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As negotiations get nowhere, the seeds of change must be sown in the West

January 24, 2014 at 4:28 am

Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians are, we are told, getting nowhere. It’s taken some people 20+ years to understand that simple fact, but there you go. Ever since Oslo gave Israel the green light to go ahead and build even more illegal settlements on Palestinian land, that which is leftover for an independent Palestinian state has got smaller and smaller every day. Despite the reality of this on the ground, obvious to all who have eyes to see and no Palestinian Authority salary or pension to hinder clarity of thought, the world has more or less gone along with the charade that the Israelis are sincere about a peace deal as long as they have a “partner for peace” on the other side.

The truth is hard to take for people who have invested their lives in the negotiation formula, so let’s try one more time to drive it home. Israel as it stands, driven by a Zionist ideology which demands Palestinian land free of Palestinians, is never going to give up any of the land it already controls or feels that it must have for its “security”. So the Palestinians can basically kiss goodbye to Area C, which includes the fertile Jordan Valley in which so many settlement-colonies have already displaced thousands of Palestinians. There is already talk of “land swaps” so that the giant colonies which surround Jerusalem, cutting it off from its West Bank hinterland, are part of Israel after a final agreement is reached; they can be discounted by the Palestinians as well.

The state of Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 in a move which has never been recognised by the international community, although its allies and the UN do little to dissuade it that Israel will have to give it back to the Palestinians should an independent Palestine ever materialise. Given that Israel breaks international law with deadly regularity and impunity, who is there to insist that it abandons the oft-stated concept of Jerusalem being the “undivided” capital of the state of Israel? The United States? Europe? The United Nations? The Arab League? All four play the game but have no real intention of doing anything that will upset the Zionist state.

Many theories have been advanced to try to explain why the West is in thrall to Israel, with pro-Israel Lobbyists so influential in politics, finance and the media. The state has been able to convince its supporters in the West that Israel and its people are the eternal victims and there is a moral obligation to protect the state no matter how many laws it breaks or Palestinian lives it ruins. How real is this victim status?

In a new novel by Heather Stroud, Abraham’s Children, the author has one of her characters ask this question of a “senior Hamas politician”. It’s a novel, but his response is so authentic that it could be culled from an Al-Jazeera broadcast (as it is in the book); in addition, as another character points out, it is not the sort of narrative which finds its way into the mainstream media: “The Israelis assert that they are the victims. Israel has sixty warships, Palestine has none. Israel has seventy-eight attack helicopters, Palestine has none. Israel has two hundred and ninety-nine F-16s, Palestine has none. Israel has three thousand, six hundred and fifty tanks, Palestine has none.” It is generally agreed in the Western world, continues “Abu Murad”, that Israel has somewhere between two and three hundred nuclear weapons. “I wonder by what mathematical calculation the Israelis are the victims.”

Indeed. Perhaps Mahmoud Abbas really does think that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is sincere about peace; perhaps he discounts statements by the likes of Minister Danny Danon that he will not accept a “Palestinian state”. If so, he is deluded, for opinions like those of Danon and people like him are increasingly part of the mainstream in Israeli politics. As long as Zionism remains the founding and driving ideology of the state, a land totally free of Arabs is on the agenda.

It’s time for another “perhaps”. Perhaps it is time to think of “de-Zionising” the state of Israel, as suggested by Israeli historian Dr Ilan Pappe a few years ago; it makes sense. How can a state ever expect to exist on land which it has stolen from its owners and expect to live in peace? Lies, theft and terrorism underpin Israel’s foundations and continue to dictate its policies to this day. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine (the title of one of Dr Pappe’s books) started in 1948 and hasn’t stopped. It is a recipe for disaster and the likes of Netanyahu and his far-right cronies know this, as do politicians in the West if they’re honest enough to admit it.

People of the three monotheistic faiths and of no faith lived in relative harmony in the Holy Land for centuries before Zionism raised its ugly, nuclear-armed head, and they could do so again. The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) recognised this fact a few years ago when it offered a long-term truce (hudna) and said that it would accept a state on the 1967 borders. The thinking behind this offer was that today’s generation still has too much emotional and political baggage to be able to find a just solution for the conflict, but a decades-long truce would allow time and space for new generations to emerge with the opportunity to interact with each other as equals and thus, it was believed, be more able and willing to be genuine about finding that elusive peace formula. The government of George W Bush did not even acknowledge that the offer had been made and Israel rejected it. It is not the Israelis who have no partner for peace; it is the Palestinians.

Unless something radical is proposed and accepted by all parties, we are going to witness, yet again, the Israelis digging their heels in and the Palestinians, the genuine victims in all of this, being forced to make concessions until, to be frank, they have nothing left to concede. Once such a state of total submission has been reached, Israel will consolidate its occupation; annex the rest of historic Palestine; formalise apartheid as its preferred form of “democratic and Jewish” government; and declare that “peace” has been achieved. By that time, the Palestinian Authority will be even more irrelevant than it is today and will cease to function as anything other than a Quisling government acting as an extension of Israel’s security agencies; it is almost at that stage already.

It’s time to refuse to take part in the farcical negotiations and look again at the meaning of resistance to the occupation; popular actions can and do work against states which rely on goodwill to exist, like Israel for example. The Palestine Liberation Organisation must either disband itself, as it is no longer engaged in the liberation of Palestine, or reform to be more inclusive. The bloated bureaucracy of the Palestinian Authority only serves to relieve the Israelis of the burden of administering the occupation, so it too should go, taking with it its 80,000 “security” officers who police the Palestinians under Israeli orders. Have you ever seen any of them protecting Palestinians from attacks by the Israel “Defence” Forces and settler militias during peaceful protests against the theft of their land? Neither have I. If the Israelis want to be occupiers, and few statements by the governing coalition suggest otherwise, let it be seen as such and not as some sort of benign arrangement whereby the Israelis are gracious enough to allow the Palestinians some limited autonomy in their own land.

None of this will happen, of course, because the West has too many vested interests manifested in the state of Israel and the Arab governments which sustain it. The coup in Egypt didn’t take place in a vacuum; it was planned in Tel Aviv, funded by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and blessed by Washington and Europe. The message was clear; democracy and democratic values will only be accepted as long as they serve Western interests, at the top of which sits the state of Israel. It may well be time for a radical re-think, but – and here’s another “perhaps” – perhaps it needs to start in capitals away from the Middle East. The West created and maintains Israel, so it is in the West that the seeds of change must be planted. Whether they will grow in time to prevent the creation of Zionism’s Greater Israel is doubtful, but history shows us that empires built on injustice and bloodshed rarely last long. The clock is already ticking for Israel, but do the Palestinian Authority and its “negotiators” have the vision and courage to see this and act accordingly?

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