March 22, 2010
Nablus - photo by ANSA
It may well be that the citizens of the world, tired of hearing newscasts about Israel and the Palestinians, are not in the mood to hear it. Still, pressure in Palestine is building up quickly due to Israel's continuing defiance of calls from around the world to halt settlement building in East Jerusalem and the other occupied territories. Simultaneously, we are hearing a clear increase in Palestinian calls for a Third Intifada, and it may well be that it is already underway. The failure of the international community to pressure Israel into abiding with international law, despite its astounding disrespect for human rights, its continuing territorial expansionism, and its flagrant violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in every thinkable way, is threatening to yet again take its toll on the fate of the Palestinian people.
American loyalty or subservience?
On March 22, Netanyahu declared before his trip to Washington: "As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv, and we have made this clear to the Americans." There has been much ado about the 'crisis' in US-Israeli relations, which the media tends to portray as one of the worst in decades, but it seems that most of the differences between the two have already been ironed out. There is obviously more truth in the repeated declarations of unflinching loyalty of US politicians to the Israeli agenda, such as Obama's infamous statement that Jerusalem 'will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided', which he made in his speech to AIPAC the very morning after he secured the Democratic nomination as a presidential candidate in 2008.
This statement was hastily watered down in the following days, when it was answered by the Palestinians and foreign policy commentators with sharp denunciations. International law, after all, has it that East Jerusalem is illegally occupied territory. Despite this, the fact of the matter remains that Israel has been given a free hand in the Judaization of Arab East Jerusalem through the forced eviction of Palestinian residents from their homes, the ongoing excavations underneath the neighborhood of Silwan, the continuing isolation of East Jerusalem from its surrounding Palestinian hinterland, and the announcement of plans for the extensive construction of illegal settler buildings in East Jerusalem.
As Joe Biden declared when he visited the Israelis on March 9th: "There is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel in terms of Israel's security. None." He might as well have said 'policy', instead of 'security', if we base our judgment on actions rather than on words.
There is no hard evidence about the alleged master-slave relationship between the United States and Israel. There is however widespread speculation about it, ranging from allegations of an overwhelming influence of the Jewish lobby, to absolute control of the Israeli regime over United States foreign policy. What remains clear is that Israel has always had a green light for its horrendously racist treatment of the Palestinian population, and for its role in forcing other regimes of the region into submission – backed up by the public secret of its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons.
From the horse's mouth
The publication by Harvard scholars Walt and Mearsheimer in 2007 titled 'The Israel Lobby', laid out the mechanisms of how Israel dominates American politics through campaign donations and media clout. Coming straight from the horse's mouth itself, however, American subservience seems to go much further than that. On October 3rd, 2001 Ariel Sharon rebuked Shimon Peres' criticism of his policies on the radio station Kol Yisrael by saying:
"Every time we do something you tell me Americans will do this and will do that. I want to tell you something very clear, don't worry about American pressure on Israel, we, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it."
Another example: Condoleezza Rice was ordered by George W. Bush to abstain from a vote for a ceasefire in the Gaza War in the UN Security Council on January 12th, 2009. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a speech in Ashkelon in those days, explained why:
"I said 'get me President Bush on the phone'. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn't care. 'I need to talk to him now'. He got off the podium and spoke to me. I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the Secretary of State and told her not to vote in favor."
The United States has a long tradition of posing as an 'honest broker' in the conflict, despite the fact that it is very well-known that even during this decades-long posturing it has always staunchly and relentlessly served every single Israeli military, strategic and economic objective. With this in mind, one can hardly maintain that the so-called criticism of Israel that was recently uttered by Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton has any serious content or weight. Is it considered normal to have one of the two competing teams provide one of their players as a referee in a World Cup Final? In football, it clearly isn't, but for some reason having a partial referee seems to be an accepted fact in Middle East politics that everyone prefers to leave unmentioned, and accepts as if it is a law of nature.
The rule of weakness
That's why at least part of the blame for the fact that this unclean game has been allowed to continue for nearly two decades, should be sought on the Palestinian side. The acceptance of these policies has resulted in the acquisition of thousands of acres of Palestinian land by the Israelis, the building of a racist infrastructure of illegal walls, settlements and roads in the occupied territories, and the near tripling of the Jewish settler population in the West Bank and Jerusalem – all of this during the period known as the 'Oslo peace process'.
The best illustration of Palestinian co-responsibility may be that Mahmoud Abbas will most likely be remembered as the weakest Arab leader in modern history, proving again and again that whatever he seems to 'demand', he is in truth only 'asking politely'. At first, there would be 'no negotiations' unless there was a 'settlement freeze', but when the Israelis continued unabated and even upgraded their settlement construction efforts, he agreed to 'indirect talks', losing face again widely among the Palestinian and Arab masses – that is, if there was any face left to lose after his Goldstone debacle in October 2009.
If anyone would be asked to name one single achievement of the Palestinian Authority in the period after the assassination of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he would be very hard pressed to come up with one feat that has even the slightest air of significance or credibility. It is as if the Palestinian Authority have been sent to pose as captains on a sinking ship who are expected to keep the passengers hoping that rescue is on the way, in order to prevent panic and mutiny – while the crew have already been informed by those they are in contact with through the radio, that the damage to the hull cannot be repaired. It makes you wonder if the deal also includes a few helicopters having been made available by the coast guard for the captain and his closest crew members, to bring them to safety right before the ship disappears under the waves – with all of its passengers still on board.
