In the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the Israelis have the most compliant of “partners for peace” ready and willing to make huge concessions and yet illegal settlements continue to grow; human rights violations continue apace; and 65 years of occupation and oppression look set to become endless. This tells us all we really need to know about the mindset of Israel and its leaders, and “right or wrong” supporters: they are not interested in peace in any form, and certainly not a peace in which justice is also given to the victims of Israeli aggression over the past half-a-century and more.
Visiting Interpal’s projects in Jordan this week has, as usual, been an eye-opener. No matter how bad you think the situation is, close inspection on the ground reveals it to be worse. Just as in Lebanon, which I visited a month ago, landlords are exploiting refugees – Palestinian and Syrian – at their most vulnerable, charging exorbitant rents for little more than converted animal stores. Trying to imagine the mental turmoil this must cause to someone who has already had to leave their homes with little more than what they can carry is impossible; we can only guess what it must be like, and will probably be far from the reality. Now multiply that by many thousands, indeed millions, and we are faced with a humanitarian catastrophe playing out under our noses.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague and other foreign ministers were also in Amman this week for a meeting of the “Friends of Syria”; little will result from the get-together, no matter how well-intentioned (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt) for the simple reason that in international relations right and wrong play second-fiddle to “interests”. If it was in America’s interests for the war in Syria to be stopped, one way or the other, it would be stopped. The same is true about the incredibly asymmetric conflict in the Holy Land. The “Friends of Syria” include many who are also “Friends of Israel”; if they were true friends they would be honest with their “friends” in Tel Aviv and tell them a few home truths, for their own sake. The Obama administration could pull the plug on Israel tomorrow if it really wanted to and had the guts to stand up to the pro-Israel Lobby but it doesn’t and it can’t. Powerful interests are at play in the Middle East which are far more powerful than the human rights and international laws which Western governments in particular claim so vociferously to champion.
Double standards and hypocrisy guide foreign policies across the globe; lip-service is paid to the need to impose justice where there is none and bring people together in peace. Instead we are served up with a “peace process” in occupied Palestine in which the victims of the occupation have to make concessions while the occupier continues to violate international laws and conventions with impunity, citing “security concerns” with the approval of the same people who push and cajole the victims to bend over to breaking-point in order to appease the aggressors.
Israel was established as part of a cynical process of neo-imperialism during and after the First World War which saw the Ottoman Empire carved up between British and French interests. Oil was a factor then for a British government needing to be less-reliant on US oil supplies just as it is now for a US government seeking to bleed Middle East oil dry before having to use up its own massive reserves when the rest of us have to find alternative energy sources. The infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 was a blatant land grab by two waning colonial powers; it was followed by the equally infamous Balfour Declaration which made public Britain’s growing support for Zionism and was intended to deflect French intentions to have an international administration over Palestine once it was “freed” from Turkish rule. Neither Britain nor France had at the time any legal or even military authority over Palestine. Zionism played into the hands of this colonial power-struggle by claiming that the intended “Jewish state” would be “a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation as opposed to barbarism”.
That outpost continues to occupy and oppress Palestine and its people. A policy of ethnic cleansing – for Palestine was never, ever, “a land without a people for a people without a land” – was and remains necessary as far as Israel is concerned, for the simple reason that Zionism cannot co-exist with racial equality and justice; it is by its very nature racist and expansionist, dependent, paradoxically, on anti-Semitism to persuade Jews to make “aliyah” to the Holy Land and getting more land to accommodate them. Illegal settlements on occupied land are an essential part of Zionist ideology which underpins the state of Israel. The raft of discriminatory laws which favour Jewish citizens of Israel over its Arab citizens is damning, as are the colonialist policies enforced by its military occupation in the West Bank and, despite its 2005 “disengagement”, the Gaza Strip.
John Kerry is back in occupied Palestine for the fourth time in as many months to try to kick-start a peace process that has never been about peace and justice; it is all about providing time and space for Israel to complete the Zionist project of occupying as much of historic Palestine with as few Palestinians on it as possible. The conflict has never been about Israel’s “security”, which is a cynical fig-leaf if ever there was one. It is about the “rampart” of European “civilisation” against “barbarism”. The fact that it was “civilised” Europeans who carried out the obscenity of the Holocaust against Europe’s Jews is an irony that is lost on Zionists and their supporters.
Israel is America’s proxy in the Middle East through which it can fight wars and control the natives in order to control the oil and natural gas in the region. The Barack Obamas, Condoleezza Rices and Colin Powells of the world provide a convenient cloak of respectability for such blatant racism but they cannot hide the fact that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism is the last acceptable form of discrimination in the “civilised” world. That is why Israel’s racist policies and ethnic cleansing of Palestine are almost entirely unchallenged. Israel’s expansionism may be on a smaller scale, but in essence it mirrors Europe’s genocide of the indigenous population of North America which sought to “civilise” the “Red Indians”; today’s Americans are yesterday’s European colonialists.
Nationalism and national interests, which are in reality the interests of big business, therefore trump human rights; where the two collide, the former will always prevail because the latter might benefit “terrorists” intent on destroying “our” way of life. Such terminology appeals to the masses for whom convenient scapegoats for their own difficulties are always welcome while the real villains continue to get away, literally, with murder. National interests are served well by a compliant media and “moderates” in the world’s trouble spots ready to succumb to financial incentives and false promises of independence and freedom. Look at the focus on economic growth as “evidence” of the success of the Palestinian Authority under US favourite Salam Fayyad; human rights can be and are sacrificed routinely on the altar of big business.
All of this is enough to make any reasonable observer quite depressed; the odds, it seems, are stacked against justice and lasting peace. At least they would be if it wasn’t for people like the refugees I have met this week: like the lady whose husband died leaving her with half-a-dozen children, no income and a landlord who refuses to mend the roof of the house which he rents for a ridiculous price; she smiled and welcomed us into her home, displaying a degree of dignity and humility the likes of which John Kerry and his fellow foreign ministers can only dream about.
That is why I am optimistic that the occupation of Palestine is living on borrowed time. The human spirit won’t allow such injustice to continue indefinitely; I believe that, deep down, the people of Israel know this too, as do their politicians. National interests cannot be allowed to trump human rights. The Palestinians’ day will come and justice must prevail; it has to if European and American claims to “civilisation” have any meaning at all.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.