Edition 2: No. 63
U.S policies not in Palestinian interests
By Ranjan Solomon,
There are political analysts who wonder why Palestinians even bother to invest political trust in the U.S. administration. Washington has never favoured the Palestinians in any genuine way in political negotiations. Israel’s stranglehold over policy making in the U.S is complete and their lobbies make sure that no President crosses the ‘red lines’.
The Zionist stranglehold
Call it fear, call it cowardice, U.S Presidential candidates speak bravely about justice in the Middle East on their campaign trail. Once in the wellbeing of the White House, they change colours- ‘political chameleonism’. They go to the extent of sending billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel to pay for its military even in tough fiscal times for the U.S. economy. Not from a sense of sacrifice, but because the Zionist lobby will not countenance anything less.
Some years ago, Hilary Clinton visited the Palestinian territories in her capacity as the First Lady. When she returned she made stunningly candid remarks about the occupation. Israel was at the receiving end of her wrath and indignation. Bill Clinton – the master ‘two-timer’ was stunned by his wife’s conduct. Hilary’s awareness-education in the Palestinian territories and her appetite for a fight with Israel was, however, short-lived. She soon emerged as candidate for Senator of New York and quickly learned- just as quickly as she learned that the occupation was altogether evil and cruel and unjust- that to win in New York she needed a political profile that presented her as pro-Jewish/anti-Palestine. Possibly even a Zionist sympathizer. She reinvented herself and won her election to the Senate.
James Traficant, ex-Congressman, a victim of Zionist machinations, famously said: “But I believe that Israel has a powerful stranglehold on the American government. They control both members of the House, the House and the Senate. They have us involved in wars in which we have little or no interest…Our children are coming back in body bags. Our nation is bankrupt over these wars. And if you open your mouth, you get targeted. And if they don’t beat you at the poll, they’ll put you in prison.”Indeed, the rules of the contest between Palestine and Israel are written in the US by the Zionist lobby. That lobby does not seek a role for the U.S as peacemaker or mediator. It seeks a role for the U.S as the instrument that will leverage added gain for Israel in an already asymmetrical state of affairs.
Undermining Palestine with tacit approval
Only a few days ago, a report from France 24, International News, reported that Israel has put on hold Israeli plans to grant final approval for a military academy on the Mount of Olives in annexed East Jerusalem. The delay is geared to pre-empt strains and embarrassment in preparation of US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit.
The military establishment in the area will result in tensions because it will be constructed on the Mount of Olives- a sensitive and disputed area. It will further undermine the idea of two states for two peoples. Several important churches are located on the Mount of Olives, as well as the Garden of Gethsemane where it is believed that Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion. The mount also holds religious significance for Jews, who believe the Messiah will arrive at the site.
Israel’s Peace Now settlement watchdog confirms that the holdup is allied with Obama’s visit because only three years ago, Israeli got into a ruckus when the interior ministry announced plans to build 1,600 settler homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden. It cut deep into U.S.-Israeli ties and the timing was categorized as “insulting.”An apology eventually smoothed over the relations. It has, however, to be noted that Israel did not express regret for their decision- merely for the timing of the decision. The recent decision over the military establishment over disputed land smacks of the same attitude – the military establishment will be built, but only after Obama has gone and no political stresses are felt. The U.S knows the Israeli design on the Mount of Olives and chooses to look the other way. The U.S is hopelessly enslaved to the Zionist lobby and, hence, incapable of being a credible mediator.
What lessons? – Comparisons from South Africa
All this takes one back to the heady days of the struggle against apartheid. Back then, governments especially in Europe and North America stubbornly refused to budge from their tacit support for the apartheid regime. They used the dubious argument that a violent-terrorist outfit (the now democratically elected ANC) was not the ideal instrument to end institutionalised racism. (From being categorized terrorist and dumped in prison for years, Nelson Mandela is now a world statesman.) In those days, western governments actually saw no harm in what they called “separate development’ or apartheid. So, they called for ‘constructive engagement’ – a euphemism for status quo plus some tinkering and a paint job that would make apartheid look good.
It’s no different today. With their so-called aid to the Palestinian authority, the US and EU are on a mission to soften the occupation and make it look better by offering the Palestinians crumbs. Analysts within and outside Palestine are saying enough to aid and demanding in lieu, political measures that deal with all final status questions- Jerusalem, settlements, equitably shared natural resources, 1967 borders, return of refugees etc. These analysts and many Palestinian civil society activists also reject piecemeal and ameliorative steps and demand just, comprehensive and lasting ones in their place. After all, how much longer must Palestinians bear up with an illegal occupation and with multiplier effects of the occupation- growing land grabs/settlements, stealth of heritage sites, immoral law enforcement practices including imprisonment without trial including innocent children, house demolitions, the now-near-complete separation wall that snakes over 700 kilometres of Palestinian territory, the destruction of agricultural crops – the virtual obliteration of livelihoods, obstructing access to work places and medical care – just about any form of cruelty one can find in the books. Humanitarian aid may not be totally irrelevant for those whose essential supplies of food and medicines are cut off – but even they know that once the occupation is done with and a just settlement enforced, they will not need to live from handouts that tug at their very dignity.
