Recognizing Israel for what it is
By Ahmed Amr
Condi Rice spent the better part of her recent visit to the Middle East trying to persuade Egyptians and Gulf Arabs to join the American-Israeli efforts to isolate Hamas and impose economic sanctions on the Palestinians. To put it mildly, she was told to take a hike.
After democratic elections in the occupied territories resulted in a massive shift to the Palestinian right, Washington joined Tel Aviv in formulating a policy geared to starving the Palestinians as collective punishment for their bad voting habits. In trying to market her obscene scheme to an unreceptive audience in Cairo and Saudi Arabia, Condi once again demonstrated her total allegiance to the Israeli agenda.
Under the guidance of Secretary Rice and her predecessor, America has successfully transformed itself from the indispensable nation to an irrelevant actor on the Middle Eastern stage. In Iraq, it has lost control of events. For all practical matters, the Anglo-American occupation forces are now merely hostages to the whims of the clerical regime in Tehran and its Iraqi allies. In the event of an all out civil war, the invasion of Iraq will go down in history as the mother of all strategic blunders.
Across the region - even among staunch cold war allies - the Bush administration is held in utter contempt. The fear of American conspiracies has been replaced with disdain for the Bush administration's crude ineptitude. Even in Turkey, the most secular of Islamic nations, crowds are turning out in droves to see a movie that paints Americans as war criminals and brutes. It has already grossed more than any Turkish movie in history. Not to be outdone, a recent Egyptian blockbuster lampoons Rice as a striptease dancer and a slut. It's a riot. The Egyptian actress who performs the provocative dance was a virtual replica of the American Secretary of State - down to the gap in her teeth.
It is extraordinary, that in the midst of serial foreign policy debacles, Condi can find nothing better to do than fret over Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel. The only real change on the ground is that we now have a situation where the Likudniks refuse to negotiate with the Palestinians and the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge a government in Tel Aviv that has no intention of withdrawing from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Both sides have an agenda that calls for long term interim solutions that fall short of a final peace agreement. Hamas wants a state that doesn't recognize Israel and Israel wants recognition without granting the Palestinians a state.
There is no doubt that the Hamas victory has returned the ideological arguments between the Zionists and the native people of Palestine to ground zero. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's sometimes useful to rehash the past before moving on to the future. This is especially true when one is dealing with the Israelis who have a unique talent for corrupting the historical record.
As recent events has demonstrated, the recognition of Israel by Yasser Arafat was rewarded with more illegal settlements, more collective punishment, more repression, a monstrous apartheid wall and a stubborn refusal to negotiate a reasonable peace deal. Oslo was a scam and the Road Map was conceived as a public relations campaign to cover up for the Bush administration's abandonment of the 'peace process.'
After pocketing Palestinian concessions and recognition, the Israelis went out of their way to avoid dealing with Yasser Arafat. Sharon gave pretty much the same treatment to Abbas - who managed to arrange for a single meeting with the Israeli serial war criminal. So, why does Hamas's defacto withdrawal of recognition pose such an existential threat to Israel? Maybe it's a case of not knowing what you have till you lose it.
Accepting Israel as a legitimate presence on Palestinian soil never came easy for any native son of the Holy Land. It isn't just the Hamas faithful who view the creation of Israel as an infringement on their natural right to live unmolested in any part of their ancestral homeland. In every Palestinian psyche, there lurks the dream of a lost paradise where they roamed free from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. It was only two generations ago that a man born in Nablus could wake up on any given morning and decide to seek his fortune in Haifa or Jerusalem or go fishing in the Sea of Galilee. For Palestinians, the last sixty years have been a very wicked intrusion on that very simple reality.
Those Palestinians who feel obliged to accept Israel as a concrete reality should merely be required to recognize it for what it is - a racist colonial land grabbing settler state built on the premise that the native people of the land should be evicted based on a test of faith. It is a political reality that came about as a result of a massive ethnic cleansing campaign known as the Nakba. Israel can most accurately be described as a country built on the ruins of another people's confiscated patrimony.
Zionists basically believes that their confessional pedigree gave them a natural right to dispossess the Palestinians of their hills, their sea, their villages and their farms. If Palestinian Muslims and Christians had volunteered to convert to Judaism, they would never have been forced off their lands. Apologists for Israel consider the Nakba an act of manifest destiny - an ugly but necessary orgy of violence to restore the Holy Land to outsiders who were more 'spiritually correct.' If the Palestinians had to be dumped into the wilderness to make room for the newcomers - so be it. It was just tough luck. After all, Native Americans were forced to make room for the European intruders who coveted their lands.
Maybe this type of reasoning explains why so many North American Anglos feel a sense of affinity to Israelis. They both came, they both saw and they both plundered before making the necessary 'improvements' to erase the memory of their victims. Most recently, the Israeli government has decided to create a 'museum of tolerance' on Palestinian burial grounds.
There is, however, one significant difference between Palestinians and Native Americans. The Palestinians make up more than one percent of the population. In fact, they are half the total population of the original land area of historic Palestine. That percentage does not even take into account the majority of the Palestinian people who continue to live and die in exile.
