As is the practice and policy of Israel, following the confession from 3 out of 6 Israelis arrested over the murder of the Palestinian teen – I would like to ask the question: Is Israel going to demolish their family homes, and of those who still remain as suspects?
The following is what Rabbi Shalom Rav writes – I must admit, although simple language is used it is inspiring and heart warming.
Israel’s military assault on Gaza in 2008-09 represented an important turning point in my own relationship with Israel. I recall experiencing a new and previously unfamiliar feeling of anguish as Israel bombarded the people living in that tiny, besieged strip of land over and over, day after day after day. While I certainly felt a sense of tribal loyalty to the Israelis who withstood Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, I felt a newfound sense of concern and solidarity with Gazans who I believed were experiencing nothing short of oppression during this massive military onslaught.
And now it’s happening again. Only this time I don’t think the term “anguish” quite fits my mindset. Now it’s something much closer to rage.
It’s happening again. Once again 1.7 million people, mostly refugees, who have been living in what amounts to the world’s largest open air prison, are being subjected to a massive military assault at the hands of the world’s most militarized nation, using mostly US-made weapons. And our President is not only looking on – he is defending Israel’s war crimes by saying that Israel had a right to “self-defense in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians.”
Let’s be clear: this tragedy didn’t start with the Qassams. It didn’t start with the election of Hamas. And it didn’t start with the “instability” that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
No, this is just the latest chapter of a much longer saga that began in 1947-48, when scores of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their cities and villages in the coastal plain and lower Galilee and warehoused in a tiny strip of land on the edge of the Mediterranean. By all accounts, most were simply too overwhelmed to realize what was happening. Some tried to return to their homes and were killed on sight. Others resisted by staging raids in the newly declared state of Israel. Sometimes they succeeded, more often they did not. Either way, Israel decided early on that it would respond to each of these reprisals with a overwhelming military show of force. And those reprisals and that show of force have essentially been ongoing until this very day.
I realize, of course, there is plenty of political subtext to this latest go-around. I’ve read the timelines and have formed my own opinions on the latest “who started it?” debate. I’ve also read plenty of analyses by Israeli observers who believe that this was not a response to Qassam fire at all but was very much a “war of choice” waged by an Israeli administration looking to shore up political support in an election season.
I’ve also read a widely circulated article from Ha’aretz about Israel’s recent execution of Ahmed Jabari (the head of Hamas’ military wing). I learned that up until now, Jabari was “Israel’s subcontractor” for security in the Gaza Strip, that Israel has been literally funding Hamas through intermediaries in exchange for peace and quiet on their southern border, and that when Jabari failed to deliver of late, the decision came down to take him out. Another article, written by the Israeli who negotiated with Jabari for the release of Gilad Shalit, revealed that negotiations were still ongoing between Jabari and Israeli officials when Israel assassinated him with a drone strike.
Yes, the wonky side of me has been avidly reading all these analyses. And while I do believe they provide an important counterbalance to the mythic statements by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the US State Department, the more I read the cynical political subtext for this war, the sicker I get. No, this isn’t about Qassams, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s about elections either. It’s really just the most recent chapter in a much longer litany of injustice – the latest attempt by Israel bring the Palestinian to their knees through the sheer force of their formidable military might.
Of all the analyses I’ve yet read, one of the very few that truly seemed to grasp this truth came from Yousef Munayyer, of The Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center:
The problem Gaza presents for Israel is that it won’t go away—though Israel would love it if it would. It is a constant reminder of the depopulation of Palestine in 1948, the folly of the 1967 occupation, and the many massacres which have happened since them. It also places the Israelis in an uncomfortable position because it presents a problem (in the form of projectiles) which cannot be solved by force…
Israel has tried assassinating Palestinian leaders for decades but the resistance persists. Israel launched a devastating and brutal war on Gaza from 2008 to 2009 killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, but the resistance persists.
Why, then, would Israel choose to revert to a failed strategy that will undoubtedly only escalate the situation? Because it is far easier for politicians to lie to voters, vilify their adversaries, and tell them ‘we will hit them hard’ than to come clean and say instead, ‘we’ve failed and there is no military solution to this problem.’
Like last time, I know many in the Jewish community will say it is unseemly of me to criticize Israel this way while Israelis live in fear of Qassam fire out of Gaza. I know there are those who believe that by writing these words, I’m turning my back on my own people in their time of need. But I know in my heart that my outrage at Israel’s actions goes hand in hand with compassion for Israelis – particularly those who know that their leaders’ devotion to the sword is leading them into the abyss.