Which Palestinians to support?
The result of this political bargaining, and it having been dragged on year after year, until every Palestinian card was given away by those who were delegated to sit at the poker table in the name of the people, is that it has effectively paralyzed the international community into complete inaction. Since Hamas has unjustly been branded an 'Islamist terrorist organization' by the United States and Europe, and the Palestinian Authority has not displayed any credibility of action nor of principle, the international community is finding itself at a loss on which Palestinians to support.
While non-violent resistance, in the form of the BDS movement and anti-Wall activism, has been taking place on a daily basis in Palestine, it has been largely ignored by the media and completely dismissed by the politicians of Europe and the United States. It becomes more and more difficult to deny that the only things that have been able to put Palestine on the front pages of the world's newspapers have been militant acts of resistance, which are nowadays remembered as actions from a previous era. The mention of them continues to be used against the Palestinian people until today, as if they were acts of sheer cruelty instead of desperate responses to Israeli attempts at annihilation and oppression.
Still, no reward has been given on the political world stage for the daily unarmed protests by many brave Palestinians and internationals, despite the gruesome and lethal response from the Israeli occupation forces. When the Palestinians resisted with weapons against injustice, they were criticized. When they resist non-violently, they are ignored.
It seems that barely any government in the world feels comfortable expressing support for Hamas, based on how the organization has been labeled, despite having won the 2006 elections fairly and squarely. But there is also little hope for the 'other side', although the Palestinian Authority undoubtedly should be the ideal Palestinian partner to do business with from a Western point of view. The proof for this lies in the fact that it has demonstrated an almost complete lack of resistance to the Israeli occupation, and a full willingness to cooperate with anything that sounds even vaguely like a 'solution'. Isn't that exactly what the West wants?
However, the PA apparently has displayed such a lack of spine that even the Western regimes seem to have become increasingly uninterested to pay it any significant political attention, let alone moral support. After all, this Palestinian Authority will obviously only be supported financially for "institution-building", not politically, and only if it complies with Israeli demands.
The end result: the Palestinian people are being forced to go it alone, if they wish to oppose the Israeli occupation.
Jerusalem in danger
The world's mass media gave widespread attention to the approval by the Israeli government given to plans for building 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem, since this was the cause of the embarrassment of the Americans when Joe Biden visited the region. Still, little heed is paid to the bigger picture of Israeli expansion politics. On March 11, Ha'aretz reported that in fact, these housing units were only part of a plan comprising the planned building of some 50,000 new housing units in Occupied Jerusalem.
The fact that such knowledge is not answered by vehement protests from any of the segments of the so-called Quartet, makes it likely that Obama's words spoken during his presidential election campaign were solemn promises which had to be made to secure his candidacy, rather than an unfortunate slip of the tongue. "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided", said Obama. What about international law? Jerusalem isn't recognized internationally as Israel's capital, and it is not a question of division, but of illegal conquest – which is in flagrant violation of the international consensus, and cannot be accepted under any conditions.
This is why the current situation can be seen as a test case for international Middle East politics: if Israel can get away with approving these 1,600, it will have no problem whatsoever with getting the consent of the superpowers for building the remaining thousands of settler homes in East Jerusalem, further consolidating its Judaization of the city. This is cause for high alarm in the Arab and Muslim world, especially considering the excavations below the areas surrounding the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the continuing and increasing provocations such as the establishment of a synagogue and the laying of the first stone for the 'rebuilding of the temple' by orthodox Jewish zionists, which took place recently on March the 16th. These actions were sanctioned by the Israeli government. Rumors of a planned deliberate destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque in order to build that temple seem to be confirmed by these actions – and a powerful response from the Palestinian Authority and the Arab and Muslim world is stunningly absent.
A Third Intifada?
Some people may choose to continue to blame the Palestinians: after all, not all of them advocate a 'political solution' to the problem. Is this strange, considering the options they have been given, and considering the fact that the Palestinian Authority has in all these years failed to give them even one single reason to expect any success from that? Can the people be blamed for wishing to take their fate into their own hands, when they are terrorized on a daily basis by a ruthless genocidal Israeli occupation force, while no convincing efforts against this are being made by those who are internationally accepted as representatives of the Palestinian voice? The recent murder of four Palestinian civilian youngsters within 24 hours in the Nablus region, Mohammad and Useid Qadus (both 16 years), Muhammad Faysal and Salah Muhammad Qawariq (both 19 years) by the Israeli army, which only led to some timid condemnations by representatives of the Palestinian Authority, may yet spell the beginning of a Third Intifada. If people do not see any meaningful action from their leadership, will they sit by idly and watch their sons being shot?
The captain of the ship mentioned before may be using the most gracious words of hope in order to keep his control and authority over the passengers. He may be making promises that hardly anyone could believe, even if they wanted to, except perhaps if their fear of being engulfed by the waves compels them to grasp any floating straw they can find. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether this is how the Palestinian people will respond. History has shown that they are capable of organizing tremendously powerful uprisings, based purely on people power, and on the strength of their social cohesion and dedication to their faith.
If no one else in the world will make any move to protect Al Aqsa, and put a halt to the inhumane aggression of Israeli occupation and expansion, the Palestinian people surely will not grasp at straws, but are bound to grab any stick they can find, and defend themselves against the demolition of their homes, the murder of their children, and the destruction of their holy sites and their national identity.