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December 2, 2003

'Scuse me, while I kiss

Daniel Radosh

'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy. In today's Washington Post, David Ignatius writes: The Geneva accord that was presented yesterday -- proposing hypothetical terms for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- reminds me of the old John Lennon song, 'Imagine.' I love that song, loopy as it is.

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people,
Living life in peace.

I know, I know, not a promising start to a column no matter how you slice it, but it really goes wrong when Ignatius continues to ruminate about this song he supposedly loves: It may be romantic nonsense, but it's a nice distraction from reality. And I feel the same way about the Geneva accord. Sometimes it's important to have a 'peace process,' even when the prospects for real peace seem slim. It's like imagining the existence of an afterlife -- the very notion of a blessed end state gives people a reason not to do terrible things in the here and now.

Ah, so that's why he started with the second verse -- the first verse proposes the exact opposite of the point he wants to make:

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

At least he didn't go with Happiness is a Warm Gun.

Bad framing devices aside, his point is a good one:
If a peace process is underway, it encourages people to think that there is an alternative to the state of war. It posits a future when things will be different. It empowers those who want to change the status quo...

The idea of compromise embodied in the Geneva accord is threatening to those who believe they can have it all. It's threatening to Sharon, who promised that his harsh methods would provide the security that Israelis demand. And it's threatening to the Muslim militants who argue that suicide bombings will eventually force a demoralized Israel to capitulate.

The real illusion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the idea of victory. It ain't going to happen -- no matter how many suicide bombings or house demolitions each side attempts. By contrast, the idea of a negotiated peace settlement ought to seem practical. I like the thought of Israelis and Palestinians sitting in their homes this week, looking over the maps and clauses of the Geneva accord, and telling each other, "You know, maybe this isn't so crazy after all.

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