Additionally, as I wrote under tragically similar circumstances in 2009:
I believe Israel’s response to Hamas’ missile attacks have been disproportionate and outrageous. I believe their actions only further endanger the security of Israelis while inflicting collective punishment and a severe humanitarian crisis upon Gazans. Indeed, just as I cannot understand what it must be like to be a citizen of Sderot, I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a Gazan citizen at the moment, living under constant air attack, with no running water or electricity and dwindling food, as hospitals fill up with wounded and corpses lie rotting in the streets because relief workers are unable to reach them.
When will we be ready to accept that this is not a “balanced” conflict or even a “war” by any reasonable definition – and it never was. When will we face the painful truth that this is not a story about one side versus the other but about one side oppressing the other? Frankly, all the well-meaning liberal comments about “praying for peace on both sides” and leave me cold. Worse, I find them insidious because they simply serve to support the myth that this is a conflict between two equal parties. It is not. And peace will not come until we admit this – until we admit that there is an essential injustice at the heart of this tragedy and that try as it might, Israel will never be able to make it go away through the sheer force of its increasingly massive military might.
Beyond the rage, I’m heartened that this time around there is a growing community of conscience that is speaking out publicly and in no uncertain terms to protest Israel’s latest outrage in Gaza. I am so deeply grateful for my friends and colleagues at Jewish Voice for Peace, who is alone in the Jewish world in condemning this latest assault. I urge you to read JVP’s courageous statement, which I know gives voice to increasing numbers of Jews and non-Jews, young and old, religious and secular, who are coming together through the courage of their convictions.
At this point in my posts I would typically write “click here” to lend your voice to some kind of collective statement. I’m going resist that temptation and urge you instead to take to the streets.
I’ll see you there.
While it is unlikely that the escalating violence in Gaza will be placed into proper context by United States media, who report on it in the context of Israel’s blockade and occupation of Palestinian land, it is also just as unlikely that there will be any meaningful coverage on how Israel justifies bombing civilian infrastructure in Gaza.
Israel decimated the Gaza City office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who was elected in the legislative elections in 2006 but later dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas. He has continued to exercise authority and is a head of state yet, if one saw the headline at the New York Times they would not see a headline explaining how a Gaza Prime Minister’s office was bombed. They would see one that read, “Israel Destroys Hamas Prime Minister’s Office.”
The Times reported spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev, stated, “Government buildings had been targeted because Hamas ‘makes no distinction between its terrorist military machine and the government structure…We have seen Hamas consistently using so-called civilian facilities for the purposes of hiding their terrorist military machine, including weapons.”
Under this concept, it is hard to see how Israel would not be able to justify hitting any part of Gaza and killing any person inside or nearby that infrastructure. Saturday morning, according to Haaretz, Israel’s air force targeted Gaza’s police headquarters, other government buildings and a mosque in Rafah. It also is impossible to see how a cease-fire can be brokered if Israel is going to destroy the offices of political leaders elected in disputed or undisputed Palestinian elections.
The United Nations’ fact-finding mission in 2009, after the Gaza conflict that year that left over 1400 Palestinians dead, did not accept Israel’s concept of Hamas “supporting infrastructure.” The mission found it “particularly worrying” as it “appeared to transform civilians and civilian objects into legitimate targets.” This made it possible for Israeli political and military leaders to make it seem like in order to respond to Hamas it had to carry out “disproportionate destruction” and create “maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve not only military but also political goals.”
The mission determined Israeli armed forces had launched “numerous attacks against buildings and persons of the Gaza authorities.”
…As far as attacks on buildings are concerned, the Mission examined the Israeli strikes against the Palestinian Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison…Both buildings were destroyed and can no longer be used. Statements by Israeli Government and armed forces representatives justified the attacks arguing that political and administrative institutions in Gaza are part of the “Hamas terrorist infrastructure”. The Mission rejects this position. It finds that there is no evidence that the Legislative Council building and the Gaza main prison made an effective contribution to military action. On the information available to it, the Mission finds that the attacks on these buildings constituted deliberate attacks on civilian objects in violation of the rule of customary international humanitarian law whereby attacks must be strictly limited to military objectives… [emphasis added]
This indicated Israel had committed a “grave breach of extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”
It believed four years ago that it was acceptable to strike the office of Ismail Haniyeh. This was a statement the government made claiming it did not need to distinguish between military and civilian targets:
…While Hamas operates ministries and is in charge of a variety of administrative and traditionally governmental functions in the Gaza Strip, it still remains a terrorist organization. Many of the ostensibly civilian elements of its regime are in reality active components of its terrorist and military efforts. Indeed, Hamas does not separate its civilian and military activities in the manner in which a legitimate government might. Instead, Hamas uses apparatuses under its control, including quasi-governmental institutions, to promote its terrorist activity…
Because Israel considers the democratically elected Hamas to be a “terrorist organization,” Gaza technically has little in the way of structures for administrative or traditional government functions that could not be characterized in some way as part of Hamas’ “terrorist organization.” And so, that is why it is not a war crime to Israel to hit an office where he met Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil the day before.