Widening the resistance
Many argue that apartheid in South Africa came to an end using the combined strategy of armed resistance, boycotts- divestments –sanctions (BDS), and a global resistance movement who went out into the streets to say NO. Talk of armed resistance seems remote now in Palestine- although Hamas has shown its appetite for hitting back at Israel when provoked beyond tolerable limits. The danger now is that the notion of a non-violent, dialogue-based process will have few takers if the Israeli oppression crosses limits of tolerance. If things were to reach that stage, there will be only Israel and its allies to blame- and, of course, an indifferent international community who partook in the oppression by silent complicity.
BDS as base of new resistance
The BDS campaign is gaining momentum and it has put the fear of God into Israel. Israel’s reaction has been ruthless and self-defeating. By introducing legislation that effectively criminalises support for any boycott against Israel or its institutions, with the warning of grave consequences and worse, without the need to prove “guilt”. Decades of occupation and crimes of war and against humanity has numbed Israel’s capacity to even countenance any form of resistance – even peaceful. Do those who create policy and draw up political strategy in Israel realize that they will soon self-inflict and breed dissent that can spill out of control?
Omar Barghouti, founding member of the BDS movement has argued that by passing this exceptionally draconian law that blatantly stifles free speech, Israel seems ready to sacrifice one of its very last masks of “democracy” for the sake of crushing, with an iron fist.
Eilat Maoz, coordinator of the Coalition of Women for Peace, a leading Israeli feminist alliance that endorses BDS, was quoted saying: “An illegitimate government passes an illegitimate law to protect an illegitimate occupation, while complaining about de-legitimisation. We will continue boycotting, protesting, demonstrating and resisting the occupation – and we call on everyone else to do so.” Indeed the law will bolster the spread of BDS even faster among liberal communities the world over
Israel resists the resistance
Fifteen religious leaders representing many major faith groups in the country recently wrote to Congress seeking to make U.S. military aid to Israel contingent upon its government’s “compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.” The signers say they “have worked for decades to support both Israelis and Palestinians in their desire to live in peace and well-being” and “have witnessed the pain and suffering of Israelis as a result of Palestinian actions and of Palestinians as a result of Israeli actions.” They argue that “unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories which threaten to lead the region further away from the realization of a just peace. Furthermore, such aid sustains the conflict and undermines the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians…“Continued U.S. military assistance to Israel offered without conditions or accountability,” the signers conclude, “will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
The response to the religious leader’s initiative from the Jewish lobbies was swift. They demanded that congress investigate (harass) the signing organizations. Obama has, not bothered too much, an inaction that must not discourage the signers and those around the world who respect their courage of conviction. The most significant aspect of the protest from religious leaders is their statement that the people are aware of the nature of aid and its brunt on those whom it is intended to harm. Equally noteworthy is the intent of the letter- the beginning a movement for sanctions against Israel. In that sense, it is more than a protest. It portends the sign of things to come- an intensified gathering of the resistance to the occupation and its devious schemes, be it in Palestine or from flung in far corners of the world.
Zeroing expectations over Obama visit
It would be reckless to hope that Obama will make a serious dent in the current state of affairs and that Netanyahu and the Israeli establishment will abruptly surrender to international law, UN resolutions and the will of the international community as evidenced by Palestine’s big win in the UN when it sought recognition. Will Obama fortuitously stumble on the courage to speak out against Israel inflexibility and sense of elementary justice? Remote chances if any! He has not so far demonstrated in any tangible way his desire for a solution that is just and lasting. On the contrary, he has shown a heavy appetite to placate Israel. Even if this is his final term, he has his party to contend with. The democrats will want to win the next contest for the White House too and that means making sure that the Zionist lobby keeps the campaign funds flowing and remains their backers. On the question of Palestine, there is simply no middle path- its justice and an end to the illegal occupation or a state of conflict. The West – North America and Europe have no intent to take the risks for peace.
Global civil society must rise
Palestinian reliance on governments, notably the U.S (and their loyal ally, the EU) seems futile at this point. Obama’s visit to the region will, at its very best, conclude with rhetoric in favour of the Palestinians and political correct stuff that is tuned to public consumption. Israel will be asked to temper its actions. Punishment in the International Criminal Court for its multiple criminal actions will not be a threat that gets handed out! The Zionists will convert any such threat into a political debacle for the democrats if Obama dares more. Zero expectations are a more realistic approach.
The occupation will fall; it must
Dictators, empires and, by extension occupations, collapse under their own weight simply because they have no moral or ethical legs to stand on. Every enterprise from the resistance has had, and will continue to have a ripple effect. Justice has a way of prevailing however long it may take to be achieved.
It is, therefore, time to consolidate global resistance even though the winds may not seem to be blowing in favour of political change at this point in history. The powerful will not part with power voluntarily. History attests to this. Pressure from below (people’s power) is the only way to achieve political change. History attests to this too. These lessons point to the inevitable – the occupation will fall. It must.
Badayl-Alternatives offer this analysis for its readers along with two other incisive analyses that offer some conjectures on what Obama’s visit might produce.
The first is by Nicola Nasser, a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit. Read “Palestinians Disqualify U.S. as Peace Broker”.)
The second article is titled: Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace? By Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.”