“But today, identity seems more central to politics than ever before.”

Brian’s noting of the advice from Richard Haass to the Israeli government reminded me that there are other places, and administrations, who have received similar ‘lessons’ from The Process™ hereAfghanistan, for example.  Of course, it always helps to have well-placed friends [writing your speeches! – Ed].  And it’s worth noting that Richard Haass’ role here was not without criticism…  His successor, Mitchel Reiss, has been more forthright in his recounting at times. 

ANYhoo…  There’s also Iraq.  Where the BBC now reports

Almost every event in Iraq is weaved into two rival narratives.

In a Sunni narrative, Tariq al-Hashemi is the victim of a new Shia dictator, and al-Qaeda is an Iranian tool designed to keep Sunnis locked up on charges of terrorism.

In the rival Shia narrative, Mr Hashemi is guilty as charged, and al-Qaeda is Saudi Arabia’s proxy in a regional battle against the Shia.

History is also contested. In one narrative the Baath party’s secular Arab nationalism held Iraq together, but in the other it was just a mask for Sunni domination.

But what is real and what is imagined? As sectarianism morphs into a state of mind, the distinction is blurred. Two realities emerge and live side by side, in mutual suspicion.

Iraq is no stranger to identity politics. An ethnic divide between Arabs and Kurds has been around since the creation of modern Iraq, and has grown in relevance after the war. But today, identity seems more central to politics than ever before.

That’s not to say that there are not more general points to keep in mind elsewhere.  Just that when the advice moves from the general to the more specific the examples are less than convincing.

As for the International Representative for West Belfast Louth Gerry Adams’ 2006 self-styled “peace mission to Middle East”, probably the least said the better…