The United States, which provides $150 million in military aid or more each year to Israel, has no problem with this concept justifying the targeting of civilian infrastructure. Deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for US President Barack Obama stated, according to Haaretz, “The Israelis are going to make decisions about their own military tactics and operations. What we want is the same thing the Israelis want, which is an end to the rocket fire coming out of Gaza. We wouldn’t comment on specific targeting choices by the Israelis other than to say that we of course always underscore the importance of avoiding civilian casualties. But the Israelis again will make judgments about their military operations.”
The mention of “civilian casualties” is a token gesture to a Palestinian people the US is willing allow Israel to continue to subject to a blockade in Gaza and policies of apartheid.
Moreover, Haaretz has reported that Interior Minister Eli Yishai said on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.” It is hard not to interpret that as a commitment to further devastate Gaza to force it to submit even more to Israeli dominion.
Sometimes, its hard to connect the dots to complete a picture when the dots don’t exactly line up or make sense.
Few days ago, the media airways were enthusiastically glorifying reports that mortar rounds were fired into the state of Israel from Syria. At the time, none of the reports suggested that these mortar rounds were fired by Syrian forces, or what their objectives were. Today, still no evidence has come to light to suggest that these mortar rounds were fired by Syrian military or what could have been their motive ‘if’ fired intentionally?
So, Israel’s direct response immediately was to return ‘warning shots‘. Warning shots in return, generally send the message not to do that again.
But, it turns out, that these warning shots from Israel, weren’t exactly ‘warning’ shot but rather provocation of war – since Israel tanks targeted and hit Syrian tanks in Golan Heights in response, thus deliberately exploiting the situation in Syria to their advantage. It is the same Israel who chanted (in the US) that Middle East and Israel needs regional security and stability. It wasn’t long ago, that Turkey was doing just that and firing into Syria.
So, now we have both Turkey and Israel along with US and UK (and the rest of the west) in orchestrating the situation in Syria to a clear regime change.
Some may question this and state – well the shell fired into Israel, after all belonged to Syrian military. That, if true, I cannot deny, but since rebels in Syria have already reported capturing Syrian forced along with equipment – wouldn’t it be perfect for insurgents fighting Syrian forces to fire a few into Israel in the hope of bringing Israel into this conflict? You know, like Pearl Harbour and how Japanese brought US into war during the world war(s).
The parliment of Iceland, has passed a resolution 38 of 63 votes in favour of a resolution to recognise Palestine “as an independent and sovereign state”. Iceland is the first western European Country to accept Palestine as an independent state on borders pre-dating the six-day war of 1967.
Ice was among 11 European Unesco members to support the move. This indeed is a welcome move for those people who support free and independent Palestine. Iceland has show is support for ‘real’ peace in the Middle East, one which has full support of its parliament on doing what’s best for both Palestine and Israel. I believe it’s time for other European Countries to follow Iceland’s example.
Calling for Palestinian capitulation, not peace and liberation, Netanyahu delivered a litany of lies, fabrications, misstatements, and half-truths to AIPAC members on May 23, saying:
— “Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth.” In fact, he once called the peace process “a waste of time,” governing accordingly to avoid it.
— Peace “can only come through….mutual trust,” he said, adding that he envisions “peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.” In fact, they’re preconditions solely for them, no other states with which Israel has diplomatic relations, including peace treaty terms with Egypt and Jordan.
— “Israel stands ready to make compromises necessary for peace.” In fact, Israel never had a peace camp. For decades, efforts were stillborn, obstructing it, perpetuating conflict, and denying Palestinians a sovereign independent state or a viable one-state solution for all its people.
— “(O)ne thing I will never compromise is our security.”
