise the notion of a binational state but omit the fact that Israel, as it was intended by its founders and backed by the international community, would cease to exist. Demography would erase its raison d’être: the one and only Jewish State in the world. Why should Israel be subject to dismantlement against its will? Would other nation-states accept such a fate of national suicide? What would be the likely prospect of Jewish survival in such a setting, given the history of the region?
The path to a two-state solution, of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both living in peace and security, is clear. So, too, is the main obstacle: the steadfast refusal of the Palestinian leadership to grasp Israel’s outstretched hand for peace.
RICHARD SIDEMAN, president
American Jewish Committee
THE EDITORS REPLY
Recent Israeli prime ministers have paid lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state, as Bush did in his June 2002 speech. But both the Israeli government and the Bush Administration have consistently impeded progress toward a two-state solution, the former through rapid construction of the separation wall and expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and the latter by publicly announcing US acceptance of Israeli annexation of huge West Bank settlement blocs, which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Arafat rejected the 2000 Camp David proposals for similar reasons: The Israelis insisted on annexing those settlement blocs, as well as retaining long-term control over the Jordan Valley and sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem–conditions that would have made an independent Palestinian state unviable.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s most recent declaration that Hamas would accept a two-state solution appeared in his op-ed in the June 6 Guardian. And the Arab League proposal’s language on return is remarkably moderate, calling for a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194″ (emphasis added). This is diplomatese for recognition that while the right of return must be acknowledged, its full implementation is a matter for negotiation. That right is embedded in customary international law, as both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirm the right of displaced persons to return to their home.
A binational solution could work only if both parties agree to it. And any such solution would have to guarantee the civil, political and cultural rights of all the state’s citizens. As for demography, population trends are already calling into question the Jewish state: 20 percent of its citizens are Palestinians, and growing relative to the Jewish population; and a significant percentage of its Russian population is non-Jewish. And that’s in Israel proper. If one adds the territories Israel has controlled for forty years–a grip that’s tightening daily–the balance of Jewish to Palestinian residents is roughly 50-50. Hence Meron Benvenisti’s observation, also in our June 18 issue, that Israel is already a “de facto binational state.”
NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S EC 101
Let me add one flourish to Christopher Hayes’s thoughtful and endearing description of hip heterodox economists [“Hip Heterodoxy,” June 11] and introduce one complaint. A mainstream economist who had downed too many free drinks once asked me what my department was like. When I described it as heterodox he was confused, and informed me rather soberly that there were no homosexual departments. Of course, neither the orthodox nor the heterodox are orthosex. But sessions organized by the International Association for Feminist Economics have enlivened economics conferences for many years now. I’m disappointed by Hayes’s failure to mention this, or to interview even one feminist economist for his story. Does he consider us unhet or just unhip?
Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts
Christopher Hayes deftly spells out confusion in the field of economics. He avoids, however, two critical questions. First, is the “dismal science” science at all? Many find it nothing more than fancy (if not fanciful) statistics, not much different from actuarial studies. Insurance underwriters recognize that a person with a life expectancy of 74.5 years may live to be 100 or die at 50. Yet neoclassical economists seem surprised when the real world doesn’t perform according to their theories. Witness the 2004 election and how many people voted against their own economic self-interest, violating neoclassical theories.
Second and more disturbing, Hayes uses the term “Nobel laureate” to identify various prominent economists. The so-called “Nobel Prize in Economics” is not one of the five awards stipulated in Alfred Nobel’s 1896 will. It arrived nearly seventy years later, first awarded in 1969. It was instituted by the Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) “in memory of Alfred Nobel” as an effort to legitimize economics. Many physicists and mathematicians bristle at this award, claiming economics is not a science at all but uses mathematics to camouflage unproven and unprovable theories. Even Nobel’s great-great-grandson Peter criticizes the prize as “illegitimate–a PR coup.”
Thank you for Christopher Hayes’s excellent article. However, Hayes missed one of the most important new perspectives–ecological economics–which correctly links the dependence of human economic activity on our planet’s physical and natural resources. One of the basic conclusions of ecological economics is that in a finite world, such as the one in which we live, gross economic growth must someday end. It also pegs economic growth as the major reason for the continuing consumption of the natural world. Check out the International Society for Ecological Economics at www.ecoeco.org.
It would do all those economists at the conference a world of good to change places with the custodians who cleaned up after them. Have them live on the minimum wage of the working poor and find out that the GDP is a myth that only measures productivity, not progress. Even global corporations are realizing that a prosperous middle class is essential as a workforce and as consumers.
WILBUR N. RHODES
FLAW IN THE OINTMENT
Thomas Palley, in “The Flaws in Rubinomics” [May 21] trenchantly outlines the flaws, but he misses an opportunity to put forward a compelling alternative narrative about fiscal policy. The Reagan-Bush-Bush policy of running up public debt has exacerbated the polarization in wealth over the past three decades by letting the rich lend to the government rather than pay their taxes. The progressive solution is to return the tax structure at least to the status quo ante, as Clinton more or less did with his OBRA93 tax increase. While the budget surpluses of the 1990s were probably more a consequence of the boom than a cause, as Palley notes, they did demonstrate that surpluses need not inhibit high employment, provided the Fed keeps its foot on the monetary accelerator.
A fiscal program that reaps budget surpluses from progressive taxation, then uses them to pay down debt and invest in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds would permanently redistribute wealth to the working families who rely on these programs. Palley is right to worry that the rhetoric of Rubinomics risks backfiring on Democrats. We need an alternative rhetoric that emphasizes the potential distributional benefits of public wealth formation.
Professor of Economics, Colgate University