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As Israel returns to centre stage, democracy and justice exit stage left

January 24, 2014 at 9:06 am

The spectacle of a senior American diplomat emphasising how much she is going to work for Israel was surprising only in its openness. When Samantha Power told a Senate Committee that she is there to combat the “unacceptable bias” against Israel at the UN and that she “will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it” we saw the pro-Israel Lobby at work. People of America take note; the diplomats you pay for are not there to advance your country’s interests, they are there to promote those of an alien state. There has been much talk recently about the “deep state” in Egypt, with remnants of the Mubarak regime entrenched in state institutions to the extent that they can bring down the democratically-elected president. Samantha Power embodies the pro-Israel deep state within the US administration and this should worry everyone who believes that the West means it when it speaks of democracy and justice.

As more details of the military coup in Egypt emerge, it is clear that Israel was there behind the scenes, if not pulling the strings then at least advising the puppet master. The fact that the government in Israel was given several days’ advance notice of the coup speaks volumes but, again, we should not be surprised. Israel has been against democracy in its neighbouring countries for years. When Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, which state placed an immediate blockade on the Gaza Strip? The same Israel which has been blocking Palestinian reconciliation by threatening the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah with all sorts of penalties if it dares to form a unified government including the Islamic Resistance Movement which just edges the PA in terms of democratic legitimacy. Hamas’s term of office may have long since expired, but so has that of Mahmoud Abbas.

No wonder that Israel’s ambassador in Cairo this week described coup leader Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi as a “national hero for all Jews”. The Egyptian general has stacked the cards in Israel’s favour once again, so much so that just days, indeed hours, later we hear from US Secretary of State John Kerry that there has been a “significant step forward” in what the Guardian calls “the drive to revive the moribund Middle East peace process”. It is laughable that anyone even thinks that such a beast still exists, moribund or otherwise; “peace process” is doublespeak for Palestinian enslavement.

The US and its Western allies have been pouring good money after bad into the compliant PA in Ramallah to create two things: an extension of Israel’s security agencies to act as a proxy in policing Palestinians living under nominal PA control; and an economic bubble at which donors can point and say, “See, our policies are working for the benefit of the Palestinians”. Combined with the economic and political siege of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the intention has always been to keep Fatah (which controls the PA) and Hamas (which should be controlling the PA if elections meant anything) apart; “divide and rule” is an old colonialist trick perfected by the British and now put to good use in occupied Palestine.

The idea is that if the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – and it is still occupied, despite the fancy rhetoric about economic independence and areas of PA “control” – are relatively well-off financially and materially, those in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip will overthrow Hamas and clamour to join their cousins under Ramallah’s influence. Israel’s brutal attempts to bludgeon Gaza into submission having failed, the starve-them-into-submission approach is underway once more.

Where does the Egyptian coup fit in? One of the first acts of the coup leaders was to close the Rafah border crossing and smash the tunnels described as Gaza’s “lifeline”. Almost simultaneously, Israel put further restrictions on its own crossings into the Gaza Strip, tightening the siege at a stroke, coincidentally, or not, at the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Boosted by the vicious campaign against Palestinians in general, and Hamas in particular, in the Egyptian media and helped, to their shame, by members of Fatah and the PA leadership, Israel has been able to reinforce its blockade which was running out of steam. Shortages of essential goods, medicines and fresh water are now acute in the territory described by David Cameron almost exactly 3 years ago as a “prison camp”.

The Mubarak regime is back in all but name and the siege of Gaza is as complete as it has been for some time; the Middle East is moving backwards in order to make John Kerry’s “significant step forward”. In a world in which democracy has been promoted by Washington, London and other Western capitals as the be-all and end-all of governance, the military overthrow of a democratically-elected president has been pushed as a positive step. We are left to find a new way of saying “hypocrisy”.

However, in a world in which only “interests” really matter, all of this is far from hypocritical. Economic development at any cost, known as unbridled capitalism, is the real power behind the throne. Thus can the wordsmiths in Washington allow their bosses to squirm out of having to call Egypt’s coup “a coup” so that the pieces of the jigsaw can fall into place to benefit not the people of Egypt – they are the largely innocent dupes in all of this – but the Zionist State of Israel.

We heard this week about the Palestinian Authority’s real conditions for a return to talks with the Israelis and they have an economic ring to them. A prisoner release is in there, of course, and maybe even the 1967 borders with appropriate “land swaps” annexing and legitimising the illegal settlements which lacerate the supposedly independent State of Palestine. There’s the small matter of “an airport near Ramallah” to facilitate tourism, encourage investors and allow the PA to “control” its people more effectively using, no doubt, helicopters funded by Western “aid”; possibly even some of Obama-favoured drones, too. Let’s not forget the increase in work permits to allow more Palestinians to go to work for the people who have occupied and subjugated their land for 65 years, probably at rates of pay well under those of their counterparts with Israeli passports; and opportunities for Palestinian businesses to operate more easily in Israel. It’s all about economics; the word justice doesn’t enter the equation nor, it must be said, does genuine independence as Israel will control any and all of the above. I must have missed the PA leadership insisting on an end to the siege of Gaza as a precondition for sitting down to “negotiate” with its own gaolers.

We have come full circle. The development of a Palestinian economy tied inextricably to that of the occupying power is promoted as the way forward; the people of Gaza are left to rot by the Israelis and their allies, including the Egyptian government, unless they toe the line and accept the imposition of an Israel-oriented Palestinian Authority; the PA leadership in Ramallah is once more ready to offer massive compromises at the expense of Palestinian unity of people and land; the Palestine Liberation Organisation drops liberation once and for all; and we have to buy the claims that this is “progress”. Tell that to the Palestinian blocked from his land by the apartheid wall, Mr Kerry; or the young mum forced to give birth at an Israeli checkpoint; or the school children harassed by illegal Jewish settlers in central Hebron. They want an end to Israel’s occupation, not its reinforcement.

Israel’s interests are paramount, though, including the old chestnut rolled out by the aforementioned Ms Power in the US Senate, that Israeli “security must be beyond doubt”. Forgive me if I have misunderstood the situation, but isn’t it Palestine which is occupied by Israel’s army; Palestinians whose lives are corralled by a brutal military occupation? None of what is happening has anything to do with progress or Palestinian rights or, whisper it, justice for people wronged by Israel and the international community for decades. It is all about Israel, Israel, Israel.

Now we just have to wait for the handshake on the White House lawn between an Israeli who has had a massive say in who occupies the building behind him and a Palestinian who presides over little more than Israel’s backyard, subservient to an occupying power which really does pull the strings in the region. This depressing scenario looks increasingly likely as the Egyptian coup and siege of the Gaza Strip have conspired to put Israel centre stage. All that we are left to ask is, why? What hold does Israel have over the West? That’s something else to ponder as conspiracy theories turn to conspiracy facts before our very eyes.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.