In fact, claimed existential “security” threats are bogus, a red herring, mischaracterizing Israel as vulnerable, surrounded by hostile Arab states. Nuclear armed, it’s a regional superpower, unthreatened since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Addressing Congress on May 24, he repeated the same canards, including saying he’s ready to “make painful compromises (for) peace,” while remaining obstructionist against it, a viable Palestinian state, Jerusalem as its capital, Hamas/Fatah unity, and the inviolable right of return.
In response, New York Times writers Helene Cooper and Ethan Bronner headlined, “Netanyahu Gives No Ground in Congress Speech,” saying:
“….Palestinians will not get a right of return to Israel…. Jerusalem will never again be divided,” and Israel’s 1967 borders aren’t defensible. New ones must incorporate expanding settlements, an IDF presence along the Jordan River, and Palestinians confined to isolated cantons in ghetto communities or worthless scrubland, an offer no responsible leader will accept.
Moreover, he demanded abandonment of Palestinian unity as a precondition for negotiations, saying Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist. In fact, it accepts it in return for a viable Palestinian state within 1967 borders, 22% of historic Palestine, a major concession Israel rejects, wanting all valued parts of Judea and Samaria.
No matter. Congress treated him like visiting royalty, Cooper and Bronner saying he got “so many standing ovations that at times it appeared that the lawmakers were listening to his speech standing up.”
Rejecting Netanyahu’s Obstructionism
In response, Mahmoud Abbas said he offered “nothing we can build on.” In fact, he “traveled far from peace,” subverting it by dictating terms, remaining obstructionist like all Israeli leaders.
A May 25 Haaretz editorial was just as harsh, headling “Netanyahu wasted his chance to present a vision for peace,” saying:
Instead of new ideas, a constructive vision, and genuine willingness to negotiate equitably, “we were witness to the same old messages,” dictating terms, offering nothing substantive in return.
He ignored all essentials for peace, including “leav(ing) a decisive majority of West Bank territory in the hands of the Palestinians.” As a result, he’s “leading Israel and the Palestinians into a new round of violence, along with Israel’s isolation” at a time of Arab spring uprisings. “The time has come for….Israel(is) who seek peace to be heard. Israel deserves a different leader.”
Like America, in fact, most Israel parties differ little on core issues, including Likud, Kadima, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Shas, endorsing hardline militancy and neoliberal toughness, offering no concessions for equity and peace.
On May 24, an Al Jazeera editorial said “leading Democrats and Republicans….support(ed) Netanyahu in his tricks to justify the continuation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as his incitement against Arabs and Muslims.”
“His speech was a blueprint (on) how (to) defend Israel in refusing to end the occupation, oppression, and subjugation of the Palestinian people. The focus on the Jewishness of the Zionist state has been the new ploy to block any peaceful resolution.” Palestinians reject it as should everyone for equal rights and peace.
If anyone doubts “how Israeli leaders control the US government,” watch congressional and other pro-Israeli groups’ fealty to Israel, subverting any chance for justice.
Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, “Netanyahu’s speech to Congress shows America will buy anything,” saying:
“It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions.” Rarely do foreign leaders address Congress. Perhaps none ever presented “such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony” as Netanyahu to repeated standing ovations, a bipartisan hallelujah chorus loving it. If most Americans did also, “we’re in big trouble,” said Levy.
Imagine, Netanyahu praises Israeli democracy when he’s hammered it with mortal blows. His coalition Knesset partners passed racist, fascist laws, vilifying anyone not Jewish, denying their basic rights, including treating Israeli Arabs as existential threats when, in fact, they’re citizens like all Jews.
Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said:
“What Netanyahu said does not lead to peace. Peace for us means a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. We will not accept any Israeli presence inside the Palestinian state, particularly on the River Jordan. (P)eace should be based on international resolutions and negotiations, and not by putting preconditions and more obstacles in the way of the peace process.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his speech “makes the continuation of negotiations with the Zionist entity….wrong and pointless.”
The Israeli peace bloc Gush Shalom also reacted critically, saying:
His speech was “composed of dozens of gimmicks and empty cliches, talk of peace which he does not intend to conclude and of a fictional Palestinian state which he has no intention of seeing become reality. (Instead, he intends) to continue occupation rule over millions of people by (brute) force, against their will,” perpetuating decades-long harshness.
Praise from Hardline Israeli-Firsters
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) “praised (Netanyahu) for making clear to the US Congress and the world (about) Hamas’ call for the worldwide murder of every Jew and his reiteration that Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian Authority (PA)/Hamas unity government nor return to the perilous 1949 armistice lines.”
