US: The dishonest broker

 

Despite high expectation for Barack Obama, the US president has not convinced Israel to cease settlement construction.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been both a major concern of American diplomacy since 1967 and the arena of persistent failure.

There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker. As a result of its palpable partiality towards Israel, America has lost all credibility in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.

The so-called peace process has been all process and no peace. Peace talks that go nowhere slowly provide Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its expansionist agenda on the West Bank.

The asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians is so great that only a third party can bridge the gap. In plain language, this means leaning on Israel to end the occupation and to permit the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In theory America is committed to a two-state solution to the conflict but in practise it has done very little to push Israel into such a settlement. It is not that America lacks the means to bring pressure to bear on Israel. On the contrary, Israel is crucially, and almost exclusively, dependent on America for military, diplomatic, and financial support.

America’s financial support amounts to three billion dollars a year. So the leverage is there. The real problem is that American leaders are either unable or unwilling to exercise this leverage in order to promote a just settlement of this tragic conflict.

The most depressing aspect of the situation is that despite its proven inability to make progress on the Palestinian track, America continues to cling to its monopoly over the peace process. In the aftermath of the June 1967 War, America arrogated to itself a near-monopoly over the diplomacy surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

During the Cold War, the main purpose of American diplomacy was to exclude the Soviet Union, the ally of radical Arab states, from the quest for peace in the Middle East. After the end of the Cold war, America continued to marginalise Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. The UN has the authority as well as a duty to regulate this conflict because it is a threat to international peace and security. But the Americans undermined its efforts and routinely used their veto on the Security Council to defeat resolutions that were critical of Israel.

American contempt towards the UN reached a new height during the two Republican administrations of George W. Bush. The attitude of the neoconservatives is illustrated by the following conversation between a senior UN official and a venerable Republican Senator. The official asked “Why are you Americans so hostile to the UN? Is it ignorance or is it indifference?” And the Senator allegedly replied: “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

Barack Obama’s election was widely expected to usher in a more even-handed policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Cairo speech of June 4 2009, Obama stated that the bond with Israel is unbreakable but he also expressed deep empathy for the Palestinians and wanted there to be no doubt that: “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own”.

Obama is an inspiring orator. However, to use an American phrase, he has talked the talk but he has not walked the walk. The rhetoric has changed but in practical terms there has been more continuity than change. Partiality towards Israel remains the order of the day and it vitiates the possibility of a genuinely even-handed policy.

To be fair to Obama, he recognised at the outset that Jewish settlements on the West Bank are the main obstacle to progress. He admitted, in effect, that there can be a peace process but no peace if Israel continues the colonisation of the West Bank. At his first meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on May 18 2008, Obama insisted on a complete settlement freeze.

A week later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained: “The President wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions… That is our position…And we intend to press that point”. The position was admirably clear but she and the president failed to press the point. They backed down.

The direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched by Secretary Clinton in Washington on September 2 are the best that could be expected after this and subsequent climb-downs. But these talks are an exercise in futility.

There is an Arabic saying that something that starts crooked, remains crooked. These peace talks started in a crooked way because they did not meet the most fundamental Palestinian requirement: a complete freeze on settlement activity.

All that Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to was a partial settlement freeze for a period of ten months. The ban did not apply to the 3,000 housing units that had already been approved or to East Jerusalem, which Israel had illegally annexed following the June 1967 Six-Day War.

When the ban expired on September 27, Netanyahu refused to extend it. Shirking his responsibility as prime minister, he simply called on the settlers to exercise restraint. A more vacuous statement is difficult to imagine. Predictably, as the Israeli media has reported, the bulldozers are back at work in the Jewish settlements near Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron.

The conclusion is inescapable: Netanyahu is not a genuine partner for the Palestinians on the road to peace. Land-grabbing and peace-making simply do not go together and Netanyahu has opted for the former.

Netanyahu is like a man who, while negotiating the division of a pizza, continues to eat it.

The American position is pusillanimous and feeble. Instead of taking a firm position on the side of the Palestinians and pressing the point of principle, they press the weaker party to make more and more concessions. Under these conditions, the prospects of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are close to zero.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel, only more illegal settlements, and consequently more strife, more violence, more bloodshed, and ultimately another war.

