To those with little or no exposure to the diplomatic and human rights records of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it is not so obvious, but to the rest of us, it's plain as day: Peace is not in the interest of the ruling Likudnik-Neocons in Israel and the United States; nor are democracy, security for Israeli citizens, statehood for Palestinians, or Palestinian Right of Return.
Through well-scripted rhetoric based on those legal and moral principles, US and Israeli government officials weave security blankets of hope around their constituents; yet, through their dubious and destructive actions, their craftwork is, time and again, rendered threadbare. This is illustrated well by one particular peace initiative, its failure, and how each side of the conflict has since responded to the impasse.
Road Map of Pre-Conditions
In September of 2002, the Quartet — comprised of the UN, EU, United States, and Russia — put forward a Middle East proposal called the Road Map for Peace." By its tedious and extraneous benchmarks and pre-conditions, which have only served to make a mutually beneficial resolution practically impossible, you would think it was drawn up by M.C. Escher. And like all other proposals in the so-called peace process between Palestinians and Israelis, the Road Map was less a formula for peace than it was a veneer to gloss over, and buy more time for, Israel's continual breaches of human rights and international law in the Occupied Territories. The late Israeli linguist, historian, and author, Tanya Reinhart, instructed:
"As has become commonplace in the recent history of the occupation, the period covered here opened with a new peace initiative – the road map. The Palestinians accepted the plan and declared a cease fire, but as we will see, while the Western world was celebrating the new era of peace, the Israeli army under Sharon intensified its policy of assassinations, maintained the daily harassment of the occupied Palestinians, and eventually declared all-out war on Hamas, killing all its first-rank military and political leaders. Later, as the Western world was once again holding its breath in an eighteen-month wait for the planned Gaza pullout, Sharon did everything possible to fail the newly elected Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and turned down his offers of renewed negotiations.
"I argue that, contrary to the prevailing assumptions, Sharon did not evacuate the Gaza settlements of his own free will. He cooked up his disengagement plan as a means to gain time, at the peak of international pressure that followed Israel’s sabotaging of the road map. Still, at every moment since then, up until the very moment of disengagement, he was looking for ways to renege on this commitment, as he had done so many times previously. But this time he was forced to follow through with the Gaza pullout by the Bush administration. Though it was kept fully behind the scenes, US pressure on Sharon was massive, and included military sanctions on Israel."
It's important to note here that regardless of personal will, all Israeli PMs are also at the mercy of the majority sentiment amongst settlers and other pro-occupation and pro-expansion Israelis. Acting against their wishes in regards to the illegal settlements and land issues is at least political suicide, as is the case when a US politician drops or refuses support for Israel. PM Yitzhak Rabin knew it, yet pushed his luck the slightest bit and found out for sure, as he was assassinated at a public event by an angry Zionist fanatic. That might help to explain why Ariel Sharon appended 14 of what the Israelis called "reservations" to the Road Map and took other steps to make sure there would be no substantial return of Palestinian land, no acceptable withdrawal of settlers, and therefore, no peace. Nadia Hijab notes:
"There were echoes of the Arab initiative in the road map. It spoke of an end to occupation for the first time since the peace processes launched in the 1990s; two states Israel and a 'sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine'; an 'agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue'; a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem; and normal Arab-Israeli relations in the context of comprehensive peace. However, the Quartet emphasized incremental steps for Israeli security and Palestinian institution building. They did not insist on actual Israeli withdrawal from the oPt or penalize its ongoing settlement of Palestinian land. And, while the Palestinians accepted the road map, Sharon attached 14 reservations that rendered it meaningless.
"Sharon and US president George Bush drove another nail into the road map's coffin in April 2004 when they exchanged letters that appeared to provide US recognition of Israel's major settlement blocs, deny the Palestinian right of return, and recognize Israel as a 'Jewish state,' thereby denying equal rights to Israel's Palestinian citizens. The road map was then completely sidelined by Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, which pre-occupied Middle East peacemakers throughout 2005. By 2006, Palestinians had elected Hamas to government, partly in despair at the failure of repeated peace initiatives to achieve freedom."