Its statement echoed Netanyahu’s lies and racist condemnation of an entire people for their faith and ethnicity.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also applauded Netanyahu’s “commitment to negotiating a lasting peace with the Palestinians,” adding:
“He made a powerful case for Israel’s unique relationship with the US as the only democracy and stable American ally in a turbulent region,” as well as highlighting “Israel’s need for security.”
Commentary magazine’s Jonathan Tobin called his speech “a triumph….eloquent and brilliant (laying) out Israel’s desire for peace,” when, in fact, it spurned it since 1948.
A Final Comment
Instead of embracing peace, Netanyahu spurns it. In his book, “The End of the Peace Process,” Edward Said said:
“(N)o negotiations are better than endless concessions that simply prolong the Israeli occupation. Israel is certainly pleased that it can take the credit for having made peace, and at the same time continue the occupation with Palestinian consent.”
Peace, in fact, depends on evenhanded give and take, resolving divergent issues equitably for both sides. It can’t solely be on Israeli terms, demanding capitulation, leaving Palestinians isolated in a wasteland of destruction and human misery, enduring appalling indignities for their faith, ethnicity and presence.
As a result, their liberating struggle continues for:
— ending occupation;
— a government of their own choosing;
— sovereign independence within 1967 borders, 22% of historic Palestine with mutually agreed on land swaps to assure it;
— Jerusalem as its capital;
— the inviolable right of return; and
— full recognition as a UN member state with all rights and privileges.
On November 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council (PNC) proclaimed an independent Palestinian state. According to the 1925 Palestine Citizenship Order in Council, Palestinians, their children and grandchildren are automatically citizens, including refugees.
Provisionally, Washington recognizes Palestinian independence. Under UN Charter Article 80(1), its position can’t be reversed by vetoing SC resolutions, calling for its UN admission. Doing so is illegal, subject to SC action under the Charter’s Chapter VI, despite Obama telling AIPAC that no UN vote “will ever create an independent Palestinian state.”
The Security Council, in fact, recommends admissions. The General Assembly affirms them by a two-thirds majority. In December 1988, it did so, granting Palestine all member rights except to vote. PA leaders will seek it in September. Washington and Israel object, spurning peace, reconciliation, and potential challenges to their dominance. No longer can that agenda be tolerated.
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Since taking office in January 2009, Obama broke every major campaign promise, including relevant ones to his May 19 Middle East speech; namely:
— democratic values;
— closing Guantanamo in one year;
— ending torture, illegal spying, and detention without trial;
— “a new era of openness;”
— willingness to meet individually with Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan, Cuban, and North Korean leaders;
— supporting Israeli and Palestinian efforts to “fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security;” and
— on Afghanistan saying (October 27, 2007): “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this (and the Iraq) war(s). You can take that to the bank,” and by implication not begin new ones.
Instead, his rhetoric belied his policy, spurning democracy, civil liberties, human rights, and rule of law principles. He doubled down George Bush with:
— imperial Iraq and Afghan wars;
— two others against Pakistan and Libya;
— another allied with Israel against Palestine;
— regional support for subservient despots; as well as
— anti-populist proxy wars in Somalia, Central Africa, Yemen, Bahrain, Haiti, Honduras, Colombia, and at home against Muslims, Latino immigrants, and working Americans.
Make no mistake. People across the Middle East aren’t fooled, unlike many Americans no matter how many times they’re betrayed.
Ahead of his speech on May 18, Washington Post writer Scott Wilson headlined, “Obama faces pressure from allies on eve of speech Thursday on Middle East policy,” saying:
US allies want more decisive action “on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, including the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria, and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”
On May 19, New York Times writer Michael Shear headlined, “Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences,” saying:
He aimed at a domestic and global audience, trying “to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s (unsuccessful) efforts in the region,” notably:
— the stalled peace process;
— continuing Bush-era policies; and
— failure to address Arab uprisings constructively.
As a result, Obama’s Middle East speech was “designed to be the first in a series of rhetorical opportunities for the president,” ahead of a Friday Netanyahu meeting in Washington.
Then over the weekend, he’ll address the annual AIPAC conference, affirming his unwavering support for Israel, expressed Thursday saying:
“As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums,” adding:
“Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat (with) robust enough (efforts) to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security.”
In fact, Israel is a global menace, nuclear-armed with other super-weapons ready and able to use them. Terrorizing Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, it’s belligerent on the slightest pretext or none at all.
As a result, it threatens world peace and security because US administrations partnered in its militarism, repression, and other high crimes for decades, a testimony to the Israeli Lobby’s power in America.