Ref: Al Jazeera

Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso). This article first appeared on the University of Oxford, Department of Politics and International Relations Blog.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Zionists: terrorist pioneers

Here’s the roll-call [from delphiforums] on who introduced terrorism (along with biological, chemical and nuclear weapons) to the Middle East:

  • Bombs in cafés: first used by Zionists in Palestine on 17 March 1937 in Jaffa (they were grenades)
  • Bombs on buses: first used by Zionists in Palestine on 20 August- 26 September 1937
  • Drive-by shootings with automatic weapons: IZL and LHI in 1937-38 and 1947-48 (Morris, Righteous Victims, p681.)
  • Bombs in market places: first used by Zionists on 6 July 1938 in Haifa. (delayed-action, electrically detonated)
  • Bombing of a passenger ship: first used by the Zionists in Haifa on 25 November 1940, killing over 200 of their own fellows.
  • Bombing of hotels: first used by Zionists on 22 July 1946 in Jerusalem (Menachem Begin went on to become prime minister of Israel).
  • Suitcase bombing: first used by Zionists on 1 October 1946 against British embassy in Rome.
  • Mining of ambulances: first used by Zionists on 31 October 1946 in Petah Tikvah
  • Car-bomb: first used by Zionists against the British near Jaffa on 5 December 1946.
  • Letter bombs: first used by Zionists in June 1947 against members of the British government, 20 of them.
  • Parcel bomb: first used by Zionists against the British in London on 3 September 1947.
  • Reprisal murder of hostages: first used by Zionists against the British in Netanya area on 29 July 1947.
  • Truck-bombs: first used by Zionists on January 1948 in the centre of Jaffa, killing 26.
  • Aircraft hijacking: world-first by Israeli jets December 1954 on a Syrian civilian airliner (random seizure of hostages to recover five spies) – 14 years before any Palestinian hijacking.

The only form of violent terrorism not introduced into Palestine by the Zionists was suicide bombing, a tactic used almost entirely by people fighting occupation of their “homeland” – think 1000s of Japanese in 1945, 100s of Tamils and 38 Lebanese in the 1980s – most of the latter being motivated by socialism/communism, not Islam – see http://amconmag.com/article/2005/jul/18/00017.

  • Biological warfare – pathogens used by Zionists in 1948, prior to the seizure of Acre, putting typhus into the water supply.
  • Chemical warfare – nerve gas very likely used by Zionists in February/March 2001 in at least eight attacks in Khan Younis and Gharbi refugee camps (Gaza) and the town of Al-Bireh (West Bank).
  • Nuclear threats – made by Zionists e.g. 2003: “We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen, before Israel goes under.” – Remarks of Martin Van Creveld, a professor of military history at Israel’s Hebrew University, 1 February 2003.

And, if you think only Muslims need worry, then see http://www.masada2000.org/sharepain.html – “Israel has nuclear weapons and MUST use them and all those arming the Arabs must share the pain!” Comes with cute music.

To these we could add “sofa slaughter” with armed drones. The Israelis use this armchair technique extensively in Gaza, unleashing death and destruction on civilians by remote control at no personal risk to themselves. There are interesting variations too. For example, during the 40-day siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002 the Israeli occupation force set up cranes on which were mounted robotic machine guns under video control. According to eye-witnesses, eight defenders, including the bell-ringer, were murdered, some by armchair button-pushers and some by regular snipers.

Ref: Pulsemedia.org

GAZA FREEDOM FLOTILLA: Brave Israeli Commandos Slaughter Aid Activists at Sea

Even America’s major media can’t duck a crime this grave – attacking and slaughtering up to 20 Gaza Freedom Flotilla activists and injuring dozens more.

New York Times writer Isabel Kershner headlined “At Least 10 Killed as Israel Intercepts Aid Flotilla, saying:

“The Israeli Navy raided a flotilla carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza in international waters on Monday morning….The incident drew widespread international condemnation, with Israeli envoys summoned to explain their country’s actions in several European countries….The killings also coincided with preparations for a planned visit to Washington on Tuesday (June 1) by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Late word is it’s postponed.

