Jan 7, 2009

Well-Meaning Peace Proposals, alas . . .

In a well-intentioned but in the end, historically deficient article, "Obama and Gaza: Exiting the Vortex of Violence," Bernard Weiner proposes that the incoming Obama Administration act as an interlocutor and "honest broker" then admits to skepticism on that account. He then proceeds to offer a peace program led by "a respected outside force"--the EU? the Obama Administration? And despite his skepticism, appears to settle on President-elect Obama, for he ends his proposal with the statement that "The candidate of 'change' and 'hope,' and love of children, simply cannot let that happen."

I laud any efforts and arguments for peace, but the actual practicalities of the matter and the history should be telling Mr. Weiner that he needs to rethink his position. Otherwise, his proposal falls into the same bucket as the hopeful dreams of some Obama supporters as early as a year ago that their candidate would be a champion for solving the essence of all of our problems in the Middle East. In other words, his hope triumphs over experience and is sadly another example of muddle-headed thinking.

The article was originally presented on Mr. Weiner's website, The Crisis Papers and was reprinted, where I found it, on OpEd News. Some laudable refinements were offered by a commentator, William H. White. I urge my readers to go to the the OpEd site so they can read the comments by Mr. White.

For me, it is a frustrating example of good intentions nullified by acceptance of many of the assertions of the Israeli and AIPAC-dominated US Government position. So while I appreciated the sentiments and the desire for a solution and a relatively fair solution at that, I could not let the article go without attempting to point to the overwhelming evidence. The obstacle to peace and justice is not the intransigence or insanity of "both sides" but clearly the Israeli government. I commented on the article with the following post: "Obama and Gaza: a Reply."

The sincerity of your proposal is touching and there is little wrong with it--or with Mr. White's excellent refinements including the plebiscite. But unfortunately you have bought into the notion that both sides are equal here.

You are forgetting, for example, that a proposal to recognize Israel and provide for security and economic consideration has been on the table from the surrounding Arab states since 2002. One of its central points--in addition to that regarding Jerusalem--is that Israel retreat to the 1967 line (note, NOT the 1948 Green Line). Israel has rejected that Arab states' proposal. You forget that Israel is the occupying and asymmetrically much stronger military and technological power of the two.

You also buy into the Israeli version of the Palestinians' government, forgetting that the PLO is not the Democratically elected government: Hamas is. The dissolution of the Hamas dominated government by Mr. Abbas was in violation of the rules of procedure of the government. You fail to mention that Israel agreed, under this recently expired ceasefire, to stop the embargo and blockade, which it failed to do. In addition Israel took advantage of our US elections to attack within Gaza on November 4th, 2008. So if Hamas violated the ceasefire, the facts clearly indicate that Israel violated it as well, and arguably even more severely. You also forget that Hamas has in fact accepted--though they do not like it--the fact that the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians did accept the existence of the state of Israel, and in fact proposed long term (10, 25, 100 year) ceasefires provided that Israel withdraw to the 67 borders, remove the settlements, and open the borders of Gaza for free commerce. Further, while the firing of the rockets from Hamas or rebel elements is in fact a crime, it is also a fact that even international law says that a country under occupation can in fact fight back against the occupier. And make no mistake about it, since 1948, Israel has been the occupier and has considerably expanded its occupation and aggrandizement of Palestinian territory and resources.

Finally, you must understand that most of what you are proposing here reinvents the wheel, so to speak, and reinvents it In FAVOR OF PALESTINIAN POSITIONS. If Israel has consistently rejected these or ignored them in the past, what naïvété suggests to you that they will accept yours now, no matter how sane, moderate, logical, or just? What makes you think that some outside force--the bald eagle of justice, perhaps--can assist both sides into seeing the logic and justice of your proposals? Or that this outside agency will keep Israel from continuing and expanding its brutal, demeaning, violent occupation and stranglehold, and now murder of residents of occupied territory?

All of these things you propose are in fact tending to a just settlement, but the problem is that: 1)Israel refuses to recognize the Palestinian state or the injustice of their occupation of the severely diminished territory of that Palestinian state; 2) has slowly and surely occupied much of the valued land and water rights belonging to another people; 3) will extend a "right of return" to anyone in the world who claims and proves Jewish descent, while refusing to accept the "right of return" of the Palestinian people or their descendants who lived there to begin with. With the final bit of irony, this includes the nearly 1 million ethnically cleansed Palestinians (or their descendants) in the Gaza strip, now being murdered and wounded, those who originally inhabited towns now re-named Ashkalon and Sderot after the purges of 1948 and 1967.

After 60 years of this occupation and state violence, one can only assume that Israel does not want anything for the Palestinian people except what they accuse the Palestinians of wanting: to force the other people off the land.

Only the United States, by denying its foreign aid to Israel and acting in concert with the common will of the community of nations, can bring the slightest leverage on this problem. Given that it will veto security council resolutions calling for a ceasefire, we are at an impasse. The United States government--and I fear its next administration as well as its outgoing--has no wisdom in this matter. If it did, it would communicate at the very least to Israel that the current violent murder of Palestinian citizens will do nothing but perpetuate the hatred of and threats to Israel for many years to come.

I praise the points of your proposals, but have to bring you face to face with reality: the rejection of similar proposals over the past two decades and intransigence of the overwhelmingly stronger party in the conflict. That party is Israel, which insists on defending itself by claiming victim hood. It is understandable that the Israeli government might live under that delusion, though I think that its motives are cynical and aggrandizing, not defensive or delusional. If we Americans are truly for peace and justice, we should not live under that propagandist delusion ourselves. Boycotting Israel, and threatening to stop foreign aid and arms shipments is the only way to make Israel realize that it must take some enormous first steps to ensure its peace and security.

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