On Wednesday, Tom Friedman filed a report from the West Bank under the title "Green Shoots in Palestine" which celebrated what he called Fayyadism, "based on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services." That wasn't my experience when I was there in June, but maybe we talked to different people.
Today, the Saudi pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat reprinted the article under the title "Indicators of the Palestinian Renaissance". The word they use for 'renaissance' is... Ba'ath. As in, "Indicators of the Palestinian Ba'ath." I'm pretty darned sure that's not what Friedman had in mind!
Of course, this came on a day when Mahmoud Abbas was re-selected as the head of Fatah by a show of hands, running unopposed at a party conference packed with his hand-picked representatives (over 700 unknowns added in the last week). It comes at a time when the PA is widely seen across Palestinian society as deeply corrupt, non-transparent and unaccountable. It comes at a time when the PA (including Fayyad and Abbas) are increasingly reliant upon American-trained security forces, to which virtually everyone refers as the "Dayton forces" (and the government as the "Dayton-Fayyad government"), while the Palestinian Parliament remains shuttered and the development of the judicial system lags far behind the security forces. And it's more than happy to use those security forces against Islamists! All, of course, exacerbated by the anger caused by an enduring occupation which should not be somehow forgotten just because of a relative easing of checkpoints in a few places.
Maybe not a gaffe after all? Hard to see how any Arab editor could have missed the obvious reference.
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.