Make no mistake. Both Israel and the United States are determined to make Palestinian self-determination impossible, and to keep the Palestinian people's representatives (specifically, Hamas) cast in the form of irrational barbarians unable to rule themselves and unable to reconcile disputes with their neighbors to the West. And the Neocon-Likudniks are able to do so with the greatest of ease. The Road Map proved to be just one of many time-buying mechanisms which have enabled Israel to continue building illegal facts-on-the-ground, thus making the possibility of a peaceful and just resolution to the conflict even more remote.
But despite the failure of the Road Map and other peace initiatives over the years, we've been led to believe that there is a way out of the hell the Palestinians find themselves in. According to the Israel-US-Great Britain side, it is up to the Palestinians whether both sides will live in peace and co-exist. They must show themselves to be "worthy partners for peace." To that end, several requirements are continually elaborated to the Palestinian side: cease hostilities; embrace democracy; and recognize Israel. For Israel's part: the expansion of illegal settlements must cease; travel restrictions must be lifted; and Israeli leaders must be willing to negotiate with a Palestinian government which fulfills its side of the bargain.
That's the typical outline, at least. Sounds easy enough, huh? Well, according to recent diplomatic, political, and human rights records, neither side has fulfilled its respective requirements to a tee; but, there is no question as to who is making an honest effort to do so, and who isn't.
For the year 2006 alone, the human rights statistics scream hypocrisy at the imperial powers of the West. According to a report on conditions in Israel and the Occupied Territories for 2006, released by Amnesty International earlier this year: "Israeli forces carried out frequent air and artillery bombardments against the Gaza Strip, often into densely populated refugee camps and residential areas. Some 650 Palestinians, half of them unarmed civilians and including some 120 children, were killed by Israeli forces. This toll was a threefold increase compared with 2005." The same report states: "Killings of Israelis by Palestinian armed groups continued but decreased to half the previous year's figure and to the lowest level since the beginning of the intifada in 2000." [See more on Israel-Palestinian violence below.]
Perhaps the most fraudulent pre-condition for peace talks is the one requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel's right to exist. Never in the history of the world has one state — much less, a state-less, army-less, third-world population of indigenous peoples — been legally required to recognize the illegitimate boundaries of the state illegally occupying its land. Much less often has such a proposal been a pre-condition for self-determination and legitimate statehood. Nevertheless, for many years the PLO (and more recently, Hamas) has stated its willingness to officially recognize Israel on its internationally-recognized, pre-June 1967 (before the officially illegal occupation) borders. But through a highly effective propaganda campaign, the US and Israeli governments have been able to invert this reality to the Western world, effectively casting all legitimate Palestinian resistance groups as being terrorists whose plans are to "destroy" Israel ("another Holocaust," "push the Jews into the sea," and so forth), as though Hamas actually has the means to do so or a death wish so grand as to subject their defenseless people to another backlash of arguably genocidal proportions.
Conversely, Israel has never recognized the indigenous Palestinian people's "right to exist." From day-one, Zionist terrorism has been "wiping off the map" the indigenous people of the land. Dispossession and Ethnic cleansing have been Israeli policy since the first Zionists set their boots on the land of Palestine. Authoritative Israeli sources have revealed as much and more. But more so than any quote from Zionist leaders, the map below tells the tale by showing us exactly who has been wiping whom off the map.
Furthermore, at an accelerated rate, Israel has continued building illegal Jews-only settlements on stolen Palestinian land; continued constructing Jews-only roads and a "separation barrier" (apartheid wall) around and throughout the Palestinian West Bank; and demolishing Palestinians homes to make way for said facts-on-the-ground. Each of the above actions are condemned by UN Resolutions, the ICC (International Criminal Court), and every human rights groups.
So, which is the rogue and semi-barbaric regime again?
Leading up to the January 2006 Palestinian Parliamentary elections, we heard from members of the Bush Administration giving us two contradictory sentiments: 1) their commitment to stand behind the Palestinian People in a free and fair democratic election (after all, embracing democracy is one of the ridiculously high number of things required from the Palestinians in the Road Map), and 2) their refusal to negotiate with a Hamas-led government — a political movement conveniently branded a terrorist organization to that end by the US State Department, Israel, and a handful of allied nations.
