Alan Meyer

When Negativity Masquerades as Considered Commentary

In the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman has taken to the op-ed and commentary pages with a vengeance. This may be due to his new post as op-ed editor or even to his new position as Executive director of a forum he founded, but, here, I refer to the vacuous generalisations in his 25 June  2019 article “Five Takeaways from President Trump’s ‘Peace to Prosperity’ Palestinian Plan’

Frantzman’s article is a laundry list of negativity. I list his negative comments in chronological order with my commentary as appropriate.

  1. To begin with, Frantzman’s use of scare quotes around ‘Peace to Prosperity’ in the title is not only an immediate give-away of the negativity to follow, but a hackneyed use of that strategy by a writer who gets paid to provide (hopefully readable) commentary that is not biased.
  2. After some obligatory bland background information, Frantzman then launches into the meat and potatoes of his blatant bias. “What is immediately striking is that much of the plan, which looks more like a brochure or a snazzy business concept, is generalizations.”

I will talk more about the uselessness of generalisations as scribed by Frantzman himself, but here I would merely like to provide a reference to negative comment number two by Mr Frantzman.

  1. In like vein, Frantzman then moves on to negative comment three under his subtitle “Grants: Reinventing the wheel or putting a Trump brand on Palestinian issues”. In case the reader was not aware that Frantzman was writing a hatchet piece, he elucidates thus:

Basically, it sounds like replacing existing models of funding for the Palestinians…The plan appears to have two main goals in 10 years: double the GDP of the Palestinians, and create one million jobs….It actually doubled since 2009, when it was estimated at $7.2 billion, according to the World Bank. So, in fact, it has already doubled in the last 10 years.” The Palestinian GDP is larger than that of Somalia and South Sudan…

Frantzman here implies (states?) that because the “Palestinian” GDP is larger than that of Somalia and South Sudan, any further attempts to bring economic prosperity through additional grants which may lead to peace and stability is a re-inventing of the wheel. As he says, the GDP has already doubled, so why bother. And just to drive the point home Frantzman writes: “What is interesting about the plan is that in some of these cases, there were already existing models for supporting Palestinian civil society or careers for women. The US in this respect is reinventing the wheel with some of the proposed grants.” He concludes this section of his hatchet piece with “Some of this isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but putting the Trump brand on it.” In other words, while some of the Kushner roll-out could be of value, Frantzman demonstrably takes issue with it because it is a brainchild of the Trump administration. It has a Trump “stamp” on it. No other reason is offered.

  1. In his next sub-section titled “Elephant in the room: Israel”, Frantzman complains that The prosperity plan appears to be presented in a vacuum in which Israel’s role is hidden from view.” He then embarks on an itemisation of the ways in which Israel is responsible for running a trade barrier and flouting rule of law. He states that the stagnating “Palestinian” economy is due to Israel and the constraints it puts “Palestinians” under due to their inability to move “freely across borders”. Further, Frantzman writes that “In areas where Palestinians sought to build access roads, such as developing Rawabi in the West Bank, they ran into problems from Israeli bureaucracy. So the hurdle is not just about money, it is about Israel (emphasis mine) and the need to get Israel on board for this plan.” Nowhere in this long sub-section is the reason for restriction of access and resulting stagnating economy put at the feet of Hamas in Gaza and the PA in Ramallah who have sent waves of killers across the borders to kills Jews and thus necessitate crossing restrictions to save Jewish life. Frantzman now begins to read like a Ma’an op-ed.
  2. Of course, there may well be a good reason for Frantzman’s Ma’an-like commetary. In his own words, “I used to lecture at a Palestinian university, and I wonder what my former students would think of this.”

I have no issues whatsoever with Frantzman having taught at Bir Zeit or wherever. Some of my best friends are Arabs. But what I do have an issue with is when an op-ed editor  of a national daily and executive director of some forum or other uses his position to write a hit piece on possibly one the most inventive peace initiatives in the last 50 years.

In closing, Frantzman opines: ‘This plan, like so many before it, contains a lot of generalizations and hopeful words.” But nowhere in his commentary does Frantzman ever come up with a single concrete workable idea on how to achieve the peace that the current American administration is trying to establish. Frantzman’s article is full of generalisations and context-free statements that tell only part of a story of Arab intransigence over seventy one years.

In continuing desultory negative fashion, Frantzman finishes his commentary by asking in plaintive tones“…if you don’t consult them and ask what they want, then how can you help them?…”

He must surely be ignorant of the history of the past 71 years where the likes of the Mapam, Mapai Israeli labor and the HaShomer kibbutz movement , New Labor, and Blue and White AND whatever current iteration of the Labor party Ehud Barak currently dreams of forming, DID ask the Arabs what they wanted. He possibly doesn’t know that their unequivocal and unchanged answer was that they wanted the removal of an Israeli Jewish state from the Middle East (is Frantzman unaware of the goals of lawfare and BDS?) based on the ludicrous myth that the “Palestinians” are indigenous to the Levant and that their “land/country/nation” was appropriated by the Jews. Frantzman must also needs be ignorant (or recklessly dismissive) of the Barak and Olmert offers of statehood, the latter of which offered the “Palestinians” MORE land than even they bargained for. Saeb Erekat will vouch for that.

Frantzman would do well to be mindful of Kushner’s statement re generalisations instead of the litany of negativity and drag-downs he evinces: “When people criticize, the question I would ask them is what is your (emphasis mine) idea, what ideas are you putting forward….it is easy to be against things, but…it is not going to help the region…we’ve tried to…take the harder task of being for something. And we’ve put out 140 pages of details.”

For a dismissive Frantzman, and in his words, those 140 pages of carefully thought out details which in some areas echo the successful Marshall Plan to revive a wrecked Germany is nowt but “…a  brochure or a snazzy business concept…”

I am currently unsure whether Frantzman feels he is under pressure to publish given his new responsibilities, but, once again, he would do well to heed Kushner’s words in this regard: “The ways of the past have not worked…”

Here, Frantzman has no option but to agree, whether he considers Israel the “elephant in the room” or not because he came up with not a single concrete idea to push for peace. Questions and issues to “…be directed to Jerusalem and not Ramallah…” as he puts it , are nothing but vacuous more-of-the-same hitherto useless verbiage. And, finally, even Seth Frantzman  cannot gainsay Kushner’s parting words in his June interview when he states that that:”… Palestinians, don’t have a great track record in getting a deal done.”

In rising in the ranks of the hierarchy at the Jerusalem Post, one would expect Frantzman to be more balanced in his commentary because as a writer, he performs a public service. With “service” such as that provided in Frantzman’s June 25 commentary (sic), one could just as easily get one’s news and views from Al Jazeera.

Or Ma’aan.

About the Author
Alan Meyer is a retired educator with an interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict, photography and Australian road trips.
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