The Solution is the Problem

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 16:55:10 +0100

The US Presents Itself as the Peace-Broker in the Middle East. The
Reality is Different 

A year ago, the Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling observed
that "what we feared has come true - War appears an unavoidable fate",
an "evil colonial" war. His colleague Ze'ev Sternhell noted that the
Israeli leadership was now engaged in "colonial policing, which recalls
the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks
in South Africa during the apartheid era". Both stress the obvious:
there is no symmetry between the "ethno-national groups" in this
conflict, which is centered in territories that have been under harsh
military occupation for 35 years. 

The Oslo "peace process", begun in 1993, changed the modalities of the
occupation, but not the basic concept. Shortly before joining the Ehud
Barak government, historian Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote that "the Oslo
agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life of
dependence of one on the other forever". He soon became an architect of
the US-Israel proposals at Camp David in 2000, which kept to this
condition. At the time, West Bank Palestinians were confined to 200
scattered areas. Bill Clinton and Israeli prime minister Barak did
propose an improvement: consolidation to three cantons, under Israeli
control, virtually separated from one another and from the fourth
enclave, a small area of East Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian
communications. The fifth canton was Gaza. It is understandable that
maps are not to be found in the US mainstream. Nor is their prototype,
the Bantustan "homelands" of apartheid South Africa, ever mentioned. 

No one can seriously doubt that the US role will continue to be
decisive. It is crucial to understand what that role has been, and how
it is internally perceived. The version of the doves is presented by the
editors of the New York Times, praising President Bush's "path-breaking
speech" and the "emerging vision" he articulated. Its first element is
"ending Palestinian terrorism" immediately. Some time later comes
"freezing, then rolling back, Jewish settlements and negotiating new
borders" to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. If
Palestinian terror ends, Israelis will be encouraged to "take the Arab
League's historic offer of full peace and recognition in exchange for an
Israeli withdrawal more seriously". But first Palestinian leaders must
demonstrate that they are "legitimate diplomatic partners". 

The real world has little resemblance to this self-serving portrayal -
virtually copied from the 1980s, when the US and Israel were desperately
seeking to evade PLO offers of negotiation and political settlement. In
the real world, the primary barrier to the "emerging vision" has been,
and remains, unilateral US rejectionism. There is little new in the
current "Arab League's historic offer". 

It repeats the basic terms of a security council resolution of January
1976 which called for a political settlement on the internationally
recognized borders "with appropriate arrangements ... to guarantee ...
the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of
all states in the area". This was backed by virtually the entire world,
including the Arab states and the PLO but opposed by Israel and vetoed
by the US, thereby vetoing it from history. Similar initiatives have
since been blocked by the US and mostly suppressed in public commentary.


Not surprisingly, the guiding principle of the occupation has been
incessant humiliation. Israeli plans for Palestinians have followed the
guidelines formulated by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labour leaders more
sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Thirty years ago Dayan advised
the cabinet that Israel should make it clear to refugees that "we have
no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes
may leave". When challenged, he responded by citing Ben-Gurion, who said
that "whoever approaches the Zionist problem from a moral aspect is not
a Zionist". He could have also cited Chaim Weizmann, first president of
Israel, who held that the fate of the "several hundred thousand negroes"
in the Jewish homeland "is a matter of no consequence". 

The Palestinians have long suffered torture, terror, destruction of
property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basic resources,
crucially water. These policies have relied on decisive US support and
European acquiescence. "The Barak government is leaving Sharon's
government a surprising legacy," the Israeli press reported as the
transition took place: "the highest number of housing starts in the
territories since Ariel Sharon was minister of construction and
settlement in 1992 before the Oslo agreements" - funding provided by the
American taxpayer. 

It is regularly claimed that all peace proposals have been undermined by
Arab refusal to accept the existence of Israel (the facts are quite
different), and by terrorists like Arafat who have forfeited "our
trust". How that trust may be regained is explained by Edward Walker, a
Clinton Middle East adviser: Arafat must announce that "we put our
future and fate in the hands of the US" - which has led the campaign to
undermine Palestinian rights for 30 years. 

The basic problem then, as now, traces back to Washington, which has
persistently backed Israel's rejection of a political settlement in
terms of the broad international consensus. Current modifications of US
rejectionism are tactical. With plans for an attack on Iraq endangered,
the US permitted a UN resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal from the
newly-invaded territories "without delay" - meaning "as soon as
possible", secretary of state Colin Powell explained at once. Powell's
arrival in Israel was delayed to allow the Israeli Defense Force to
continue its destructive operations, facts hard to miss and confirmed by
US officials. 

When the current intifada broke out, Israel used US helicopters to
attack civilian targets, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians,
hardly in self-defense. Clinton responded by arranging what the Israeli
newspaper Ha'aretz called "the largest purchase of military helicopters
by the Israeli Air Force in a decade", along with spare parts for Apache
attack helicopters. A few weeks later, Israel began to use US
helicopters for assassinations. These extended last August to the first
assassination of a political leader: Abu Ali Mustafa. That passed in
silence, but the reaction was quite different when Israeli cabinet
minister Rehavam Ze'evi was killed in retaliation. Bush is now praised
for arranging the release of Arafat from his dungeon in return for US-UK
supervision of the accused assassins of Ze'evi. It is inconceivable that
there should be any effort to punish those responsible for the Mustafa
assassination. 

Further contributions to enhancing terror took place last December, when
Washington again vetoed a security council resolution calling for
dispatch of international monitors. Ten days earlier, the US boycotted
an international conference in Geneva that once again concluded that the
fourth Geneva convention applies to the occupied territories, so that
many US-Israeli actions there are "grave breaches", hence serious war
crimes. As a "high contracting party", the US is obligated by solemn
treaty to prosecute those responsible for such crimes, including its own
leadership. Accordingly, all of this passes in silence. 

But the US has not officially withdrawn its recognition that the
conventions apply to the occupied territories, or its censure of Israeli
violations as the "occupying power". In October 2000 the security
council reaffirmed the consensus, "call[ing] on Israel, the occupying
power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations..." The vote was
14-0. Clinton abstained. 

Until such matters are permitted to enter mainstream discussion in the
US, and their implications understood, it is meaningless to call for "US
engagement in the peace process", and prospects for constructive action
will remain grim. 

Source:  Guardian

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