When Sharon unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, he was just turning back the demographic clock. Israel basically locked out 1.5 million Palestinians into a giant reservation that constitutes only 2% of their homeland. After Gaza, Israel will be left to deal with the remaining four million Palestinians Arabs. The current Likudnik blue print calls for additional unilateral disengagements that will ultimately squeeze most of the remaining Palestinians in walled off cantons that make up less than half of the West Bank. The borders of the areas allocated to the Palestinians would remain under Israeli military control.
In making his case for evacuating Gaza, Sharon persuaded Israelis that they would have to settle for less than the whole land area of historical Palestine. He didn't base his arguments on international law, UN resolutions, the Oslo agreement or the Road Map. Rather, he lamented that demographic realities prevent the realization of the Zionist dream to expand Israel's borders in line with the Torah. One can only imagine what Washington's reaction would be if the Palestinians were to insist on a unilateral resolution of the conflict based on Islamic scripture or the New Testament.
It is infuriating that Israeli apologists continue to argue that a European convert to Judaism has an inherent 'right to return' to the Holy Land after two thousand years of presumed absence. And yet these very same voices insist that the Palestinian Muslims and Christians should give up on their dream to return to their native soil after only two generations of well-documented exile. The more militant Likudniks actually reject the right of surviving Palestinian communities to remain on what little land they continue to possess.
At some point, Israelis and their European and American allies need to take a reality check. They should come to terms with the Palestinian narrative and accept responsibilities for the vicious treatment of the native people of the Holy Land. The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is short enough, simple enough to understand and extremely well documented. Regardless of the volume of canards generated by the Likudnik public relations campaigns and their media operatives in the West, the State Department and European community know every little detail about this conflict. The Israelis can win every public relations battle but the evidence of their crimes will endure in historical archives long after the headlines in the New York Times and CNN sound bites fade into a dim memory.
For purely domestic political considerations - political leaders in Europe and the United States have never managed to summon the courage to do the right thing. It is especially alarming that the German chancellor Angela Merkel feels entitled to preach to the Palestinians about the need to recognize Israel. Perhaps she should begin by recognizing that if her people hadn't slaughtered millions of European Jews - there might never have been a need to dispossess the Palestinians to make room for a Jewish refuge from genocidal continental anti-semitism.
Before any German or American politician gets on their high moral horse, they should at least give the Palestinians a credible picture of which Israel they are supposed to recognize. They should start by drawing a map of the final boundaries of the proposed Israeli State. Will that map include Jerusalem as the 'eternal capital of Israel'? Will they rezone the Holy Land along the perimeters of the Apartheid wall? Does Israel intend to remain a Jewish state within the Green Line or will it eventually evolve into a secular state that treats the million plus Israeli-Arabs as full citizens? Will Israelis insist on depriving the Palestinians of their right to go home and reclaim the ruins of their villages? In a final settlement, will Israel continue to enforce its racist immigration and land ownership laws? Are the Palestinians supposed to accept an Israel that lives in a state of Nakba denial - in effect dishonoring and desecrating the memory of six decades of unbearable suffering at the hands of their Zionist tormentors? Curious Palestinian minds want answers before they sign away eighty or ninety per cent of their homeland.
It takes a truly insolent human being to demand that the Palestinians accept Israel's 'right to exist'. What exactly does that mean? To a Palestinian ear, this apparently lofty proposition concedes to Israel a historical right to inflict an ethnic cleansing campaign on an ancient and proud Eastern Mediterranean people?
Should the catastrophe of mass expulsion that still scars every Palestinian family be accepted as a beauty mark in human history? Was the Nakba a good thing? Did Jews have a natural right to denude Palestine of its native inhabitants? It seems forgotten that it wasn't the Palestinians who ventured into Europe to pick a fight with Polish and Russian Jews. Recognizing Israel as a concrete reality is one thing. But that reality comes with historical baggage that every citizen of Israel is obliged to shoulder.
Here is an acid test for Angela Merkel and her ideological clones. If we were to roll back the clock to 1917, would Tony Blair's British Parliament have the audacity to issue the Balfour Declaration? Would the Queen of England and Prince Phillip allow their names to appear on such a document? Would Bush make a State of the Union address calling for the removal of the Palestinians to make room for a state as Jewish as England is English? Would Angela Merkel step up to the plate and offer Palestine as compensation to the Jews for the sins of the Germans? Would NATO forces storm the beaches of Palestine to ethnically cleanse the Holy Land to accommodate the new arrivals? Would AIPAC and the Israeli lobby have the chutzpah to campaign for the mass expulsion of the native population to make room for their brethren in faith?
It's time to put aside Zionist mythology and start dealing pragmatically with the tragic outcomes of this incessant conflict. The whole world should recognize Israel for what it really is, who initiated the conflict and who paid the ultimate price. Once that simple task is complete, Palestinians of all ideological stripes will be willing to sit down and work out some reasonable and permanent compromises to bring an end to this very dark chapter in the modern history of the human race.