Read more at SteveLendmanBlog

Gaza flotilla attack: UN report condemns Israeli ‘brutality’

UN Human Rights Council accuses Israel of a ‘disproportionate’ response to Gaza blockade-breakers, nine of whom died.

A UN-appointed panel said today that Israeli forces violated international law, “including international humanitarian and human rights law”, during and after their lethal attack on a flotilla of ships attempting to break the blockade of Gaza in May.

The UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission judged Israel‘s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory to be “unlawful” because there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza at the time.

The panel’s report, published today, described Israel’s military response to the flotilla as “disproportionate” and said it “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality”.

Eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American were killed in the raid, which prompted international criticism of both the attack and Israel’s policy of blockading the Gaza Strip. Israel has since eased its embargo, although still refuses to allow full imports and exports and the free movement of people.

Israel says the soldiers acted in self-defence. But the mission criticised the Israeli government for failing to co-operate with its inquiry. “Regrettably to date, no information has been given to the mission by or on behalf of the government of Israel,” it said.

The panel was led by Karl Hudson-Phillips, a retired judge of the international criminal court and former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago.

The report said: “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

The panel concluded that there was “clear evidence” of wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health – all crimes under the Geneva Convention.

The panel expressed the hope that there would be “swift action” by the Israeli government to help victims achieve effective remedies. “The mission sincerely hopes that no impediment will be put in the way of those who suffered loss as a result of the unlawful actions of the Israeli military to be compensated adequately and promptly,” it said. It described the blockade of Gaza as “totally intolerable and unacceptable in the 21st century”.

The Israeli government has fiercely resisted demands for an independent international inquiry into the flotilla attacks, establishing three internal investigations to avert pressure from the UN, Europe and Turkey.

LOWKEY – TERRORIST? (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

VIDEO: Israel vs Israhell

Documentary about Israeli peace activists. For more information – join on Facebook > http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=134111073300491

ISRAHELL: Pirates in the Mediterranean

“Why didn’t they greet us with muffins and orange juice?” was my friend’s facetious question after listening all morning to the Israeli media’s coverage of the assault on the relief flotilla heading for Gaza, the navy assault that left nine citizens dead and many more wounded. Like a group of pirates in the Mediterranean, the Israeli navy attacked humanitarian aid ships in international waters, and yet Israeli officials and commentators were totally surprised when the passengers did not receive them with open arms. Going through the talkbacks on news sites, it seems that most Jews in Israel were also taken aback.

Later in the day, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held a press conference, in which he made two revealing declarations. First, he asserted that no country would allow a foreign entity to threaten its sovereign borders. This claim, however, reveals the basic lie regarding Israel’s Gaza policy.

Israel has to decide once and for all whether or not it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005. If it did and Gaza is an autonomous entity as Israel claims, then the attempt on the part of these humanitarian ships to reach the Gaza sea port is not an infringement on Israeli sovereignty. If, on the other hand, Israel considers the flotilla’s entrance into Gaza’s territorial sea line as a violation of its own sovereign borders, then Israel needs to admit that it has never given up its sovereignty over Gaza. Lieberman’s statement discloses, in other words, that Israel has fashioned itself as a unique creature in the international arena: the non-sovereign sovereign. When it suits its interests, the government claims that it has relinquished sovereignty over Gaza, but when it does not, the government reasserts its sovereignty. Lieberman should keep in mind that with sovereignty comes responsibility. Thus, if Israel was indeed defending its borders yesterday morning then as sovereign, Israel is also responsible for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip–for their livelihood as well as their security.

Lieberman’s second declaration was that the Israeli military is the most moral in the world. No other soldiers, he said, would have dealt in such a forgiving way with the people on board the ships.

Lieberman conveniently ignored the fact that according to international law the Israeli soldiers were acting like pirates, since hijacking an unarmed humanitarian aid ship in international waters is by definition piracy.

Moreover, his second observation is informed by the lesser evil argument; namely, the Israeli military could have been more brutal and chose not to. As the great Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt pointed out, “Politically, the weakness of the argument [for lesser evils] has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil.”

Neve Gordon