Al-Jazeera released a treasure trove of documents yesterday, Wikileaks-style, that it’s calling The Palestine Papers, and the Twitter exploded. The internet exploded. Analysis came quick and sharp and occasionally in very, very confident 140-character increments.
For good or ill I had but little time yesterday to pay attention, and today I have even less — the kids have a day off and I promised fun n’ frolic. I’m trying to remember that the world will hold steady even if I can’t immediately bathe in the flood of information that the Palestine Papers provide.
And indeed, I think it’s for good. There is too much information there, much of it concerning internal Palestinian politics, for me to take in quickly. Yesterday I kept seeing confident assertions that this means the end of the Palestinian Authority, this means the end of the benighted peace process (usually written with quotes around it: “peace process”), this means an end to the myth that the Israelis have constantly sought peace while the Palestinians have failed to be a partner in the process.
But it’s been my experience that people in positions of power — whether it’s the people we actually see, or the people behind those people (in this case: the Palestinian Authority, or the people in the US Administration who support the Palestinian Authority) tend to find ways to continue to call the shots. It’s been my experience that institutions that are enormous in scope and in which hundreds of powerful people are heavily invested (The Peace Process [tm]) don’t tend to just pass from the stage because of embarrassing information. And it’s also been my experience that myths die very, very hard.
Is it explosive? Yes. Does the new information — such as the fact that the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told Israel in 2008 that the PA was willing to cede all-but-one of the Jerusalem settlements (aka: “Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem”) — present real challenges to the status quo and conventional wisdom? Yes. Is it all likely to have some real impact on the future of Israelis and Palestinians alike? Absolutely.
I wish it were my job to dig into this stuff and analyze it — read: I really, really wish I were paid to do what I’ve been trained to do — but it’s not, and trying to genuinely understand, and make useful predictions based on, what amounts to an enormous document dump (a document mudslide, a document avalanche) can’t be done without first really digging into the material. It can’t be done off the top of one’s head — at least not off the top of mine.
Not to mention that more will be released later today, and if memory serves, there’s a third dump planned for tomorrow.
So I’m going to wait a little. I’m going to read some analysis, take some time, when I have the time, to do a little of my own digging, and probably by the end of the week, I’ll pull something together. I’m a graduate student in spirit, not a talking head — and for good or ill, the world isn’t waiting on me. I’ve got the time, and I’d rather get it as close to right as I can.
In the meantime, here are a few links: The Guardian has created an interactive database for the papers, HaAretz is of course all over it (here, here, and here are good places to start), Amjad Attallah is discussing it at Foreign Policy, and here’s MJ Rosenberg.
If you have thoughts, suggestions, lines of inquiry that you’d like to share, please comment away!