At this stage, the most we should ask of the Palestinians is a provisional recognition of Israel as a racist belligerent state that should immediately withdraw to the 1967 borders pending a final peace agreement. If Reagan could publicly recognize the Soviet Union as the 'Evil Empire', the Palestinians should be equally accommodating and recognize Israel for what it is.
Now, back to Condi's most recent fiasco in the Middle East. When Dov Weisglass and Sharon were marketing the Gaza disengagement to the Israeli public, they never mentioned Oslo or international law. Rather, they promised that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would defuse the demographic bomb, reduce international and domestic pressure to resolve the conflict and freeze the political process.
Dov Weisglass is on extremely intimate terms with Secretary Rice. Condi's Israeli buddy or 'Dubi' - as she likes to call him - publicly boasts that the disengagement plan was his brainchild. He had this to say about his scheme in an interview with Ha'aretz in October 2004. "It is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian State, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."
Condi and her Likudnik neo-con foreign policy architects were intimately involved in the design of every detail of Sharon's game plan - which is now being implemented by Olmert. As Weisglass puts it "when my conversation with Rice ends, she knows that I walk six steps to Sharon's desk and I know that she walks twelve steps to Bush's desk. That creates an intimate relationship between the two bureaus and prevents a thousand entanglements."
To put icing on the cake, Weisglass and Sharon managed to secure a multi-billion dollar aid package to finance the 'hardships' that would accrue from their disengagement charade. Another bonus was that Bush gave the Israelis the first-ever American statement that, in a final agreement, Israel could annex the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As Weisglass pointed out "In years to come, perhaps decades, when negotiations will be held between Israel and the Palestinians, the master of the world will pound on the table and say: We stated already ten years ago that the large blocs are part of Israel." Years to come? Decades? How was that supposed to fit in with Bush's repeated public statements supporting the creation of a Palestinian State by the end of 2005? Was Bush making a promise he had no intention of keeping? Would he lie to the Palestinians? Does the President of the United States do that sort of thing?
Another thing that made Weisglass ecstatic about his secret deal with Condi was that Bush granted Israel a 'no-one-to-talk-to certificate.' As he puts it "that certificate says: (1) there is no one to talk to. (2) As long as there is no one to talk to, the geographic status quo remains intact. (3) The certificate will be revoked only when this-and-this happens - when Palestine becomes Finland."
So, why exactly is Condi up in arms about Palestinian commitments under Oslo and the Road Map? Do Israelis really care whether they get or don't get recognition from the new Palestinian administrators of the Bantustan in Gaza and the walled in 'palitentiaries' in the West Bank? Does anybody seriously think that Israel would have negotiated in good faith if the 'other' Palestinians had won the recent elections?
After the unilateral disengagement in Gaza, the Israelis are content with freezing the 'political process' for years - if not decades. This final quote from Weisglass sheds light on their master plan: "The withdrawal in Samaria is a token one. We agreed to it only so it wouldn't be said that we concluded our obligation in Gaza." It's all smoke and mirrors and Condi has committed to provide Israel with infinite supplies of both essential elements.
It is worth recalling that former Prime Minister Netenyahu, the current leader of the Likud, called on the Knesset to formally cancel the Oslo Accords as far back as July of 2001. During his term in office, he did his very best to kill the agreement. I bring this up because the neo-con cabal that currently collaborates with Condi in formulating American foreign policy subscribes to Netenyahu's political program.
Despite her secret agreement to derail the peace process after the Gaza disengagement, Condi spent five days trying to convince Arab states to join her in starving the Palestinians. Her new declared policy is to make the West Bank and Gaza ungovernable via economic sanctions against a Hamas led government. Some commentators might conclude that this is just a case of working outside her area of expertise - Russian studies. Or maybe she had a memory lapse and forgot that she issued Sharon a 'no-one-to-talk-to certificate' two years before Hamas's surprise victory.
What exactly is the end game here? Despite of daily Israeli provocations, Hamas has not only abided by the truce agreement and is offering an extension. In response, Olmert is promising them an 'iron fist.' Are the Palestinians supposed to vanish? Should they be reduced to carrying signs that read "Let My People Eat" instead of "Set My People Free"? It's easy enough to understand Israel's insatiable real estate ambitions? But what exactly is America supposed to gain from such an insane policy? Is Condi confused about which government cuts her paycheck?
Those of us who have long dreamed of a secular Palestinian state are not entirely satisfied about the results of the recent elections. But they were democratic and they do reflect the will of the majority of the Palestinian people at this juncture in their long journey of misery.
It is now obvious that the Palestinians have been deeply radicalized as a result of unremitting and draconian repression and systematic collective punishment. The pervasive corruption in the ranks of Fatah didn't help matters. Neither has it been lost on the Palestinians that the Oslo Accord and the Road Map were nothing more than an American-Israeli farce designed to prolong their agonies. With or without Hamas, the Israelis never had any intention of accepting a Palestinian state. When it comes to matters of recognition, let's begin by recognizing Israel for what it is and Condi for what she represents - an American political establishment that dances to any tune the Israeli fiddler on the roof cares to play.
Ahmed Amr is the editor of NileMedia.com
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