Searching for the Palestinian MLK


I’d love to know the backstory behind how The Weekly Standard, a neo-conservative redoubt, chose for its cover story this issue peace theorist Gershom Gorenberg’s search for the "Missing Mahtama" among Palestinians.

He starts out by imagining a Palestinian religious leader leading a peaceful march from Ramallah to Jerusalem. The leader, who has left the violent swamps of Hamas to lead a non-violence movement, is nearly felled by an Israeli sniper; his near-martyrdom occasions a sea change that helps bring about peace…

Gorenberg then breaks the (persuasively depicted) fantasy:

To sit in my study in Jerusalem and to imagine recording this chronology as a historian is to be filled with the wild hope that fantasy can bring and with the pain of knowing it is fantasy.

The tragic figure at its center is Mubarak Awad, the Jerusalem-born peace activist who became the guy that the antagonists gang up on just because he wants to break up their fight. I wasn’t much of an admirer of Awad in real time, back in the 1980s — he refused to outright condemn Palestinian violence (to do so, I now realize would have meant certain suicide). But the expulsion of an essentially peaceful man from the city where he was born outraged me then and Gorenberg’s account re-awoke my fury.

I’ll mimic Gorenberg’s opening and engage in a little fantasizing of my own about why this ended up as a Weekly Standard cover story — Bill Kristol  won a bidding war? Gorenberg’s work would have deserved one.

It’s a brilliant deconstruction of why Palestinians have until now been incapable of nurturing a tradition of non-violence. Go read.

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