Have the elites failed?

Recommended listenlast Thursday’s RSA panel discussion on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking between: Dr Claire Spencer, head of Middle East and North Africa programme, Chatham House; Denis Macshane MP, former minister of state, the FCO and MP for Rotherham; Tal Harris, executive director, OneVoice Israel; and Samer Makhlouf, executive director, OneVoice Palestine.

Harris and Makhlouf were patiently and steadily doing what OneVoice does – representing the conflict as one not between Israelis and Palestinians but between peacemakers and warmongers, with poor leadership from the political elites. Denis MacShane brought up the role of regional antisemitism in the conflict. Claire Spencer (like everybody from Chatham House) was very knowledgeable about her field, and noted a general incoherence of the political elites, particularly notable in the Israeli leadership who seem to have no long-term plan whatsoever. She also mentioned some statistics on the staggering scale of aid to Palestinians, the ratios of NGO workers to Palestinian citizens, and the vested interests of NGOs in maintaining the status quo.

Matthew Taylor, chairing, asked some penetrating questions, including whether, unlike South Africa, the conflict would not be resolved through idealism but through resignation.

If you tried any of the usual boycotter tricks (stamping, hissing, asking rhetorical questions and shouting throughout the response, etc) at the RSA you’d be made to feel a proper fool. Consequently the event went off without interference.

Recommended watch (though its too late this time) – Hofesh Schechter’s Political Mother, a contemporary dance work at Sadlers Wells – a stratified society jerks, twitches and writhes to the relentless drumbeat of its demagogues.

Recommended read – at Though Cowards Flinch, Paul summarises a paper in the Political Psychology journal, including the finding that “a subtle threat manipulation increases self-reported conservatism (or decreases self-reported liberalism), and this effect is mediated by closed-mindedness”.

Recommended read – former Chatham House expert and now Director of City University’s Olive Tree programme offering scholarships to ordinary Israeli and Palestinian students who undertake their studies and a parallel curriculum in conflict resolution, Rosemary Hollis, site and book. Her knowledge and wisdom, street to elite, is formidable.

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