Uncle Sam and the Shrink: A "Palestine Papers" Drama, in One Act

02/02/2011 06:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Earlier this week, Al Jazeera released a decade's worth of memos, emails, maps and minutes from high-level negotiations between the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The documents revealed that the Palestinians had offered far more significant concessions than previously reported. and demonstrated a pattern of delaying tactics by the Israelis, who seemed intent on building more settlements while the peace process dragged on. In the wake of these revelations, Palestinians expressed anger at their increasingly weak leadership, accusing them of capitulating, while some Israeli commentators accused the government of missing its chance for peace. The Americans, meanwhile, came across as intent on not offending the Israelis, even if it meant contradicting established U.S. policy. It was against this backdrop that Uncle Sam decided to spend some time on the couch this week...

Uncle Sam and the Shrink
Act One

Scene: A Psychiatrist's office in a nondescript strip mall in suburban Virginia. Dr. Weller, a clean-shaven, balding man in his sixties, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, khaki pants, and a loose knit sweater with suede elbow patches, moves across the carpeted floor to greet his new client. At the doorway stands a tall, rangy senior citizen with a pointed white beard and top hat with red and white stripes and a white star on a blue background. Dr. Weller extends his hand.

Dr. Weller: Welcome. Do you prefer Uncle? Or Mr. Sam?

Uncle Sam (not meeting the doctor's eyes): Doesn't matter. I just have to get a load off my chest. (Looks nervously over his shoulder toward the office door.) By the way, I parked my car in your underground lot. I hope nobody followed me.

Dr. Weller: I'm sure you're safe.

The two men settle into their comfortable armchairs.

Dr. Weller: Tell me what's going on.

Sam: It's about the Middle East. Specifically, the Palestinians. I just feel so guilty. For six decades I've been pretending to be the honest broker - but I'm here to tell you: it's all lies! I mean, I send my people to give lip service to a so-called Palestinian State, but all I do is represent the powerful party, Israel - I mean, they're a nuclear power, with one of the strongest armies in the world! And I end up supporting just about whatever they want! Even when I insist on something - like this settlement freeze - they just ignore me and do what they please!

Dr. Weller watches impassively as tears well up in Uncle Sam's eyes. Sam begins to reach for the box of tissues, but instead clears his throat violently and balls his fists in his lap.

Sam (groaning at first, then turning angry): And now, all these documents, the so-called Palestine Papers (http://english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers/), have come out showing that I couldn't care less about the Palestinians, their wishes to be free, all those millions of refugees - why, I even had Condi Rice tell those compliant Palestinian negotiators that they should send the refugees to South America! And now that the truth has come out on this Al Jazeera network, it's all in plain sight. And at last I realize how awful I've been all this time. I mean, it's just --

Dr Weller (leaning forward, speaking gently): Hold on a second, Mr. Sam. I don't really know all these details - fill me in, please. I need to get up to speed if I'm going to help you. I need some context, Mr. Sam.

Uncle Sam looks down at his hands. He still won't look Dr. Weller in the eye.

Sam (barely audible): Call me Uncle.

Dr. Weller: Okay. Uncle.

Sam: See, there was a time, sixty years ago or more, when there could have been two states, one for the Arabs and one for the Jews. Or so we thought. A lot of people back then, even some Jews, wanted a single state, or a binational state in old Palestine. But it wasn't in the cards. Then came the war in 67, and after that Israel started building all these settlements - illegal under international law, and our official policy all along was in accord with that, so that eventually we could have a "two state solution" -

Dr. Weller: OK, Uncle - but what does that have to do -

Sam (sharply): It's important for you to understand the background. See, after 1993, when the Oslo "peace process" - what a joke of a name! - when that started, Israel kept building settlements and roads for Jews and VIPs only, and after a while the Palestinians were surrounded by Israelis in their rooftop houses - half a million of them in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Barely 100 thousand settlers in the West Bank at the beginning of Oslo, and more than three times that today! And how were we going to get them out? Answer: We wouldn't! Eighty percent of them would stay! I kept telling my negotiators, it's okay, we support Israel with the idea of swapping lands. We'll just let them get rid of some Arabs in Israel and make them part of the Palestinian state, and give them some other useless unused lands, while Israel keeps nearly all these settlers in their places - they call them suburbs - in the middle of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. One of them, Ariel, has nearly 20,000 people, and it's nearly halfway to Jordan from Tel Aviv! That, and the other settlements and "security zones," were going to carve a future Palestine into pieces! Some Palestinians started shouting about Bantustans. We laughed, but you know what? They were right! For them, it's like a horror movie: the Incredible Shrinking Palestine! I mean, just look at a map of how their lands have been carved up. Even now, the West Bank is only 22 percent of the original Palestine, and 60 percent of that is under military occupation! (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/israel/map/)

Dr. Weller: I understand that these are important facts. But let's get back to your feelings. You're experiencing feelings of guilt. Why?

To read the entire story, go to: http://www.salon.com/news/israel/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2011/01/29/palestine_papers_tolan