So, when the free-and-fair election results revealed that Hamas had convincingly won a majority of Parliamentary seats, Neocon-Likudniks predictably went into recoil mode. Ever since, they and their allies have not only refused to support the majority of Palestinians who voted for Hamas, but have also used sanctions, embargoes, and aid freezes upon the Palestinian People of Gaza as a way of collectively punishing them for voting the "wrong" party to power. Since early '06, Israel has conducted countless raids into Gaza and the West Bank, wherein dozens of Hamas leaders, their family members, and their more vocal supporters have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and in rare cases, targeted for assassination.
Are those the actions of a democratic state committed to a peaceful and pragmatic resolution to the tragic conflict?
Peace by Piece-by-Piece
US-sponsored, Israeli-exacted collective punishment is nothing new under the Sun for Israeli Occupied Palestinians, but starting around late June 2006, it turned Nazi. Since the capturing of an Israeli soldier by a militant wing of Hamas on June 25 (carried out, in part, in retaliation for the Israeli abduction of a Palestinian doctor and his brother a day earlier — a far worse offense than capturing an enemy soldier) at least two major Israeli military offensives have been undertaken, in which fighter jets and tanks were used to raze Palestinian infrastructure, entire city blocks, water facilities and power plants inside the sardine-packed coastal enclave of Gaza. Those operations were dubbed "Summer Rains" and "Autumn Clouds."
That is but a cursory glimpse of what occupied Palestinians are forced to live through from time to time. It doesn't take into account the constant sonic bombing — the common Israeli practice of low fly-overs by fighter jets throughout Palestinian and Lebanese neighborhoods as a means of terrorizing Palestinian and Lebanese civilians over the years. Nor does it consider the everyday incursions into Gaza and West bank neighborhoods and homes, wherein Palestinians are sometimes used as human shields in IDF operations targeting alleged militants. Nonetheless, it is the reality of everyday life for Palestinians — an occupied people who are held at bay by world superpowers which are somehow able to paint the underfoot, third-world, and army-less population as a threat to the superpower military-state of the Middle East and an obstacle to peace.
The criminal hypocrisy goes virtually unchallenged in mainstream media, and for several reasons; the most vital of which being that the war-profiteering entities dictating diplomatic terms for peace are the same ones who control the language and the overall representation of the conflict.
How nice, then, it must be when:
How nice indeed it must be for US and Israeli leaders — and all who benefit more from a lasting conflict, occupation, and apartheid than they do from peace, justice, and the democratic values and practices they only preach — that they are practically untouchable despite the incriminating reality held strongly at veneer's length by their protectors in corporate media, academia, and Pennsylvania Avenue.
And all the while, how proud, or disgusted, their constituents must be that:
How nice indeed that the US and Israeli governments can conceal or downplay their dirty little not-so-secrets in the effort to further their oh-so-noble goals of "spreading democracy" and "stamping out terror and tyranny."
How convenient for the occupiers that their boots are still planted as firmly as ever on the necks of their disarmed and beaten-down subjects. How fortunate for Likudnik mafiosi that those boots are supplied by US taxpayers, via Likudnik-Neocon PR (Piracy and Reconnaissance).
What a luxury it must be to castigate your chosen enemies with a rock's sense of irony while the world condemns your actions.
How luxurious it must feel to be able to bite the lamb, cry wolf, and play the shepherd all at once.
The Latest Road Block
The second-most insane and dangerous Israeli 'statesman," Avi Lieberman, is currently playing the role of Ariel "14-Points-to-Nowhere" Sharon, by way of placing impossible pre-conditions before the tenuously-scheduled Annapolis talks:
The hawkish minister said his party would only support a final-status agreement if it included the transfer of Arab-Palestinians living inside Israel to Palestinian territories. . . . The document came on the heels of declarations by Lieberman that he would leave the government and actively seek its downfall if Olmert pushed for substantial Israeli concessions. “We won’t remain partners in the government if there are significant negotiations on core subjects,” Lieberman told Israeli Army Radio yesterday. . . . Lieberman also expressed his opposition to any concessions in the matter of Palestinian refugees’ “right of return.” Even on the “humanitarian level,” Lieberman says, “this issue is absolute and non-negotiable.” On the international level, the document demands that any final-status agreement include international guarantees of Israel’s security and an across-the-board revocation of UN resolutions 242 and 338, which call for a full Israeli pullback to 1967 borders. [Source]
In other words, "I stand by my career-long position on ethnic cleansing of the others."
