Showcasing GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s utter ignorance is something I enjoy doing and will continue to do until this really strange man descends from his first place position in the GOP lineup…
Herman Cain’s lack of foreign policy knowledge has had him in hot water before. Since he hit frontrunner status he’s been dinged for mocking “Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan” and suggesting he might free every prisoner in Guantanamo Bayin exchange for one U.S. soldier.
Earlier in the campaign, before he had frontrunner status and its resulting scrutiny, the former CEO was asked about the Israel-Palestine “right of return” issue. This is one of the red lines in mid-east diplomacy, with the Israeli stance being that the prospect of opening the door to Palestinians displaced in the 1947-48 fighting should not even be negotiated. Cain rather put his foot in it when he was quizzed about the issue on Fox News and – clearly unfamiliar with the subject – he tried to dodge it by saying, “that should be an issue for negotiation.”
Cain’s clearly been swotting up on his mid-east knowledge since then, and a recent choice of words suggests he may have been dipping into some fairly controversial sources.
Cain gave an interview to Israel Hayom that was released Friday. It’s fairly boilerplate except for the part where he addresses the Palestinians’ recent push for full UN membership:
“I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president as weak.”
It’s that “so-called” that’s striking. This is still pretty controversial territory, though it did admittedly find its most notorious expression in the words of the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. She famously said, “There is no such thing as the Palestinians.”
What she meant by that, and what Cain is tapping into, is that the notion of a Palestinian people only arose after the foundation of Israel, and that this was a convenient way of harnessing the disparate resentments of various Arab groups who had been dislodged during the tumult of 1947-48.
This is something most serious commentators tend to hold back from claiming. Around the time the statehood push chatter was reaching its peak, a National Review editorial led with the line: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian state, and the United Nations can’t conjure one into existence.” However, their contention was very different from the idea that the Palestinian identity was simply invented so the Arabs could have a convenient stick with which to beat Israel in international institutions. Their argument rested on the far more common contention that the Palestinians – riven between Hamas and Fatah-controlled territories, lacking a Weberian “monopoly on violence,” and without strong political institutions – are not yet ready to have a definite political entity that could credibly be called a “state.” But though the editorial writers denied the Palestinians the concept of statehood, they held back from denyingnationhood.
The only people willing to go that far tend to be the more hardline publications such as World Net Daily. That publication’s editor, Joseph Farah, has several articles arguing that “Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc.”
The statehood push is a thorny diplomatic issue, and people on both sides of the matter have some fairly nuanced positions. However, it would seem that Cain has avoided these and has moved instead to one of the furthest edges available in this debate.