Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Palestine Papers and Arab Revolutions

The latest revelations to come from Wikileaks involve secret negotiations in the Middle East peace process. Two points in particular were revealed.

The first has to do with a breathtaking and unconscionable betrayal of the Palestinian cause by the leaders of the PLO who are in control in the West Bank. They just about gave away the farm in a futile effort to please and placate the Israelis. They offered to give up the right of return of Palestinian refugees. The right of return is enshrined in international law. Refugees must always have the right to return to their former homes.

They agreed to accept nearly all of the illegal Jewish settlements in Jerusalem. All settlements are illegal in international law. It would be very hard to have their capital in East Jerusalem if it was surrounded by Jewish settlements.

They collaborated with the Israeli secret police in the murder of their own citizens who happened to be their political opponents. The idea, I guess, being that if Israel feels more secure it’d be more likely to agree to an independent Palestinian state.

None of those concessions had the slightest impact on Israeli intransigence. Thus the other half of the revelations gave lie to the incessantly repeated Israeli mantra that they have no partner for peace; that they really want peace but the Palestinians are not interested. The Papers show that no matter how far the Palestinians went it wasn’t far enough for Israel. The reason is simple: Israel cannot agree to a viable Palestinian state because they’ve populated the West Bank with hundreds of thousands of fanatic fundamentalist Jews who will fiercely and violently object to being removed. One has only to look back at what happened in Gaza when Sharon removed the settlers from there. Though Gaza has no significance in Jewish history the 8000 Jews living there acted like their hearts were being ripped out and fed to swine. There were 8000 Jews living on 40% of Gaza, 1.5 million Arabs on 60%; for most Israeli Jews it was a perfectly reasonable and fair division of land.

Just in the last 20 years Israel has built homes in occupied Palestine for nearly 400,000 Jews. Forty percent are economic settlers; they are there because Israel subsidizes the cost of settlement housing to encourage Jews to move there. Why would they purposely want to encourage Jews to settle on stolen land? That construction has taken place under so-called left wing governments as well as right wing. They’ve spent billions of dollars colonizing Judea and Sumeria, Israel’s name for the West Bank, how could they walk away now?

This is all happening because 3000 years ago God said it belonged to the Jews. Presumably, He also implied that in securing the land for Jews it didn’t matter how mean, nasty or ruthless they had to be or how many other non-chosen people had die or have their lives ruined or how far they had to veer from basic human standards of justice or fairness. God must also have stated somewhere in the Old Testament, though I’ve never come across the actual passages, that they could set aside any thought of love, compassion or righteousness in the pursuit of their amassing of real estate.

As far as I can tell what they want Palestinians to accept is either to move to Jordan or some other country, maybe someplace in South America as Secretary of State Clinton suggested in the leaked papers, or to allow themselves to be herded into three small Bantustans in the West Bank where they have no international borders and so can ever remain under the thumb of Israel, not to mention provide a cheap labor source for the jobs Jews don’t want to do. They would effectively be third class citizens of Israel. The 1.2 million Arabs who live in Israel proper are, to all intents and purposes, second class citizens. They are not even equivalent to blacks living under segregation in the American south since in segregation there was at least the pretense of ‘separate but equal’ treatment. I’ve already detailed the institutionalized discrimination of Arab citizens of Israel so I won’t bore you with more repetition.

Meanwhile, Israel exonerated itself in the killing of nine Turks, including one who had dual Turkish/American citizenship, of any wrongdoing in the raid on the Gaza aid flotilla last year. Of course it was a totally impartial investigation. No need for an international commission, they would always be hopelessly biased against Israel. The commandos who participated in the raid were not allowed to testify, but that’s not important since we all know they have the utmost respect for the lives of all people, even the non-chosen.

Meanwhile, America’s best friend and bulwark of stability in the Arab world, Mubarak of Egypt, who’s become adept at Bush-type elections over the past 30 years he’s been in power, is having a few problems inspired by the revolution in nearby Tunisia. It seems in spite of his consistently winning elections by wide margins, the people at large actually despise him. But he’s America’s friend, so what’s a few stolen elections between allies?

A week after the start of protests it looks like Mubarak’s end is certain. The Egyptian army has said it won’t fire on protesters, so there’s nothing to stop the anti-government growth. The Tunisians called their uprising the Jasmine Revolution but a more apt term would be Facebook Revolution because it’s the young, secular and world-minded who made it happen. Same in Egypt. While it’s true that Islamicists will gain power in true democracies in those countries, the major Islamic parties have stated clearly that theirs is a moderate way on the order of Turkey, where a religious party rules but the state remains staunchly secular and democratic.

Protests have also spread to Yemen, Sudan, Algeria and Jordan so we may be seeing a 1989 Berlin Wall movement. Amazing, fantastic, heartening; history in the making.

The biggest loser in these changes will be Israel. Netanyahu has already raised the dreaded specter of Islamic terrorists taking over Egypt and that the world therefore should get behind Mubarak. They are already talking about possible war with Egypt, but the reality is far more mundane. The first thing that would happen in a democratic Egypt is that they would no longer collaborate with Israel in the strangulation of Gaza. There probably aren’t a handful of Egyptians outside of Mubarak’s ruling clique who support that policy. Just the opposite, they’d probably open the border wide so Gazans could start to rebuild their shattered infrastructure and live like human beings again. They wouldn’t start a war with Israel but would no longer be the greatest of friends either. One more plank in the international isolation of Israel. In the past few weeks several South American countries have recognized Palestine as an independent state in defiance of Israeli wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Once again the US has been on the wrong side of history, supporting hated dictatorships for simple craven political purposes. The US Coddles friendly dictatorships, castigates enemies for not being democratic. Hypocrisy at its best.

One last thought on the wrong side of history front. It looks like the Haitian government will let Jean-Bertrand Aristede back into the country. He was elected by landslides twice, deposed and exiled by US backed coups twice. His party wasn’t allowed to stand in recent elections but he would have won in a landslide if it had. There may be hope for Haiti after all.

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