C'mon, Avidolf. If you want to keep cleansing the land to guarantee a racial or religious majority [sic], then tell your damage-control goons in media and elsewhere to stop hammering home this fraudulent notion that Israel is a Western-style democracy which makes all sorts of grand peace concessions. And don't think for a second that the "theocracy" argument can't be legitimately refracted back at you as you insidiously smear your chosen political and personal enemies in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.
Bottom line: Both Abbas and his "peace partners" are doing all they can to keep the war-profiteering status quo alive and flourishing, as have Palestinian and Israeli "representatives" in the past. It seems that Mahmoud "Abu Quisling" Abbas has carved a niche out for himself amongst them. He is so corrupt, is so vastly despised amongst his supposed constituents, and he represents so few Palestinians, that simply by his being designated as the Palestinian representative, the current process was doomed to fail from the start. With Abbas at the Palestinian helm, most benchmarks within any potential resolution are bound to be slaps in the collective face of the vast majority of Palestinian people and Middle Eastern Arabs in general. Palestinians don't need a poor-man's Arafat — much less, one with less dignity and national pride than the original. Israelis don't need war hawks and racist, expansion-minded Zionist fanatics at the helm. Such representatives can promise and deliver only further despair and insecurity for all civilians on both sides.
Over, Around, Under, or Through
What a privelege it is, for us concerned readers and viewers in the United States and elsewhere outside the Middle East, that we have available the historical record, international law, and the Internet with which to access and soundly discern it all from the safety of our far away abodes. How fortunate that we don't have to witness or suffer the daily incursions, the crude rocket fire, the house demolitions, the ethnic cleansing, and the political corruption sold as national representation — all the things experienced by the good Palestinian and Israeli people.
By the same token, however, how bittersweet it is to, on one hand, be able to distinguish between the tyrants who benefit from perpetual war and colonialism, and the resisters upon whose backs the tyrants' empires are built; while on the other hand, believing there's not a damn thing we can do about it as long as the tyrants and quislings are in power. This writer finds himself restrained by such mental road blocks more often than he'd like to admit.
That's why it's so important that we spend the time we can spreading the message of human rights and legal and moral commandments to as many people as possible. All who are aware of these realities must do what we can to expose the deeper truths and factual historical synopses evident in such tragically contentious matters, so that the people of the world are more sufficiently armed with not only credible and reliable information on such current events, but also, the power of historical knowledge to accordingly choose their leaders and, by extension, more sound and sensible policies in the hopes of shaping a brighter future for us all.
Such a goal is attainable, and it begins with simply looking in the right places. So many excellent and reliable sources have been documenting, very well, certain US, Israeli, and Palestinian tendencies which have defined, in large part, the recent history of Israel-Palestinian conflict-resolution — in addition to the evidence that those tendencies are nothing new to the historic record on the whole. There are many brilliant and reliable historians, reporters and activists who are writing from the Holy Land hot spots, so to speak. Such writers, like Khaled Amayreh, Uri Avnery, Marcy Newman, Jonathan Cook, Ilan Pappé, Jeff Halper, Gideon Levy, Ramzy Baroud, et al., are the authoritative voices (if I were at liberty to gauge their potential for such a designation), and at the very least, it is our duty, as activists and truth diggers, to disseminate their most instructive and cutting-edge writings. Even the less-heralded and simple pieces like this one by DesertPeace are certainly no exception; they are the types of works which have the uncanny ability to inspire this writer to get up off his arse again and write such screeds as the current one. And I can only hope that such works will have a similar effect on many of you as you encounter "road blocks" of your own.