Commenting on his speech, New York Times writers Steven Myers and Mark Landler headlined, “Obama Sees ’67 Borders as Starting Point for Peace Deal,” saying:
Obama “declared that the prevailing borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war – adjusted to some degree to account for Israeli settlements in the West Bank – should be the basis of a deal.”
In fact, that notion has been on the table for years, based on isolating Palestinians in cantonized bantustans situated on worthless scrubland with few or no resources – a proposal no legitimate leader would accept.
Notably, Haaretz reported that “Obama has granted Netanyahu a major diplomatic victory” by leaving undefined the size or locations of a Palestinian state. It also quoted Netanyahu saying:
“Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” adding that he expects Obama to refrain from demanding Israel withdraw to “indefensible (1967 borders) which will leave a large population of Israel in Judea and Samaria and outside Israel’s borders.”
Moreover, core Israel/Palestinian issues remain to be negotiated, no matter that Washington and Israel spurn diplomacy and concessions.
As a result, Palestine is still occupied. Gaza remains isolated under siege, its legitimate government vilified as a terrorist organization. Moreover, the peace process was stillborn from inception, what journalist Henry Siegman once called “the most spectacular deception in modern” times.
Obama’s speech dripped with hypocrisy, another example of policy belying rhetoric, exposing America’s longstanding alliance with Israel for regional dominance. Saying “(i)t will be the policy of the US to support reform throughout the region” is code language for business as usual.
Adding that “(w)e face a historic opportunity (to) show that America values the dignity of a street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator” ignores a belligerent policy, as well as disdain for human rights and civil liberties. It also conceals a determination to divide, conquer, colonize, exploit and control the entire region, giving no quarter to populist aspirations anywhere, including in America, let alone Israel, Palestine, Egypt, or elsewhere in the region.
Important also is that if America had a legitimate regional policy, Obama wouldn’t have to make speeches affirming one.
Post/911, in fact, it was easier than ever for America to declare war on Islam, abroad and at home – a policy no different under Obama than Bush. Empty rhetoric changes nothing.
Around 1.5 billion Muslims want change, peace and the basic respect they deserve. They’re sick and tired of Western dominance, colonization, exploitation, and oppression, supportive of homegrown dictatorships.
On June 4, 2009, Obama addressed Muslims in Cairo, “seek(ing) a new beginning….based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, or need be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
It was hypocritical boilerplate. He decried the “killing of innocent men, women, and children,” yet US forces slaughter them daily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. In addition, America supplies Israel with billions of dollars and the latest weapons and technology to commit slow-motion genocide against millions of Palestinians, deny their legitimate self-determination, and right of their refugees to return home as international law demands.
Moreover, America is a serial aggressor and human rights abuser. High-sounding rhetoric changes nothing. Yet Obama claimed America “did not go (to Afghanistan) by choice, we went of necessity….we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there….Iraq was a war of choice (but) I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.”
“Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own.”
In fact, secret provisions in the Pentagon’s 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) indicate otherwise. They flagrantly violate Iraqi sovereignty, authorizing permanent US bases, camps, and prisons. Moreover, they immunize US forces, civilian security, and private contractors from criminal prosecution. They assure Iraqi “democracy” is illusory.
Afghanistan’s occupation is similar. Officials in both countries have no say over US operations, including incursions into other countries. They require Washington’s approval before concluding any agreements with other countries. Their leaders and key ministries are US-controlled.
Moreover, no timeline is stipulated for America’s withdrawal beyond disingenuous rhetoric affirming it, returning sovereign power to Iraqis and Afghans. Instead, occupation is permanent. America came to stay, allied with proxy security forces to maintain hardline control.
Since Cairo 2009, Obama’s declared support for democracy, peace, human rights, mutual understanding, and social justice brought none to the region where Washington backs its most ruthless tyrants.
His “unbreakable” bond with Israel ignored Palestinians six decade ordeal and 44-year occupation. He said nothing earlier or now about Cast Lead slaughter, besieged Gaza, land theft, home demolitions, mass arrests, torture, targeted assassinations, legitimate Palestinian self-determination, and the right of diaspora refugees to return.
In Cairo, he came, saw, spoke, made empty gestures, no clear promises, and followed it with more of the same yesterday, concealing America’s intention to exploit this resource-rich part of the world.
Unlike easily fooled Americans, Arabs have no illusions. They’ve heard it all before, this time responding with popular uprisings for change they know only they can achieve by staying resolutely committed for it.
So far, it’s nowhere in sight, but maybe, just maybe this time is different. In the fullness of time, we’ll know.